Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Next Chapter

Southbound on the Appalachian Trail 2015
I finished a southbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail a couple of weeks ago and when I returned, decided to make this blog public again. Truth is, I miss writing and blogging about the natural world. I still seem to be experiencing a strange combination of writer's block and disillusionment with the internet these days, making it difficult to even want to post anything. I went on a 5 month internet fast during my thru hike. No facebook, no email, no blogging, no news, no internet-period. I brought no headphones for listening to music either. I attempted to blog the first two weeks and found that I had zero desire to do so. The internet/digital fast felt amazing. Honestly, I had internet cravings the entire hike, it's what I imagine an addiction must feel like. They never went away. However, I felt completely present each day, and got a kick out of seeing other hikers stuck to their phones, even on trail. Well, like they say HYOH. I'd highly recommend an internet fast for future hikers if they desire to do so.

That being said, I am in a period of transition once again. Probably the hardest part about this hiking lifestyle. I feel like I am starting over once again. I'm leaning towards finding work in Maryland once again to be closer to family for a time period. In California, I had such a fantastic wilderness/exploration diet, but really missed my family. Here I have family but worry I will be suffering from a lack of wilderness/exploration. At the same time, I've always believed that one can find all of the wonder, awe, and fulfillment in their own backyard as they can find on top of the loftiest mountaintop 3000 miles away if they look hard enough. I guess that will be my challenge in the coming days. Not sure what this means for the blog, but it may become more mundane for a time period as I search for the spirit of wilderness in the concrete jungle.

There are more hikes marinating in the recesses of my brain as well. Along the Appalachian Trail, I met a trail legend named Bob Peoples. He is a trail angel, hostel owner, and long distance hiker infamous for his hospitality. One thing he said that I remember most was this: "Whenever you complete one item on the 'life bucket list,' be sure to add two more."

Monday, June 1, 2015

See Ya Later Friends

I drove up to Prairie Creek yesterday to say "see ya later" to the redwoods. Another chapter closes in the redwood journey. God willing, I will be able to come back and continue spending time in this magical place. Under a week to go now before I leave for Maryland and then begin the Appalachian Trail later in the month.

Unexpectedly, I spent half the morning wandering around another logged portion of forest just outside of the park. Unless I am doing some serious exploring, in which I leave detailed directions with my housemate, I let the spirit lead when I visit the park. It led me into an logged area. There is NOTHING that I have experienced that immediately confronts the mind with the price of progress as a logged redwood forest. These stumps were huge, and the forest has lost its magical feeling. In it's place is a feeling of trauma, almost palpable. My thoughts drifted around, searching for solutions. I am convinced over and over that love is the answer for long term, lasting change. Violence works, but is too short sighted. American history seems to be an example, and that violence continues to manifest itself over and over to this day. In order to change the world, love is the way, and accountability, focusing on whats right and good, and perhaps a good deal of detachment. I am grateful for the time I've been able to spend with this forest.

After looking around for an hour or so, I took a couple short hikes in the park. I crossed paths with a woman who was just gushing about how beautiful it was here. All I could do was agree. I spent some time with a couple of very large individual trees I had not seen before. Then the feeling came over me that it was time to leave and go home, so I did...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Forest Exploration

I spent the Sunday of this Memorial Day Weekend exploring another section of forest I've never been to. Just feel completely humbled and honored to finally possess the skill set and comfort level to see spots with my own eyes that I never dreamed I'd be able to. Just a grueling day though. There were times when I felt like was practically drowning in the forest, on my hands and knees crawling from spot to spot. Wouldn't have it any other way though.

On a side note, I took my blog out of the public sphere once again. Feeling a little disillusioned with social media these days, pros and cons to everything I suppose. I'm toying with the idea of using this blog more as a personal trail journal until I finish the AT if I am able. Then it will feel more complete in my mind anyway, and maybe start another blog with less sensitive information on it. Just two more weeks to go before I hit the road. I'm really, really going to miss this forest, but also looking forward to travel once again...

Monday, May 4, 2015

Best is Yet to Come

Big ol' redwood with what appears to be a  small western hemlock growing off it.
Spent a great, although exhausting Sunday, looking around another section of forest I've never been to. Personally, it was a significant one. The realization hit home hard once again, that as far as the redwood journey is concerned, the best is still yet to come, and that is very exciting. The realization also hit home, that the best is going to have to wait, as it's now one month until I hit the road for the East Coast to begin a southbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.

