In the morning we finally reached the end of Cohasset Ridge but were held up by snow on the road—we would not make it all the way to Deer Creek on this trip. Stepping out of the car among shotgun shells and beer cans and onto giant cement foundation we were underwhelmed by the immediate environment but overwhelmed by the views to the north and west. With a cup of coffee we reveled in the gentle nature of a landscape suddenly interrupted by volcanic pillars and ledges which lead into the abyss below—Deer Creek framed by the Devil's Den. The headwaters of Deer Creek and Mill Creek, which dissect a wilderness of foothill oak and pine, begin high on the slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Our next move was to drop off the ridge and get in there.
We began our hike along the highest ridges of the southern Ishi Wilderness where we have views across the volcanic tablelands to Mount Shasta and the Klamath Mountains.
This region is atypical for wilderness in that it protects a foothill, low elevation ecosystem. It is, however, understandable once one begins to attempt access. It is a long and arduous journey by road or trail, to ultimately cross these tablelands and enter a hidden world—proven by the legendary Ishi himself. Because access is difficult it was, by default, preserved from future alteration. It is now protected as Ishi himself saw it nearly 100 years ago.
Ishi, whether full blooded Yahi Yana or not, was deemed the last 'wild' Native America holdout in California. After years of survival in this forbidden land—both with fellow tribe members and alone—Ishi emerged alone from the wilds in 1919 at the age of fourty-nine2. One might now only imagine the possibilities of wilderness play (or survival?) in the spirit of the Yahi Yana. Anton Jackson and I played wilderness in early January—enjoying big views and endemic plants. We left with a new appreciation for this region. I was also able to re-familiarize myself with a long lost friend (the California juniper).
The trail followed the ridgeline on the western edge of the Devil's Den with ephemeral ghost pines (Pinus sabiniana) shimmering from the chaparral.
Anton Jackson scopes the wilderness into Deer Creek.
Several of the ridges above Deer Creek hold pineries, or isolated plateaus covered with ponderosa pines. The ponderosa's of Graham's pinery are confined to this plateau south of Deer Creek.
An old gnarly California juniper (Juniperus californica) on the volcanic ridgeline above Deer Creek.
From Adams: "Shrubs or trees dioecious (rarely monoecious), to 8 m, multistemmed (seldom single-stemmed); crown rounded. Bark gray, exfoliating in thin strips, that of smaller and larger branchlets smooth. Branches spreading to ascending; branchlets erect, terete, about as wide as length of scalelike leaves. Leaves light green, abaxial glands elliptic to ovate, conspicuous, exudate absent, margins denticulate (at 20´); whip leaves 3-5 mm, not glaucous adaxially; scalelike leaves 1-2 mm, not overlapping, or rarely overlapping by ca. 1/5 their length, generally flattened, apex acute to obtuse, closely appressed. Seed cones maturing in 1 year, of 1 size, with straight peduncles, globose, (7)9-10(13) mm, bluish brown, glaucous, fibrous, with 1(2) seeds. Seeds 5-7 mm"
Pinus sabiniana on a prominent volcanic outcrop above Deer Creek.
Our reward after a long day on the trail.
- Adams, Robert P. 1993. Juniperus. Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.): Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 2. Oxford University Press..
- Kroeber, Theodora. 1961. Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America. University of California Press, Berkeley.