Manzanita Country

Smokey Creek and South Fork Trinity River Along the Bigfoot Trail

Spring break offered the opportunity for a brief trip into the southern Klamath Mountains. The Bigfoot Trail was calling, and as I am working on a new map set for the trail, my goal was to check some of the route descriptions and enjoy the wilds of Trinity County. Our first significant snowfall of the rainy season locked me out of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness with over a foot  above 4000′. So the lower elevations of the South Fork Trinity River became my destination. Here I would re-explore the Smokey Creek Trail and enjoy some quality time with my new friend, the manzanita.

ridgeline

Jeffrey pine and common manzanita (A. manzanita) on a serpentine outcrop above the South Fork Trinity River.

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Sound Ecology – Klamath Mountain Conifers

I was recently asked by KHSU, here in Humboldt County, to write a two minute script for their Sound Ecology series. I chose to write about the conifers of the Klamath Mountains. I hope you enjoy this piece and are planning your next adventure into this botanical wonderland.


Here are the activities I will be a part of in the coming months, please join me!


May 11th, 2015 Backcountry Press presents:

A Field Guide to Manzanitas:
California, North America, and Mexico

Michael Kauffmann, Tom Parker, and Michael Vasey
Photographs by Jeff Bisbee

Stay Tuned!

Creating the Bigfoot Trail Alliance

My high school biology teacher inspired my love for natural history. After hiking the Continental Divide Trail, I fell in love with long-distance hiking. The The Bigfoot Trail combines the two.

Eminent botanist John O. Sawyer and I once discussed the lack of connectivity between the wilderness areas in the Klamath Mountains. This led us to pour over maps, talk rare plants, and plan a path that would connect these wild places. In 2009, I first walked this route and over the past few years have re-hiked various pieces to “finalize” the trek I call the Bigfoot Trail. This project combines long-distance hiking and natural history by defining a thru-hike in one of the most species-rich temperate coniferous forest on Earth.

The Bigfoot Trail Alliance

The Bigfoot Trail Alliance

I recently launched a Kickstarter Campaign to fund the establishment of the Bigfoot Trail Alliance (BFTA) as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The BFTA will create a community committed to constructing, promoting, and protecting—in perpetuity—the Bigfoot Trail. I am asking you, noble reader, to become a founding member of this organization.

CLICK HERE FOR RADIO INTERVIEW ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN

In my time living in northwest California, I have fallen deeply in love with the uniqueness of the Klamath Mountains. So much so that I wrote a natural history and hiking guide called Conifer Country which documents and celebrates the region. While writing that book, I hiked thousands of miles in search of wild trees.

The trail begins on the subalpine slopes of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, traverses the Klamath’s most spectacular peaks, crosses all its wild rivers, and ends at the edge of the continent in the temperate rainforest. It highlights all that Conifer Country has to offer.

The Bigfoot Trail Route

I believe that by establishing this route—and ultimately the BFTA—a deeper understanding and awareness will be fostered for this region. This trail, and organization, is about the other biota who live in the Klamath Mountains—ultimately to function as stewards for their protection.

Please follow this link to join the campaign to establish the Bigfoot Trail.

The Yule Tree

Evergreen conifers and the winter solstice

This info-graphic explores the long and storied history of bringing evergreen conifers into our homes near the end of each calendar year. From the tradition’s beginnings in northern Germany to the creation of the artificial tree, read on to explore the origins and evolution of our unique love affair with conifers.

This infographic explores the long and storied history of bringing evergreen conifers into our homes near the end of each calendar year.

This infographic explores the long and storied history of bringing evergreen conifers into our homes near the end of each calendar year.


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Pine Forest Range

Humboldt County, Nevada

When choosing destinations for exploration, isolation has always been an important element in the algorithm. At this point in my Western explorations I’ve been to most mountain ranges in search of solitude and biological uniqueness. So, when the opportunity arose for a fall trip with some college friends, I keyed in on a mountain range I’d never visited mid-way between Arcata, California and Livingston, Montana—deep within Nevada’s High Rock-Black Rock desert.

The Pine Forest Range archipelago as seen from Bog Hot - near Denio, Nevada.

The Pine Forest Range archipelago as seen from Bog Hot – near Denio, Nevada.

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Articulate Earth

By David Rains Wallace

My first adventure in the Klamath Mountains was in February 2003, several weeks after moving to Humboldt County. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of Conifer Country about that trip:

After poring over maps, studying the ridges, passes, and creeks, I filled my backpack with winter gear, food, and a copy of David Rains Wallace’s The Klamath Knot. The adventure was on….The next four days found me spending time staying warm, staying dry, differentiating between the conifers, and reading and re-reading The Klamath Knot. The Knot is a “Klamath cult classic” that weaves the myth of giants with the mysterious quality of ancient forest evolution—surely this was the perfect companion for my first trip in the Siskiyous.

