An online tree identifying tool for kids and adults alike.
An online snake identifying tool for amateur herpetologists (read: hikers).
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I’ve been lately in the mode of offering “Top 100” lists about wine, so I felt compelled to list one hundred things about myself.
Whether cool and breezy in mid-Autumn or hot and sticky in late Spring to mid-Summer, the heavy shade of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is often welcome to hiker and mountain biker alike. That shade is largely due to the untold populations of redwood trees that dominate the area, though Bigleaf Maples also do their share to offer mercy from the sun.
While beautiful and stately, the redwoods in this forest are often no more than 100 years old. As one walks steadily up the former railroad grade that is Aptos Creek Trail, one can only imagine what this forest may have looked like in the mid-19th century. That was before these trees’ massive forebears were harvested for the burgeoning lumber needs of San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley, and other local coastal hamlets.
Fortunately there are still first-growth redwoods nearby at Henry Cowell and Big Basin Redwoods state parks. These are Nature’s living cathedrals, and they are destinations in which I lead hikes a few times every year.
Because those old matriarchs are worth seeing. Because everyone owes themselves a moment of Nature’s living grandeur. Because they’re there.
Because I love knowing that they’re there.
Though I might have the disposition for it, I don’t, however, hug redwood trees. That is, not unless I’ve got a set of fine tweezers and a lot of time to kill.
See related trip report: Nisene Marks State Park & Burrell School Vineyards.
You can identify most trees by studying their leaves, seeds, and fruit. This animation from the National Arbor Day Foundation can help you learn to identify these characteristics and take a “step-by-step” approach to arrive at the name of your tree. It’s a pretty cool tool for all ages, so be sure to share it with your kids and get them out on the trail with you soon.
Just returned from 3 days in the California Alps, where the nightly temperatures are dropping to the freezing point and causing the quaking aspens in the area to display leaves of vivid gold, orange, and red.
Stay tuned: photos are forthcoming, including some photos of dead trees that I’m sure a certain Mr. Mangan will enjoy.
Being a former precocious preadolescent, I once used to voraciously read Mad magazine. It’s what you did as a boy back in the 1970s before your testicles descended, and hey — I was no different. For us 12-year-olds hanging out in our treehouses conveniently away from intruding parents, satire was the urban refuge of the budding cynic, and irreverence was a holy thing. While our across-the-gender-fence peers could have been a continent removed from us reading all the latest Tiger Beat gossip about Bobby Sherman, Donny Osmond, and Tony DeFranco, we were passing around well-thumbed copies of Mad, as well as Cracked and National Lampoon.
We were the Kings of All Boyhood.
True, we were hooked on the brazen impudence, the distorted symbolism, the racy chimera of these puerile rags. But as I continued along the winding trail through the rocky promontories of my postpubescence, I discovered real rock: the writings of Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Wallace Stegner, John Wesley Powell, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey.
I had already become an avid hiker and backpacker, and was later to adopt a 200-mile-a-week bicycling habit. Not to mention a fondness for wine, if I could afford it, and a desire to taste and breathe all things natural and good. I had developed a deep longing to be out there where I could breathe that sweet and lucid, yet unspoiled, rarefied mountain breeze that continually sang to me with its siren call.
My idealism was wholly influenced by all I read, and I went on to pursue studies in biology, botany, physics, geology, land surveying, and, for a while, a degree in forest science. Later, despite my gravitation to a more technical career path yet still drawn by Abbey’s ornery, magnetic prose, I ventured to the stark red rock vastnesses of the Colorado Plateau to strengthen my connection to what Abbey described so vividly as Bedrock and Paradox.
I kept on reading.
If there’s one absolute Truth that I would learn through this timeline, it’s that one can’t be a writer without first being a reader. It was these readings and experiences that began to shape what my Self was to become. Yet for all that I would ever think, feel, do, and share with others, it became apparent to me that there was only one higher Absolute Truth:
Only rock is real.
Yet my attraction to all things bound to this Rock that we — all species — live our lives upon began, as I’ve intimated, with a love of trees, and a desire for their sound management and preservation.
During my angst-prone pimple-ridden wide-eyed youth, I penned the following poem, a Mad parody of Joyce Kilmer‘s oft-quoted World War I-era classic. Some might say that I stole this poem from Mad magazine. All I can tell you is that I was heavily influenced by what I was reading at age 17; I was writing a fair amount of “love and death” poetry at the time.
I’ll let you be the judge.
TREES, I THINK
I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
I’d hoped, of course, that there would be
A tree still left for me to see.
Some lumber firm from out of town
Has chopped the whole damned forest down.
But I’ll show up those stupid chumps!
I’ll go and write a poem called “Stumps!”