The Confluence

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Black Walnut       A few months ago this tour was scheduled but then cancelled due to smoke conditions so today I was eager to go even though it was raining. We were a small group, seven plus three representatives of The Nature Conservancy. The gathering place was in front of Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah’s native plant farm.

confluence walkI came well prepared for the weather with down vest, rain jacket, poncho, rubber boots, and rain hat. Then, of course there was my daypack that goes everywhere with me and a fanny pack with small camera. It’s been my experience that trips designed to inform are usually fairly slow paced and I wanted to stay warm and dry while learning.

Our destination was the old gravel ponds along the Willamette River on the east end of Mt. Pisgah (Howard Buford Park), a 2,300-acre regional park. The land here is embraced more black walnutsby two branches of the Willamette– the Middle Fork and the Coast Fork– and the area has provided gravel for everything from cement to roads for many years. Because of the location there has been local support for trying to purchase land here and to rehabilitate it in conjunction with the park. Certainly within my time since moving to the Willamette Valley I’ve been aware of those seeing its potential and that was over 20 years ago.

Eventually the land owners were willing to consider an agreement and today the land is under the jurisdiction of The Nature Conservancy but it took the work of a number of agencies, as well as the owners, to bring it this far. And our group was going to see whTNC docent, Johnat is being done. The only way to access the property now is by going on a tour although the long-range goal is public access of some sort.

Years ago much of Buford Park, known mostly for its 1,516- foot Mt. Pisgah and including the non-profit Arboretum along its western edge, was orchards and farmland. Today I learned that part of the farms included hops and that Native Americans used to come and camp nearby to heroad betrween kpondslp with the hop harvest. Other crops included apple and walnut orchards. As we walked along one old road we enjoyed the bright yellow laciness of the leaves of black walnut trees.

Our docent carried a map that showed the gravel ponds as large rectangles, one nearly a mile long, and we were able to see, in person, how they havMiddle Fk. Willamettee been changed. In order to extract gravel along the river a dike would be built and the river moved out of the way. This spot was a prime example. We saw the river rushing by between rocks built up on the far side and a wall of rock on this side. The pond is no longer a rectangle but rounded with sloped sides, and a shallow area in the middle actually marks where the edge of the river used to be.

We were told that the contractors who are re-configuring the ponds are able to make changes in elevation down to one-tenth of an inch—they are artists with their dozers. The goal is to hagravel pit #1ve benches built up to various levels so that when the river floods, water passing through here will be good for the plants and wildlife, including fish, that will depend upon the protection of this side channel for survival. Another docent, Melissa, explained that her charge is the planting of native species and she said they know what it takes for the various plants, from sedges to cottonwoods and willows, to thrive. Clusters of small logs and debris are anchored at strategic places in the ponds to act as resting places for turtles that will be nesting on some of the rehabilitated flats along the banks. For instance, western pond turtles nest in grassy areas along ponds but their young need to get to water to be safe.

We hiked for somewhere close to three miles round trip. Afterwards, as I sat in my car drinking from a thermos of hot tea, I realized that when there is a tour to another part of this area, I wmostly pumpkinsant to go. On my way home I stopped at a farm stand (Me and Moore) to pick up some of what is probably the last of the corn and squash and to admire the pumpkins. I purchased pumpkins at a different farm this year but love looking at their display.

We Tried To Do It All

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To live in a rustic log cabin four miles from the nearest neighbor
at the end of a road we had to maintain ourselves.
It is one of theranch for poem copy loveliest spots in the county
outside of the Wilderness.
We spent our 2-week honeymoon there, and then
the rest of the summer putting cedar shingles
on the steep roof of the 2-story dwelling.
I’d haul the shingles up to him, up the narrow stairs
that showed the worn marks of previous owners,
when access was only by trail,
then climb out the window and up a ladder to where
he perched.
The view on three sides was meadow and forest
and to the south, across the river,
a tall, rounded mountain with a fire lookout at its peak.

And he commuted to work every day.
Twenty minutes on our road and half an hour on the
highway that paralleled the winding river.
I got a job teaching in a one-room school
in the little village about two miles away.
Once when the truck lost its brakes I walked
as fast as I could to the highway where
a Forest Service parent saw me and gave me a ride.
The first winter we tried to stay, our log bridge washed out
as did highway bridges.
Our first child was born that June.
He climbed trees to string a number-nine-wire phone line after
I spent the summer there with our toddler with no communication.

