After a slow first five months, I'm back to blogging in earnest. In the forthcoming few months I plan to keep on tracking the blooming of wildflowers, the activities of bugs and reptiles and any other critters I'm quick enough or lucky enough to photograph, and to comment on ecological relationships. Since there is an increasing sense of ecological crisis among many people and more vigorous denial of such on the part of others, I will inevitably comment on the social and political dimensions of survival as I see them.
I am still an adjunct instructor in the English Department at Feather River College, but time permitting, I am available for hire as a nature guide in the region in and around Plumas County. A brochure describing my usual kinds of natural history adventures is in development. Email me c/o firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address and a statement of interests, and I'll send you a rough draft.
I have been teaching since 1965 and have recently joined the English Department as an Associate Faculty member at Feather River College. Recently taught Nature Literature in America and am currently teaching Interpersonal Communication and Basic Reading and Writing.
Around the same time I was riding around among the Red Fir, my daughter-in-law was hiking among the Red Fir on the PCT, and she mentioned that it was her favorite tree. They seemed particularly beautiful to me on this day. I am reminded that at some point I must have declared the California Black Oak to be my favorite tree, thus the name given to this blog. However, that choice was contextual. It had not only to do with the tree itself but to the ecology of its habitats and the history of its namesake, Albert Kellogg (Quercus kelloggi). Now I'm in a new context - high altitude, fresh cool air, amazing scenic backdrops. Then I remember where I've encountered my favorite grove of these trees and that was along the PCT above Bucks Lake Wilderness, between Granite Gap and a place just north of the side trail up Mt. Pleasant. I wondered if Kelly's fondness for this species might also be contextual. Sound like a bit of navel-gazing? Perhaps so, but I think it's a harmless enterprise.
The perfect Christmas tree, but I'm glad it's usually covered by many feet of snow by the time people go out on their snowmobiles to harvest them.
The tree species that interested me on this particular outing, the one to Brady's Camp over a week ago, or has it been two weeks? The Lodgepole Pine, known by several other names, depending on the region and/or the use to which you wish to put the tree - firewood, cabin building, fenceposts, etc., etc. Several features of this tree fascinate me in comparison to other local pines. The pollen release can be intense. The needles occur in "bundles" of two (see a pair of bundles in my hand below). The cones some time grow right off the sides of branches, even off the trunk. Other pines in this area have needles in bundles of three, four or five, and the needles are of different lengths, those of the Lodgepole Pine being among the shortest, and those of Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines the longest. When you develop an eye for subtle shades of green, you might even be able to identify these species from a distance by the overall color.
Hmmm, this could be turned into a logos design for letterhead for someone named Willis.
Like many other species at high altitudes, when they die and lose their needles and bark, they can decompose internally over several years without any outward signs of weakness, then BOOM, a wind knocks one down in your path or on your head. This one will become soil in a few years.