Tree Mortality

If it’s big enough it shakes the ground with the sound of tearing and crunching.   Then comes the thump.  The bigger ones may bounce once before coming to a full rest.  It’s a site to see these once living giants fall, seemingly in slow motion, finally hitting the ground sending a dust cloud into the surrounding air.

Earlier this year 33 dead trees were removed from The Golden K.   It’s a sad reality of living in the mountains after five years of drought and the dreaded Bark Beetles who take advantage of the water starved pines.  The beetles bore into the trees and the trees are unable to generate the necessary sap to push them out.  The beetles reproduce in the inner bark of the tree and this eventually kills the tree from the inside out.

The Golden K is not worse off for losing that many trees.  There are still 110 pine trees, dozens of majestic Oaks, and a plethora of Cedars and Manzanita.  In the long run the thinning of the pines will be better for the surviving trees.

So over a period of five days we watched our 33 dead soldiers fall and hit the ground.  It was interesting to say the least as we watched the expert crew plan and prepare for each tree falling leading up to the chain saw cuts that send the tree to the ground.

Our 33 pines are only a blip on the map of the tens of millions of trees that have died and must be taken down.  It’s a sad situation for those of us who are connected with the beauty of the mountains.  Only time will tell what the impact will be to that mountain landscape.

Thankfully, the landscape of The Golden K is much the same.  The thrash (all the limbs and branches) was all taken away but we were left with all the “wood” which was stacked up in “decks”.  We’ll need to do something with them eventually but for now they remain as a symbol of the fragile balance of life and death and as a reminder of my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet.

Holly balancing life on one of the tree decks

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Humbled By Nature, WOW

Golden K road trip.

Last week Holly and I ventured beyond the fences of the Golden K to do a little exploring in the Gold Country.   There is so much beauty, recreation, and history in the California Gold Country and we’re fortunate enough to be living right dab in the middle of it on five acres covered by pines, oaks, cedars and a plethora of wild life.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area both Holly and I vacationed with our families in many areas of the Gold Country.  Especially Holly whose family  explored most of Northern camping almost year round.  So maybe that’s why we hadn’t felt compelled to venture very far from the GK since we moved here in May of 2016.   Or maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a homebody who prefers to stay close to home and close to my routine.

Last week we took a day trip that took us 250 feet in the sky and 165 feet under the earth.    And wow, both experiences were truly humbling.

Our first destination was Calaveras Big Trees State Park.   Located just about an hour north of The Golden K, Big Trees is famous for it’s grove of Giant Sycamore trees.   Growing to  heights of 275 feet with diameters ranging from 20 to 25 feet Giant Sycamores are some of the largest living things on earth and some of the oldest too with many trees living to over 3000 years.

We took a guided tour that began standing on the base of what is known as the “Discovery Tree”.  This is the tree “discovered” in 1852 by a hunter who happened across it by chance in what is now called the North Grove of Big Trees State Park..  Sadly, a year later the tree was felled in an effort to make a profit over it’s magnificence.   It took several men several days to take this 250 foot tree down.  It was estimated to be 1,300 years old at the time.  More information about the Discovery Tree and history of the Giant Sequoias can be found here.

Fortunately there were and still are dozens of other Giant Sequoias in what is now a California State Park.  It was a humbling and powerful experience as we walked the North Grove with our guide viewing and learning about these incredible living giants.   Standing in this natural beauty I took several pictures but pictures can not capture the beauty or the emotion of standing at the base of something so tall and beautiful that has been alive on earth since biblical times.  Wow.

After a morning above ground staring straight up in the air we were ready to go deep underground. So after a stop in the town of Arnold for lunch we drove to the Moaning Caverns located in a small town called Vallecito.   The Moaning Caverns is the lagerst vertical publicly accessible cavern in California.  The cavern was discovered by gold miners in 1851. It is now known that it was a geological feature of great interest to prehistoric peoples.   The cavern has also been an archaeological site where some of the oldest human remains in America have been found.  The cave has a depth of 400 feet and the public can tour it’s 165 foot shaft descending down a spiral staircase.

Early minors would repel down the shaft with only small candles for light.  As a way to make a profit the 1891 discoverers devised a rope and pulley system to lower people down the shaft for a cost of five cents.  Presumably they also hauled them back up…. probably for an additional cost.