We planted a lawn and a garden.
I made applesauce from the trees in the old orchard.
When the mice chewed the wires on the generator
we used kerosene lamps.
We put a shower stall on the north porch
and eventually the septic tank was dug,
the outhouse came down,
the shower moved upstairs and there was
a flush toilet.
We lived there during the summer and many weekends
as two more children arrived.
For a couple of summers I used a gas washing machine
started with a pedal, like a motorcycle.
Then the electric machine from town got moved each summer.

Water came from a spring at the head of the meadow
and we used a bathtub for a settling tank to filter
some of the sand and tree debris.
Bears tried to dig up the PVC line. Maybe they thought the sound
of the water beneath the ground was bees.
They loved the apples and left great piles of dung.
We kept a sprinkler on the roof to keep the shingles wet
in case of fire.
Our heat came from a large wood-burning heater downstairs
as well as the old Monarch cook stove.
There was a gas refrigerator and a two burner gas stove.

He designed and built a bridge that would be able to withstand the
fall of a large Douglas fir from the cliff above, if it fell.
A bridge that wouldn’t wash out the way our log bridges did.
He cleared logs from the creek with an old military truck
that had a winch and taught our young daughter to shift the gears
while he wrapped a choker around a log.
A John Deere tractor was his tool for general road maintenance
but washouts required hiring someone with a big cat.
That road wanted to be a trail.

I have photos of the big English walnut in the orchard,
golden in the autumn,
and of fog filling the canyon below us;
of deer on the lawn while a child in diapers watches;
of ponderosa pines growing in the forest around the meadow
and madrones blooming sweetly in the spring;
of the old barn near the bend in the road;
of weathered boards on the south end of the house,
a rich wine color from years of sun;
of rusty hinges and old farming equipment;
of family posed for a Christmas photo.

But we weren’t able to do it all.

Revisiting Crater Lake, Conclusion

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Mt. Bailey from bike path.

After our long day with Ride the Rim volunteering, we had a quick dinner—salad, soup and some good bread. Included in the soup were some green beans from our garden. We went to bed shortly afterwards, really tired.

Sunday, after breakfast (and this time there was coffee!), Tom took our bikes off the back of the trailer and we were ready to try some riding on the paved path around Diamond Lake. Last year we both rode quite a bit but neither of us has ridden much since then. The total loop is around 11 miles. We took snacks and something to drink and headed out.

I’d had my bike worked on before we left but Tom had some trouble with his so we decided to just take it easy and not ride far. The trail is easily accessed below the RV place, just across the highway. Because of the fire danger a lot of trees along the highways, and actually along the bike path, have been pruned and many trees thinned, with stacks of cut branches alongside. There are campgrounds and day-use areas along the lake and I’m sure this is one of the reasons for the brushing and cutting. The trail passed alongside a camping area and at the first parking lot a man was sitting with a clipboard. A sign nearby said Survey Ahead. Tom stopped to talk to him for a few minutes while I went ahead. I planned to take a few pictures of the lake and of Mt. Bailey.

Later Tom told me the survey person was from Germany and he said he was trying to get information they could use in German parks. He was impressed by how much open space we have. He was asking people things like what drew them to the area. Tom thought it was part of his studies at a university.

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South Meadow

At one point I stopped, parked my bike, and walked through some knee-high blueberry bushes to get to the edge of the large green meadow that extended for some distance along the path. (This meadow was grazed by sheep in the 1930s) I wanted to get green meadow and Mt. Bailey. I’d just reached the grass when I thought I heard Tom coming and began to back up so I could see him. Suddenly I realized there was a hollow space where my foot was going and I staggered backward—would have made a great video I’m sure as I finally landed on my back in some blueberry bushes…..and some water. Had to laugh out loud at myself—no injuries, just hadn’t realized there was water hidden by those bushes and was wet from foot to shoulder along my right side. My daypack helped provide some padding too. Stood up, carefully took the picture (I’d held the camera up),right and walked back to my bike.

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Teal Lake & Mt. Baileyi

I rode ahead a short distance and then back to meet Tom, suggesting to him that we explore a couple of small lakes that we hadn’t noticed before. Actually they were more like large ponds. We parked our bikes and admired Teal Lake, then walked a quarter of a mile past Teal Lake to Horse Lake, which involved crossing a paved road. Horse Lake was even shallower than Teal Lake and supported a lot of water lily plants. On the way back I got a nice picture of Mt. Bailey with Teal Lake in the foreground.

