High Pressure in the Siskiyou Wilderness

Original Publication DATE: 12/16/2011

The winds were blowing across southern California and the skies were clear in the north. This unseasonal weather, cultivated by a high pressure system sitting over most of the West coast, motivated a 24 hour whirlwind into the Siskiyou Wilderness. My goal was to search for an unusual population of Alaska yellow-cedar documented and collected by Overton and Butler in 1979. I had discredited this report for several years because it did not fit within the parameters of my expectations for the species’ regional ecological amplitude–reported at a mere 3115 feet. If true, this would be over 2000 feet lower than any other regional population. In the fall I made it to the HSU Herbarium to look at the specimen and, sure enough, it was properly identified by the duo. I had to find this unusual place. The high pressure was the excuse to escape the stress of the end of 2011, get into the mountains, and attempt to find another outlier in the Siskiyou Wilderness.


Impressive Douglas-firs abound along the South Fork of the Smith River.

After walking along the Smith River on the South Kelsey Trail, the Summit Valley Trail climbs to the high country. Here I got a view to the Siskiyou Crest, through a multitude of conifers, with the Smith River far below.

After walking along the Smith River on the South Kelsey Trail, the Summit Valley Trail climbs to the high country. Here I got a view to the Siskiyou Crest, through a multitude of conifers, with the Smith River far below.


Another mystery in the Smith River Country are the lodgepole pines inhabiting the mid-elevations. The cones are somewhere between the beach pine (ssp. contorta) and the Sierra lodgepole (ssp. murrayana) characterized by thicker scales and shorter, reflexed cones. There are several hypotheses as to why they grow as they do but most likely this serotinous nature is due to a frequent fire return interval.


Del Norte manzanita (Arctostaphylos nortensis) is already starting to flower in mid-December.


Somewhere below the Summit trail, about 3 miles from the Kelsey trail, a population of Alaska-cedar persists at 3100 feet. The survival here is due to the proximity to the Pacific Ocean which nurtures a cool and wet microsite. I did not find these trees this trip, but will be back to take a cross-country route and look again.



X marks the sport of where the reported Alaska-cedar reside.

AUTHOR: Gambolin’ Man
URL: http://gambolinman.blogspot.com
DATE: 12/16/2011 4:16:29 PM
Michael, Even though your goal was elusive, it must have been a worthwhile and exciting, and especially beautiful time to go in search of the great mysterious trees!

AUTHOR: Paul Kauffmann
DATE: 12/27/2011 7:30:44 PM
Great descriptions- the sunrises look amazing.
AUTHOR: Curtis Neppl
DATE: 3/19/2012 11:10:07 PM
I need to do some monitoring on the Summit Valley trail this summer, we should hook up and look for those cedars!! Welcomed a leap year baby girl!! Laney…Love your site, by the way.

Curtis Neppl

Thanks Curtis, and congratulations on the little one. We’ll have to get the families together in the Siskiyous this summer for some hiking!  -MK

AUTHOR: phillips
URL: http://ethnobotanywesternoregon.wordspress.dom
DATE: 8/3/2012 12:26:29 AM
I got your book – love it. I’m from Coos Bay originally & one of my favorite trees is the Port Orford Cedar. When my tribe’s Tribal Hall was built in the 1930s in Empire (now part of City of Coos Bay) the land was all covered in POC’s. They still grow there – in one spot one red cedar and one POC grow right next to each other, and the POC’s bluish cast in comparison to the red cedar is noticeable. A lot of POC still grows around the Empire Lakes in the John Topits Park, and a handful of them grow in the southern dunes – there is one that grows by the Bluebill Lake trail.

SW Oregon Indians used POC to make canoes, although carvers noted its wood was heavier and denser than red cedar and thus the canoes were harder to dock, but some carvers nonetheless preferred working with it.

Phillips- Thanks for checking out the book, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I also appreciate you sharing your stories about the POC–it to is one of my favorite trees!  -MK

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