Archive for the ‘National Forest’ Category
What would be ugly in a garden constitutes beauty on a mountain.
Three observations concerning Forest Service web sites:
1. There isn’t a lot of information on some sites;
2. Many sites just sit on the same information for months and even years;
3. And, the Forest Service really doesn’t blow its horn often or loud enough.
When we started our US National Forest Campground Guide efforts, the Forest Service was still in a cyberspace “Dark-Age.” Their computers were some “off-brand” unknown system that barely talked with any other computers. Some Forest Service employees had been exposed to cyberspace via “gopher” aided college research but most had no experience with cyberspace. The Internet was in its infancy.
Needless to say, “back-in-the-day”, the Forest Service seemed to think web sites were the corners of rooms were spiders hung out. A few years later, if a Forest’s web site was developed, designed, and maintained it was by whoever had the time and interest. Work on a web site was done when everything else was done. Since than web sites have evolved and today the Forest Service web sites have a standard appearance with specific guidelines. But getting the information we, the users of National Forests, need continues to be challenge.
My interests are focused on camping opportunities and hiking trails. Over and over again I have found the campground information provided by the Forest Service is one, two, or more years old and so sketchy I am not sure what I might be getting myself into. (A call to the Forest’s Front Desk person usually corrects this problem but not always and there is a rumor that this position may be “consolidated,” whatever that means.) And trying to discover trails at or near the campground – just forget about it.
After all these years of working with the Forest Service in the forests across the country there are three things I have learned:
- people who work for the Forest Service are dedicated, committed, wonderful group of people and, generally, introverts;
- National Forests are the bestest places; and,
- the Forest Service is “hiding their light under a basket.”
Our weekend of camping in the shadow of the San Francisco mountain on the east side of Flagstaff is almost done. Tomorrow we’ll go to Williams, AZ and re-visit Dogtown, Kaibab Lake, and White Horse Lake campgrounds before heading to Prescott to do some of the campgrounds area there. But more about those adventures later.
It was 351 miles from home to Flagstaff. Hand down, the worst part was the hour or so driving through Phoenix. I wish I could find another way to go from southern Arizona to its northern reach. It doesn’t seem to matter when we leave home, the traffic in Phoenix is miserable and the temperature only adds to the misery. However, when Phoenix is in our rear-view mirror things are good. The traffic melts away, as does the heat, and landscape goes from one housing developed, mega-shopping mall and apartment complex to various vista that stretch beyond imagination, open prairies dotted juniper and finally towering sweet scented Ponderosa pine.
It is still too early, and cold, for wildflowers to be in blooming north of Phoenix but up to there blossoms lined the I-10. Yellow Brittlebush seemed to be the most plentiful with occasional patches of rosy pink penstemon and golden Mexico poppies are everywhere. May it’s the surrounding dull dead brown landscape that makes the roadway lining wildflower displays so pleasing. What ever the reason, it might be the best part of the two-plus-hour drive.
This is a photograph of one of the my favorite weeds. I call it a “Chocolate Weed” because it smells like a chocolate cocoa.
Once in Flagstaff, we settled into a private campground. What can I say,? It’s a private campground were one parks their rig between young pines on parking aprons of the cindery soil so common to the area close enough to the neighboring rig that you can identify what they are having for dinner. The dogs are completely unimpressed by the many Abert’s squirrels (with tuffed ears and related to the Kaibab squirrel which live on the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park) gathering around the plate of food left by our neighbor. Besides the entertaining squirrels, the adjacent Coconino National Forest offers miles and miles of trails to explore. The dogs and I think that is the best feature of this private campground.
Our presentation at REI in Tucson, AZ March 9 went well. We talked about camping in the Southwestern Region (basically in national forests in AZ, NM and national grasslands in NM, OK, and TX). Here is Fred waiting for folks to arrive. I think we’ll do more presentations in the future. Any suggested topic would be appreciated.
A lot of homes rely on firewood as a part of their home heating. It’s an important product our national forests and grasslands supply to many communities. One district in the Deschutes National Forest has issued firewood permits for 1,700 cords (that’s two pick up trucks loaded down with firewood for every adult in the town of Ennis, MT) already this year so imagine how many cords are harvested in the 175 national forests and grasslands nationwide! However, a lot of people may not be aware that “imported firewood” or firewood not from the local area, could carry non-native pests and diseases. Check with local district ranger’s office for a permit as well as the rules and regulations of harvesting firewood. District office phone numbers are found off the “Forest Contacts” tab located at the top of the forest’s web page on our website.
I recall the sticker shock experienced last year when looking at natural, fresh cut Christmas trees. Granted, I live in southeast Arizona and those trees were “imported” from Washington state, but really? We aren’t talking about some giant specimen Spruce. We were thinking about something imperfect (I think such a tree has a lot more personality) and in the 5 foot range but didn’t want to pay the equivalent a week or more groceries. So, we opted for a fake tree and pine scented candles. It was kind of sad but what to do?
Well, I’ve gotten press releases from a variety of national forests and Christmas tree permits are now available for $10! And there is no size limit that I can discover!
Each permit allows for the cutting of one tree on National Forest System Lands, however, there is a limit of five permits per household so I could have a nice little tree in every room in my house including the guest bathroom LOL for less than the tree I looked at last year. Amazing.