From there we rode the rest of the way to Silent Creek, a fairly large stream with an arched bridge over it. The creek is about 20 feet across and the quietest stream of that size I’ve ever seen! It was here last year that we accidentally went two different directions. Tom had bOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeen ahead and gone left. I’d opted to go over the bridge to the right. We didn’t meet again until a couple of hours later when we arrived at our trailer site an hour apart. Needless to say we were together OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhenever the trail branched this time!

We crossed the bridge and found a place to sit on a log in the shade. The day had gotten quite warm. We saw a brown creeper, a very tiny bird, working its way up one of the hemlocks. Then Gray Jays (Camp Robbers) found us! I have no idea how they knew we were there. I’d seen three other bike riders cross the bridge earlier but that was it so no recent visitors had been there.

Those jays knew suckers when they saw them. I think there were four or five birds. Smart and sassy and wanting food and more food. Fortunately we’d eaten most of our snacks when they found us but, even so, I found myself digging in my daypack for any granola bars I might have overlooked. We usually don’t feed wildlife like chipmunks or golden-mantled OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAground squirreOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAls—knowing it’s not really good for them– but it was hard to resist. Tom even fed them a couple of berries from the bushes. They would take the food, disappear and then come back. We assumed they were storing it for future use. Eventually we ran out of food. Gray Jays are monogamous and stay together year ‘round. This was probably a family.

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Mt. Thielsen

We rode about another half mile to where we could see Mt. Thielsen (9,183 ft.) across a large meadow and then headed back to our campsite. I took a shower; we relaxed in the shade with a drink; ate an early dinner; and went to bed reasonably early. So often we’re rushing around on a trip and it was nice to just sit for a while. The next day we headed for home, running into smoke near Dexter, east of Eugene.

It had been a good trip though somewhat different than what we’d expected.

Crater Lake Revisited, Part II

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Garfield Peak

Saturday morning we got up at 5 a.m., tossed cold pizza and apples in our small ice chest for lunch, and brought something to drink. We gulped breakfast, skipped coffee, put hot water in a thermos for hot tea and left for the park.

The road was open. We showed our pass to the ranger at the check station and headed for the Rim. At one point on Pumice Desert there was a dense cloud of smoke, as if some had gotten stuck in a low spot, but after that it was clear all the way. What a wonderful, smokeless day it turned out to be! We had a strong hint that there wouldn’t be a lot of bike riders though when we got to the North Junction and saw only the volunteers setting up the station. And there was almost no traffic OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAon the road. Part of the road, from North Junction to Rim Village, has been under construction for some time but the side toward the lake was mostly paved and the other packed gravel.

We were late arriving at Park Headquarters but, because of the low turnout, it wasn’t a problem. All the smoke from the forest fires meant a lot of people hesitated to come because they didn’t want to be exercising in the smoke. And Highway 138 was closed because of a fire. Plus, part of the Rim Drive was closed until the previous night. Those who took the chance, however, were quite pleased with themselves!

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Tom & Bike Corral

It’s fun being involved as a volunteer and since we weren’t rushed with swarms of people there was a more of a chance to visit with participants as well as with our co-workers. Most of us were representing Friends of Crater Lake but others also volunteered and a ranger was there part of the time. We checked in those who had pre-registered and asked others to register. Since this is a free event it’s not a requirement but registration helps to track numbers and if there is a problem it’s good to be able to tell family whether or not someone checked in. This also provides an opportunity to ask whether or not the participant has done the ride before, provide information about the route, and answer questions.

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Shuttle buses

There were all ages and all abilities attempting the ride. Many just wanted to do 24 miles and avoid the nine-mile stretch that included the part under construction and traffic. But a number of riders also did theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA whole 33 miles. I noticed one family, including a 7-year old boy, who completed the 24 miles. And some just biked what they could, as I did last year, happy just to participate. One good innovation provided is bike corrals, one at the North Junction and one at Park Headquarters. People could park their bike (receiving a ticket with the matching number to be attached to their bike) and take a shuttle bus if they needed to go get their car at the Rim. Then they could drive back down to get their bike. Tom ended up doing a lot of the corral work. Some even rode back up on the bus to get a meal or shop at Rim Village. We just made sure everyone knew that we closed down at six as did the shuttle service.

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My room, far right, downstairs

When I worked here as a seasonal ranger-naturalist in 1961 and 1962, I came before the other seasonals arrived (the first year arriving in April when there were 10 feet of snow on the ground) and lived in a rustic cabin. Then, when the others came, I moved into the ranger dormitory. I had a room downstairs on the right side of the building. All the fellows were upstairs except for the two more mature ones who were also in my wing. Today the cabins are long gone, replaced by apartments. The dormitory is the Visitor Center. I found out my room is someone’s office. The mess hall is used for administrative purposes.

