Research: Fort Tejon and Cuddy Valley

Our final camp of the summer was something different: the air was crisp at 6000 feet, and laced with the intoxicatingly sweet aroma of pine. After two months of heat, cold, wind, flies, noisy neighbors, and homicidal tree branches, I was surprised to find tranquility in the quiet patch of shaded grass at our campsite….

Research: Edison and Caliente Creek

Just six more days left in the field season was still enough time to experience a whole summer’s worth of near-death and depression. In fact, that all fit snugly within about 12 hours. I arrived at our next camp site and was pleasantly surprised. The small lakeside grounds were quiet, lush with chaparral shrubs, and…

Research: Bakersfield

Back here again. Fortunately, the view has improved. Bakersfield was not among my favorite locales from last summer – the hot, water-oblivious city bordering California’s largest oilfield is a curiosity at first, but a drain upon the spirit is an inevitable accompaniment to any accrual of time there. On top of this, my survey site…

Research: Carrizo Plains

I typically aim to illustrate my writings with copious photos of the landscapes I visit. But there’s only so many ways to take a picture of nothing. The Carrizo Plains are a hot, barren wasteland of dry grass and tumbleweed. Just a week ago I announced the breaking of my lowest count record with my…

Research: Cuyama Valley

The Cuyama Valley is a between place. It sits between the Central Valley and the coast, in a strange circle of non-civilization I’d scarce realized existed even after staring at maps for months. The vegetation is between valley and desert, with sharply-pointed slopes covered in sometimes dense scrub, sometimes nothing but dirt. The ground is…

Research: South of Bakersfield

Though my survey sites often bring me to hidden pockets of lush vegetation, the vast majority of the Central Valley is like this: barren ground, quiet crop trees, and air tinted with the smell of sulfur spray and distant cows. At my last site I walked the farthest northern edge of the valley. The past…

Research: Red Bluff and Tehama

This is as far north as the valley goes. Any farther, and the flat plains rise rapidly into still snow-capped peaks, the junction of the Sierra Nevada and the far southern reaches of the Cascades, marked by the looming giant of Mt. Shasta on the horizon. This is where the massive Sacramento River first enters…

Research: Sutter Buttes

“You’ll fall in love with this place in no time,” they told me. And I can see why. I began my journey to the north valley plagued by no small amount of dismay. A property owner had finally returned my call after about two months and six voice messages, only to outright refuse my entry…

Research: Earlimart

I’ve spent three days trying to decide whether I like this place. On the one hand, all my survey points were either along a busy road, or reeking with the smell from a set of water retention ponds. On the other hand, phalaropes. And stilts. And avocets. Logic headed back to Berkeley at the end…

Research: Raymond and Experimental Range

Never have I seen two sites so perfectly identical as the ones Logic and I surveyed over the past three days. We brought back the same mystery plant sprigs to identify after our morning bird surveys. We labored over the same extensive lists of plant species at the obnoxiously diverse meadows in our habitat surveys….