Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Power of Action

Tonight I was talking with one of the brave women who sat down in front of a bulldozer on Monday, protesting the Caltrans bypass in Willits, CA. Her action resulted in Caltrans having to stop construction for the day. As she was getting ready to leave tonight she said, "Sitting in front of the bulldozer and risking arrest was easier than sitting at home the last 5 years watching and doing nothing."

Here is another excellent article written by Will Parrish...

Below is video taken from that day from Malakai of the Mendo Free Skool:

Continental Divide Trail: 3 Months to Go!

Jonathan Ley maps printed and ready to go
 It's time to get my eyes back on the prize. Just about three months to go before beginning the Continental Divide Trail, God willing. Spring is on the doorstep here in Northern California. Along with the longer days, blossoming flowers, and warmer temperatures, spring fever is creeping in. That means, time to hike!
Spring is on the doorstep
"Shit just got real," or so the saying goes, when Jonathan Ley's maps arrived in the mail last week. Many, or most of us hiking the CDT this year have joined the Continental Divide Trail 2013 Facebook page, which has been a great way to talk, and share info about the trail, probably more so than the current CDT list serve. One hiker, named Peru, organized a Jonathn Ley map print group. Many of us were able to get our maps this way, stress free, on time, and looking great.
ULA Catalyst Backpack
I also ordered a new ULA Catalyst backpack for the hike which arrived a few weeks ago. This pack is about 6 pounds lighter than the pack I used on the PCT. I'm sure I will miss the bomb proof and spacious pack I've been using all this time, but to shed 6 pounds is going to feel great. Also, I ordered some bug netting for my tarp. I'm going to go with the Gossamer Gear Spinn Twinn once again for this hike. A tarp tent would have been nice, but I think I'm going to have to hold on to the extra money for now. I don't mind, I feel wilder under a tarp anyhow.
Shoes for the trail
New Balance Trail runners also arrived in the mail a few weeks ago that I ordered online for the hike. There is still a lot to do in the coming months, but I'm feeling pretty good overall. I will step up the map study this next month and start developing a resupply plan. There will be lots of odds and ends to do as well, once departure time draws nearer.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Caltrans Bypass (Willits, CA): Feb. 25, 2013

Warbler and the Liberty Ponderosa
 I was planning on visiting Montgomery Woods after work this afternoon, but a call went out that Caltrans had begun construction of the bypass this morning along East Hill Road in Willits. By the time I arrived after work, there were about a dozen folks still standing along East Hill Road, and many more gathering at the Liberty Ponderosa. Before I arrived, Caltrans installed a few fence posts near East Hill Road, and attempted to begin bulldozing vegetation. However, a couple protesters found two birds nests in a nearby bush. The brave protesters sat in front of the nests and prevented the bulldozer from destroying the brush. The Migratory Bird Act went into effect on February 1, which supposedly makes it unlawful to disturb nest sites of migrating birds from the north until about September I believe. The protesters spoke with Highway Patrol, voiced their concern, and Highway Patrol said they would consult with Caltrans about whether they had surveyed the area for birds or contacted Fish and Wildlife. We received word later in the day that it would take a few days before Fish and Wildlife could conduct a survey.
The sign says it all
Caltrans fence posts along East Hill Road.
Personally, I don't know how all this stuff works, it's all new to me. However, construction had been halted for the day. It's clear that Caltrans has no desire to halt construction for long. As I was leaving, I saw Catrans workers putting the finishing touches on a new "Entering Construction Area" sign along the 101, about a mile before the Southern Interchange of the bypass.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Caltrans Bypass (Willits, CA): Oil Well Hill

Douglas Fir: cbh 18 feet, 8 in
While driving up to Laytonville for work on Thursday, I spotted the top of a large Douglas Fir that had the appearance of an old giant of the forest. It was thick and gnarled, the original top appeared to have fallen off, but a new top had reiterated and was blowing in the wind. This tree is also growing in an area called Oil Well Hill. This is the major "borrow site" for fill dirt material for the proposed Caltrans Bypass. Somewhere between 12 and 40 acres will be excavated from Oil Well Hill for "fill material." The Bypass project will dump between 1.4 and 2.5 million cubic yards of fill dirt in the wetlands area. It is estimated that 140,000 dump truck loads of dirt will be required to complete this task.
Douglas Fir: cbh 16 feet, 7 in
Oil Well Hill is covered with a beautiful Douglas Fir forest. There are several large trees growing on the spot. I am uncertain whether the two trees pictured will be in the excavation zone. However, the idea of destroying just a few more acres of what appears to be pristine forest is unfathomable. We should be doing everything in our power in this day and age to protect what little undisturbed forest remains, and make it a priority to find better solutions if construction projects are to be implemented near them. For me, Oil Well Hill has been a special spot on my trips north to visit the redwoods. It always seems to be the first spot that rises above the fog of the Willits valley. The driver is greeted with a piercing blue sky as the road rises up the hill. This is the spot where the trees seem to take on a new character, they seem older, taller, and wilder. It's a sign of what awaits further north. The excitement of wilder country and natural beauty usually begins for me here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Caltrans Bypass (Willits, CA): Feb. 19, 2013