There used to be a one-room school in the old Administrative building where the park children went to school. One day a week they had ski lessons. A small rope tow, powered by a car engine (I think—memory may have it wrong) was available at the end of the road, past the cabins. To go to high school they had to go to Chiloquin. Today there are only two children in the park.

16 Degrees of Separation
After lunch I talked to one of the rangers about the fish in Munson Creek as he walked toward our booth. My husband asked him where he’d been before coming to Crater Lake and it turned OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAout it was Whiskeytown Lake, near Redding, California. Practically next door to Weaverville where I used to live. Well, that started quite a conversation. He knew Weaverville, he knew all the state parks in the district there—Joss House, Burney Falls, Castle Crags (where I grew up), Ides Adobe and Old Shasta. He knew there were fires burning there right now. And he knew about Canyon Creek. In fact, John said, he knew someone who lived up Canyon Creek. “Give me a last name,” I asked. “Corp, Noah”, he said. I told him I knew Noah’s parents, Connie and Dennis, from Weaverville. What’s the likelihood? I love things like this!

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Visitor Center

Tom and I stayed a little after six waiting for a ranger to come and pick up the donation box (funds would be used to help with next year). The person in charge of our group had left much earlier to go around to help the other four stations shut down and load tables, chairs, leftovers, etc. into a truck. Four of us took down the tent, stacked food boxes for him to pick up when he returned much later, and gathered garbage bags, etc. for the rangers to deal with. A car drove up and a female ranger walked across toward us, smiling. It turned out she was someone I left a message for the last two years, as well as this year. Marsha was a graduate student working with my eldest brother at Penn State when he was a professor there. He had told me she worked here and asked that if I visited to be sure to say “hi”. He has been retired now for some time. Marsha is Chief of Interpretation and Cultural Resources at Crater Lake and has been here nearly 20 years. So good to finally meet her and have a chance to chat for 15-20 minutes. If we hadn’t volunteered to wait for the donations to be picked up we’d not have met her.

When we drove along the Rim on our way out the lake had some smoke again so I didn’t take a picture.

To be continued

Crater Lake Re-Visited

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Munson Creek

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Munson Creek

I took my leftover pizza, an apple, and a bottle of iced tea and sat by Munson Creek, a little stream that runs through the Park Headquarters area at Crater Lake National Park. As I sat looking at the sand sifting through a very small, sunlit pool I was moved almost to tears by the water and by the familiar scents of warm duff as well as the needles of mountain hemlock and red fir—transported back to the summers of 1961 and 1962 when I was a seasonal ranger naturalist here. In the midst of my nostalgia, a shadow darted across the pool. What? A moment later another shadow and I realized that Munson Creek must have fish. There were several, and the larger one must have been about eight inches long. One at a time would hover in the middle of this brook, facing upstream, fins holding body in place, feeding. My guess is that they were brook trout.

Last weekend my husband and I participated again as volunteers for the Crater Lake Ride the Rim event, helping staff an aid station, in this case the one at Park Headquarters. Ride the Rim is co-sponsored by Crater Lake National Park and the Discover Klamath organization. For two succeeding Saturdays, the east rim (24 miles) of the park is closed to car traffic from early in the day until 6:00 pm. Bikers, runners and walkers can make use of the road without car traffic. A nine-mile stretch from park headquarters to the north junction is still vehicle accessible. Riders may choose to bike the entire distance or just the 24-mile stretch.

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We brought our bikes for a ride at Diamond Lk.

The first year that we participated we were both stationed at the North Junction. Last year we went for two weekends, each of us volunteering at the North Junction for one day while the other tried to do some riding. The stations provide water, fruit, ClifBars and information about the route. It’s fun to interact with the riders and see them having such a good time. Participants start either at Park Headquarters or at North Junction.

It was nip and tuck as to whether we were going to go because of all the smoke here in Eugene and at the park, where several fires were burning. I’d check the web cam for the park, look at fire incident maps and try to get a feel for the situation. The North Entrance to the park was closed and the closure included several miles of Rim Drive. Would it be open in time? We decided to stay home. Then, a few days after we were originally going to leave, we decided to take a chance. Our little travel trailer was already packed as were our bags and I’d purchased masks. I took the groceries that needed refrigeration back out to the refrigerator in the trailer; Tom put the bike rack on, and we were ready. This time we wouldn’t ride on the rim but hoped to get some riding in at Diamond Lake, where we would be staying for three nights.

