Thursday, May 30, 2013

What We Need Here is Wildfire to Propagate !!!

"What we have here is (a) failure to communicate Educate ?"
Credit: Grolsch Filmworks
Ideology and Philosophy are often times like a terminal  disease which infects not only when it comes to this world's Leadership policy making and other governance schemes, but also when it even comes even to our own understanding of the Earth's Natural World. The sad state of our natural world's health is a testament to human leadership's misuse and abuse of natural resources and lack of understanding when it comes to not only management of these, but also attempting to put it all back together again when humans have blundered somewhere once again. This post will deal with what should be our education and understanding about Fire Ecology and the Big Business intrusion which attempts to profit from it.
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We all remember that line by Strother Martin in the classic 1960s film "Cool Hand Luke", where the penal system was trying by force to get the convicts to comply to their totalitarian Authority. In many instances, this world's various authorities (Political &  Business, Science & Religious) do the same thing when it comes to education and communication. It's almost like the old time saying about young ones, "Children should be seen and not heard." Today's authority resents being questioned. Unfortunately the general public is often times so apathetic that such failed leadership gets away with it. Many of the average folks appear to rather like  feeling a sense of laziness in letting others do their thinking and research for them. Some people today are like sponges; they soak up whatever they come across. It is all too easy to absorb whatever is around us. As long as their personal comfort isn't disturbed too much, they allow that authority to dictate how the world around them should work and function. This is also true of our conventional understanding and official teaching on how Nature itself operates. The fact that Nature is presently in dire straights everywhere globally should give us pause. So as to not to suffer the consequences of being a mere blind follower, we need to be selective about the information we take into our minds. We need to scrutinize whatever is presented to us, deciding what to accept and what to reject. However, we do not want to be so narrow that we refuse to consider facts that can improve our thinking. How can we find the right balance?  By adopting a standard with which to measure the so-called new and enlightened information. On the one hand, we need to have an open mind, that is, receptive to new information. On the other hand, our minds should also see the danger of information that is entirely inconsistent with the reality and the truth of just how the Natural World really works.

First off, people need to acquire the quality of discernment in their ability to properly critique what they are being told by those claiming power of their authority.  Discernment is  "acuteness of judgment and understanding."  It is  “the power or faculty of the mind by which it distinguishes one thing from another.”  A person who has this discernment perceives subtleties of ideas or things and has good judgment as to what to believe and how to properly act upon what he/she is being told. Using discernment, a person will be able to recognize those who are merely using smooth slick talk and complimentary speech for a purposed outcome in order to seduce the hearts of inexperienced ones to back a plan, proposal or scheme with reference to an ideological concept. Discernment enables you to discard irrelevant information or misleading facts and distinguish the substance of a matter. But how can anyone really discern when something is misleading?

Credit> Youtube - Craig Chaddock (thumbwave)

