Original Publication DATE: 4/18/2009 2:37:00 PM
In the hinterland of northwest California, the Smith River’s crystal blue waters drain abruptly from the Siskiyou Mountains toward the Pacific Ocean—along the way gouging out sparkling canyons through ancient serpentine rock. High levels of precipitation coupled with serpentine geology have fostered unique plant communities in this region. Because the serpentines soils of the Josephine Ophiolite are rich in heavy metals the ecosystem appears infertile. Seemingly sparse red-rock forests endure in stark contrast to the lush redwood forests of the North Coast Range only a few miles away. But upon closer inspection, the red-rock nurtures plant communities that are species rich and teeming with life. Continue reading “Carnivorous Plants of the Smith River Region ~ Stoney Creek Trail”
Original Publication DATE: 12/29/2008
One of the most visually spectacular destinations of all desert landscapes in North America has to be the Eureka Dunes of Death Valley National Park. At the end of the Pleistocene an ancient lake that filled the valley floor gradually dried up; as the winds blew newly exposed sand the dunes formed — into one of the highest in North America. The highest dune in the complex rises to 650 feet above the valley floor from which the surroundings are a terrific spectacle to witness. Another fascinating feature of the dunes is their propensity to sing or boom when the sand is pushed from a steep slip face. The sound reverberates from inside the dune as a deep bass note — which is sure to amaze.
The valley not only offers visual beauty but endemic biota as well — currently 3 endemic plants and 5 endemic beetles have been identified on the dunes themselves. The Eureka Valley dune grass (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis) was the most spectacular to find on our winter trip. I had never seen a grass that looks like this — quite primordial indeed. The other two endemic plants on the dunes are shining milk vetch (Astragulus lentiginosus var. micans) and Eureka Dune evening-primrose (Oenothera californica spp. eurekensis). Though we saw the astragulus, both are best viewed in early spring when in bloom.
The legendary plant explorers of the Eureka Valley are Mary and Paul Dedecker. As self taught botanists they often explored the Mojave looking for plants. One a fateful day in the summer of 1975 the two ventured into the Eureka Valley and eventually into a canyon on the south side of the valley. It was a hot July day when Mary found a shrub in bloom — bright yellow when all other plants were browning in the summer heat. It turned out the this was a new species and a new genus that favors a rare limestone outcrop in the canyon. She aptly named the plant July gold (Dedeckera eurekensis). The canyon itself was later named Dedeckera Canyon and can be traveled (with 4-wheel drive and experience) all the way to Saline Valley.
AUTHOR: Thomas Lopez
DATE: 10/8/2009 12:34:22 AM
Very nice photos, hope to visit the area sometime for an Ansel Adams experience, that is photographing the dunes and surrounding area with a large format camera and b/w film.
DATE: 11/1/2010 11:24:58 AM
Awesome photos. Will visit it sometime
AUTHOR: Dave Imper
DATE: 11/15/2010 5:56:35 PM
Fantastic pics Mike. I took the road between Eureka and Saline Valleys as well, back in about 1997…brutal. Glad I had a rented car. Did you see the Marble Bath, noted on the USGS quad? Not what you expect. We need to share our desert trip photos.
Dave- I have done that road twice and missed the Marble Bath each time–guess it was a bit stressful from Saline to the saddle and I was distracted when we passed that spot. -Michael
Original Publication Date: 12/23/2008
Saline Valley might just be the most isolated spot in the state of California. In many aspects it is a smaller version of Death Valley, just to the east. It has a wide basin with a smaller sand dune complex, is surrounded by mountain ranges — including the Inyo, Nelson, Last Chance, and Saline — and has terrific canyons to explore full of lush springs and hanging gardens. One major difference to its neighboring valley is that it exposes several hot springs to the surface that have been known and used for centuries. Most of Saline Valley is in Death Valley National Park — the base of the massive Inyo Mountains to the west is the boundary between park land and National Forest.
Creosote (Larrea tridentata) is the most dominant shrub of the valley floor — and possibly the most successful shrub in the deserts of North America. The species covers 149 million square miles, ranges in elevation from -235 to 5,000 feet, can live at a density of over 350 plants per acre, and some argue that this species may live as long as 11,000 years (Pavlik 2008). One adaptation to survive in these harsh desert conditions is its small leaves, which grow at angles that minimize direct contact with the sun’s rays. Desert holly (Atriplex hymenelytra) is a common associate of the creosote, and also a common shrub in Saline Valley. This species survives in harsh desert conditions by having angled, light colored leaves.
Saline Valley has a long history. The Timbisha Shoshone inhabited the area until the late 1800’s when the mineral rich region enticed prospectors into an isolated existence — mining silver, gold, borax and, even salt. Now, the main attractions are hot springs and isolation. There are a series of 3 springs spread out over several miles in the southeast corner of the valley. They are very popular with desert rats — colorful stories are the norm while soaking in the tub. The most infamous visitor to the springs was Charles Manson, who spent time in the valley in the 60’s before being caught further south in the park.
More Pictures of the Saline Valley
Pavlik, Bruce 2008. The California Desert. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE: 12/15/2008
When I visit the Lanphere Dunes I always feel like I have taken a trip to another part of the world. Hidden and relatively unknown, the redwood forest — as a local destination — can overshadow this unique ecosystem. The dune complex is surrounded by temperate coniferous rainforest, the Pacific Ocean, and Humboldt Bay — ecologically trapping and therefore fostering, for millenia, isolation of space and time. Species that survive here define their own vegetation type; from the common to the unexpected, to the seemingly out of place there is always something new to appreciate on a trip to the dunes. Although a visit requires a guide or written letter of permission, hikes are offered monthly — check the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge webpage for information regarding access.