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Looking across Diamond Lk. toward Mt. Bailey

Highway 138 was closed due to fires so we took Highway 58 over Willamette Pass. This was not encouraging. The smoke was so thick we couldn’t see Odell Lake. When we got to Chiloquin there was still quite a bit of smoke but as we headed toward Diamond Lake the smoke began to thin. But when we drove past the park entrance a sign said the park road was closed. Yikes! As soon as we arrived at the RV park I asked personnel there whether they knew anything about the National Park entrance and they looked it up online. The road would open at 6:00 p.m.! That was a relief. Otherwise we’d have had to drive around to the SoutOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAh Entrance the next morning.

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Built to withstand snowload

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Tom waiting for pizza

I’d packed plenty of food but that night we opted to eat at a little pizza place (South Shore Pizza) located just below where we were staying. We walked down a short path, crossed the street, and there we were. Mt. Bailey, usually visible across the lake, was barely a shadow because of smoke. The pizza place doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside is quite nice and we admired the sturdy wood structure, definitely designed to stand up under winter’s snow. They are open only Friday through Sunday now and serve very few tourists but the fire fighters are pleased to be able to go there for foOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAod and beer. We talked to several of them and learned that they were doing containment, riding bulldozers, felling trees, etc. all day building containment lines. They were obviously very tired from day after day of hard work. One man, who followed us back up the trail after dinner, said that it was a relief to walk after bouncing up and down on a dozer all day.

To be continued

Last Day in the Redwoods

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walk to Mill Creek

On my last day in the redwoods I joined a hike. We carpooled down the dusty road to the Stout Grove. It seems almost criminal to drive across those ancient roots. I knew the 12 of us we were going to Mill Creek via the Stout Grove, while we had gone to part of the Stout Grove from the kayaks.

This turned out to be an educational tour, with Dan as our guide, and I must admit to being a bit frustrated with it at first as I mostly wanted to hike. But I used to live here and  had to remember that some of our group had never seen apeople in redwoodsredwood tree before (a difficult concept for me to grasp!) let alone a grove of them and the accompanying understory. They were amazed at the size of the cones, delicate things about one-half inch long; the height of the trees up to at least 300 feet for some; and the variety of ferns– maidenhair, sword, deer and others. Where there was a fallen tree with the rootwad exposed, we noticed how shallow the roots were considering the size of the tree they held pointing skyward and Dan explained that the roots support each other a bit, like a network.saxafrage

Large trees often grow on flats along the rivers and streams where floodwaters from the past have deposited fertile soil and continue to do so during high water winters.
This is probably a good place to mention that the coast redwoods can get 150 inches of rain and more per year. And that the Smith River can go from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 70,000 cfs and back down to 5,000 cfs in a day or two. It can rise quickly and fall quickly. Some of the flow is from melting snow in the mountains but much is from rainfall.

Deer fernThere isn’t much birdsong in a redwood forest but I did hear the reedy rasp of a varied thrush and someone earlier had heard a Swainson’s thrush. In places where a little more sun filters through or in riparian areas wrens may provide some music.

hemlocks on nurse log

Hemlocks on nurse log

Dan pointed out Cascara in an open spot; huckleberries (with no berries) in a sunny opening and on top of stumps; wood sorrel (oxalis) with its purple underside carpeting the forest banana slugfloor in some places, and moss. He talked about how the thick bark acts as protection against fire. At one point he demonstrated the differences in the foliage from the top and the bottom of the trees (This was new to me or, if I had known, I’d forgotten). The topmost needles are clumped together more like cedar or cypress, while those lower down are spread out and flat, more like a yew tree. This has to do with the need to absorb light in the shadows and protect from desiccation up in the open. We also observed reproduction from burls and root sprouts.

leaving Mill CreekAs lunch time approached we took a turn onto the Nickerson Ranch Trail which wound through some rather dense shrubbery. We emerged above Mill Creek where maple trees and alders cast their shade along a lovely section of the stream and there was a big, deep pool. We went down a rather steep embankment to a gravel bar. I scrambled up a huge boulder at the end of the pool and that remained my perch. A large, silvered log lay across the front of the rock, probably washed there during high water. I could see our group scatteringate llunch here out below me, awed by the scene and ready to get their lunches out. Two jumped into the water (they said it was cold!) and swam about. What a beautiful place to picnic! There was some exploration of water “critters”. Hellgrammites had made tubes of bits of bark in one area and others had used sand. A very small newt was found along the edge of the gravel and we found a couple of crawfish legs.