Tecate Cypress Regeneration
Let's take an example of the mismanagement of the Natural World and focus on one particular narrow subject of interest which is fire ecology. This would be the propaganda fed to the general public on the need of a fire's importance in Nature for many living plants in the Chaparral Plant Community in order to propagate and  germinate it's species. Narrowing the focus even further in our figurative fire ecology microscope, let's take all things Cypress.  It is said by many experts and parroted by your ignorant average Joe/Jane world citizen who comment on countless public forums & other public boards that Cypress trees cannot propagate unless fire rages through an area causing cones to release 1000s of seeds and consuming everything that would be competition for growth and resources. For example, in 2006, the Orange County Register (see Reference below) had an article about the U.S. Forest Service helping Tecate Cypress trees recover. There was a subtitle and other specific one liners in the article which actually revealed what much of the rest of the story line was going to contain, it said this - 
"Heat Frees Seeds, But Flames Decimated Trees"
"The Fire that trees can't live without might in this case prove lethal."
Fire that trees cannot live without ? While there certainly is an excessively large scale propagation strategy these Cypress trees have in the event of a localized environmental destruction and for getting things off to a fast head start, this is NOT the ONLY way in which these trees propagate and move into virgin territories. Still it's those large stand out one liner quotes in headlines that sticks in people's minds. And these are what are used as a propaganda tool for most of these unnecessary Prescribed or Controlled Burns associated with other words or terms like 'Fuel Management' which for the most part are conducted in remote wilderness type locations far far away from any Urban development. I know this from living in the San Jacinto Mountains for over 20+ years.  I have over the years discovered many locations of mature Cypress tree forests where actual germination does occur within mature stands of old growth chaparral. One such location is the turnout on Hwy 79 south of Julian California where many many years ago Cuyamaca Cypress trees were planted, I presume as a decorative addition to the area we know as "Inspiration Point Road" which is nothing more than a large loop for viewing the Anza Borrego Desert State Park to the east below. Long before the 2003 Cedar Fire blew through this Hwy 79 Overlook, these trees were actually already spreading around everywhere. Just to the south side of this Turnout Overlook on several hills, there were hundreds of these trees spreading into what can be described as pure dense stands of old growth stunted wind blown Manzanita scrub which had been shaped to the hilltop environment by constant never ending prevailing west winds from off the Pacific Ocean. Yet you won't really find any literature written about this. 

One of the best ways to understanding how Nature actually works is quite literally to question and put to the test many of the conventional logic and reasoning being fed to the general public as to land management. It actually takes personal effort of literally dumping the electronic devices, getting off one's back side and getting out into the field regularly. And I mean regularity. It is far better for each individual personally to choose what he will feed his mind with when it comes to references. You've heard it said that we are what we eat, and this can not only apply to food for the body, but also what you feed the mind. No matter what you are reading or watching or listening to when it comes to Scientific Land Management, test to see whether it has propagandistic overtones or is truthful. Clearly in these later days, much of the Fire Ecology does not deal with the reality of how Nature actually operates. Also keep in mind that if you really want to be fair-minded, you also have to be willing to subject our own personal biased opinions and ideas to continual testing as you take in new information. You have to realize that they are, after all, opinions, which no doubt were formulated through the opinion of those with Authority who educated you in the beginning. Even our own ongoing education and understanding's trustworthiness depends on the validity of our own facts, on the quality of our reasoning, and on the standards or values that we choose to apply to them.

Getting back to the flawed understanding with regards Fire Ecology, here's one of my personal favourite locations of old growth Tecate Cypress trees regenerating without fire and these are the isolated pocket stands found on Quatay Mountain near Descanso CA. Take a look at the map below. Please pay close attention here.

Credit: GOOGLE
Traveling here from Interstate 8 on Hwy 79 north which takes you beyond the town of Descanso itself and beyond the Jct of Hwy 79 & old US 80 which heads towards Quatay and Pine Valley. Look for a development with a sort of Grand entrance which is called Tecate Cypress Trail, then proceed a half mile beyond that to the east up the grade. When you come to another road on the left called Samagatuma Valley Road and directly across from that road you will see this fence on the south side which is the secret  Tecate Cypress Stand Trailhead . Now it's not an official one, but someone a decade ago did cut a easy pathway up to those trees. So access is  possible.

