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Posts Tagged ‘forest’

We’re on the road again, having left cold, snowy Maryland behind last week in search of sun and warmer temperatures to the south. It is great to be mobile again, but it was hard leaving family behind.

We lost our Millie just over a month ago. Annie feels the loss of her buddy keenly and we all have found it hard to readjust to life on the road without her.

Brian, Annie & Millie

Brian, Annie & Millie on a picnic in Maryland, Oct. 2010

We had originally intended to stop in the Carolinas for a month or so, but the temps were still too cool so we continued down to Georgia, to do some exploring of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Nights have been cold, but the days warmer than further north, with highs in the 50s to low 60s. There has been lots of rain, but brilliant sun, too.
Okefenokee was a great place to visit. We spent just a couple of days there and saw only a smidge of it. It was a good time to visit. Too early and cold for the hordes of mosquitos and tourists. We strolled along the most popular trails — easy access routes — rarely passing another visitor.
We walked trails that wandered through forests of towering Longleaf Pines which rose from a dense ground covering of Saw Palmettos. These forests, once covering vast areas of the southeast, are carefully managed now in an effort to re-establish their dominance in at least some areas. Undergrowth is periodically burned away to allow young Longleafs a chance to grow.

Longleaf Pine Forest

Lisa beside Saw Palmettos

On the second day, we took a guided boat tour. We bought tickets for the earliest tour, 9:30 a.m., and found ourselves the only customers for that ride. It was crisply cold with a bright sun doing it’s best to melt the light frost. We wore windproof clothes, but felt the sting of icy wind on our faces and on fingertips not protected by fingerless gloves as we were born along on a large tour boat — just the two of us and our own private guide.

Brian on the tour boat

Our guide was knowledgeable about the Okefenokee and told us he was a 7th generation “swamper”, his family having lived in and around the Okefenokee for all of that time. He stopped when we wanted to take photos, answered all of our questions and turned off the motor for an extended period of time to let us absorb the absolute peace of the Okefenokee in the still of the winter’s day.

Great Egret

One of many alligators seen that morning

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Brian fishing from kayak in early morning

We moved away from the noise and bustle of Klamath Falls to Rocky Point Resort on Pelican Bay at the north end of Upper Klamath Lake. We are on the edge of the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and our site is close to the water so when we wake in the morning we can push the blind up and see pelicans paddling and splashing as they feed. With the lake and marsh on one side and the Winema National Forest to the other, we are surrounded by a stunning natural environment. There are a lot of houses set in along Rocky Point Rd., but they are well-spaced with lots of mature trees. It’s a quiet, off the beaten path kind of area and a welcome respite for us after urban living.

We have little sit-on-top kayaks that we easily tote the short distance to the water, making it possible for us to flyfish or just kayak whenever we like. There is a canoe/kayak trail winding through the refuge that we hope to explore more of soon.

Resort’s dock at dawn

View from lake toward resort’s dock near our RV site

Brian tying flies at our site, lake in background

We spotted this insect floating and watched as, in a few minutes, the adult Caddisfly emerged from its pupal skin and prepared to fly

A fishing dock at next door Forest Service’s boat launch

Low in late summer, this creek is a marshy trail through dry woods near the lake

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The forecast was “hot and sunny” so we opted for a shaded walk and headed up into the mountains. Lake of the Woods is a natural lake in the Winema National Forest, some 30 miles from Klamath Falls and, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, located only about 1,000 feet higher than the town. We arrived at our destination at noon so we stopped in at the Lake of the Woods Resort for their organic, grass-fed beef cheeseburgers which we ate out on the lodge’s big deck, shaded by towering conifers as we looked out over the lake. A line of Adirondack chairs, painted a cheerful, bright red, lined the rail overlooking the water.
The lake is clear and surrounded by alpine forest. The resort has a comfortable, old-timey feel to it, but gas motors are, unfortunately, allowed on the lake. Noisy speed boats and jet skis seem out of place in this pristine spot.