One of the highlights of yesterdays wanderings was finding a freshly eaten, decapitated fish. I know that doesn't sound much like a highlight, but it definitely was the first fish I've ever seen lying on the forest floor. It was lying next to a tree that was particularly striking. I thought maybe I scared off a bear before he finished his morning snack. While taking photos of the tree, I heard high pitched shrieking coming from the canopy. After backing up several hundred feet, I finally could see the top of the tree through a few openings in the forest. There at the top, at least three hundred feet from the forest floor, was a giant osprey nest, with one of the parents perched on a dead reiterated top next to the nest. They must have dropped the fish, or discarded the remains...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Redwood Journey

Spent yesterday slowly exploring a potion of forest I have never been before. I felt like the wealthiest man on the planet...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Founder's Grove

My work commute has allowed me to visit Humboldt Redwoods State Park on a regular basis for the last year and a half. For a long time, I tended to stay away from the Founder's Grove because it always seemed too crowded, and I wanted to see more of the less visited spots.  Over time, I have really begun to appreciate this grove, and do believe it is one of the best in the park. I'll be honest, some of the groves in HRSP can feel creepy for whatever reason. In fact, I was in one yesterday that I have visited several times, and every time I go in there I get a bad feeling. Founder's Grove has never felt that way to me at least. It always seems cheery, welcoming and inviting.

I have a friend in town who once lived in the canopy of a giant old redwood tree doing activism work for 6 months. The stories he tells of that time are fascinating. While living in the tree, he once told me, there were places in the actual tree he was living in that he didn't feel comfortable going, and places that he believed held a little more spiritual power. Perhaps like spots on the human body. Anyhow, sometimes I feel like the Founder's Grove is one of those spots in Humboldt Redwoods State Park that holds a little more power. It's well worth the visit...

Canopy Views

Avenue of the Giants
300ft + trees
South Fork of the Eel River

Looking down into the Woman's Federation Grove
I found this neat vantage spot in Humboldt Redwoods State Park for the first time this week. It's almost like being in the canopy, and offers fantastic views. Only problem is that the hillside/trail is tick infested at the moment. Especially this time of year, you can guarantee that if you walk in any kind of hillside grass, you pick up a few ticks along the way...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Redwood National Park

The forest calls
A lot has changed in a year. The first time I visited Prairie Creek last year I was so overwhelmed by the place, I couldn't wrap my head around it. I felt like an astronaut who had just landed on another planet. I picked a spot and began slowly familiarizing myself, and at a banana slug's pace, spreading outwards week after week. I planned on visiting once a month, but that quickly turned into once a week visits. The first time I visited Redwood National Park last summer, I was convinced there were places no man had ever been before, and couldn't fathom anyone ever going into some of those places. It looked too difficult, wild, and scary. Well, it may be true to an extent, but I think there ARE a few who have gone to these spots, and there are a few who are going to them now. After a year of rambling around, I am surprised how my own comfort level has drastically changed. I didn't realize it, but I think a certain skill set begins to develop over time, and those who head into the forest probably continue to learn something new after each visit.

Yesterday was a good, good day. I'm not sure if this is true or not, but it seemed to me that the adventure of a lifetime still awaits. Exploring the redwood forest is just as exhilarating as any thru hike I have ever done. It's a gift like no other...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Eel River

Here's a couple of photos of the Eel River taken this week in HRSP. Starting to feel a sense of closure creep in on this particular life chapter as Appalachian Trail prep continues. I know life offers no guarantees on anything, so I'm trying to soak in as much redwood time as possible while I'm still here. It's a great time of year to be outside...

Chandelier Tree

I payed a visit to the Chandelier Tree after work yesterday on an absolutely perfect, warm, cloudless afternoon. The tree is simply magnificent, and well worth the 5 dollars to enter the park. According to the website, the park has been owned and operated by the Underwood family since 1922. They have done a superb job taking care of the property, and the small redwood grove there. It felt really, really peaceful, and I enjoyed the human landscaping alongside the forest that still appeared in its natural state.

While photographing the tree, a woman I was standing next to was debating her friends. She was convinced that the Chandelier Tree was not a redwood. She kept saying that the tree did not look right. Well, it's definitely a redwood, and the tree sure has a unique look to it. Again, definitely worth paying a visit to see with your own eyes in my opinion.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Redwood Ramblin'

I spent a great day ramblin' around Prairie Creek yesterday. Was very fortunate to be able to "bear witness" to a few more majestic groves that I've never been in before and see some special trees up close. Some of the trees could have been in the top 50 as far as cubic volume is concerned, perhaps not. It doesn't really matter too much to me these days. Stepping foot onto new ground seems to give me the biggest thrill in the redwood forest. Just a spectacular park...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Backpacking Redwood National Park