Caution should be in order here as I have no idea as to who now owns this part of Guatay Mountain and in the past I did stumble upon an *cough-cough* Illegal Farm Irrigation pipe if you know what I mean. My main point here is that once up into these trees, you can locate and find many young Tecate Cypress seedlings in among various chaparral plant undergrowth. You will also often find some open cones on the trees themselves. It actually took me a couple of visits in my seed collection before I began noticing there were all these seedlings (which I actually had seen before but gave no thought) and finally I started questioning the reasons for their existence which defied the traditional storytelling I had bought into in my formal education. There among the old growth Cypress and actually much of the old growth Chaparral, I began to discern various age groups among all the Cypresses. Some a foot tall, some five foot tall, some taller. Why ? If it have taken a fire to create these large older Tecate Cypress Forests in the first place, then why were there all these numerous decades younger aged trees ? But a clue was the sound I often heard up here. The sound of a bird pecking on wood. Looking around I discovered these small brown birds pecking on the cones themselves attempting to get at the seeds. I'm no bird expert, but hopefully someone else living there or reading this experience will be alert enough with camera to document this phenomena. Clearly, these birds have a measure of success in penetrating the hard cone, but that doesn't always mean they get every seed. I'm sure some fall out and drop onto the ground or sail into the breeze and land far away from the parent tree. I haven't gone to this place on my present 3012 Spring visit here this time around, but at least you all have a reference point for a personal educational visit. 
Credit: SDSU.EDU
The large list of areas where Tecate Cypress exists in large woodland settings. Tecate Peak, Otay Mountains, Quatay Mountains, Santa Ana Mountains and a colony on Cedros Island off Baja California are the prime locations given for viewing these trees, and yet smaller colonies in Peutz Valley near Apline CA and Lawson Valley near Jamul CA to name a few. The photo above comes from the Otay Mountain Wilderness Recovery Program in 2005. This was a fire that occurred simultaneously in 2003 south of the 2003 Cedar fire. As an important side point here, take note of the reference to the Peutz Valley region where it is listed as an area of Tecate Cypress naturalization. Interestingly, there historically were no Tecate Cypress woodlands prior to human intrusion into the area west of Alpine and north of El Capitan Reservior. What happened was that some residents back in the 1970s planted some as landscape features on their property. There was never fire here in Puetz Valley like that of the 2003 Cedar Fire, so the question becomes:
 "How did Tecate Cypress Seeds advance themselves and naturalize out in the surround chaparral and adjacent canyons without the 'Dogma of Fire Ecology' being foremost in this process ?" 
Hmmm, could birds pecking on cones be the answer ? I do have one other easy example location, but unfortunately I believe the 2003 Cedar Fire would have easily devoured this spot. I use to collect a lot of seed here at this location as well. There are actually many such places not mentioned in much of the literature dealing with Tecate Cypress habitats. Mostly what are written about are four or five main locations. This place however is on the western face of Cuyamaca Peak along Boulder Creek Road. The location has a name, Wildcat Spring which is a concrete Water Storage Tank, but next to a moist seep area. There were always many older Oaks associated with this place and old growth Tecate Cypress. Underneath the tree canopy and out in the fringes of the surrounding chaparral there were various size seedlings, but always newly fresh year old seedlings every time I visited. Curiously it was experiences like this that made me again question this flawed Fire Ecology thinking. It was clearly evident that these trees were in no need of fire, something you will hardly find anywhere in any literature or textbooks. I did once scoop an 8 inch high seedling into a five gallon pail at Wildcat Spring and brought it home to my place in Anza California. Here I took this photo this past 2013 Spring.

Photo Mine
 To the right here is a photo I took last week of that very tree as it appears today on that property within the Redshank/Ribbonwood, Mountain Mahogany, and Holly Leaf Redberry where I planted it. Take note below here. This was planted in the late 1980s, inoculated and nurtured for a couple of years and then left to it's own thereafter. It is now about 10 foot tall. These next sets of photographs are taken on a neighbouring property of my Brother's home in Ranchita California which is directly south of Anza and in much of the same chaparral at 4000' elevation. These are his neighbour's Arizona Cypress planted along a western fence line border for privacy and a windbreak. They appear to be no longer watered or cared for and have actually spread themselves not only several yards away from the parent trees, but also across the dirt road into the Chaparral. These trees have spread across the road into the Chamise. But also please take note of the chainlink fence line in which numerous seedlings have germinated and the question is why ? For me it's the best proof, other than being an eye witness to birds pecking at Cypress cones and eating seeds, then some seeds making through their intense digestive track only to be pooped out as they perched for a rest. Always take special note of fence lines to understand a bird's favourite diet. *smile*


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New trees have spread outside of the fence area where the much larger trees are 10 foot away from the fence. I find many fences are great places for many seeds of any kind to germinate. It has a sort of artificial protection and organic build up which creates a mulch and nutrient catchment.
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This view is looking over the chain link fencing and revealing several seedlings within the property itself.

