Monday, January 28, 2013

Willits Bypass Protest 1-28-13

"Warbler," a young female tree sitter, setting up camp in an old Ponderosa Pine, scheduled to be destroyed.
 I called in sick to work today because my friend Kate informed me, as well as several others, that Caltrans was planning to begin the first stages of construction on the Willits bypass this morning. It seems to have caught many people off guard. Caltrans was planning to "top" several large, wild oak trees in the Little Lake Valley. Basically they were going to cut the trees down to about four feet, preventing migratory birds from the North that will be nesting in them soon. If the birds arrive and nest, construction can not begin. This has been an issue that has been going on for two decades now according to one woman I talked to.
Caltrans vehicle returning from Little Lake Valley
"Warbler" unfurling a banner that says "STOP CALTRANS BYPASS"
  Like all things, it's a touchy issue. Traffic in the town of Willits has been increasing over the years. Practically speaking, a bypass would ultimately lessen traffic congestion, although even that seems to be debatable. Environmentally speaking, construction of the bypass would be devastating to the local wetland ecosystem, where the construction will take place. Furthermore, areas to the north would also be under threat, including Richardson Grove Redwood Park. The plan is to eventually make the 101 another major travel route, akin to the I-5, where goods can be trucked up and down the coast. All fine and dandy, but as always, nonhuman life forms lose.

 What is the price of "progress?" When is enough, enough? Why do we feel the need to pave over every last inch of wild America? What about the voiceless?
We were not permitted past this sign under threat of arrest for trespassing
I was truly inspired when I arrived and saw a young and courageous woman named "Warbler," setting up camp at the top of a 75 to 100 foot Ponderosa Pine.
From what I understand, she plans on staying there for as long as it takes. Of course, I'd imagine construction will probably devastate the surrounding area, and she will have to bear witness to it from the top of the tree.
Standing under "Warbler's" Ponderosa Pine
I hope to take a tour of the actual construction area in the next couple of weeks. Those who have taken the tour have said how moved they were, saddened by what may take place, certain that many of the locals just haven't really made it a reality in regards to what they will be losing.
Warm sun burning off the morning fog. "Warbler setting up camp."
 There were probably about 60 of us who made it out for the first day's protest. Personally, I think thousands should show up if they can. Having grown up in the concrete jungle of the East, it would be a tragedy if California follows suit.
Sending supplies up to "Warbler."

Wild oak habitat scheduled for destruction. We were permitted to see only a tiny portion of what will be lost.

Today we stopped Caltrans from "topping" the oaks. What about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day?More info can be found here...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Micah and Rutabaga: PCT 2010 Trail Angels (Crater Lake, Oregon)

PCT trail angels Mica and Rutabaga, Crater Lake Lodge. Photo courtesy of Indie.
I was doing a little CDT research the other night and allowed myself to get distracted (as usual) by picking up my PCT trail journal and reading a few passages. I read about two incredible human beings, Micah and Rutabaga, a young couple Indie and I met in Crater Lake Oregon.

Indie and I first met Micah and Rutabaga at the Crater Lake Village store, where we had just arrived to pick up our resupply packages. It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp, cold, morning.  Indie told me a story of how one of his buddies, back home in New Jersey, would pretend he was a movie star or something like that, encourage his friends to do the same, and then take pictures of themselves strutting in public. The trail can make you a little crazy, and perhaps a little bored at times, so this is what we did to entertain ourselves while hiking into Crater Lake.

I remember the resupply at the Village store was chaotic as usual. My resupply had been delivered to the Crater Lake post office, several miles away. When I attempted to call the post office, the pay phone outside would not accept any of my quarters. I ended up asking to borrow the store's phone. Thankfully, they agreed, and the post office said they could deliver my package to the store free of charge, a couple hours later. That was a huge weight off my shoulders.

Indie, on the other hand, became a man on a mission. He decided that he needed to mail a bunch of things home that he was not using. While the post office was coming to me so to speak, Indie had to get to the post office. He began soliciting folks in the parking lot if they wouldn't mind giving him a ride. He wasn't having any luck. I'd never seen him look as distressed as he did that morning.

There were showers at the Village Store, as well as washing machines. The showers were heavenly as usual. The washing machines cleaned my clothes better than anything ever has, past or present. The woman at the store claimed it was the detergent. To this day, I can't remember what the detergent was, and I think about it every time I have to shop for the stuff.

While all of this was occurring, Micah and Rutabaga were there with us, also doing resupply, however they were just out hiking for a few days. They were traveling on vacation. We shared the usual hiker small talk. They both seemed fascinated with the idea of thru hiking the PCT.

