Yolla Bolly Permutations


The action of changing the arrangement, especially the linear order, of a set of items (what came first, the conifer or the cone?)

Wandering Devil’s Hole Ridge, miles from anything human, the landscape shifts as quickly as the juncos dancing across the trail. Walkabouts bring a level of focus not found in civilization. Walking offers time to hypothesize about the world at a slower pace…How recently did the vegetation patterns I see come to be? When did the Ash-throated flycatcher arrive from its tropical winter-land? How did I find myself in this desolate, isolated place–seven years after I last visited–and so far from my family? Like the undulating contours on the ridgeline, I ponder my place in this dynamic world. Walking further I realize, while out of place, I am fortunate to be here with time to think.

Along the Bigfoot Trail in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness
Along the Bigfoot Trail in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Seeing the trees through the forests, the birds in those trees, and then this vast landscape through my astigmatized-wide-angle glasses; thoughts swirl through my mind. The first few hours allow time to come to terms with my isolation and my body’s age (I’m moving slower than when I was here in my 30’s). Slowly my mind settles into place, in the wilderness. I ponder plant migrations and vegetation patterns as a student of biogeography. A few miles later my mind drifts towards systems of order (and disorder) that are established out here. This is where true place-based interpretations begin to solidify: my understanding of wilderness and how I’ll never truly fit in among it. Then comes the delineation of rarity. I am a rare human here–among the trees, sky and soil–but this fanciful journey is for the rare plants of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel.

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18th Conifer in the Miracle Mile!

Original Post DATE: 2/10/2013

The internet is an amazing thing. It opens up lines of communication that were unheard of in the past. Case in point–I got an email from Richard Moore who lives in Callahan, California. He knows the Salmon-Trinity Mountains well, as he has been exploring them since he was a young boy in the early 50’s. It turns out that in the early 1980’s he discovered a small stand of western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) in the Russian Wilderness. He knew about the famous square mile wherein 17 conifers species had been found. He also figured the junipers he discovered were within–or at least very close to–that carefully shaped square mile. He had told John Sawyer in person about 2 years ago; but never relayed the location of the trees. John and I made the trek into Sugar Creek and I climbed to the ridge trying to predict where the juniper were – and missed them by a few hundred yards and a wall of granite. Now I was back to find the 18th Conifer in the Miracle Mile.

Sugar Creek
I was within 200 yards (just around this granitic corner) of finding the junipers on my last visit to the miracle mile.

Turns out, in the summer of 2012 his brother bought him a copy of Conifer Country and he was re-inspired to try to get the word out about his discovery. He borrowed his son’s camera (which he readily admits to have taken some poor photos), put together a PDF with the pictures and GPS coordinates with the help of his son, and also got that file in an email to me. What we now have is the evidence (minus a specimen) of the newest addition to the botanical legacy of the Klamath Mountains. I plan to meet Richard this summer and collect some specimens for the Humboldt State University Herbarium. Below is the link to the file with photos and GPS coordinates that Richard sent to me.

Richard Moore collecting a specimen of Juniperus occidentalis in the Miracle Mile - the18th conifer!
Richard Moore collecting a specimen of Juniperus occidentalis in the Miracle Mile – the 18th conifer!

A list of conifers within the Miracle Mile:

  1. foxtail pine
  2. whitebark pine
  3. western white pine
  4. Jeffrey pine
  5. ponderosa pine
  6. lodgepole pine
  7. sugar pine
  8. white fir
  9. Shasta fir
  10. subalpine fir
  11. Engelmann spruce
  12. Brewer spruce
  13. mountain hemlock
  14. Douglas-fir
  15. Pacific yew
  16. incense-cedar
  17. common juniper
  18. western juniper

Juniperus occidentalis of the Yolla Bolly Explored | Papers w/ Robert Adams

Original Publication DATE: 9/3/2010 1:26:00 PM

Late in the summer of 2009 I re-visited an isolated population of junipers in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. The visit was inspired by Robert Adams after he read a blog post of my first visit to the trees. At the time, the population was believed to be Juniperus grandis based on habitat type and other morphological characteristics. After collecting the specimens and sending them to Baylor University for study Dr. Adams published two papers last month on these populations and their relationship to other junipers of the west. He graciously named me as a co-author for my collecting and final editing skills–otherwise the work was all his.

The papers are:

  1. Geographic variation in the leaf essential oils of Juniperus grandis and comparison with J. occidentalis and J. osteosperma. Phytologia 92(2):167-185. 
  2. Geographic variation in nrDNA and cp DNA of Juniperus californica, J. grandis, J. occidentalis and J. osteosperma (Cupressaceae). Phytologia 92(2):266-276.

While the DNA and essential oil comparisons verified the Yolla Bolly junipers are Juniper occidentalis they did not clarify the relationship of Juniperus occidentalis to Juniperus grandis. Unusual similarities were found between occidentalis populations of Oregon and Northern California and grandis populations of the San Bernardino Mountains. As Dr. Adams states in his conclusions, some questions were answered with the research but more questions remain–further study is needed.

I created this range map after visiting the Yolla Bolly and observing several new, undocumented populations.
As viewed from the ridgeline west of Mount Linn looking northward the populations of western juniper generally grow just east of the ridgelines on sandy soil. Notice the image names the trees as Sierra juniper, which Dr. Adams proved to be wrong.

Other Resources:

  1. Junipers of the World

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Kane
DATE: 9/6/2010 12:36:05 AM
yo dude. congrats on the pub(s).
AUTHOR: Dewey Robbins
DATE: 5/24/2014 5:10:10 PM
This population extends from Low Gap southwesterly along Jones Ridge nearly to Hayden Roughs as isolated individual. Most of the trees my forestry crew and I found were young regeneration; however, there are a few gnarled fire-scarred relics that are more like shrubs than trees.
AUTHOR: Michael E Kauffmann
DATE: 5/26/2014 2:58:05 PM
Dewey– thanks for the note. I’ve never been to that area of the Yolla-Bolly, but want to get there. It looks like they extend even further west to the Eaton Roughs. It is private property, but I’d love to get there too.

Western Juniper of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Original Publication DATE: 7/29/2009 

Two days into my 400 mile trek on the Bigfoot Trail I stopped to watch rain clouds clear above the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek–deep in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. As wind whipped the cool electric air past my ears a plant caught my eye–20 yards below the ridge on which I was balanced. This stately specimen had taken purchase many years ago in this rocky, windswept environment. This was a place in which only the heartiest of plants could hope to endure. Its reddish branches stood out in stark contrast to the lime green foliage. As I slowly crawled down the hillside my mind turned over and over with ideas of what species this might be. At first I believed it was cypress–possibly a MacNab or Sargent. But As I got closer I noticed the berry cones which are a diagnostic trait of junipers.

western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) on a windswept ridge.

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