Photo Mine
This photo is far away from the property with adult trees and is across the road on the other side, and admittedly is not much to look at. The tree is barely hanging on though still alive below near the ground and the growth is new this year. Still this location is across the road, west of the road and property. The trend here is an east to westward movement. That is interesting as this area receives heavy Santa Ana Winds which come in Fall and early Winter. Do the dry hot winds open and disperse the cones and seeds ? Who knows, but it is clear that the wind direction does have a direct effect on these trees spreading westward through the chaparral.

This post isn't really a slam against anything forestry, but it is puzzling why such outdated flawed understanding which influences and dictates the need for Prescribed or Controlled Burns are justified to help nature. That just isn't the case. I have worked with many of these officials before and I will tell you that pride of academic accomplishment and credentials means everything to them. Sometimes you have to explain things to them in a way that makes them believe it was their idea in the first place. Or at least subtly send them in the right with the illusion of it being theirs. What ever it takes to get things done. Mostly I post hoping the private land owner, gardener or landscaper gets the point and  benefits the most, but not on my word, but getting out there and seeing for themselves. Nothing burns understanding into those brains cells faster than personal observation and experience coupled with practical application back home. I entertain no such hope that government will ever change. People today are told and even encourage to question everything today. I'm not necessarily for that as all I'm seeing now in the Global News Reports are more chaos and disunity. As we have seen, there are many in authority today who would like to delude us with so-called Scientific persuasive arguments about fire ecology.  Therefore, when we are presented with these modern day persuasive science arguments, we should ask questions.

For example, examine whether there is any bias. (there almost always is) Next, what is the motive for the message ? (in other words, who's going to profit off the venture) If the message is rife with name-calling and loaded words (Chaparral is boring & mundane or Fuel in need of Management), why is that ? Loaded language aside, what are the merits of the Fire Ecology practices themselves ? Also, if possible, try to check the track record of those so-called experts in authority who are speaking. Are they known for speaking the truth ? And If “authorities” are used in reference, who or what are they ? Why should you regard this person - or organization or publication (Textbooks) - as having expert knowledge or trustworthy information on the subject of fire Ecology or the land management in question ? If you sense some appeal to emotions, ask yourself,
‘When viewed dispassionately, what are the merits of the land management message ?’
Photo Mine
This is a side point, but also fits in with the rest of the post subject. This tree, which I believe was Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana) was acquired from a old growth forest floor high above Sierra Vista Arizona up in the Huachuca Mountains. It was about 5 inches tall when planted in 1994 and now is about three foot in height among the chaparral where I planted it. Other than inoculation with Pisolithus tinctorius (the infamous 'Dog turd Fungus') which did take hold as evidenced by that first year's truffle formation, which even surprised Dr Donald Marx of Plant Health Care Inc or PHC in Frogmore South Carolina, nothing more was done for the tree after that. This photo was taken in the Spring of 2013 and although still small, it has successfully made it under it's own with the help of mycorrhizae. BTW, there are artist drawings by naturalists depicting the extinct South Carolina Parakeet up in Bald Cypress trees with cypress cones in their mouths. What a pity that some things go extinct before we understand the full complexity of the roles they once played in Nature. 

Further Interesting Reading:
Orange County Register: "Forest Service helps tecate cypress after fire"
Also check out the link on Tecate Cypress Seed germination which also should illustrate some pertinent points made above: 
 Seed Germination & Old School Ideology vrs How Nature Actually Works


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's the Lerp Psyllid's fault ? So ? And ? (Nature takes the hit again in blame game)