Rumor has it that Caltrans may attempt to fence off the Liberty Ponderosa this week in an attempt to cut off supplies to "Warbler," the young woman who is currently engaged in a tree sit at the Southern Interchange of the proposed bypass in Willits, California. Here's a recent interview with a man named Michael Hackleman, at the tree sit. Here are photos of the bootprint of the proposed Caltrans bypass, taken yesterday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Humboldt Redwoods State Park Feb 16, 2013

Double tree on left: 38 feet 7 in cbh/Tree on right: 39 feet, 3 in cbh

Douglas Fir 19 feet, 2 in cbh
46 feet, 9 in cbh (Double stem)
38 feet, 11 in cbh
48 feet, 1 in cbh (Double stem)
40 feet, 5 in cbh
41 feet, 2 in cbh
48 feet, 4 in cbh
40 feet, 9 in cbh
45 feet, 8 in cbh
45 feet, 6 in cbh
44 feet, 3 in cbh (Double Stem)
42 feet, 4 in cbh
40 feet, 11 in cbh
I drove up to Humboldt Redwoods State Park on Saturday to do some more redwood tree hunting. I picked up where I left off last time, hoping to find the 40 foot circumference titans in the forest. Once again, I spent the whole day in one particular spot, rich with big trees. I was hoping to progress down the river, but probably covered no more than half a mile. I heard the whistle of the varied thrush while I was eating lunch. Didn't see a single person all day. The trail here was overgrown and looked like it doesn't get much use. Still blows me away that I can be in such a grand area and not see anyone. The rain seems to have stopped so far in 2013, after a very wet fall. The forest appeared to be drying up a bit as well. The wind started to pick up in the afternoon, and debris began falling out of the trees. Mostly the trees closest to the creek received the brunt  of the wind.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Caltrans Bypass (Willits, CA): Feb. 10, 2013

Warbler and the Liberty Ponderosa Pine
Today I attended a walking/driving tour of the proposed construction area for the Caltrans Bypass in Willits California. There were dozens of citizens from the county who also attended today. There are many practical reasons the Caltrans Bypass should not be built. This blog, however, is a celebration of the natural world, so that will be my main focus in regards to this issue.
Construction materials have already been brought in. The Bypass will head straight down this corridor.
 When I was in college, I remember attending a lecture that was delivered by an accomplished traveler, backpacker, and book writer. Someone in the audience asked a question about Alaska. The lecturer however, had never been to Alaska, and he replied that not only had he never seen it, but he wasn't sure he would ever visit there. "I'm content just knowing the Alaskan wilderness exists," he said, "even if I never get the chance to see it."
Oak, ponderosa, madrone, manzanita scheduled to be destroyed.

That comment struck me as odd at the time, and I didn't quite understand what he meant. Over time, I've been able to appreciate what he said more and more. Recently, I read a reply a gentleman left on a comment board in regards to the Caltrans Bypass and the Little Lake Valley. To paraphrase, the man said he couldn't understand what the big fuss was about. No one really goes back there to hike or visit the trees in the valley, the comment went on to say. Perhaps this is a case (like the lecturer on Alaska) where we can be content just knowing the place exists in it's natural form, performing it's natural tasks, without having the need to visit it.
Wetlands scheduled to be destroyed. It will be drained using 55,000 separate "wick drains," installed five feet apart, and then eventually covered with fill dirt. This project has required Caltrans to obtain the largest wetlands fill permit issued in California in the last 50 years.
Due to time constraints, we only saw a few spots along the six mile corridor
Caltrans plans to use for the bypass. I hope to hike the area more extensively soon, to get a closer, more intimate look.
Caltrans bypass is scheduled to be built through this marshy field on the north end of Willits.
 Here is a video titled Why Wetlands Matter:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Caltrans Bypass (Willits, CA)

Warbler and the Liberty Ponderosa (February 6, 2013 Vigil)
Clouds and Oak trees.
This evening there was a vigil held under Warbler's Liberty Ponderosa Tree. We sang some songs, offered words of encouragement to Warbler, and enjoyed each other's company. As one woman said, "Action is the antedote to despair."

Here is a well written article by Will Parrish titled "The Warbler Tree Sit, Week 2...