Monday, April 30, 2012


As it turns out, I am lyme free thank God. I feel like I dodged a bullet, especially since I have no health insurance. The County of Sonoma Department of Health Services offers an excellent service for tick bite victims. They test the tick in question for lyme disease for only $29.00, and send a laboratory report to your residence. Here is their phone number and address for more information:

County of Sonoma Department of Health Services
3313 Chanate Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404-1795

phone: 707-565-4711

Saturday, April 28, 2012

CDT Update

I think it's safe to say that I will not be attempting the CDT this year. I had to stay 100% focused in order to make it happen, and I definitely got distracted. It's for the better as far as I am concerned, I discovered the joy of the redwoods in the process. I gives me one more year to explore the area I currently call home, as well as save another year's worth of money. Also it gives me another year to long for the trail. There are pros and cons for sure. I do feel like I am losing my edge, and another year of comfort may really make me soft. So, for now, I am setting my sights on a 2013 attempt. 2013 just feels right as long as the world doesn't end.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Humboldt Redwood State Park

 I finally made it back to Humboldt Redwood State Park to do a little more redwood exploring. We've gone from winter to summer in a week here in Northern California. That beautiful, blue, California summer sky has returned along with temperatures nearing 90 degrees. It was a little cooler in the redwood forest, but noticeably warmer than my last few visits.

 I had a couple goals in mind, to find the "Spirit Tree," a redwood albino, and to comb another section of forest for giants. Both goals were completed, however a price had to be paid. The trip started with doing a quick measurement of a Ponderosa Pine growing off highway 101 near Laytonville. I fell into a ditch filled with water before getting that measurement.

 While looking for the "Spirit Tree," I noticed poison oak growing everywhere. It took a while to find it, along with a healthy dose of poison oak across my face, ears, and neck. It's just now starting to itch and blister. In fact, I seem to have had a steady dose of poison oak for the last month and a half or so. As soon as one patch clears up, I head back into the forest and receive another dose. Then, a little while later, I tripped and thought I broke my leg. That story is described below. Who says we don't suffer for our art?

 Despite those few setbacks, it was another excellent outing. Giant trees were abundant. Rivers were running full and swift. I decided to stealth camp once again under the redwoods. Last night was pitch black. Thank God I remembered my headlamp. There was just a sliver of light from the slightly less black midnight blue sky with a couple stars peering above the canopy. Otherwise, complete and total darkness. I realized last night that I am uncomfortable in that kind of darkness. In fact, I think I am scared of the dark. Scared of getting attacked in the dark is more like it. Perhaps that's why I always prefer camping on the top of mountain ridges where I can see the sky and valleys below in the middle of the night. I woke up in the middle of the night and was trying to piece together what phase of the moon we are in. There was no moon. I just checked the calendar and last night was the New Moon. No wonder!

There is nothing like waking up and looking at the tops of the redwoods draped in early morning fog. I brought my binoculars and spent some time lying on my back peering into the upper canopies in my sleeping bag.
 I found a couple of rare 50 foot cbh trees. The tree above is actually a double tree. As you can see, the tree splits about 20 feet up. It's a massive wall of wood regardless. Throughout the morning, I heard the birds that sound like a whistle at a sporting event. I'm not sure what they are.
What an amazing earth on which we live. Happy Earth Day everyone!

RIP Old Redwood Giant

 I came across this fallen giant today while exploring a section of Rockefeller Forest. It looked like a fresh fall, as in couple weeks or even couple days fresh. This was a big, old giant. I'm guessing it had a cbh of near 40 feet. It's crazy to think it has been standing in this spot for over a thousand years and finally was laid to rest within the month.
 It's also interesting how these old giants seem to throw off all their limbs in the final fall. I'd imagine many of them simply get buried into the ground. The rest seem to scatter in a massive debris field. This is the closest I will get to climbing one of these amazing trees. As I walked towards the top of the tree, I noticed lots of different lichen scattered around. Again, it all looked very fresh.
One of the coolest moments for me was walking up to a notch that was probably 3/5 of the way up the tree. The notch still had a large chunk of soil attached to it, with mosses and ferns growing out of it. From the ground, you can see these notches and gardens growing on the standing trees. Only a handful of tree climbing scientists get to examine the contents. I peeled off a chunk of the soil that probably took decades if not centuries to accumulate on the notch, and pretended to be a scientist. 
Along with the ferns and moss were some centipedes with yellow spots. They appeared to be mating. I guess if it's the end of the world, you might as well find someone to love eh?!
RIP old redwood giant.