This seems to be an underlying theme now days to blame Nature behind many of today's ecological problems. I'll have more on this later which I have no doubt will be disturbing to many, but this trend is real and there is a flaw in Human Intellectual reasoning behind this attitude. More on that later since the post already exists. The real tragedy is not so much the wholesale damage caused by what the Lerp Psyllid has done. They were introduced and they do what they do. But mostly what I've seen on my two month stay here is the disconnect by property owners and other agencies with turning a blind eye to the eye sore aesthetics & aftermath in almost all landscapes throughout Southern California and potential for further future fire hazard which will come.
UC scientists apply IPM techniques to new eucalyptus pests
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Credit: University of California - California Agriculture
This isn't so much a post on the insects and Eucalyptus trees themselves as the lazy disconnected attitude by many of the residents in Southern California who leave these sickly trees to remain in the landscape as skeleton reminders of their helplessness and hopelessness. I'm finding more and more people are generally apathetic when it comes to landscapes here. Many do not seem to have any sense of pride anymore about their yards or other large properties. I'm not posting mainly about poor folks who can't afford water rates like their wealthier neighbours in the mountain top private communities. Even Mount Helix which towers between El Cajon and La Mesa has it's countless dead or sickly Red River Gum Eucalyptus. While I've driven all over and seen numerous dead or dying woodlands everywhere in the south land, here are some prime example photos taken just east of El Cajon California.
NPR: Invasive Pests, Or Tiny Biological Terrorists?
For those who have a further interest on the subject of the Lerp Psyllid and how it arrived here and some of the Bio-Terrorism speculation being forwarded as to how they arrived in California, the link above from NPR is fascinating as it interviews Timothy Paine of University California Riverside who has put forth an hypothesis of someone who has a hatred of Eucalyptus deliberately importing these pests to rid the state of Eucalyptus trees for good in California. Some of the clues he presents are intriguing. This show was aired on July 22, 2012. In the photo below, you'll notice that in Australia there are a number of biological components which provide checks and balances for the Eucalyptus Lerp which do not exist in California.

photo image - Eileen Collins - June 2015 

Friends of Chiltern Mt Pilot Nation Park

A Regent Honeyeater eating the Lerps from a Golden Wattle
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Now the Potential for Wildfire in El Cajon & Lakeside California where massive areas of Dead Eucalyptus are waiting to explode
Photo Mine
This view is from a north side frontage road off of Interstate 8 looking towards infected and either dying and/or dead trees along Olde U.S. 80 at Flynn Springs near Lakeside California. The entire countryside has the appearance of being through a train wreck.
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Traveling west towards El Cajon on Olde U.S. 80 from Los Coches Road near Lakeside California. Many many Red River Gum Eucalyptus were heavily planted along most Southern California roadways in the early days. Places like Ramona & Escondido California are great examples of these trees lining their main streets. Sadly they are mostly in bad shape. These types of locations will become future wildfire facilitators at some point and these dead and dying trees and/or Chaparral will get the blame. Human idiocy will get a cover up.
Photo Mine
Further up the road there are more completely dead and/or dying Eucalyptus trees which should have come down years ago. This area was never touched by the Cedar Fire of 2003 (oddly enough, it was also never touched by the 1970 Laguna Fire either & they were here then], so the dead limbs and trunks are not the result of some past fire. Old Eucalyptus plant skeletons are everywhere. Some dead Eucalyptus in some areas have been around since I was a kid in the 1960s. Fascinating preservative qualities of this tree's wood is what allows for such longevity. But trust me, this is a potential firestorm waiting to happen.
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This photo above is across the old Hwy 80 on the other side behind my previous photo above that where numerous houses and Mobile Home Parks exist. That frontage Road is Aurora Drive and dead Eucalyptus are all along it's corridors. If a fire ever comes from western prevailing winds, then such structures will be toast. Such dead thick dense stands of trees in between housing developments are what help those megafires spread along such vegetative thoroughfares to newer areas within a housing/chaparral patchwork of not well thought out building and planning. It would have been safer if the land was allowed to remain low coastal sage scrub habitat which is the natural native plants to this location, than the present dead Red Gum Eucalyptus with waist high foxtails and European Wild Oats. 