Today, we were lucky to have a guide. Allison and I joined Dr. John Sawyer and his wife Jane on a walk through the dunes. John was a key member of a group of conservationist with a vision — that originally secured preservation for this area nearly 40 years ago. Since the establishment of the preserve, it has changed hands from the original steward, the Nature Conservancy, to the Fish and Wildlife Service who manages it today — with a mostly hands off approach, except toward the removal of non-native species, the place has maintained a primordial feel.
Lanphere dunes foster an amazing range of biota. From rare plants to common plants to plants that are far from their more common range — expect the unexpected when venturing into the dunes. Besides some terrific conifer specimens, including a subspecies of lodgepole pine called beach pine (Pinus contorta spp. contorta), the most intriguing inhabitants in the dunes are reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) and bear berry manzanita (Arcotstaphylos uva-ursi). The lichen is a common component of northern boreal forest floors where it grows circumpolar in the northern hemisphere — the Lanphere Dune population is a relict from a much colder time. Bear berry, or kinnikinnick, is a beautiful, prostrate manzanita that is found elsewhere in California in a few drainages on the east side of the High Sierra Nevada — dunes and high mountains, quite a contrast in habitats. One species that caught Allison’s eye was a population of twin flower (Linnea borealis); a plant we have grown to love on our summer forays into the Klamath Mountain high country. Dr. Sawyer informed us that the population Allison spotted was the only one discovered one in the dune complex — another relict of an epoch gone by.
The dynamic ecosystems of Lanphere Dunes makes for an exceptional hike. This is a place that embraces change, while at the same time offers refuge to species that were once common in the region during climatically different times. It is surely one of the best examples of a coastal dune ecosystem on the Pacific Coast.
AUTHOR: J Loomis
DATE: 5/2/2009 3:38:42 AM
Just returned from CA last Sunday. I was unable to tour the Lamphere Dunes not knowing it required a permit. Went to the nearby “Friends of the Dunes” Stamp D. area and was fortunate to find a single Wallflower….or what I thought was one. Anyone have any pictures?
Originally Published on 12/2/2008
The day after Thanksgiving was dedicated to working off some calories. I woke up at 5AM and took off to Hobo Gulch Trailhead on the edge of the Trinity Alps Wilderness. After 14 miles of hiking, including a scramble at the end, Papoose Lake was achieved around 2PM. I spent the afternoon exploring the frozen lake and surrounding areas; settling down for a cold night I started a fire and cooked some gourmet sausages. Saturday morning I awoke — after a surprisingly warm night — to a thawing lake, 2 cups of coffee, and a glorious sunrise. I packed a day bag and climbed the southwest ridgeline. The geological character of the lake is fascinating in that the southwest edge is a fault where granite — common in the high Trinity Alp — meets a serpentine rock type (more geology) also typical across northwest California; scattered in many of its mountain ranges. This trip was originally planned because my favorite conifer, the foxtail pine, favors serpentine outcrops at high elevations — I had wanted to get into this region of the Alps and search out some foxtails. Here I had elevation and serpentine — so I predicted that there would be a new grove of this rare tree for me to discover just on the south-face above the lake. Upon achieving the ridge, my hunch was correct. While, foxtail pines do grow on granite in the high Trinity Alps they are much more common, and groves more extensive, on serpentine.
I spent a glorious day exploring an exceptional forest of trees — growing with foxtail pines were whitebark pines, Shasta red firs, mountain hemlocks, and a few Brewer spruce. In the cirque that holds Papoose Lake there are 11 species of conifers. Along the entire trail one can identify 15 species. My final day, Sunday, I returned to the truck refreshed and exuberant.
COMMENT: AUTHOR: Gary Robertson EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garytrinity/ DATE: 1/31/2010 8:07:01 PM Informative commentary — great shots of your Papoose Lake trip. I try to get to Papoose every few years — one of my favorite Trinity Alps lakes. I’ve climbed the southwest ridge myself — whenever I cross-country from Papoose to the Russell Cabin Trail — that’s how I go. It’s a short but steep and very brush off-trail route. (The Russell Cabin Trail connects with the main North Fork trail at Backbone Creek just a short distance from the Hobo Gulch Trailhead.) —–
COMMENT: AUTHOR: Stephen Sikes EMAIL: email@example.com URL: DATE: 5/16/2014 1:57:25 PM Hi Michael – I’m curious if you recall the altitude at which the Foxtails began to emerge in the Serpentine soils. Do you recall if you found them below 7000′ at Papoose? —–
COMMENT: AUTHOR: Michael E Kauffmann EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: DATE: 5/17/2014 2:24:27 PM Stephen- from Papoose Lake it is a significant climb to get to the foxtails. They are on the south-facing ridge, south of the lake. They may be north of the lake as well, but I did not climb into that area. South of the lake, as you see in the blog, is serpentine. The foxtails love this soil type and it is quite a spectacular stand here. They extend down slope from the ridgeline to an elevation I could not verify since I stayed high on this trip. Generally, foxtails in the Klamath Mountains live above 7,200′ but can be as low as 6,600′ depending on habitat. If you search them out – let me know what you find.
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