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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Roadside Semiotics

Along highway 20 in Lake County, elk territory is well marked with signs. Nevertheless, this elk was killed on the road June 13, 2014.

The message common to these signs is: Animals In The Road. They are, incidentally, a good indicator of the range and migratory routes of various species. In various parts of California, one can see signs featuring the silhouettes of cattle, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, bear, elk, ducks, newts, burros, horses and wild pigs. 

The sign indicating free range cattle is, in North America, almost universally a silhouette of a stolid, stoic, grounded, matronly cow standing in dumb and expressionless profile.

The signs in the anything-goes state of Nevada, however, feature a jaunty, light-on-his-feet, swaggering bull with cocked tail and ready-for-all-challengers attitude.

Return To The Burn Zone

 Twenty two months after the vast wildfire east of the Lake, I returned to the scene.  Grasses, forbs, and chaparral were resurgent among the charred remains of the blue oak forest.

Mayacamas Spring

 In a year of extreme drought, the Month of May managed to resemble its usual self in an outpouring of blossoms.

Kelsey Creek dried up six weeks early, dooming thousands of tadpoles and fish fry.

Deck furniture received a coat of teak oil.

I turned over a wine barrel and saw a glowing empire of mold.

 Very soon, the grasses went from green to parched.

The farmers, with dispatch, accomplished the hay harvest. The grass-based rural economy moved forward for another year.

 On the rim of the font, dozens of honey bees drank another season.

 An antique gas station in Upper Lake is for sale.

 Mouse surmounted great heights to get to our sunflower seeds.

 In an Upper Lake shop, I saw 19th Century photographs of the lake shore and a Pomo dwelling.

A nest of twenty quail eggs was plundered by predators. Two punctured eggs sit on oak galls. 

I looked up from the hammock.
 A waterstrider appeared in the stock tank.

Monday, February 24, 2014


 I drove into the rugged high country encompassing the northern third of Lake County. The headwaters of the Eel River rise here, dammed at Lake Pillsbury. Herds of hundreds of elk graze on the oak flats near the diminished reservoir. It is a kind of lost world, where few people from the lower valleys venture. The vast wildness of the country finds expression in the presence of the elk.

The primordial scene, so exceedingly rare in the US, rivals Yellowstone, and even Africa.

Pacific chorus frogs piped from vernal pools in the elk meadows. 

As I stalked elk on foot I remembered walks in Africa. The wind was not in my favor as more than thirty elk streaked away toward the lake flats.

Spoor of elk.

 Mixed forests of fir, pine, oak, madrone, and bay dominate Mendocino National Forest.

A pool of the Eel River, where buffleheads flushed.

Oak Flat campground, Mendocino National Forest. The managers of Lake Pillsbury Resort told me they saw a cougar bounding across the track last week.