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 (9/26/2019)

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 (6/1/2019)

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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April Visit (4/22/2019): View from the Trailhead

Last April, I sketched the view into Stebbins from Highway 128, a tradition every 6 months. There are still plenty of dead branches in sight, but the regrowth from roots and crowns is providing much of the green that you see here. In the earlier views, a lot of the green came from vines using the bare branches as supports.

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Here are the previous six views (October 2018, September 2017, March 2017, September 2016, March 2016 and September 2015):

April Visit #2 (4/22/2019)

Having walked along the creek trail a few days earlier, I returned to Stebbins to hike up to Blue Ridge. Abundant insect life:

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A beautiful view of the full creek:

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An iris I had not seen yet at Stebbins:

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A very calm and quiet cicada:

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April Visit #1 (4/19/2019)

On a clear and peaceful day in April, I brought my son with me to Stebbins and we both sketched our way along the trail. The lizards were plentiful, which was not surprising, but we were surprised at how close many of them let us come. Especially surprising was the western skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus) – I have found these to be particularly shy in the past.

The canyon and hillsides are still much more open due to the fire three and a half years ago, with many spring wildflowers taking advantage of the light.

My son pointed out a chaparral camel cricket (Gammarotettix genitalis) sheltering in the curl of a California tea (Rupertia physodes).

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Field Sketching Workshop (3/23/2019)

Toward the end of March, I led a field sketching workshop at Stebbins, sponsored by Tuleyome. We had fifteen participants and the perfect weather for walking, observing and drawing!

I gave the participants six different exercises at various stops along the trail:

Exercise 1: Blind Contour – Find something nearby with a complex shape. Let your eyes follow the outline of the object and slowly draw as your eyes move along the contour. Your eyes stay on the object rather than the paper.

Exercise 2: Focus on Details – Spend time recording the fine details of something you can observe up close. Draw it from more than one angle.

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Exercise 3: Landscape Thumbnails – Simplify landscape views into areas of light and dark. Look for larger-scale patterns: where are trees or shrubs growing on a hillside, how do shadows define ridges and valleys, how do dark and light change as you look even further into the distance?

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Exercise 4: Things That Move – When drawing something in motion, watch it for as long as you can see it and only then pick up your pencil to draw it. Draw only the information you remember: basic shape, some notes about color or pattern.

Exercise 5: Color Notes – Look very closely and critically at the color in a near object and a distant scene. Try to define the colors as they really are, not as you expect them to be. Notice how the colors change in light and in shade, and how nearby colors can influence each other.

Exercise 6: Select Your Own Theme for the Hike Back – Some examples of ideas to focus your sketching trip:

  • Draw things that have changed since you last visited (flowers blooming, insects about, etc.).
  • Draw a map of your hike with landmarks and what you observed along the way.
  • Leaf shapes.
  • Associations between species: insects/plants, fungi/plants, etc.
  • What do you see that surprises you?

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To download the PDF version of the handout for the workshop, click here.

Field Sketching Workshop at Stebbins

 

March Visit (3/19/2019)

I had two goals on this visit to the Reserve: to conduct my usual observations and to finalize the locations where I planned to have my field sketching workshop participants stop for our six drawing exercises. I didn’t get to the Reserve until around noon, when everything had warmed up into the sixties. With the bright sun, there were butterflies absolutely everywhere! Plenty of wildflowers, too, including California pipevine (Aristolochia californica), which I had not managed to find in bloom in previous years.

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