Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cuyamaca Rancho - Fire and Woodpeckers

Leaving Arizona, we crossed the Imperial valley and climbed from sea level to 4181 feet. The scenery was spectacular.

The mountains were yellow with wild flowers, not at all what one pictures in the desert. The picture does not capture the steepness of the road. It is steep enough that the highway department provides radiator water at regular intervals.

We finally made it to a campground at Cuyamaca Ranch in the mountains east of San Diego, California. This place has a colorful history as a gold mining town and mountain resort. Today, 24,700 acres are preserved, more than half of it as a state wilderness area.  We set up camp with a view to 5730 ft Stonewall peak.

The state of California kindly provided some excitement in the form of warning signs:

We hiked up a fire road, the only trail dogs are allowed on. The park was the site of the biggest wildfire in California's recorded history. On October 25, 2003, a lost hunter lit a signal fire that got out of control and burned 280,278 acres, including 90% of Cuyamaca Rancho. 

The slow rate of reforestation - it has been 13 1/2 years - has prompted a reforestation project  to replant a portion of the park.

 Walking back, we noticed conifers with many relatively large (marble sized) holes in their bark.

Closer inspection showed acorns  in many of those holes.

Turns out there is a woodpecker - aptly called the Acorn Woodpecker - that hammer these holes into trees to stash acorns for later use.

Once we knew to look for them, we saw  and heard them everywhere.

This was an interesting example of the critical balance of nature.  The bird needs the exact type of pine tree (one with thick, fire resistant bark) coexisting in the same forest as the oak tree (which has weirdly long skinny acorns) to make its living.  Strange.  Very strange.

1 comment:

  1. The acorn woodpecker is a new one on me! Strange, but beautiful balance of nature.