My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leaving My Sacramento NWR Home

 Sunday was my last day to work at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Monday I packed up and attended a staff party for the 75th birthday of this refuge.  I will be driving up to Maleur NWR near Burns, Oregon when this post comes out.  I was thinking I wanted pictures to remember this place and realized I'd never posted about where I lived

I had a room about 12' X 12' with bunk beds in the Blue Goose Inn.  I brought my little stacking drawers with me and bought a chair and a lamp at a resale store. It was very comfortable, and, if I opened my door, the sun would heat the room.

I lived here with three young guys full time and a staff biologist part time.  Another  girl moved in the week before I left.  We also had other visitors, from time to time, including the state guys who worked at the hunt check stations. I made duck jerky with one of them one evening.

This was a wonderful experience, living with a younger generation and eating some really excellent food. I even volunteered to be the maid for poker nights in exchange for smoked duck, duck poppers, and other delicacies.

The Blue Goose Inn - my room is far left.
My bedroom
My bedroom
The large, double prep kitchen
Small living room across from dining table
Mike cooking and the rest waiting.  I lived with all the guys except the one facing backwards.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Twenty-Two Thousand Steps Without a Falls

Sunrise on the way
I made my second attempt to see Feather Falls today. Shortly after 6:00A.M, I was on the road. For overshooting my turn on to Lumpkin Road by several miles,I was rewarded with  abeautiful view of Lake Oroville.

Lake Oraville

I also found what I think is an artesian spring that has a pool built around it. I couldn't decipher  the sign until I got back and enhanced a photo of it. I still can't read it all but the large print at the beginning says" Pure water is the best of gifts that man to man can bring". I found two of these little pools and think that, long ago, people may have shared potable water with travelers in this manner.

I finally arrived around 9:00 A.M. and after checking that I had an extra jacket, water, lunch, binoculars, camera, and walking sticks, I started out at a fairly quick pace and didn't take many  photographs for the first mile or so since I had documented the first three miles.  But I did have to take another photo of the falls where the path crosses Frey Creek. And then I kept finding more and more things to photograph.  So I slowed down a lot from my beginning speed.  One of the things I stopped to photograph were early spring wildflowers.

Frey Falls on the upper trail

Beautiful textures by the falls

The trail wound mostly down but with a few uphill sections as I went on.  But soon after I passed the first view of Bald Rock Dome, I lost all sounds of the river. I noticed that the hills were getting rockier with large boulders apparently in a slide down hill, probably only measurable over eons of years. I kept seeing signs of an old forest fire, including blackened insides of hollow trees. The habitat seemed dryer than at the beginning with less seeps and little streams and without as much moss and ferns growing on the trees and ground. There were a few places with a lot of dead or fallen trees and these were the places where I found the most birds.

Blooming manzanita

Spring flowers

Colorful leaves

Sign of an old fire

Shooting stars

Split boulder

A common plant along the trail

The falling mountain

Finally I got to another sign by a bench with the same mileage as the one at the start. However the trail didn't make any changes and I still hadn't found the falls, so I went on.  After a couple of miles, I again saw Bald Rock Dome and realized I must be on the lower trail. I went on because I was much closer to my car that way - it would be another six or seven miles back if I turned around. I found the downed bridge.  A huge pine tree had fallen on it and broken it.  But the creek was very shallow just upstream and someone had but a board across it.  I stepped on high rocks and the board and got across and only had about a mile and a half back up to the car.

Shooting Stars

Bald Dome from the lower trail - this is when I knew I was past the falls

Broken bridge

My crossing - someone had already placed the board here

Pacific Madrone?

After crossing the creek the trail was all uphill and I was pretty tired when I reached the car.  I stopped to look at the maps, pictures of the fallen bridge and a paper that said if one was caught on the lower trail, they were subject to a fine of up to $5000.  But the last little bit was the dates of this injunction - March 2011 to December 2011.  Whew!

 Even though I didn't get to see the falls, the hike was great fun in itself.  And I got to see several great species of birds.  The best ones were a white-headed woodpecker (a life bird), Steller jays, and a varied thrush. But none of them agreed to have a photo taken. And even with all my stops to take pictures and for lunch, I was still back at the car in 5 hours and 15 minutes. 

And here is a blog about the falls I thought I'd see. Wish I'd read it BEFORE I left. Oh yes, why the title?  I keep a step meter in my pocket to monitor my walking. That's why I knew I walked 22,000 steps.

These falls  are supposed to be a really dramatic sight. If you want to come, schedule your trip a little later in the spring when more wildflowers will be blooming and when the snow pack is melting and filling the rivers. But that won't happen this spring. We have had very little snow - less than a third of what we expect. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nature's Mystery Geocache

Geocaching is a very popular sport that requires people use GPS units to find the coordinates of a cache.  However, the rules for National Wildlife Refuges say that nothing can be brought in or removed. So Sacramento has used the idea of virtual geocaches to let people interact with some of the many refuges and refuge units they manage.With a virtual geochache, you don't find an actual cache, but interact with the environment  and usually post pictures.

I decided I needed to unravel the Nature's Mystery Geocache so I could tell other visitors about it.

Here's what #1 says:

Near Squaw Hill, CA
Coordinates: UTM: E 578605 N 4418266
Clue: The river can be seen here. (In Spanish)
Task: Meet a tree - use your senses to explore it and then describe it.

I can enter coordinates into my car GPS. So I just used it to lead me to the site. But a hand held unit is  best .In one of the tasks, I needed to put in the coordinates of my favorite nature discovery.

