Saturday, January 7, 2017


A one hundred foot tree has shaded the west side of my house for 18 years. An old, giant, live oak. A tree expert pointed out a rotten core in the tree and warned me of the danger it posed hanging over my bedroom roof. I didn't want to do it. I just hugged that rugged trunk and called it my friend and thanked it for its many years of shade.  The smallest part of the trunk was an easy fall.
Down it went and it was just slice and dice.
Nate's Tree Service has a cherry picker to raise the sawyer up to the tree top. But the soil was so wet and muddy, it was in danger of getting stuck. The chipper could not maneuver between the trees, so the guys dragged the brush to the chipper.
That didn't stop the job. They came prepared. The climber took over. He whacked his way up the main trunk to the roof.
Some of the big laterals are the size of small trees.
Once into the over story, the climber struggled with the thick brush, hand cutting his way to follow the limb and gain a foothold and a place to drag his ropes and hooks along with the chain saw he was wearing.
The tree fills the sky, hovers over the roof and in one place a far reaching trunk bends heavily toward the ground. A tree close to the house doesn't crush the house when it falls. The danger is when a  distant  tree goes over and slams into the structure. I didn't want to cut this old friend. But wet soil, with nine days of steady rain in the forecast plus the possibility of a cold snap putting heavy snow on the limbs made me wary. I decided it had to go. The rotten core was just about roof level and about four feet long.
The sawdust and a huge chunk 0f a lateral branch fall to the ground.
All clear, the guys on the ground cut off the brush and haul it to the chipper.
With most of the big laterals removed, the tree is looking skinny but the top has to go first and there is still a lot of tree up in the air.
Finally, the top succumbs to the saw.
He cuts himself down the tree. That piece of blue sky on the right is where the tree used to be.
The biggest hunk goes down. Part of the rotten spot visible.
Piece by piece, by piece.
Goodbye, old friend.
When all was down on the ground, the rot wasn't bad. My tree could have stood for another 50 years-maybe.  I have yet to count the rings to determine its age.  But, I have already planted a replacement for this tree and now it will have a better chance to grow with more sunlight.
I was very impressed with Nate's Tree Service. The guys blew the sawdust off the roof, porches, my driveway, even places where they made no mess. They shoveled chips in any spots on the ground that were disturbed by the heavy truck tires and left my place looking great. They were, in a word, awesome.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


From Highway 49, Glory Hole Recreation District at New Mellones, a free hike was advertised for New Years Day, rain or shine. You can see people warmly dressed as we strangers met at the entrance station and introduced ourselves.
Dogs are allowed on the trails. We met two bikers and we saw evidence of horses using the trails. Walkers are asked to give way to horses, but we didn't meet any.
Ranger Josh, guided the group and pointed out the growth patterns of this type of forest and explained in some detail the various flora and fauna.img_0455-copy
At the beginning of the Angels Creek Trail, the forest has a mixture of digger pines, black oak, live oak and thick underbrush.  Ranger Josh admitted the underbrush is a fire hazard with chemise and buck brush.
I was impressed by the girth of this giant manzanita specimen and the lichens and bright, green moss growing on it. Ranger Josh noted that the east side of the hills get most of the water. He told us that manzanita burns very hot and can burn up your stove, actually melt it if you use enough of it.
Angels Creek is low, in tune with the current drought situation. The trail is a 2.5 mile hike.
I looked at just about every mushroom, hoping to find a "buckskin". (Not it's scientific name.) The old Italians knew their mushrooms and would pick up large delicious mushrooms under manzanita habitat. I didn't find a one. Deer feed on these, as do various insects.
I didn't get many pictures of the hikers. Strung out in a line, it is hard to capture everyone. The trail is narrow in most places. Looking back and forth I believe we had about 30 people on the hike. The Calaveras side of the Recreation Area has seven trails of different lengths and are rated easy, moderate, challenging and so on. This trail is moderate.
When guided, Ranger Josh makes many stops and he even played a couple games with us. He formed us into a walking caterpillar, eyes closed, to just walk and tune your ears, nose and senses to the trail. If you are a lone hiker, you get the sense of quiet that being in a natural forest gives you.
The sun didn't come out during our 3 hour hike. This tree, etched against the overcast made a nice contrast, with the west side of the hill in the distance showing meadows; more barren than the brushy east hillside.
At the end of the trail was a pretty view of the lake with an island showing that isn't visible when the water level is normal. Drought conditions persist here in California though the recent rains are encouraging. The Calaveras side has seven trails and the  Tuolumne County, Tuttletown Recreation area also has seven trails.  Senior Citizens, with their pass can enter the hiking trails free at anytime of year. For most, there is a day use charge.

This was my first excursion with a new social singles group  and I got to meet the seven people at the end of the hike. Cindy is the key organizer and can be reached at this phone number if you are interested in joining. I didn't ask permission to print her phone number, (no addresses are given), but her number was published in the newspaper ad for this hike, so here goes. 209-559-8517. The only qualification, you must be 50 or older. We picked up two new members at this event.