A word of caution: With each passing year of the bark beetle epidemic, the threat of falling trees increases; therefore, all forest visitors are reminded to pay attention to weather forecasts, avoid areas with beetle-killed trees on high wind days and be aware of their surroundings. Weather conditions can change quickly, so be prepared. Dress for winter conditions and have your vehicle equipped adequately.
Christmas tree cutting has taken place on national forests for many decades and there remains an abundance of young trees for visitors. And tree cutting regulations have been established to maintain a healthy forest environment and sustainable forest management program. Sounds like a WIN-WIN to me. Maybe this is the year to start a new tradition in your household, too.
Fire is a natural change agent in our national forests. Historically, low intensity fires burn small areas of Ponderosa pine forests every 5 to 40 years. Forest with a great variety of conifers in wetter areas fires occur every 100 to 450 years. These fires are larger and burn entire forest stands. However, a century of fire suppression has interrupted natural fire cycles without a matching level of fuels reduction has resulted in a massive fuel build-up and fires like those seen this past year.
The correction to this problem of fuel build-up sounds pretty straight-forward – reduce the fuel – but such an undertaking is complicated. There is, of course, the problem of funding the effort. Anyone who has had to have a tree removed from their yard or spent hours clearing a yard of tree litter has a good understanding of the task. And then there is the problem of educating people to the positive results of any fuel reduction effort. To this end the Idaho Forest Products Commission has a “Thin the Threat” program.
Contact the Idaho Forest Products Commission email at email@example.com or by phone 208-334-3292 for a FREE “Thin the Threat” bumper sticker and they’ll send it, along with some literature explaining the why, what, and how of reducing the destructive wildfires our national forests had to deal with for the past years.
As the weather turns colder, many of my neighbors, and probably yours, are lighting a fire in the old fireplace. The smell of smoke hangs in the air almost every morning as I walk the dogs. Soon, most of what was left over from last year will be burnt and the wood pile will need to be replenished. In most areas near a national forest you have two options: buy a cord or two from someone; or, go out and cut your own cord or two. In southeast Arizona a cord of pine costs about $400! A permit for a cord of firewood from one of the national forests in Arizona runs $25. A permit is required to cut firewood and can be purchased at the forest’s district office. When the permit is purchased, the buyer is given a map with the specific area where they can cut trees. Yes, it is a lot of work but it just might be one of the best deals you’ll see in a while. Give your local national forest call if interested. You’ll find their phone number off the “Forest Contacts” tab at the top of the forest’s web page on our website.
Maple, oak, hickory, and other deciduous trees provide leaf-peakers a fabulous display of color in the fall. But we don’t think about what’s happening to conifer, or evergreen, trees when the weather turns cold. Whether Ponderosa pine or Douglas fir, all conifers drop old needles in the fall. Watch the needles closest to the trunk and you’ll see them turn yellow and fall to the ground. Only the younger needles stay put, giving this group of tree there better known evergreen. Those dropped needles make a great mulch for your garden and in southern state, such as Georgia and Florida, are harvested and sold as “Georgia” hay. FYI: If you see the young needles, close to the tip of a branch, turning yellow, it is a good sign the tree is either stressed or sick.
We were once asked, “What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever experienced or seen in a national forest?” That’s tough one. Not because there was a lack of the “amazing” but rather an abundance of them. I have maybe 14 journals loaded with things we have seen and experienced with a long list of adjectives attached. Here are a few that come immediately to mind.
Seeing a swimming Bald eagle in the Tongass NF. To make a long story short, this mature eagle had caught a salmon that must have weighted around 10 pounds. The problem was a Bald eagle can’t fly carrying that much weight and this bird wasn’t going to give up its catch so it swam, using a butterfly stoke with its wings, about 75 yards to shore. Once there, it climbed up on the rocks and devoured that fish. One awesome, unforgettable sight.
Another amazing experience was driving the County/Forest route 630 between Ophir and Silverton, CO in the Uncomprahgre National Forest. (Later, I learned it was considered an “easy” 4X4 trail but it isn’t so easy in a 3/4 ton Ram pickup!) Route 630 is the mother of all “white knuckle roads.” Point in fact, Fred was a redhead when we started our drive and was grey by the time we finished. We should have realized it was going to be a challenge when the Post Mistress in Ophir told us, “Yeah, your truck’s got the clearance, you should be able to make it.”
I find waterfalls amazing. Towering waterfalls like Yakso in the Umpqua NF, Upper and Lower Mesa in Targhee NF, and Elk Creek, just to name a few, are awe-inspiring. But also inspiring are those unnamed waterfalls that appear only after a rainstorm. A favorite waterfall was discover when we took a hike out of Singletree campground (Fishlake NF) and discovered water falling from a cliff high above, forming a shower curtain or water. Imagine looking out over a hot, dry Utah desert of Ponderosa pine shimmering in the heat and having a cooling mist gently touching bare skin – wonderful.
I must say, for me, the most amazing part of our adventure are the people we have met. There was Doyle, the most politically knowledgeable person I have ever met even though he could neither read or write. And the 72-year old Buster who knew more about the trees in his native Ozark Mountains than anyone (the Forest Service still consults with him). And, the amazing people who are volunteer campground hosts all across this country,
We’ll stop here with marveling in amazement at all we have accomplished. Who could have imagined we would do so much? Certainly, we have exceeded our musing of 18 years ago.
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