Eventually, Indie scored a ride to the post office, my package arrived, and Micah and Rutabaga went on their way. I loaded my backpack and talked to a couple other folks lounging around the store. Before leaving, Indie mentioned an "all you can eat buffet" that he had read about at the Crater Lake Lodge. We were planning on finishing resupply, then hiking the 5 miles or so the the rim of the Lake, go to the lodge for a dinner feast, and then be on our way. I couldn't wait. At this point in the hike, we couldn't get enough food.

Indie eventually returned from the post office and arrived back at the store where I was waiting for him. His chores were done, as well as mine, and we were ready to hit the trail. It was late afternoon, and we had a couple hours to hike to the Crater Lake Lodge, where we both were dreaming of the buffet. We were going to arrive just in time.

Unfortunately, we got into a deep discussion about something I can't remember, and somehow we took a wrong turn on the trail. We ended up hiking 2 and a half miles in the wrong direction. That meant we had to retrace our steps another 2 and a half miles. A 5 mile detour. We were going to be late for the buffet! This was a crisis of epic proportions. We double stepped our approach to the rim and lodge of Crater Lake. It was a steep climb and my freshly cleaned hiking shirt was again drenched in sweat.

 We arrived at the rim of Crater Lake just as the sun was setting. Indie and I were in a state of stunned silence as we gazed upon one of the most incredible scenes along the trail. 

After taking photos, we snapped out of our revelry when our stomachs rang the dinner bell. We hustled over to the Crater Lake Lodge only to find out there was no all you can eat buffet! The buffet was actually at one of the restaurants by the Village Store where we had just hiked from a few hours earlier. I was so disappointed I can barely put it into words. Soul crushing! The lodge did have meals, but were way out of our price range. We simply couldn't justify ringing up that kind of bill for a dinner on our meager hiker budget.

Indie and I walked out of the lodge into the open air and attempted to discuss a plan B. There was a cafe near the lodge where maybe we could score a quick bite to eat. It had just closed. We cursed ourselves for taking a wrong turn on the trail. The sun was setting, and it was starting to get really cold, really fast. Our spirits were low, low, low.  We weighed the pros and cons. The cons were way ahead at this point. No buffet. No cafe. It was getting cold fast. We had a night hike ahead of us. We were going to have to search for an illegal campsite along the rim. We would be hiking in the dark therefore missing one of the most scenic spots on the trail. We had a 26 mile waterless section ahead. That meant at least 6 quarts of water to add to an already stuffed and fully resupplied backpack.

We had to get our 6 quarts of water so we walked back into the lodge. At least we would be out of the cold for a little while.

The Crater Lake Lodge was stunning. The atmosphere was one of absolute comfort (at least to us hikers.) There were folks sipping wine, dining on gourmet food. There was a big fireplace with folks sitting in plush chairs, many on their computers, phones, pads, and other electrical devices. The lighting inside is dim, warm, and cozy. Many folks were sitting around talking about their travels. Indie and I felt like wild animals in comparison. We surrendered ourselves to be merely spectators. We found the water fountains and bathrooms and started filling our bottles, reluctant to leave the comfort of the place.

Suddenly Micah and Rutabaga came over and said "hi!" They saw us refilling our water bottles at the fountains. They mentioned that they had a room that Micah's father had bought for them to spend a couple nights in as a gift during their travels. They offered us to stay with them for a night without hesitation. They told us to think about it while they made dinner reservations.  Indie and I did not want to impose and we discussed it for a few minutes. When Micah and Rutabaga returned we asked for their reassurance that they did not mind. They assured us that it was OK. Indie and I were stunned. It was an incredible, overwhelming act of generosity. Our spirits immediately were soaring towards the heavens once again, and all I could do was shake my head in disbelief. Who are these people? Who are these folks that offer a helping hand to a couple of strangers?  Would I do the same in a similar situation? The term "Trail Angel" is an appropriate description.

Micah and Rutabaga went off to dinner and showed us the room. Indie and I found spots on the floor to sleep for the night. The cold wind howled outside the window. Indie and I were so grateful to be indoors this particular night. We had a long day ahead of us in the morning. We planned to be out before first light. When Micah and Rutabaga returned to the room after dinner, the four of us talked for a while, Rutabaga had a flask of whiskey she shared with us. I had a package of Twizzlers. All of us were tired from the day's hike and the party did not last long. Eventually we put down the Twizzlers and whiskey and fell fast asleep. As planned, Indie and I were up before the sun. We packed up our backpacks as quietly as we could and prepared to leave. Rutabaga woke up and heard us just before shutting the door and wished us good luck on our journey. We thanked her once again, and wished her well too.