Lake of the Woods Resort

Well fortified by burgers and sweet potato fries, we headed out into the woods, away from the lake. Nearby is the Great Meadow, a large open expanse that is marshy until later in the summer, providing great habitat for all sorts of creatures year-round. Humans have reduced the flow of water from the lake to the meadow to aid in recreational pursuits, so it is drier than nature intends, but there are plans to strike a better balance between providing for humans’ recreational wants and nature’s needs in the near future.

Great Meadow, Mt. McLoughlin in distance

The meadow is dry and grassy, somewhat like unmown pasture, and is frequented by elk and deer this late in the summer, at dusk and dawn. We stood at the southern edge and scanned with our binoculars. The Great Meadow deserves its name. It is enormous, but it’s difficult to tell just how big without a reference point.
A thin ribbon of green meandered along near the far northern edge, the last remaining bit of marshiness. We strained to see clearly and even with binoculars we almost missed the brownish-gray birds with long necks walking in the marshy strip. Frustrated by heat waves and distance, we could only speculate as to identity. So, with that coloring, what were they, Great Blue Herons? Maybe, but they just didn’t seem like Great Blues. The only other possibility around here would be . . . could they be . . . Sandhill Cranes?!
The birds were working their way slowly to the east. The trail we were on, although tucked back into the woods a bit, followed the eastern edge of the meadow so we started walking. We caught glimpses of the meadow through trees and undergrowth, but we couldn’t see the section where we’d seen the birds and just went with the assumption that we were still on a course to intersect.

The trail was sometimes in open sun, but mostly shaded, making the walk pleasant despite the heat. Our dogs are having a harder time adjusting to the desert climate, perhaps because they’ve lived only in cooler climates. They both love snow and had a great time in Alaska. Millie has learned to look for shade and, when we stop and drop the leash, she will find the closest shady spot, no matter how small the coverage.

Shade seeker

As we neared the northern edge of the meadow, we started walking stealthily. Imagine an elephant tiptoeing on dry pine cones — that’s probably what the four of us actually sounded like to wild things as we crept onwards through the woods, but we did keep conversation to a quiet minimum.
We came to an overlook where only a single line of conifers and short shrubbery was between us and the northeast corner of the meadow. We peered through our binoculars in all directions, the world reduced to a circular view with peripheral vision in darkness. There was no sign of the birds. Had they flown? We scanned out as far as we could to no avail. Our hopes sinking, we said aloud, “Where are they?” Abruptly, this head popped up into our view:

Gasp! “Sandhill Crane!” we sputtered in whispers to each other as we struggled to adjust binocular focus close in, to this point just on the other side of the conifers, a mere 20 feet from where we stood.
All of the sneaking and whispering proved unnecessary. The tall, goofy, yet gorgeous bird and its mate strolled a few feet further away and one began unconcernedly scratching the back of its neck with a long foot attached to the end of a long leg, sending little, wispy feathers floating on the breeze. The cranes were a wonderful sight. Not rare around here, but still so much fun to see, especially up close.

Sandhill Crane

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This is Indian Pipe. We’ve come across it occasionally in western Washington, most recently here on Fidalgo Island. According to Wikipedia,
“Monotropa uniflora, also known as the Ghost Plant, Indian Pipe, or Corpse Plant is a herbaceous perennial plant, formerly classified in the family Monotropaceae, but now included within the Ericaceae. It is native to temperate regions of Asia, North America and northern South America, but with large gaps between areas.[1] It is generally scarce or rare in occurrence but is common or even ubiquitous in some areas, such as many parts of eastern North America.
Unlike most plants, it is white and does not contain chlorophyll. Instead of generating energy from sunlight, it is parasitic, more specifically a myco-heterotroph. Its hosts are certain fungi that are mycorrhizal with trees, meaning it ultimately gets its energy from photosynthetic trees. Since it is not dependent on sunlight to grow, it can grow in very dark environments as in the understory of dense forest. The complex relationship that allows this plant to grow also makes propagation difficult.”
(Link to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Pipe)

So flower, closely associated with fungi.

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