Thursday, July 7, 2011

HCPC in the Mount Emily country

When an organization has been around as long as HCPC, the continual process of getting to know the landscape can seem to have a natural, organic flow. This summer HCPC is connecting in a big way to the Mount Emily country; Owsley Roadless Area, Hellhole Roadless Area, Spring Mountain, Green Mountain and more. It started when HCPC’s esteemed Board recently visited the Owsley Hogback for a hike. An old, unmaintained trail along Owsley Hogback Ridge accesses Owsley Creek and provides wonderful views overlooking the Owsley Creek and Roadless Area. Following closely on the heels of the Board hike, Restoration Coordinator Brian Kelly co-led a wildflower hike with Botanist Susan Geer along Owsley hogback (see next Blog post). Next, Executive Director Greg Dyson took some visitors up hiking along the Owsley Hogback. I recently had the opportunity to visit the area with HCPC summer intern, Joe, and Wildlife Watcher volunteer, Jesse. We found a beautiful old growth forest stand on the edge of the Owsley Roadless Area (pictured at right).

Next we headed to Spring Mountain which is surrounded on three sides by the Owsley Roadless Area. A hiking trail leads through very nice forest to incredible cliffs that are popular with rock climbers (pictured below). From these rocky talus slopes are great views across to the directly adjacent Sugarloaf Mountain. The old growth pines grow right out of the massive boulders at the base of the cliff.
Spring mountain offers outstanding views of the Owsley Roadless area from the Whitman Overlook (pictured below). From this vantage point one can gaze over the steep slopes and deeply incised canyons that drop into Meacham, Owsley, and East Meacham creeks. The overlook area contains signs describing the historic journey of the Whitman family over this perilous terrain.

Rounding off our trip we explored the moist forests of Green Mountain. Green Mountain is surrounded by the Hellhole Roadless Area and the Mount Emily Roadless Area. While incredible old growth moist stands remain on Green Mountain, many of these rare old growth moist forests have fallen to the chainsaw. Note the dense understory of Pacific Yew, and the live and dead old growth standing trees pictured at right. It was a hot day, and as someone that studies land surface temperature, I was impressed by the large temperature difference between the old moist forest stands and the areas where the canopy was removed by heavy logging. The Pacific yew was gone from the areas that were previously logged because opening the canopy up in such an unnatural way dries out the understory of moist forests.

I'm looking forward to many more adventures in this incredible area!!

Posted by David Mildrexler, Ecosystem Conservation Coordinator.

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