Mount Linn Revisited

Northern California’s Coast Range

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A view from Mount Linn toward the Pacific Ocean and the distant King Range.

Mount Linn–also called South Yolla Bolly Mountain–is the highest point in the Coast Range of northern California. It is located to the west of Corning but the area might as well be a world away from the population centers of the state; it is rarely noticed by travelers as they drive Interstate 5. Once off the interstate, scenic forest service roads still take nearly 2 hours to wind to the trailhead. I revisited this fine mountain in July of 2016 to set up a photo-monitoring plot along the Bigfoot Trail and took the time to also map the vegetation on the mountain–particularly the grove of foxtail pines near the summit. This is one of the smallest (12 acres) and most isolated groves for the entire species and one that I am very much concerned about due to climate change. Shasta firs are encroaching upon the trees as snowpack declines and temperatures warm. I was happy to see the trees doing well and many young foxtails sprouting up–just not as many as there are young firs.

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Yolla Bolly Permutations

pərmyo͝oˈtāSH(ə)n

The action of changing the arrangement, especially the linear order, of a set of items (what came first, the conifer or the cone?)


Wandering Devil’s Hole Ridge, miles from anything human, the landscape shifts as quickly as the juncos dancing across the trail. Walkabouts bring a level of focus not found in civilization. Walking offers time to hypothesize about the world at a slower pace…How recently did the vegetation patterns I see come to be? When did the Ash-throated flycatcher arrive from its tropical winter-land? How did I find myself in this desolate, isolated place–seven years after I last visited–and so far from my family? Like the undulating contours on the ridgeline, I ponder my place in this dynamic world. Walking further I realize, while out of place, I am fortunate to be here with time to think.

Along the Bigfoot Trail in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Along the Bigfoot Trail in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Seeing the trees through the forests, the birds in those trees, and then this vast landscape through my astigmatized-wide-angle glasses; thoughts swirl through my mind. The first few hours allow time to come to terms with my isolation and my body’s age (I’m moving slower than when I was here in my 30’s). Slowly my mind settles into place, in the wilderness. I ponder plant migrations and vegetation patterns as a student of biogeography. A few miles later my mind drifts towards systems of order (and disorder) that are established out here. This is where true place-based interpretations begin to solidify: my understanding of wilderness and how I’ll never truly fit in among it. Then comes the delineation of rarity. I am a rare human here–among the trees, sky and soil–but this fanciful journey is for the rare plants of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel.

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Juniperus occidentalis of the Yolla Bolly Explored | Papers w/ Robert Adams

Original Publication DATE: 9/3/2010 1:26:00 PM

Late in the summer of 2009 I re-visited an isolated population of junipers in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. The visit was inspired by Robert Adams after he read a blog post of my first visit to the trees. At the time, the population was believed to be Juniperus grandis based on habitat type and other morphological characteristics. After collecting the specimens and sending them to Baylor University for study Dr. Adams published two papers last month on these populations and their relationship to other junipers of the west. He graciously named me as a co-author for my collecting and final editing skills–otherwise the work was all his.

The papers are:

  1. Geographic variation in the leaf essential oils of Juniperus grandis and comparison with J. occidentalis and J. osteosperma. Phytologia 92(2):167-185. 
  2. Geographic variation in nrDNA and cp DNA of Juniperus californica, J. grandis, J. occidentalis and J. osteosperma (Cupressaceae). Phytologia 92(2):266-276.

While the DNA and essential oil comparisons verified the Yolla Bolly junipers are Juniper occidentalis they did not clarify the relationship of Juniperus occidentalis to Juniperus grandis. Unusual similarities were found between occidentalis populations of Oregon and Northern California and grandis populations of the San Bernardino Mountains. As Dr. Adams states in his conclusions, some questions were answered with the research but more questions remain–further study is needed.

western-juniper-range

I created this range map after visiting the Yolla Bolly and observing several new, undocumented populations.

Specimens-Adams

As viewed from the ridgeline west of Mount Linn looking northward the populations of western juniper generally grow just east of the ridgelines on sandy soil. Notice the image names the trees as Sierra juniper, which Dr. Adams proved to be wrong.

Other Resources:

  1. Junipers of the World

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Kane
DATE: 9/6/2010 12:36:05 AM
yo dude. congrats on the pub(s).
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Dewey Robbins
DATE: 5/24/2014 5:10:10 PM
This population extends from Low Gap southwesterly along Jones Ridge nearly to Hayden Roughs as isolated individual. Most of the trees my forestry crew and I found were young regeneration; however, there are a few gnarled fire-scarred relics that are more like shrubs than trees.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Michael E Kauffmann
DATE: 5/26/2014 2:58:05 PM
Dewey– thanks for the note. I’ve never been to that area of the Yolla-Bolly, but want to get there. It looks like they extend even further west to the Eaton Roughs. It is private property, but I’d love to get there too.

Foxtail Pines of Mount Linn

Original Publication DATE: 8/10/2009

Mount Linn–also called South Yolla Bolly Mountain–is the highest point in the Coast Range of northern California. It is located to the west of Corning but the area might as well be a world away from the population centers of the state; it is rarely noticed by travelers as they drive Interstate 5. Once off the interstate, scenic forest service roads still take nearly 2 hours to wind to the trailhead. Although this place has always been on my list of places to visit–the impetus for this visit was to collect some samples of the rare Sierra juniper (Juniperus grandis) for Robert Adams of Baylor University so that, through DNA testing, he might find out if these trees truly are what we think they are (see previous blog). After a 25 mile sojourn deep into the wilderness to collect those specimens it was time to search for the southern most stand of foxtail pine in northwest California–on Mount Linn.

foxtail-cone-pano

The distinct cones and “bottle-brush tassle” branches help to identify Pinus Balfouriana.

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Western Juniper of the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness

Original Publication DATE: 7/29/2009 

Two days into my 400 mile trek on the Bigfoot Trail I stopped to watch rain clouds clear above the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek–deep in the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. As wind whipped the cool electric air past my ears a plant caught my eye–20 yards below the ridge on which I was balanced. This stately specimen had taken purchase many years ago in this rocky, windswept environment. This was a place in which only the heartiest of plants could hope to endure. Its reddish branches stood out in stark contrast to the lime green foliage. As I slowly crawled down the hillside my mind turned over and over with ideas of what species this might be. At first I believed it was cypress–possibly a MacNab or Sargent. But As I got closer I noticed the berry cones which are a diagnostic trait of junipers.

grandis-ridge1

western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) on a windswept ridge.

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