Today there are lamps placed along the shaft to provide enough light for safety and to enable tourists to see the incredible formations carved over thousands of years from water and minerals.   Standing on the bottom of the 165 foot shaft and looking up was another humbling and powerful experience.   Thinking about how long – test of thousands of years – it took for these formations to be created drip by drip was mind boggling.  It served to remind me that the length of a human life is but a blip in the fabric of the earth’s history.   It was also humbling to think that the Giant Sequoias we peered straight up at earlier in the day were almost twice as tall as this giant shaft.  When the tour guide turned out all the lights in the shaft (he warned us first) we were in pure and total blackness.  Wow.

Arriving back at the Golden K from wherever we go is always a wonderful experience.  But on this day our trees looked a little smaller and our well seemed a little more shallow.

But my romantic perspective of life at 3100 feet was as grand as ever.

Calaveras Big Tree State Park – a humbling look of about 250 up at a Giant Sequoia

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Moaning Cavern – the spiral staircase that took us down 165 feet

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My six inch “Giant Sequoia – purchased at the park’s visitor center. Visitors to the Golden K in several hundred years may discover this little guy has grown to a couple of hundred feet.  Wow…

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GOLD  COUNTY AND THE GOLDEN K

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Emergency Alert

All of a sudden our mobile devices emitted that classic emergency alert sound that used to come on the radio or television when there was a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System.   It was a familiar sound when I was younger.  A voice would come on and say something like “This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  If this had been a real emergency…”.   And then normal programming would resume.

So there we were just getting ready to settle down with a glass of wine after a long warm day of working around The Golden K and we hear that familiar sound.  Holly and I both grab our phones and see an message on the screen that says, “Emergency Alert – fire evacuation notice”.  We’ve signed up for emergency alerts via a local service that tracks things like extreme weather, fires, and other disasters.   We frequently get alerts about extreme weather conditions and lightening storms but we’ve never received one about a fire or one that announces that evacuations are in progress.

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We both ran outside to see if we could see smoke or flames.    It’s been less than a week since the Detwiler fire,  about 20 miles south of The Golden K, caused thousands to be evacuated,  burned 75,000 acres, and destroyed over 60 homes.

This was one of those times that intellectual fear becomes emotional fear.  That moment when thoughts about bad things quickly move down from the brain to the stomach.  When one realizes that “they” could be “me”.

I quickly found information on the CalFire website that told us that the fire was burning about 12 miles south west of us near Jamestown, a historic gold rush town.  We learned that there were road closures and that homes and businesses along those roads were being evacuated.   But there were few other details about how quickly the fire was spreading and how wide spread the evacuation might be.  I looked out onto the back of The Golden K and it was like any other peaceful and quiet Saturday afternoon.   I thought to myself, “What will we do if the fire get’s any closer to us and evacuations are recommended or mandatory”.   A few moments later Holly says, “I’m not leaving”.

Practicality quickly prevailed and we decided to “get some things” together just in case.   Not surprisingly the first thing Holly does is pack dog food in sm all meal-sized plastic bags and put them in a larger paper bag to throw in the car if necessary.  That’s how much Holly and I love Kali and Kloe.  Their comfort and safety are paramount to just about anything else and the first place Holly went emotionally was to take care of the Girls.

I gathered up my mobile devices and charging cords.  I plugged them all in just in case we had to leave they would be fully charged.  I went to my office to gather the two external hard drives I use to back up my devices.  I put them all in my back pack and set it by the bag of dog food.

OK – dog food and computers by the door.  I guess were ready if the time comes.

We continued to monitor the fire with updates from website.  It was spreading quickly with no word about containment yet.  We decided that if it got much later with no updates or signs that things were coming under control we would pack cloths and other items.  And then we did the next most logical thing.   I opened a bottle of wine and Holly ordered pizza.

Within a few hours, a couple of glasses of wine, and two thirds of a pizza later we learned that the fire was 30% contained and evacuations had mostly been lifted.   We also learned that the system that sends out these emergency alerts for the County should not have sent the evacuation alert to the entire county.  The alert should have been much more localized and had it been it’s likely it would not have been sent to us.  So although there was never any immediate threat to The Golden K we didn’t know that until several hours after the alerts first sounded on our phones.

It’s been over a year since we moved to the mountains but I feel like last night was the official “welcome to mountain living in the summer” announcement.

Living in the Bay Area for years Holly and I always talked about putting together an earthquake preparedness kit.  We never did.  Now living in the mountains for a year there is a different and very real threat we must prepare for.  Wildfire.

So, we will create our evacuation kit with plenty of dog food and other necessary supplies should we ever have to bug our of The Golden K due to fire.  Intellectually, I’ll be prepared to leave The Golden K behind and pray that the day will never come.

Emotionally though, I will never leave behind my romantic perspective of life at 3100.

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