Date: November 27, 2014
Place: Tolowa Dunes State Park, Crescent City, California
Length: 4.5 miles
Last year we visited Humboldt Bay NWR. On my way out of the visitor center I picked up a few brochures they had there for give away. One of them was the Tolowa Dunes State Park and the Lake Earl Wildlife Area brochure. When I was planning our Thanksgiving vacation this year I pulled that brochure out and added the place to our list of hiking options by Crescent City. Augmented by a strong recommendation from one of the town's local residents, Tolowa Dunes and the Lake Earl Wildlife Area became our prime destination for Thanksgiving Day hiking.
|Our hike of Lake Earl Loop Trail, as captured by Papa Quail's GPS|
We chose to hike the Cadra Loop Trail at Lake Earl Wildlife Area. The forecast for the day was rain, but precipitation hasn't started yet when we woke up, and I was hoping to get as much hiking done before it did, so we arrived early at the trailhead.
The field near the parking lot provided the first surprise of the hike: flowers! Not many, but still. Flowers in end of November. Flowers that shouldn't be blooming at this time of year. Either they didn't read the book or the book has changed.
|Beach Knotweed (Polygonum paronychia)|
The stage center was held by fungi. They were everywhere.
|Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)|
Most people see mushrooms only at grocery stores and, following rains, as they pop out of lawns and under trees. Most of these mushrooms look similar: small, dull-colored umbrellas with fleeting existence. In the woods, though, the variety of mushrooms is simply astounding.
|Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)|
And the clearing itself was a good place to look down at the ground.
This trail has a few side diversions that dead-end at Lake Earl. We skipped the first one but took the second one down to the lake. This side trails was overgrown with vegetation and it was hard at time to figure out where we were supposed to go. Some plants may have been unnecessarily trampled. Then again, it was an opportunity to see things that weren't by the main trail, like this yarrow in bloom:
|Lake Earl, view east|
|Hunters at Lake Earl|
Some of the prettiest mushrooms were along that diversion trail to the lake.
|Purple Coral Fungus (Clavaria purpurea)|
To be honest, I must say that there were dunes all over the area. They were simply invisible under the vegetation. All the sand was bound down by roots and only at places where the earth was exposed it was clear that the soil is, indeed, sand.
"Look, Mom, Sunny side up mushrooms!" The chikas were yelling from behind me. Sure enough, there they were.
|Velvet Mite (Thrombidium holosericeum)|
At that point we had a choice which I took - to continue on the narrow foot trail closer to the lake rather than on the wide dirt road which was Cadra Point Trail. Both were taking to the same place but I was hoping to see more interesting sights on the narrower trail. I was also hoping for a better view to the lake.
There was no clear view of the lake on that trail, it was deep in vegetation. Trees, shrubs and tall grasses intertwined. This trail segment was also going up and down a lot, and occasionally so overgrown with plants that at points it was difficult to determine where to continue. We took it slow.
And all the while, I continued my fascination with the greenery. All kinds of them, even lichen.
|Lobaria Lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria)|
|Lobaria pulmonaria lichen with fungal fruiting bodies|
|Lichen (Cladonia diversa)|
|There are sand dunes under all this vegetation.|
|A few Douglas Fir overlooking Old Mill Rd|
are much better indicators than height.
|Douglas Fir, bearing holiday decoration|
Right at the intersection point there is a bench overlooking Lake Tolowa, which is the western lobe of Lake Earl. Finally, we had clear view of the waterfowl.
|Gadwall (male), mallard (female) and American Coots|
|Hooded Merganser, male and female|
|Great Blue Heron|
Like this HUGE anthill we saw shortly after the trail entered the woods again. Honestly, I have never seen anything like this before. It was so much bigger than any anthill I have ever seen in my life, and had many holes. The entire mound was swarming with worker ants, going in and out of the holes, some dragging pieces of plant matter.
I can't imagine all theses ants be progeny of a single queen. I am still looking for more information about this species.
|Anthill. Actually, ant mountain.|
A few steps further down the trail we arrived at Beaver Pond.
|Beaver Pond Reflection|
|A cloud of Pine Siskin|
|Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)|
|Seapink (Armeria maritima)|
|Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor)|
|The ultimate proof that we hiked in wonderland|
All of the bird photos in this post were taken by Papa Quail.
Many thanks to members of the California Native Plants Society for their help in identifying plants!
Also thanks to members of the California Wildlife Appreciators group for their help in identifying bugs :-)
And special thanks to CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist and to Dr. Horenstein and DR. Ward of UC Davis for identifying the mound-building ants. Such a fascinating species!