Sunday, September 26, 2010

From Krummholz to the Pygmy Forest

We began at the sea, on a cliff dotted with seaside daisies. We walked along the cliff, skirting a prairie of sweet vernal grass and velvet grass.  Thence we traveled to Krummholz, called The Goblin Fortress by the wee people.  From Krummholz we climbed the Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest, stuffing ourselves with blue and red huckleberries on the way.

It sounds like a passage from a fantasy novel, but it was the first and longest hike we took.  And the most varied and exciting.  A little over five miles round trip.  The hike begins in Jug Handle State Park.

The Ecological Staircase is a series of 5 terraces uplifted from the sea.  As you climb, each terrace is 100,000 years older than the one before.

We began at the headlands, on the first terrace, or rather, the second, as the first is now being formed just beneath the sea, where the water is lighter and greener.
Just beyond the coastal prairie you find trees twisted and bent by salt winds, giving them a quality known as krummholz, German for bentwood.  Our kids dubbed these trees The Goblin Fortress.  It was the best natural playground I have ever seen.
On the next step of the staircase you find the same Grand firs and Douglas firs growing tall and true.

Or fallen over and hollowed by fire, making an irresistible, if sooty, tunnel.

Greta found this mushroom, with the volva, the remains of the universal veil, still visible at its base.  The volva is evidence that this mushroom is in the Amanita family and may be deadly poisonous.
If there are mushroom experts among my readers, tell us what you know about this mushroom.

The trees also fell between other trees, great for climbing.  See Evelyn leaning against the trunk.

Anyone know what this powdery yellow stuff is?

These are red huckleberries.

And these are our old friends, blue huckleberries.

We picked enough to make huckleberry syrup to drizzle over our breakfast crepes.

The trail rose up through a grove of coastal redwoods and on up again to the pygmy forest.
Evelyn looked like a giant walking among these trees bonsaied by too much water and soil depleted of minerals.

Greta caught a snake on the way down.

But we saw no mammals, not so much as a squirrel, on the Ecological Staircase.


sarah in the woods said...

What a beautiful place! I especially love the Krummholz.

J.G. Wilder said...

Beautiful, Susan. I think you've found the perfect sets for a homeschoolers' cinema class -- who needs New Zealand. You are right about the fantasy novel element. Wow, those trees.

Moira Kenney said...

Susan, I love the methodical and yet adventurous nature of the project you have all undertaken. Our resident forester said, when shown your photo, that there are millions of fungi endemic to CA - hard to identify from a photo, so I wouldn't add fungi ID to your California Project, unless you want this to last until Greta's 12th birthday as well! But, if you are curious, try googling images of "comandra blister rust" and then limit the results by the color yellow.

Kristin said...

Welcome back! I've got a jar of honey for you.

We've hiked to a pygmy forest, but I'm not sure if its where you were. It was near Salt Point. The photo of the tree playground is so cool.

Susan said...

Sarah, it was--and we couldn't get over how right krummholz is to describe the place.

Jennifer, Wouldn't it be a great film setting!? Our trip was chock full of great fantasy novel settings--fern canyon!--and still to come: The Fantastic Lava Beds and the Painted Dunes.

Moira, ha! and we were telling the kids not to disturb the nice blister rust. We definitely will not take on fungi, though maybe we could get to know a few edible ones...

Kristin, thanks! Salt Point is quite a bit south. Good to know there is a pygmy forest there, too.

JeaneP said...

Fantastic trip! I remember you telling me about this and now I'd like to see it in person :) Mom/Gran