Yes they are back out in the forest again. This week the forest restoration project being carried out by the Truckee Donner Land Trust has started up in the Royal Gorge area surrounding Serene Lakes. The map in Figure 1 shows the planned area for restoration this summer. This year there will be changes in the forestry techniques being used to thin the overgrown forest. Last year older equipment was used that resulted in higher impact on the forest floor. A tracked Feller-buncher was used to cut the trees and then a separate delimber was used to delimb the trees. A separate tracked grabber was used to gather the logs and skidders were used to transport the logs to the landing zones. Finally tracked masticators ground up the brush. All of this tracked equipment had significant effects on the forest floor.
This summer there will be a whole new type of low impact forestry equipment treating the forest. Rather than tracked equipment which tears up the forest floor, the equipment this year moves around on sets of large rubber tires. The primary tool is the Tree Harvester which unlike the Feller-buncher, has a fully articulated arm that has a grabber-cutting head that cuts trees at ground level and also rollers that manipulate the tree trunk to delimb it. Instead of using skidders to transport the fallen tree by dragging them across the forest floor, a piece of equipment called a Forwarder uses an articulated grabber arm to load the logs into a carrier bed and transport them to the landing zones. You can see these two peices of equipment in action in the video below.
Just be careful if you are out in the Royal Gorge area west of Serene Lakes this summer. The forestry work will be going on for the rest of the summer and so keep an eye out for this heavy equipment.
Well the Alpine Lilies (Lilium parvum) are out this week on the summit. This is a little early, but then so again are all the other wildflowers in this very dry year. Look for these orange beauties in shady areas along the forest trails. They are usually in wetter areas and grow in areas where the Columbine grows. They only last for about 2 weeks so catch them while you can.
On the animal front it is fawn season on the Summit. The Black-tailed deer have returned to the summit for summer grazing. In the last few weeks they have been dropping their fawns. I ran into a doe and her pretty new set of twins this week over on the Claim Jumper trail on the east side of Serene Lakes. The only defense a new born fawn has is it’s mother and stealth. They have almost no scent for their first week or two and rely on lying motionless when a predator approaches. Unfortunately many of our domestic dogs still consider the fawn as prey and will go after them. It can get a little gory so a warning to all pet owners to keep an eye on their dogs while walking in the forest for the next few weeks. Once the fawns get to be a couple of weeks hold they will be able to out distance a dog in the forest. If you do find a fawn lying in the grass or brush please don’t disturb it. Its mother is probably around somewhere and will return to her fawn when you leave.
I am starting to notice a new and totally unexpected trend in my life, ever since the acquisition of the Royal Gorge Properties. Contrary to my expectations that we had saved Donner Summit I find that we seem to actually be losing things. The latest casualty is some of the community minded spirit that makes the Summit such a great place to live.
In the last couple of weeks I have discussed some of the new single tack trails that are being created by the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) on the Royal Gorge lands. Last week we were out walking the dogs in the forest on the west side of Serene Lakes when we came upon another beautiful meandering footpath that ran parallel to the Big Ben trail. If you have been out on Big Ben lately, you know that it is not the pretty little ski trail it used to be. It was the unfortunate victim of the the very necessary forest restoration project being done by TDLT. The trail is now covered by 6-8 inches of wood chips and quite frankly it’s going to be a few years before it becomes a nice walking or riding trail again. I’ve taken to using the James Joy trail instead.
Well apparently someone else saw the need for an alternate trail to Big Ben. This individual, obviously being a community minded person, decided to create a footpath that meanders through the newly restored forest along Big Ben. Whoever this person is, they put in a lot of time and effort to clear the forest debris to make a wonderful little path for all to enjoy. But that person did not stop there. To mark this alternate route this person with an obvious artistic flare, created beautiful hand carved and painted trail signs. The trail is named the Buckeye Path (after the wonderful little Buckeye butterfly that flits around the summit). I think we can all agree, this was a wonderful good deed.
Well, unfortunately, we seem to live in a time when no good deed goes unpunished. An email is circulating now in which the new trail has been labeled “abuse that will not be tolerated” by TDLT. This is really a slap in the face to all community minded people on the summit. Those beautiful hand carved trail signs apparently don’t conform to TDLT sign regulations (like all those beat up Royal Gorge ski trail signs do?). I think we are witnessing a real loss of perspective in the summit community. We are talking about a walk in the woods. How many regulations do you need for that? TDLT is now planning on removing these trail signs. Wouldn’t it be more productive if TDLT would try to utilize this type of community spirit? I think it’s time to slow down the regulatory bus that seems to be barreling through the summit area lately and get back to the open minded spirit that used to live here. If you’re feeling the same, you might want to contact TDLT and let them know. You also might want to tell them to save the Buckeye Path while you’re at it.