11:55 Tree

The "11:55 Tree," growing in Humboldt Redwood State Park.

Candy Cane Trees

I'm not sure whether to name these the "Candy Cane Trees" or the "Dammit, I Think I Just Broke My Leg Trees." I stumbled upon these trees in Humboldt Redwood State Park yesterday. During a moment of awe, somehow my back foot scooped up a stick and lifted it right behind my other foot, locking both my legs, resulting in a nosedive into the redwood duff. Just below my knee, my upper shin slammed onto a root or log giving me a couple minutes of alarm as I rolled onto my back staring up at the canopy, my leg in agony. After a few minutes, I realized I could stand, but had to limp for a while. My leg continued to throb throughout the night, but feels better today. Just goes to show that we can't take anything for granted.

Spirit Tree

The "Spirit Tree," an albino redwood growing in Humboldt Redwood State Park.
It's best not to publish the exact locations of the rare albinos and redwoods. I won't add any more information than what is already available. The reason is this: In the case of the albinos, there is an indescribable urge to rip or cut off the branches to take home as a souvenir. I've experienced it myself, in fact, still do every time I see one. Because these albinos are very rare, obviously, the tree probably would not survive if visited hundreds of times a day.

In fact, there was a branch that had been ripped off lying behind the tree on Saturday. Perhaps someone had an uneasy conscience and decided to put it back after breaking it off the tree. Perhaps some parent scolded their child after tearing off a branch. Maybe it simply fell off, but it didn't look like it. Please, if you come across these wonderful specimens, "take only photos, leave only footprints."

Ponderosa Pine

Giant Ponderosa Pine near Laytonville, CA.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hendy Woods

Once a week I drive past Hendy Woods State Park in the Anderson Valley. It's one of the few tiny patches of old growth redwood forest that still remain, with trees reaching 340 feet. The trees tower over the rest of the forest. The park is on California's park closure list. I took these pictures off the 128. As you can probably make out, the Anderson Valley is wide open, with farms, vineyards, and oak woodlands to the east. Step inside Hendy Woods, and it's like entering another world. The temperature immediately decreases, and  the silence and shadows of the redwood forest dominate. Usually, the forest is draped in fog when I drive past in the morning. Today, sunshine was abundant, and temperatures have topped the 80 degree mark. Yesterday was the first day of 2012 where I was able to comfortably open my room's window and let in the fresh air.

Monday, April 16, 2012


(New redwood sprouts emerging from fence post.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Montgomery Woods

I was fortunate to have the morning off from work yesterday, and didn't have to be at the coast until the afternoon. I decided to head up to Montgomery Woods for the morning, the day after another major rain event. The alluvial plane was filled with water, and I'd imagine the trees were loving it. 

 I was very fortunate to have the grove all to myself for the two whole hours I was there. I'm having a bit of a conflict these days. I'm feeling like the most invasive species around especially when it comes to Montgomery Woods. I have to battle with my conscience to stay on the trail. Today, my conscience lost, as I wanted to see some trees up close that the trail doesn't allow. The redwood sorrel (the clover) seem so fragile, and you can practically see a trail emerge from walking on them once.

 I continued to look for "the ghost of Montgomery" but came up empty once again. After leaving the grove, I drove the rest of the way to the coast along a road I've only taken once before. It's still startling, embarrassing actually, to see mile after mile of logged forest all the way to the ocean.

For now, we still have this gorgeous grove to visit. If you are ever in the area, it's well worth the drive to see these ancient giants.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

California Buckeye

 My friend Kate sent me an email yesterday asking me if I wanted to come check out a California Buckeye tree that she believes may be one of the largest, if not the largest in Mendocino county. I was very excited for the chance to see this tree, not knowing anything about the California Buckeye.
 We took a few rough measurements of the tree's circumference, height, and length of the crown. My focus has mostly been on California conifers the last few months, and Kate's focus has been on the deciduous trees. I had to laugh when we shared what we notice in nature. There was a whole list of things I've never noticed before, simply because my awareness has not been awakened. Kate wrote down the measurements in her notebook and a friend of hers showed us a giant Bay Tree growing near a small creek. Kate pointed out a few birds, including one that makes its winter home here in Mendocino, and will begin migrating back to Alaska pretty soon for the summer.
Another great day, another great tree...