However the first thing I found out, is that my GPS is BLONDE.  Instead of just sending me up Hwy. 5 to Corning and then east to the site, it set me off on side roads leading to the west of the highway and then up them to the north.  But of course, my reward for being lost was this beautiful scene.

I looked through my GPS's directions and decided I could just zoom up Highway  5 to Corning and then turn east. Almost immediately after crossing the Sacramento River, I found this Unit.

I started down the trail, carrying my car GPS.  It said had had a few tenths of a mile to go to reach my destination. On the way, I found this stump lit with beautiful morning light. It reminded me that trees have very important role as habitats  and meals after they are dead.  And they also make great "carvings".

 When my GPS said I was at my destination, I looked for an interesting tree. This one caught my eye as it was close and looked lacy against the sky.

 And its bark had interesting marks and scars where it had lost limbs or been attacked by bugs, fungi, bacteria or even birds.

 It's base was also interesting and looked almost like it had a large foot. Is that a sandal strap I see?

 It was too pretty a place to leave without exploring further,  so I kept going down the trail and then branched off in the direction of the Sacramento River on a side trail. Soon I was watching a flock of western bluebirds fly up and down.

 Old blooms still held beauty.

While new blooms  promised that spring was on the way.


The path wound along the river for a little ways and then curved back around and became the path back out. This beautiful valley oak caught my eye.

Virtual geocaching is now called waymarking and has it's own site with a huge list of categories. You can find everything from churches to wildlife to parks to retired prisons. So you might be able to pursue most any interst here and definitely find interesting places to visit along your vacation route or near your home. I'm going to visit some waymarks and hopefully add some of my favorite places to the waymark list. 

FWS Recreational Geocaching Guidance - if you want to talk your favorite NWR into adding some waymarks, or a virtual tour, here are the guidelines.

Waymarking's list of National Wildlife Refuges - this is the place to look for coordinates of places on various NWR's, and to add your own favorites.

And if you want to come  to the Sacramento NWRC and  unravel the Nature's Mystery Geocache, you can get a copy here or at the refuge visitor center.  There are ten sets of coordinates, ending at the Sacramento Refuge.I still need to log my the box they maintain for that purpose there. It's on the outside of the visitor center so is always accessible.  And you have only nine more waypoints  to go.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Cycle of Life in California Nut Orchards

I've been fascinated by the nut trees - mostly almond or walnut around here, and with how they are grown.  I'm attracted to the textures, colors, and shapes found in the orchards, or nut ranches, as I've seen them named on some of the signs.
The soil gets readied for the trees in the fall.

I think this area is being prepared for planting trees

Soil prepared for tree planting
Then, in winter the baby trees get planted. They come in these tubes which, I think, give them some protection from deer and the frequent drying winds.

New babies planted about a month ago.  They all will be irrigated.

Another young orchard

Planting pattern

Teenaged trees

The trees get trimmed each fall.  I think these workers are raking up the pruned branches.
Workers tending trees

Nut trees almost to the mountains

Trees in the fall

A Winter look for walnut trees

Almond flowers

Almond trees are totally dependent on pollination by bees. I have been seeing eighteen-wheeler flatbed trucks hauling hives of bees and then seeing rows of hives of bees by each almond orchard in readiness for the flowering season.

These trees looked almost spooky just before sunset

The End

I thought that this picture represented what happened to nut trees when they stopped being productive.  But I learned that  this is probably the end of an almond orchard. Almond trees have shallow roots and many of them have been blown down by high winds.  And the colony collapse disorder of bees has severely decimated the numbers of bees available for renting to the orchard growers to fertilize the almonds which depend totally on bees for pollination.

This has caused the cost of renting hives of bees to go way up and caused the growers to be afraid that they cannot get bees to pollinate their trees. So the local nut ranchers have been taking out their almond trees and replacing them with walnut trees. The walnut trees have to be grafted to a rootstock that resists walnut blight, a fungus disease caused by several species of fungus.You can see the different stock at the base of the walnut trees.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Evening Walk Along the Feathr River

After over half a day to get my car radio fixed, I decided I needed a good walk.  It was only about twenty miles out of my way to go to Oroville. I decided to hike near the dam but found I would have to pay a day use fee to use the Lake Oroville Recreation Area so went looking for another walk.  I accidentally lost myself, most serendipitously, just at the entrance of a little park. But when I got out of the car, I found a hike/bike trail on a lower level and set out.

The first thing I came across was a runaway doll sitting all alone on a bench.  I loved the way her hair was the perfect shade of red to go with the green of the bench. She didn't seem concerned about being lost.  But I bet her mother was frantic.

 I saw a couple of fly fishermen enjoying the river.

And several kinds of fruit or nut trees were in bloom.

 A whole flock of bufflehead were playing in the river.  They stayed up in a group for one picture.

Soon one of them was busy getting cleaned up for the evening. Wonder if he had a hot date?

The park had planted olive trees along the trail in a few places. Their silvery foliage added to the evening's beauty.


A  mocking bird wondered what I was doing. 

And I enjoyed many views of the river and the surrounding lands.

Someone had planted a mass of flowers that were going to sleep in the setting sun.

This stretch of land across the river looked like it had been folded badly with lots of wrinkles and bumps.

This walk made the whole day worth while.  Then I treated myself to a dinner at the Gold City Grill  in Oroville, which has wonderful home-style meals impeccably cooked. And the service is wonderful.  You can make substitutions at no extra cost and the meal comes quickly. I had fried chicken, a baked potato, steamed broccoli, and white bean soup. Then I had a totally divine piece of lemon sour cream pie to finish off the meal.