Redwood Creek
 I went backpacking over Easter weekend with trail friend "Moosie." She hiked the PCT and CDT the same years I did and is one of the members of the infamous Sobo Hobos. She has also hiked half of the AT as well. This was her first trip to the redwoods. The plan was to collaborate on some sort of art project, to use our experience in the redwoods to express some sort of visual artwork. There was plenty to be inspired by.
Moss and maples
We found this old chimney tree back in the forest
Looking up the chimney
 Our first day hiking was memorable. Permits were easy to come by and Redwood Creek was swift but fordable. We had to attempt twice as our first spot was a little too deep. Weather was good, and there was plenty to look at. I was blown away how much area remains to be explored. It was very exciting. A highlight for me was noticing cedar trees for the first time. This makes me want to look around the Northwest a bit more.
Cedar tree (grayish green foliage)
 We found a good spot to camp and firewood was easy to come by, and dry! After a delicious dinner, Moosie and I were treated to a magical moon show. The full moon slowly rose above the canopy, casting soft moon beams over the forest and through the creek canyon. Definitely memorable.
My tarp Easter morning looking downstream
Moosie's tarp looking upstream
 Rains came later that night. I was happy to know my tarp still does well in the rain, as long as I am careful. I woke up early Easter morning and was treated with one of my favorite forest views as soon as I opened my eyes. The redwood canopy draped in fog and mist. I took a few photos and then fell back into a deep sleep. Later in the morning, I heard Moosie calling me to wake up. We had a lull in the rainy weather, it was a good time to have breakfast and break camp. The rain held off just long enough to eat an enjoyable Easter breakfast. It was coming down pretty hard just before we hit the trail. The rest of the morning was cold and wet, but Moosie and I were treated with a feast of green color in the forest. Our plan was to hike all the way to the Tall Trees grove and then hike back and find another spot to camp. By noon, Moosie and I were both pretty darn cold and wet. After discussing our situation, we both decided it would be a good idea to just turn around and call it a day. It would leave us an extra day to work on some art anyhow, which I think was a good motivator. The rest of the afternoon, we were treated to rain showers, and short breaks of sunbeams, crystallizing everything in view. Pretty spectacular.

Moosie fording Redwood Creek
Just getting started...
Overall, it was another amazing trip for the memory bank. I can't wait for another chance to head back into this special place. I'm excitied to see what kind of art Moosie is able to create out of the experience as well...

Monday, March 30, 2015

3 Month Appalachian Trail Countdown

Signs of spring around town

Arcata Bottoms
If all goes as planned, I hope to be standing on top of Mt. Katahdin in Maine in about three months, and beginning a southbound hike of the A.T. Spring fever is raging within my being with a vengeance this year. Here in California, we've a great mix of sunny warm days and rainy days, so everything is green, wildflowers are blooming, sun is warm and intense, and I can't wait to get back on the trail. I think the hardest part about hiking a trail southbound is watching everyone else start their hikes right now, and having to patiently wait. I think the 3 extra months of income will help in the post trail transition. I feel myself "checking out" again, but know that I shouldn't until the time comes. I have made a list of things to do before departure time and posted it onto my wall (my real wall). Looks like I will have to purchase a few more gear items this year. Also excited about driving across the country once again back to Maryland where my parents live. I'd much rather spend a few days driving than fly...

Friday, March 27, 2015

This Week in Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Spring

Maple leaves are budding

Trillium are blooming

Spring has arrived in the redwoods. This week the redwoods received some fresh spring rains as well as glorious, bright, sunshine. Maple leaves are popping out as well as the white flowers of the trillium. The mountainsides of Northern California are bright green right now, and will eventually turn their characteristic golden brown this summer after the rain stops.

On a side note, I noticed quite a few more fresh blow downs from last months windstorm. It seems many of the groves were affected. Since Humboldt Redwoods State Park is basically a narrow band of old growth along the Eel River in most spots, and many of the groves are rather small, I have to wonder about the structural integrity of the groves. Is it normal to see so many blow downs? Does there come a point when the big trees start falling like dominoes after each intense storm? How much of a wind buffer did the logged surrounding mountains provide, or was the Eel River always a wind tunnel? Some groves look like a boxer with one of his front teeth knocked out.  I don't want to be an alarmist, just an observation.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Redwood National Park and Stumps

Redwood National Park morning fog

Ancient Snag, yellow backpack for scale
Steel cables left behind
Massive stump
Big stump with springboard notches
Stump and cables

This stump almost looks like a fountain with green bubbling water.

Ancient canopy
Huge cave redwood, with filtered photo
Drove up to Redwood National Park yesterday on a perfect, rainy, misty day. I did a poor job staying dry, and was pretty much soaked and exhausted by the end of the day. I spent more time looking through some of the logged portions of the forest. I find these areas exciting because you never know what you will find back there. There always seems to be a few random giant trees left behind for some reason. It's also a way for me to wake up to the reality of what our civilization has, and continues to do to our forests.

On a side note, it appears many portions of California continue to suffer from major drought conditions. Here are photos of Half Dome taken this time of year over the last four years. Snow pack appears almost non existent in the Sierra right now. I'd have to say the northern redwood parks are doing much better in that regard, we seem to be getting a fair amount of rain this year...