And finally looking through the overpass of Interstate 8 on Broadway in El Cajon, just east of El Cajon Ford and Albertson's. All these photos are a mere tip of a pin head of what there actually is out there. And everyone familiar with Southern California knows exactly what I'm talking about. Much of this major planting was undertaken around the turn of the last Century in the early 1900s. To bad Natives were not more respected and understood back then when a decision was made as to what they should plant in the landscape. Although, I'm not sure it would have made any difference. There are massive volumes of information now available, and although things are improving, they are not moving forward fast enough. Another Santa Ana wind driven Laguna Fire from the east blowing down from La Cresta towards Greenfield Drive and this hill in the photograph behind those dead trees will go up like a match. However it's these very trees which will allow the fire to move forwards into deeper urban residential areas, something it could never accomplish before.



As I've stated before, it appears most home owners and landowners in general have a collective apathy. They turn a blind eye to mess created long ago by themselves or other humans. Having a sense of pride of California's beautiful landscapes doesn't seem to be a priority anymore as it once was. This trip has been a reminder of just how disappointing this attitude is and lack of pride most people reveal in the unkempt landscape. I don't doubt that taking these trees out would cost some money. Those tree trimming companies contracted by County wide Utility companies which normally do a cheaply priced hack job would actually be ideal in these complete removal assignments. Education of the folks on the use and advantages of the Native Plants is the biggest chore. Unfortunately the competition for education is stiff when a short attention spanned population is addicted to it's mind numbing Electronic Devices. Trying to actually motivate them into physically taking action for a change can be a challenge. In many cases I see this as too serious an issue to ever really get corrected. In the mean time anyone presently reading who actually cares and has such plant hazards on or near their properties, do well to heed any advice or suggestions given on property improvement, especially where these hazards may effect their fellow man by means of wildfire or windstorms. I have a bad feeling about some of these locations. The next time a Megafire comes through this way, an un-natural fore break like an Interstate 8 won't be much of a barrier when dead trees at already great heights go up like Roman Candles allowing branches and twigs to get caught in updrafts spreading spot fires even miles away.  
Wildfire Update August 2014
Well, it's happened. Wildfire has struck and destroyed this area I previously referenced as going to happen where the dead Eucalyptus are present between El Cajon and Lakeside. Almost exactly one year after I wrote this article on the Eucalyptus Lerp and May 2014 was a devastating time for wildfire, both in El Cajon-Lakeside and San Marcos-Escondido areas and what made it worse was the dead landscaping and lack of consern on the part of land owners.
Should Firefighters be expected to save Homes which are located in fire trap geography and where the owner cared less about landscape hygiene ?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cal-Trans Diversion of Baldy Mountain Creek Shut Down One Ecosystem and Destroyed Another

Google Maps
Off California State Route 74 from Hemet to Idyllwild there was a historical diversion of a major stream which totally shut down a major hydrological flow from a once beautiful pristine area for  which many biodiverse plants, animals, birds, etc were dependent upon and then they proceeded to straight channel it westward collapsing an entire mountainside of the South Fork of the San Jacinto River course. There are no historical accounts or other records of this ecological misdeed for which there was no purpose nor justified reason for doing so other than laziness and somehow profiting more on the deal. As the map shows  to those familiar with Hwy 74, this location along the highway is at the Cal-Trans Turnout where gravel bunkers are located and the South fork Trail head for hiking down to the San Jacinto River southern branch of the drainage area. The actual area where a bridge should have been constructed is just a couple hundred feet to the east of this turnout and has nothing more than a culvert for water drainage. Perhaps I should reveal what got my curiosity going about the major water course origins. Originally, I was never suspicious of any misdeeds. I simply wanted to know the seed source of the lower elevation plants I saw growing in a narrow canyon down to the floor of Cold & Dry Creek Canyons. For years I traveled to work back and forth up and down Hwy 74 to Hemet and back up the mountain. I'm obsessively curious about things I notice in the plant world along many roadways I travel. Take a look at these two photos which show a steep canyon which appears to have a wealth of water which support and large group of older growth Forest trees for which radically contrasts the surround Chaparral Plant community. So one day I stopped at a turn out east of the Strawberry Creek bridge over Hwy 74 and the photos below here reveal what I saw.