We didn’t see any sign of Nickerson’s Ranch but when I got home I looked this up and found that it was not a ranch at all but a gold mining claim. Hiram Rice, 2 went swimmingin the 1890s, did drift mining and sluicing on Mill Creek. “ Cornelius G. Nickerson, who was 15 years younger than Rice, likewise prospected on Mill Creek. His “ranch” was located about a mile south of Rice’s house. Coming to Del Norte County in 1867, Nickerson spent his years on Mill Creek as a pocket miner, searching for gold which had beenmill Creek deposited after spring freshets. He also raised a garden and kept a small orchard. For most of his life Nickerson was a bachelor, but several years before he passed on he married the widow Jeater. In 1910 he sold out and left Mill Creek.” (this information is from a park service website) https://www.gov/parkhistory/online-books/redw/history11b.htm

Some of us wanted to return to camp and others to walk a little further, going up the Boy Scout Trail, so we divided the group. I went on up the trail and we hiked about ¾ mile before returning to our cars. It was good to get a little uphill time.

Hurdygurdy creek

Hurdygurdy Creek

Back at camp I made my way, with towel in hand, down to Hurdygurdy Creek. It was a bit of a scramble down a small rocky path, ducking under and around bushes but so nice and cool when you got there. The creek was much larger than I thought it would be with a good pool area that had a fairly strong current. Someone else was there just finishing washing her hair and probably didn’t even see me. I went past her upstream a little. It was so nicely shaded by white-trunked alders and filled with the sound of rushing water. I stripped down, leaving my shoes on so I wouldn’t slip on the rocks, and got all the dust rinsed off, including from my hair. So refreshing! As I made my way back up the hill another woman was coming down.

Back at camp there was letter writing to a Congressman, happy hour, dinner and then a talk by Phil B. on salmon and a great overview of what lies ahead for spotted owls, murrelets and martens by Kimberly B.

The next morning after breakfast, we broke camp and went our separate ways. Another larger group, would arrive in a few days.

Kayaking the Smith River in Northern California

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Getting ready   rapids       Dipping one blade of the single paddle down into the transparent water of the Smith River, I pull, while pushing the other blade forward overhead, turning my body with the thrust as water runs down the paddle from the first blade onto my wrist. Now and then I get into the rhythm of it and feel a part of the kayak and in tune with the paddler behind me in this tandem craftoutfitters.

I’ve kayaked on still water (a reservoir, a couple of lakes) before and loved it, but never on moving water and today was my first time on a river. I’d been assured it was flat water though.

About half of our group gathered along a gravel bar at the edge of the main Smith River, our inflatable kayaks supplied by River Rides. It was a beautiful, warm day. Eighteen people and 16 kayaks would make the trip. I was still pretty nervous about possible rapids and when Carol suggested I might want to go in the tandem kayak with her husband I jumped at the chanceOn the river. Both Carol and Kirk are experienced kayakers. Her offer meant I could relax and enjoy the trip, while at the same time paddling and participating.

We were soon outfitted with waterproof jackets (blue) and life jackets. I sat in the front and Kirk would do the steering. Now and then I’d ask which way we were heading when there were rapids, and there were a few, although nothing overwhelming, just enough to be fun. I’d been worried about hearing aids but decided to leave one with the vehicle just in case I spilled. I got wet but just from going into rapids and my head stayed dry. The outfitter didn’t accompany us but we had enough experienced kayakers in the group so it wasn’t a problem. He and his assistant had a kayak race to get to.

In a few minutes we had dry-bags stuffed and were off. Such a beautiful river! Big, deep pools, emerthe waterald green and clear. For the first hour we really took our time, just paddling and drifting and enjoying the experience. When there were rapids we slowed down, gathering at the end to make sure everyone got through with no mishaps. A couple of times the water was so shallow that some people got stuck but usually could maneuver out with no assistance. Kirk got out of our kayak once to go back up the rapid about 50 feet to shove a paddler free.

There wasn’t a lot of wildlife visible but we saw a female merganser with young ones, some sandpiper types of birds, and crows. There were wildflowers scattered along the shores—azaleas and near the takeout spot some tall tiger lilies. Of course there were redwoods growing on both sides of the river—we were traveling the artery of the redwood forest, dark trunks with green crowns towering above the water.

