December Visit (12/30/2019)

A boulder with moss forming rivers of green in its fissures looked just like an Andy Goldsworthy creation, so I had to capture that vivid image when I saw it at the start of my hike. The day was cool and sunny and the boulder cast interesting shadows on the rocks below it in the creekbed. There was running water in the creek although it was not all that high.

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There are a few mysteries on this page. First, the lichen I drew in November and haven’t yet sorted out. Maybe it isn’t a lichen after all. And then a “weed” perhaps, but something with pretty mint-green leaves that turn red as it ages. When it flowers in a few months I’ll figure out what it is, but have been frustratingly unable to yet.

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The hare’s foot inkcap (Coprinus lagopus) was a treasure; it caught the morning light and glowed. The fungus (Phycomyces blakesleeanus) on the dog feces was perhaps less a treasure, certainly a shame since it is growing on evidence of the abundant presence of dogs in the Reserve, where they are officially not allowed.

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It had rained recently enough that the purple shelf fungus Trichaptum albietinum was moist and colorful. It grows on conifers and I found this one on the grey pine that has fallen across the creek. There is a sister species that grows on hardwoods and is similar in appearance.

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The toyons’ red/gold/green were captivating against the blue of the sky and enlivened my drawing along with the textures of the burnt oak limbs and the waves of dried grass. I drew even more gold below following the patterns of spores on the undersides of goldenback fern (Pentagramma triangularis) leaves.

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November Visit (11/29/2019)

First pages in a new sketchbook are always exciting. This is my third sketchbook for Stebbins drawings; so far that’s a rate of 2 years per sketchbook. I was looking forward to some cooler fall weather on this visit and wanted to get to the Reserve before the onslaught of rain we were expecting. Thanks to a little rain a few days earlier, the mosses and lichens were activated and colorful.

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I hiked up the trail toward Blue Ridge and stopped to draw a diagram (across a full spread, here in the pages above ∧ and below ∨) showing the zones of grassland (south-facing slopes) and chaparral (north-facing slopes) on Pleasants Ridge. I also noted seed pods of bush monkeyflower, reminding me a bit of corn still wrapped in dried husks. Hummingbirds caught my attention repeatedly, several times perching in trees near enough that I could watch their movements.

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Chaparral currant was blooming in its beautiful bright pinks, always a nice contrast to the rest of the fall/winter vegetation. Chamise was luxurious on the hillside, with sandstone boulders scattered in between.

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The vivid colors of the scene below with burnt blue oak, striking blue sky, and red and green toyon were crying out to be painted.

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I stopped to try to capture the warm light on the Blue Ridge crest and was then drawn in completely by the lichens. The first were on boulders about half way down from the ridge:

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I made a diagram of the spatial complexity of different species on a rock:

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I got lost in a world of lichens on some fallen blue oak branches:

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And then stopped for a last painting at a boulder in the creek at the crossing back to the trail to the parking lot.

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Journaling #GoodFire (Oct 2019), Part 2

Saturday 10/12 started with a relaxed morning in a meadow below the second burn site, West Sims. John Muir Laws and Laurie Wigham engaged three local children in some nature journaling exercises and Miriam Morrill showed us some examples of how she captures her fire observations visually.

Frank Lake, Research Ecologist with the US Forest Service and member of the Karuk Tribe, is a multi-talented scientist and artist. He generously showed us a variety of cultural objects using plants managed with fire, including some of the tribal regalia and other artwork he has himself made.

Frank then accompanied us to the West Sims site so that we could observe some of the day’s burning up close. The terrain at this site was steeper than the day before, and overgrown with blackberry, so we observed some different techniques for starting and managing the fire.

We watched a few large trees go up in showers of spark and flame.

We watched the progress of the burn from above using a drone, and learned a little about fire investigation techniques.

Toward the end of the afternoon, we moved to a site below the area being burned for a different perspective. Frank talked more about how fire keeps the forest healthy, and demonstrated healthy vs. infested acorns. Fire helps control oak moth infestations in tanoak.