Photo Mine
The vegetation here is radically different than the chaparral on both side of the V shaped Canyon. There are clearly Pines, Cedars, Oaks and especially Sycamores and Cottonwoods which would indicate more water. Also, one had to wonder from where did the seed source for this forest come ? What was upstream ?



Photo: Mine
This is the same turnout looking directly east up the Cold Creek Canyon looking towards the direction of Mountain Center. This canyon is especially rich in Big Cone Douglas Fir trees.


Photo Mine
This is a shot from the truck looking back from another angle east of the turnout for a contrasting view of the vegetation.


Photo: Mine

Cal-Trans Turnout


Photo: Mine
Both of these next two shots are from the South Fork San Jacinto River Trail head turnout with the Cal-Trans gravel and sand bunkers. Notice the vegetation lines along those mountains across the valley ? Clearly the geology has some fault lines which seep with moisture from a series of Springs. Just another interesting puzzle I never explored mainly because of the heavy bush whacking that it would take in virgin untouched Chaparral.


Photo: Mine

Fast forwarding up the trail from the parking area and coming around the first bend where you can see the South fork Canyon from which Lake Hemet spills over if and when there is a heavy rain season. Most of the trees here on this steep terrain are Big Cone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa)



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Coming further around the bend and looking down where the dense foliage of the green Big Cone Doug Firs are below is the first indication of a slide to the left in the picture where the geology is a much brighter white. The other side of the canyon is rouse Ridge or Hill where there is a campground at the end of this trail. This ridge has also been an area of traditional targeting for control or prescribed burns and yet no fire has ever burned through here on it's way to Hemet and other parts west. On the other side is Bautista Canyon where fires by humans have traditionally started and burned towards Red Mountain and the community of Sage.



Photo: Mine
This point here is the unnatural Creek bed that the south Fork Trail crosses over before falling into the abyss a hundred yards further to the west. Here you can see some of the native Bunch grasses that have made a permanent home among the boulders and cobble stone river rocks.


Photo Mine
This is hiking the trail beyond the unnatural man made creek we just past over and going a bit further south on this trail, we take a photo from the south side of the unnatural slide area. Keep in mind, when I first discovered this human caused disaster, I was not expecting this AND I actually came in from the other side to this point, not from the turnout and hiking trail. So my first discovery was NOT this slide, but rather the deliberate diversion earthen soil berm or dam they Hwy Construction Crews dug by hand to change the water course straight west as opposed to the natural sharp turn north towards the Hwy 74 which even older maps will indicate.

Photo: Mine



Photo: Mine

Both these pictures are looking towards the canyon as the dry wash cuts unnaturally through the top soil layers eroding aggressively into the mountain on either side and dislodging the chaparral. There are no Riparian vegetation built up whatsoever through this wash which would have been normal had this feature been hundreds or thousands of years old like the canyon cut on the other side. Very steep and very dangerous in parts.


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Photo: Mine



Image  .  Google Earth
This sad scenario can only be clearly seen in whole from the vantage point of Google Earth satellite imaging. Notice the location of the Hwy 74 turnout, South Fork Hiking Trail, the existing stream and old stream bad and exact point of where the alignment was trenched and a diversion berm created to redirect the waters which pointed straight for the canyon and which led to the entire muntainside collapse. Interestingly, the collapse now is not as pronoused a cliff-like drop off, but has eroded back to where there is more slope.


Photos Mine
This is the area Patrick Dennis followed and took the photos with my camera. Now the look here is far different than when I first saw it in 1983. In that last picture above, notice the granite rock on the left ? The flatter creek bed use to extend out to that point and when you looked over the edge, there was nothing but a straight drop with large waterfall cascading into the deep cave in below. There was no vegetation as you see it now. There was no foothold for it. now that the erosion has met a harder rock layer and tapered a bit, any chaparral and riparian seed can now get a foothold which it clearly has as you can see. So there is something of a positive here.