Ponderosa Pine

Here's a giant leaning Pondersosa Pine in a park in Ukiah, California that I stopped by to visit today.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pacific Madrone (Mailliard Redwoods State Natural Reserve)

 (Pacific Madrone above)
I drove to Mailliard Redwood State Natural Reserve again on Saturday to explore the hills for interesting trees. The day resulted in another steep bushwhack to the ridge line of one of the mountains in the area. Near the top of the mountain was this rather large Pacific Madrone tree.
 (Pacific Madrone above)
As always, the climate is much drier higher up the mountain. After spending an hour or so looking around, I came back down the mountain and drove to a different spot. I parked my car near the area where I saw the wild black pig a couple weeks ago. When I got out of my car, I noticed a black severed pigs ear lying on the ground about ten feet in front of my car. When I looked into the woods, I saw the rest of the remains lying in a pile in the underbrush. I wonder if it was the same pig? Anyhow, after entering the forest, there was trash everywhere. A dozen or so black trash bags thrown into the forest, with their contents strewn about. I wonder if the pig had been raiding the garbage cans of the locals in the area?
 After wandering around a bit in search of trees, my curiosity was exhausted and I decided to call it a day. Just before leaving, I found this old giant (below) growing not too far from the road. Just a side note: Yesterday, I found a small deer tick partially embedded in my arm. Lyme disease in rampant in these parts. I'm hoping I found it in time. If anyone reads this and is hiking anywhere in the area, make sure you do your tick checks, and take whatever precautions you think are necessary.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

45 Degree Tree

 Yesterday I had a little extra time to take a look around a section of saved second generation redwoods along the Navarro River. Lurking in the shadows near the river was this fantastic tree that was practically growing at a 45 degree angle with an enormous base.
 What's interesting about the trees along the Navarro, is that all of the old giants have been logged. Whatever  few old trees remain are ones with fantastical forms, burls, or mutations. I would assume the wood is of poorer quality as a result of the tree's growths. For some reason, even a lot of the second generation trees have odd forms along this river. Nevertheless, part of the redwood's charm is their ability to take these wild shapes from time to time.
This young tree had a bouquet of redwood sorrel attached about three feet from the ground.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Majestic Tree

I had a couple of hours after work today to do some forest exploration, and there was one particular Douglas Fir I wanted to measure that I found a couple weeks ago. After wrapping the tape around the old beast, it became a personal record breaker with a cbh of 21 feet, 8 inches. The Douglas Fir was growing in a second generation redwood forest. There were massive stumps all around, and I longed to see what the forest once looked like. It seemed to be recovering nicely, but I don't know how this forest is managed. It may be on the chopping block at any time for all I know. What made this day even more special was my return trip to my vehicle. After emerging from the forest I was walking along road 20 and I glanced across the street and saw what looked like a hunkering redwood giant way up on the hillside. There seem to be no old growth redwoods anywhere around here so I assumed it was probably two or three medium sized trees growing near each other giving the illusion of a distant giant, watching over the road way up on the hill.
(Ginat Douglas Fir crown on left, growing next to The Majestic Tree on the right)
It was worth checking out, and after climbing the hill, I was in absolute awe. It was one of the most beautiful redwoods my eyes have ever seen. Perhaps due to spending the afternoon looking at smaller second generation trees made this one hit me the way it did. It was totally unexpected, and had one of the most interesting crowns. There were enormous branches, and several gigantic limbs protruding from the main trunk. I mean GIGANTIC limbs. I wish I could climb this tree and see what's up there. After driving this road probably close to a hundred times in the last year and three months, I never have seen this tree from my car, despite constantly scanning the hillsides. Maybe it's not visible from the car. It may be the grandest tree in the area for all I know. I felt truly blessed to experience for a moment what this area actually did once look like.
(The Majestic Tree)

Douglas Fir

Today I measured a personal record breaker for girth on a Douglas Fir, with a circumference at breast height of 21 feet, 8 inches. I actually found the tree along the Big River in Jackson State Demonstration Forest a couple of weeks ago, but finally grabbed the chance to measure it today. It's a glorious old giant, growing along side second generation redwoods.