After filling up on coffee courtesy of the Crater Lake Lodge, Indie and I were once again on the PCT on another crisp, cold, gorgeous morning. The sun was just beginning to rise over the rim. We felt like a million bucks. There were so many reasons to be grateful. First and foremost we had Micah and Rutabaga to thank...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Montgomery Woods

  I squeezed a quick hike in Montgomery Woods Friday morning before having to head into work. Much warmer in the grove yesterday than the last couple of weeks. I tried to look around areas that I don't usually look.
Old Douglas Fir and redwoods in background

 I found this strange looking fungus that I don't recall ever seeing before. Not really sure what it is.

New redwood tree growing out of stump
Other than that, just a peaceful way to start the day, and I'm grateful for another chance to spend time with the elders...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Part 1

45 ft cbh
I went to Humboldt Redwoods State Park yesterday to resume searching for redwoods with a circumference at breast height of over 40 feet in this one particular section of forest. I thought the search would be coming near an end, but there were so many enormous trees in this spot that I spent the entire day without walking more than a quarter mile.
40 feet, 4 1/2 in. cbh
42 feet, 10 in cbh
40 feet, 5 in cbh
What made the day even more special is that this area is located across the creek where I usually camp. For an entire year, I've been wondering what the forest looked like over there. Well, now I can say that it holds what I think may be the most 40 foot circumference trees in the smallest amount of space that I have seen so far.
52 feet cbh. Any tree over the 50 foot range seems to be very rare here.
42 feet, 6 in cbh (double stem)
When I arrived at the park Saturday morning, the last of the morning's fog was just starting to burn off. The forest was cold, and I had to cross the icy cold creek in my crocks. I didn't see anyone all day.
40 feet, 12 in cbh (double stem)
enormous base and roots of fallen redwood
My focus was mostly on the trees, so I didn't really see much else. It appeared that there were less mushrooms than when I visited at the end of November last year. I didn't see any wildlife, amphibians, or fish either.
43 feet, 1 in cbh
46 feet, 2 in cbh
After about five hours of searching, I measured 17 trees with a cbh greater than 40 feet. I still hope to finish the overall search before leaving for the Continental Divide in June. Looks like it will be at least three more trips.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Part 2

41 feet, 11 in cbh
Here are a few more trees I found yesterday in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
37 feet, 5 in cbh
42 feet, 8 in cbh
39 feet, 7 in cbh
44 feet, 9 in cbh (double stem)
40 feet, 4 in cbh
49 feet cbh
40 feet, 3 in cbh

45 feet, 5 in cbh
41 feet, 1 in cbh

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Montgomery Woods

 I managed to squeeze a quick hike late Monday afternoon in Montgomery Woods. Temperatures were probably the coldest that I can remember in the last couple of years. The soil was frozen and filled with ice crystals in certain spots.
 One thing I love about the late afternoon in the redwoods, is how the sun shines into the canopy. Usually, just the tallest trees manage to catch the rays, and this allows you to see branches and limbs and overall canopy structure that otherwise goes unnoticed.
Despite the cold, the time of day, and the fact that it was Monday, there were still several visitors to the grove.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fallen Redwood Giant/Albino/Lichen

 The most interesting part of Sunday's hike was towards the end of the day. I wanted to check on an albino I found last year and see how it was doing. When I walked closer to the location of the albino, I noticed that a redwood tree had fallen very recently, and it appeared that it may have smashed the albino, or may have been the albino's host tree that had fallen. Thankfully, when I reached the base of the fallen tree, the albino was still alive and well, and just missed getting smashed in the fall. It was only a few feet away from the massive trunk lying on the ground.
 It always amazes me how when a redwood falls, it seems to throw off every single branch and limb. I was excited for another opportunity to examine various lichen growing in the tree's canopy. Daylight was decreasing, as well as my camera battery, but I managed to capture photos of a few of the specimens lying about.

Of course I had time to contemplate mortality and time as well. I wondered if the tree was still alive as I was walking all over it. It was humbling to think about the many centuries this tree has lived, and all the changes it would have seen, if it had eyes, to the surrounding land.  I remembered how just a few months ago, I saw this same tree standing, of course not knowing that it was living it's final 90 out of 365,000 days.
The picture above is a photo I took back in October 2012. The now fallen tree can be seen leaning on the left hand side of the picture. The ground was unbelievably soft and muddy around the base on Sunday. I guess it collapsed under it's own weight and maybe due to the saturated earth.