Photos Mine 
Preview: Highway Department's South Fork Canyon Stream Course Reroute & Diversion Scheme
Now this is looking east from where the South Fork Trail crosses the creek and we are heading back towards where the Highway Construction crews cut into the higher ground west and built up a dam on the portion starting to head north towards the Highway where no doubt in the old days of a poorly constructed wagon road, it no doubt washed out from time to time. The deep erosion cuts through this geology are deep and sheer vertical to about 15 foot high from wall to wall. Very unnatural and again no indication of any mature Riparian Trees had the pathway been through here for hundreds of years. For further views, see the previous preview post I wrote of the older tradition stream bed which I illustrated the cuts in a series of photos between the South Fork Trail and the Diversion dam. 


Photo: Mine
Here is the opening to the diversion area with the built up soil and rock berm on the left. The older traditional natural stream bed is on the other side of this berm on the left. Straight ahead through the pass is McGaugh Meadows and Lake along with Baldy Mountain watershed drainage on it's north face.


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Standing on the soil berm looking at the older channel now cut off from it's once historical centuries course by one act of ignorance and greed. 
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Looking back and photographing the actual man made soil/rock berm which created the blockage and diversion decades ago.



Photos Above all Mine
The series of photographs above are of all following the former stream bed down it's once robust course where we good imagine a wide flowing stream with lush habitat on both sides. However, down further we do run into indications of vast amounts of water still below the surface and sustaining water loving plants.


Photo Mine
Here is a Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicana). On an interesting note, below this former waterfall behind the Elderberry and on the opposite side of the boulder it's up against to the right, we saw a fairly larger plastic industrial grade irrigation pipe and in good shape, running from a cave and extending down this former creek where it disappeared into some impassable vegetation areas. There were also some trash where someone had been residing keeping watch over who knows what. Spooky, some thing never change out here. That's why you have to keep watch.


Photo Mine

And sure enough there is the Irrigation Pipe



Photo: Mine



Photos Mine
Walking behind Mary Anne Kiger towards our first real Riparian tree, a California Sycamore (Plantanus racemosa) and further on down vegetation increased no only in size, but also abundant diversity for moisture loving riparian vegetation.







Photo: Mine
These last two pictures are of Pink Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceumwhich was abundant along hwy 74 on the way up traditionally, but they has severely made fire breaks along the highway and took out some of the best roadside scenic examples. I've planted two of these that I purchased at Las Pilitas Nursery for shade planting under my mum's six California Sycamore trees in her backyard.

Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida)



Photo: Mine
This is an incredible find as a young Pine sapling is pushing up through the chaparral which is in no way impeding it's growth at all. In fact it's very survival is dependent on the chaparral system. The older generation from ancient times past has moved over. Sadly this area was NOT so over grown when I first went through move up through the creek bed in 1983. The fire from the 1990s hadn't done it work as yet and the dense cover of many plants including Poison Oak were not present, the forest understory here along the stream bed was open and easy to navigate.



Photo: Mine


Photo: Mine

Incense Cedar was also present back then and indeed was one of the trees I detected in great number down below in the steeper canyon bottom. Sadly there were no live Incense Cedars here.

Photo: Mine
Ferns were also in abundance everywhere in this shaded lower moist region of the stream bed, along with all manner of herbaceous moisture loving plants.


Photo: Mine
Here is Mary Anne and I making a separation from Patrick who went uphill but we decide it was easier to go back down into an opening in the Creek bed for which we would have missed that giant Holly Leaf Cherry specimen along with it's family. First time ever I had seen such large examples.


Photo: Mine

And finally we can see the Hwy 74 rounding the bend in the distance. This last leg was tough and hot. I think I drank three and a half liters of water during this trek before and after. This rich chaparral area was a pleasant and beautiful surprise. I debated about going at times as I wanted to photo so much from my past experiences and exploration. But i just don't have the time. I hope in some way this provides some historical info as well as to how easily humans can destroy, even when they are in positions of official decision making as experts in their respective fields.