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September 2, 2018

Sierra hike story, Dad's death

Deer carcasses on Bishop Pass



September greetings, 

I'm too busy to write much but I do want to encourage those of you who put in fall orders to get them to me ASAP. This is the time of year when I get overwhelmed with all there is to harvest and clean. Not to mention the time it takes to weigh out seed to fill and pack orders. It is also the time of year when I lose my helpers to school starting up again. Knowing what is wanted helps me prioritize my days and hours.


I mentioned the great harvest of Asarum caudatum (British Columbia wildginger) in my last update. The seed is clean now and I have plenty extra. It is one that should be planted very soon so please let me know if you want some.


I also mentioned an upcoming hike in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains we had planned. The beauty was overwhelming. We are so glad we made the trip. I will get a photo album put together when I have time later on. 


As I predicted I did collect a lot of seed along the trail. The bear canisters I carried food in were just as stuffed at the end of the 7 day hike as they were  at the start but with berries and seed pods instead of dried food. I was able to get three new species of Ribes to add to the attached seed list as well as a number of other things. Everything new to the list this season is in bold. Some of the seed is still drying (Dr). There will be a quantity listed if the seed is clean. H is the code letter for seed from the Sierras.


I did a lot of collecting on the drive home and it was fun finding some new plants I wasn't familiar with. One was Hibiscus lasiocarpos (rosemallow). The seed pods were at just the right stage to collect them. Other species I harvested that are new to my list are Cercocarpus ledifolius (curl-leaf mountain mahogany) and Wyethia mollis (wooly mule's ears). Also Pinus monophylla (single needle pinyon pine) and Iris missouriensis (western blue flag).  


I was also able to get a good amount of Rhus trilobata (skunkbush sumac) which I hadn't found a crop of in a number of years. Due to effects of severe drought where I collected the seed, much of it was light, empty seed but I do finally have some good seed of it on my list again. This has been a pretty good year of bounty for many species of plants but the yield for seeds from the drought stricken area was a reminder that there are harsh years in nature as well.


There is one story from the hike of the harshness of nature at a level of magnitude and in a more gruesome way than I was aware happened. On our last day of the hike we crested Bishop Pass (11,972') to drop down the steep east side of the range. The trail down from the top of the pass is a long set of well built switchbacks etched into the face of the mountain. We hikers came down the trail on the beautiful, bright-blue sky day staggered out going at our own pace.


It turns out when winter comes to the high country the deer migrate down over the passes all grouped together in massive herds. Last winter conditions must have been very icy coming down that extremely steep face of the mountain. I think of deer as being very sure footed creatures but it turns out they too are vulnerable to accidents in dangerous spots. There was either a rock slide started by a deer at the back of the herd or one slipped knocking down the others below it like a bowling ball knocking over pins.


The smell came first. And the cawing of ravens where one wouldn't expect them to congregate. Then the trail crossed through a debris field of deer carcasses piled, one on top of the other. It must have been a long and wild fall. Antlers are broken and the bodies are very distorted. The ravens were scattered about getting a morning meal. It was a very sobering scene. The estimate is that about 75 deer died in the accident. Googling for information on the event I found reports that this also happened last year on other passes as well, and previously in other years.


One last report on my father. My parents 68th anniversary was August 5th. That evening my father went into a quick decline. He died a week later on Sunday evening, August 12th, just after one of my brothers told Dad that Flip and I were soon to start our hike. He told Dad to go meet us on one of the passes we would cross. I sang the Climb the Mountains song (mentioned in my last email) to Dad on the seven day hike in a lot of beautiful places. We had Dad's service last Saturday. It was well attended and was a good send off. I gave the last talk of the service and ended by singing Dad a couple verses of Climb the Mountains.


There is another story from the hike that I told in my talk at Dad's service. If you want to hear it and hear me sing him the verses from Climb the Mountains use this link and go to 1:05 in the video.


Tomorrow I am off after some species in the high Cascades. Tuesday I plan to head down to southern Oregon and then over the the coast and up on a 3 day collecting trip. One of these days I will have to get serious about catching up on seed cleaning.


Take a look at the list and let me know what you need. I will do what I can to get it for you. If you have a father tell him you love him. Take care,

Jon


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