lunch break

Lunch Break

At lunch time we pulled in to a gravel bar at the mouth of Mill Creek. Another group had just left and there were tourists sprawled out in the sun who had hiked there from the Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith State Park. We ate and chatted and then, leaving one person to watch our belongings, waded across Mill Creek and scrambled up the bank. Here we made our way through a maze of horsetails (equesitum) and into the redwoods of the Stout Grove. The only time I’d been here before was when my father was a ranger at the park from 1957-1959, and, at that time we rode in a car to get to the grove. –That first summer I cleaned motel cabins in Hiouchi (the tiny community across the highway from the park entrance) in the mornings and swam in the afternoon to wash it all off. I started my second year of college that fall. –Even with all the people walking awestruck through thStourt Grove signe forest, the scene was magical, sunlight slanting between the large trunks and filtering through the needles. One youngster, who had scrambled up on a large root wad, about 15-20 feet above the ground, called to his father, “Now you come up here and I’ll take your picture.”

burl

A burl

Back at the kayaks we put on our life jackets and began to travel again. We paddled down to the Day Use Area of the park and pulled to shore again. This was a redwoods & peoplefamiliar sight—this was where my younger brother and I would swim across to the rocks on the other side. Some of our group wanted to stop for the day, others to go on. We were only about half way because we’d taken our time. There was still another two to three hours ahead of us although we’d go faster. We finally decided to stop here at the half-way point and I realized that actually I was fine with that. I’d thought I wanted to keep going but that would be a lot more paddle time and we’d be worn out and late for dinner. As it was, our leader called the company and they said they’d Redwoodpick us up below the bridge, just a short distance further down stream. It would still take time to take our drivers back to their cars and the cars to pick us upwe got out here so it was a good decision.

After dinner that night our speakers were the grassroots leadership director from Great Old Broads, and Mary Ellen Hannibal, author of “Citizen Science”. Mary Ellen is from San Francisco but was there with her husband and two children. Her son has attended the Bar 717 in Trinity County. I’m always amazed at how common interests can bring together people from many parts of the west. Such a good day!

Three Days Along the Smith River

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slug on cup

Breakfast greeting from a banana slug

Jeff's tent, my tent

My tent in background

My tent was snuggled cozily between some shiny-leafed huckleberry bushes in a dry meadow, shaded with a scattering of Douglas Fir, tan oak, and a few lodgepole pines. Below the camp ran Hurdygurdy Creek, not visible but maybe a tenth of a mile away. My car was parked a short distance away. The location? Along the Smith River (SmithCook tents, H2O, site River National Recreation Area) in northern California. The event? A Broadwalk, sponsored by Great Old Broads for Wilderness http://www.greatoldbroads.org/

Hurdygurdy Creek, incidentally, is a prime salmon and steelhead producing stream. “A hurdy gurdy is generally thought of as an instrument, but in this case hurdy gurdy refers to a water wheel with radial buckets driven by a jet for use in mining.”—Smith River Alliance.

USFS rep 1st morning

USFS introduction first morning

Last year I went to a Broadwork in Idaho (my first project with the group) where we spent four days surveying sage grouse habitat. We worked four days and hiked on one day. The Broadwalks involve more hiking but also include one day of work.

About 30 women and several men arrived last Thursday, many from California and Oregon but also some from Colorado (Broad headquarters location), Utah, one from Maryland, and one from Main. I knew two from the Willamette Valley and discovered that two others had been in Idaho last year. Dinners and breakfasts were provided as part of our cost but we supplied our own lunches. This was a primitive campsite and had porta-potties, no running water—a large tank of potable water was available—no showers and, being down in a canyon, no phone service. It did have a plentiful supply of mosquitoes though.

We all brought folding chairs and I took a nice collapsible aluminum table that I shared with whoever else wanted to sit next to it. There were no picnic tables. But we were there for a purpose, not the amenities!

My eldest son, Jeff, arrived that night from Weaverville in time for Happy Hour and dinner. He would stay two nights before heading for home. It was great to be able to visit with him and seeFerns along Kelsey Tr. him in action, participating in one of his beloved wilderness projects.

After breakfast on Friday (Breakfasts began with coffee ready at 6:30 a.m. and food at 7:00. And I should mention that the meals were delicious and food plentiful.) we took several cars to the Kelsey Trailhead to begin a brushing project. Another group had gone to a different trailhead and still another remained at the campsite where they built a fire pit from local rocks and cleaned up a nearby campground, its initial cleaning for the year. Jeff and Joe G. were our trail leaders and we were soon attacking dense huckleberry foliage and some tan oaks, all beginning to overwhelm the trail. One treat along this trail was the view of a number of Port Orford Cedars. Such a beautiful tree.  Sword fern & OxalisWhat a difference we made in that short stretch of about a quarter mile! That doesn’t sound like much on paper but major clearance, and in the heat, was a chore. So many trails need attention and this one needed a lot more but we did what we had time to do.