Our last evening in Orleans was a community event where we were fortunate to hear talks by Elizabeth Azus and Margo Robbins about basketry plants and fire; Frank Lake about fire and forest health; and Lenya Quinn-Davidson about the movement for community involvement in fire. We nature journalers also presented our work from the weekend and had an opportunity to share our sketches with the community and with the all of the participants in the TREX.

I found this entire experience deeply moving and enlightening; it gave me so much better an understanding of the work of fire in the landscape and what that looks like up close. I can’t wait to see how we develop this project further!

Journaling #GoodFire (Oct 2019), Part 1

In October, I participated in a landmark experience in the Klamath Mountains, sketching prescribed/cultural burning as part of the Klamath TREX training event. I met so many amazing people and watched such dedicated and skilled fire practitioners; I am filled with gratitude. I was there with a group of talented and highly experienced nature journalers: John Muir Laws, Laura Cunningham, Laurie Wigham, Marley Peifer, Miriam Morrill, and Fiona Gillogly. The training was hosted by the Karuk Tribe and the Mid Klamath Watershed Council and our participation was thanks to support by The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management.

Miriam was the guiding force that made all of this happen, and I accompanied her to the site a day early to scout locations and prepare for the workshop. Everything was made more dramatic by the PG&E power shutdowns that week in response to high winds. We drove up on Wednesday 10/9 and spent the first night in our hotel with no power. Flashlights and battery packs to the rescue!

The next morning, we set out to visit some of the planned burn sites and other good spots to journal from. The Karuk Tribe and TNC obtained an unprecendented exemption from the statewide ban on burning, since the conditions in this area were entirely within acceptable burning parameters.

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Learning about measuring moisture content in the forest and about what to expect when observing fire the next day:

A map of the burn sites we will visit over the next two days and some more details about Bull Pine, tomorrow’s site:

The next day, 10/10, we started out early at the daily briefing for the TREX participants and then went out to the Bull Pine site to watch final preparations for the burn that day. We got to see the checks of moisture conditions using the tools we had observed the day before.

Finally, at about 11:00 am, the conditions were right and the This was our first experience with live fire, watching the cultural/prescribed burn. It was such a thrill to see the drip torches prepared and follow the flames and smoke as they moved away from us into the forest. An inspiration to see #goodfire given back to the community.

Watching the eerie tree shadows cast by the flames and following air movement in the patterns of the smoke:

In the afternoon, we were given an inspiring talk by Margo Robbins, the President of the Cultural Fire Council of the Yurok Tribe, about how fire maintains all of the plants that are important for basketry and other cultural practices. She showed us the progression of a couple of nearby sites that are burned twice a year and how the basketry plants look as they regrow.

Bill Tripp, the Deputy Director of Eco-Cultural Revitalization for the Karuk Tribe, met with us at an overlook in the late afternoon to talk about the history and significance of cultural burning. He also gave us an overview of Karuk cultural geography and the importance of the landforms around us.

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From where we stood with Bill, we could see the smoke rising from Bull Pine, the site we  observed at the beginning of the day. It was a great way to learn more about smoke and its behavior in the atmosphere as it encounters warmer and cooler air layers. It was the perfect way to make the day come full circle.

September Visit (09/26/2019)

It was late fall, but still felt like summer when I visited Stebbins in September. Each season has its highlights, and I went to the canyon looking forward to flying insects, active birds, and the early hints of fall colors. I wasn’t disappointed! The Anna’s hummingbirds (Calypte anna) and the grasshoppers were quite lively, and it sometimes took me a minute to register which of the two large flyers had just whizzed past my head.

Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is always showy this time of year. I love to see it looking healthy and abundant: it is an important food source for birds, herps, insects and some mammals.

I spent a long time watching a gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) on slender clover (Trifolium gracilentum). I hadn’t seen one in Stebbins yet – it is a pretty little butterfly!

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June Visit (06/01/2019)

In June, I had the pleasure of exploring Stebbins along with Miriam Morrill, who has been exploring ways to represent fire conditions, fire and fire effects graphically. I took some notes during our discussion (at the bottom of this post) and then compiled these sketchbook pages based on photos and my notes.

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