I fell in love with the mountains that fateful February week, deep in the Siskiyous. I read and re-read The Klamath Knot as the rains poured down on me, the nearby creeks swelled, and the mountain passes accumulated snow. I gained a deeper respect and understanding for this wild place too—because of David’s mountain tales that wove natural history and evolution into a place-based book.

Today, it is with great fortune and excitement that I announce to my noble readers that my publishing company, Backcountry Press, is releasing a book by David Rains Wallace. Articulate Earth is a collection of 23 essays written over 30 years of Wallace’s career. The essays explore our relationship with nature—particularly that of the West—in its literary, scientific, and political dimensions. Please support independent publishing by picking up this book from our website or visiting your local independent bookstore—and then referring this book to friends.

Articulate Earth by David Rains Wallace - printing in Humboldt County on recycled paper.

Articulate Earth by David Rains Wallace – printing in Humboldt County on recycled paper. Click to learn more.

The Marble Mountain Wilderness

Celebrating 50 years of wilderness designation

The Marble Mountain Wilderness contains the most solid chunk of protected land in northwest California. By walking into the center of its 241,744 acres, it is possible to be 15+ miles from any road and in some of the most visually stunning scenery in the state. In addition to 89 lakes, the wilderness contains several distinct sub ranges defined by the plutons of rock that formed them. Marble Mountain forms the northern section. It is the most dramatic peak in the wilderness, composed of metamorphosed limestone—marble—that has been uplifted. I first saw Marble Mountain after a summer storm and as the clouds broke I thought it was covered in snow—but all I was seeing was wet, white marble reflecting sunlight. Marble Mountain is visible from every prominent peak in the northern Klamath Mountains.

The Trinity Alps

Celebrating 30 years of wilderness designation

In the 1930’s, 234,000 acres were set aside as the Salmon-Trinity Primitive Area. With the signing of the California Wilderness Act twenty years later much of the Trinity Alps was officially designated as wilderness. 26,510 acres were added in 2006 when the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Act was signed. The Trinity Alps now contain 525,477 acres—making it one of the largest wilderness areas in the state and twice as large as any other wilderness in the Klamath region. Because of its size, it can be thought of as containing several distinct regions. These regions are ecologically and geologically based on climate and rock type. The western half—known as the Green Alps—sees up to twice as much precipitation as the eastern half and are composed of much gentler mountains. The central granitic batholith defines the White Alps, a land of spires and glacially carved valleys with hanging lakes as a result. The eastern-most section is called the Red Alps because serpentine soils are
common.

This video is a collection of many years of exploration across this wilderness, and dedicated on John O. Sawyer who loved the Alps, and especially the trees, more than anyone I know.

The Siskiyou Wilderness

Celebrating 30 years of protection

Protected in 1984 and expanded in 2006, the Siskiyou Wilderness now preserves 182,802 acres of some of the most species-rich temperate coniferous forests in North America. This film is a collection of images from years of hiking and exploring this diverse landscape – dedicated to my son, Sylas Siskiyou Kauffmann.

Klamath Mountain Wilderness

In 1964 Congress passed The Wilderness Act in a nearly unanimous vote. Though the idea of wilderness was nothing new, its legalized preservation was. The act was meant to acknowledge and define the immediate and lasting benefits of protecting wild places—stating that land shall be set aside for “preservation and protection…so as to remain untrammeled…to retain primeval character…to only be affected by forces of nature…and to guarantee solitude…devoted to un-mechanized public purposes.” I quickly discovered these places were for me—a freedom-loving environmentalist who enjoys unconfined primeval recreation.

Conifer Country (2012)


Since first exploring the Siskiyou Wilderness in February of 2003, I became convinced that the Klamath Mountain wilderness areas contain some of the wildest and most rugged terrain in the contiguous United States. This is country that is often so steep, and thus spatially isolated, that there are places that have rarely–if ever–been visited by humans. The Klamath Mountains also hold one of the most species-rich temperate forest in North America–with nearly 3,500 taxa documented. The diversity is due to many factors, but in essence it represents a means to appreciate the wildness that has maintained across the numerous sub-ranges in the region. The variable topography, relatively stable climate, and varied soil types have offered (and continue to do so) a refuge for plants to persist or speciate. This is a phenomenon which I am cautiously optimistic will persist into the future, even as climates rapidly change to to human activity–I also beleive this to be true do to the wilderness that is preserved that will help to promote biodiversity. September 3rd, 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act – wilderness is a part of me as are these mountains.

The eleven wilderness areas within the Klamath Mountain Province

The eleven wilderness areas within the Klamath Mountain Province

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