Port Orford Cedar

Port Orford Cedar

arrive at trailhead, Jeff far rt.

Arrival at trailhead

The original Kelsey Trail followed a route used by Native Americans and went from the Smith River (named for Jedediah Smith, an early explorer) into the Siskiyou Mountains. In 1855 Ben Kelsey was hired to build a trail from Crescent City to Ft. Jones to allow supplies to be transported to the Fort. Other branches of the trail extended to Scott Valley, Yreka and other places in that area. Mule trains carried the supplies. Apparently Kelsey had a bad reputation :
https://www.google.com/search?q=kelsey+trail+on+smith+river&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8#q=Ben+Kelsey+founding+father,+indian+killer

As it got closer to lunchtime we headed Large madrone along Kelsey Trail. Huckleberriesdown the trail, clipping only now and then,  and dodging the now common poison oak. In some places the trail was quite narrow and we could see the South Fork of the Smith River, emerald green below us. We stopped to cool off and eat lunch at Yellowjacket Creek, enjoying the sound of water runn-At Yellowjacket Creeking through moss-covered boulders beneath Big Leaf Maples. From there it was another half mile down to the river. Here there was a wooden shelter and the nearby roaring falls of Buck Creek, a great place to pause and appreciate. Just before reaching the shelter we were treated to a view of lavender Elegant Brodiaea in a patch about 10 feet square. YelLooking down at S. Fk from Kelsey Traillow swallowtail butterflieBuck Creek Falls 2s were flitting over them but wouldn’t sit still for a photo. The trail continues beyond Buck Creek heading into the Siskiyou Wilderness.

We backtracked a bit and went down to the river where most of the party jumped in and swam across, although several of us just submerged in the chilly water. I tried to catch some tiny minnows Swimming in S. Fkbut they dodged. After everyone had a chance to cool off we headed back up the hill. I soaked my T-shirt in the water before we left and that kept me comfortable most of the way to the cars.

During dinner each group reported briefly on what they had done that day. After dinner that night Ryan H. gave an informative talk about wilderness issues and Jeff assisted with additional information. Each evening included an educational component with guest speakers.

Have I mentioned mosquitoes? There were mosquitoes. I was so glad I’d taken a net covering for my head. Even so spray of any kind was welcome. Yikes!

And so ended day one.

Comfort Tree

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ponderosa pineI used to have a comfort tree,
a ponderosa pine.
It grew above a local trail,
and in my heart was mine.

I’d lean my back against its trunk
And feel the jig-saw puzzle bark,
let my thoughts flow quietly through
from spinal cord to wooden ark.

Sometimes I’d build a small bonfire
to warm my hands on a chilly day,
sometimes eat a sandwich there
or pour a thermos cup of tea.

Miles north, and years flown by,
I really need another tree
to lean against and contemplate
our country’s darkening history.

I used to have a comfort tree,
a ponderosa pine.
It grew above a local trail,
and in my heart was mine.

Like bushtits clustered on the suet
we feed in groups on hearing news.
We march and curse and march again
and call for legislators’ dues.

Petitions signed and letters written,
we Facebook and we use our phones,
but what we also need to do –
let authors know they aren’t alone.

I used to have a comfort tree,
a ponderosa pine.
It grew above a local trail
and in my heart was mine.

Placed in Literary Ballad category-Spring 2017
3rd Prize “Comfort Tree” – Susanne Twight-Alexander – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s comment: “Comfort Tree” has a sweet traditional sound but also incorporates a modern element with contemporary political references. I liked that and I liked the poignant repeated line, “and in my heart was mine.” Sometimes a small adjustment would make the rhythm more musical though small adjustments can be a matter of personal judgment of course. Overall the author did a good job.

GOLD

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pond at Garden GulchMiners built the earthen dam that blocks
this intermittent stream
just below where two small gullies come together.
Turtles bask on floating logs along the edge.
Footprints of deer etch deeply in the mud
as the level slowly recedes beneath summer’s heat.
By mid-June the pond and streams are dry.
Roses bloom at the dam’s base where the last
water pools.
Late one warm, spring afternoon
I swim its narrowing length,
crossing a film of pollen,
body parting golden grains
that stick to my skin
like the memory of sunlight slanting
through oaks and pines.
I turn to float on my back,
glowing flecks dappling breasts and belly
like dust from a gold miner’s dream.
Overhead, leaves spin against a gentian sky.
Water is still treasured in these dry,
Northern California mountains and
sometimes guns are drawn over its intended use.