Table of Contents
Where Streams Join
Life in the Big Pool
The Dam and the Ouzel
A Hairy Caddisfly's Story
The Great Landslide
Debris Torrents and Driftwood
A Drifted Tree Remains
The Willamette River
Pond Turtle's Sunbath
Muskrat, Pond Turtle's Neighbor
Today, the 5th of September 1247, the Douglas-fir forest below the meadow is 260 years old, between 200 and 220 feet tall, and 40 to 45 inches in diameter five feet above the ground. The firs have changed considerably from their youth. When young, their crowns formed broad, sharp pyramids. Their branches grew in whorls around their trunks; the lower branches were straight or drooping, whereas the middle and upper branches trended upward, creating an open crown. All of the branches had numerous long, hanging side branchlets. In the dense thickets, one-half to two-thirds of the lower branches were shaded out and dead by the time the trees were 10 to 15 inches in diameter five feet above the ground.
By now, 1247, their crowns have lost much of the pyramidal form and have become rounded or somewhat flattened. And by the time they are 450 years old in 1437, their crowns will be cylindrical and resemble a bottlebrush (albeit one missing many bristles). Their trunks will be clear of branches from 65 to 130 feet above the ground. Branches, scattered throughout the lower two-thirds of the canopy, will often have gaps between them of many feet on one side of a tree. Many of the lower branches will become horizontally flattened, fan-shaped arrays, arising from stubs of older branches that will have been repeatedly broken. Although such massive, irregular branch systems may be on one side of the trunk, their foliage will often spread out to surround over three-quarters of the circumference of the trunk. The upper surfaces of the large branches will become covered with perched, organic "soil" several inches thick that will support entire communities of epiphytic plants (plants growing on other plants, in this case primarily mosses and lichens) and animals. Large branches will become the home for myriad invertebrates, as well as some birds and a few mammals. Branches in the upper one-third of the canopy will remain numerous and regular in shape and will resemble those of younger trees.
Many of the trees will have broken tops by the time they are 450 years old, in which case one or several of the lateral branches will have grown upward and assumed the leadership role. These lateral branches will resemble those in the upper portions of the intact tops.
Some trees will have their crowns concentrated at the tops of their trunks in a spherical rather than a cylindrical shape. These trees often grow above the adjacent canopy and have their tops dominate by much larger branches than those found in trees with cylindrical crowns. Although tree crowns may differ in shape, a single ancient tree can have over 60 million individual needles that have a cumulative weight of 440 pounds and a surface area of 30,000 square feet or about one acre.
The bark of the young trees was whitish gray, thin, and smooth except for resin blisters (little blisters in the bark that contained resin or "pitch"). The bark remained smooth, except near the ground, until the trees were 12 to 14 inches in diameter. As the trees aged, the lower bark became 5 to 10 inches thick, rough and furrowed with intervening ridges, although it remained thinner near the top of the trees.
As the trees approach 450 years of age, few of them will have vertical trunks. The lower portion will lean away from the hillside yet become nearly vertical where it extends above the surrounding canopy. Trees growing on level ground will have trunks that appear to slope almost at random. Even a slight inclination of a tree's trunk will result in an important difference in the habitats of its two sides.
The upper side will receive almost all the moisture from direct precipitation (rain and snow) and from water either dripping from the canopy or running down the trunk. The bark on the wet upper side of the trunk will be easily eroded and will appear to be held in place only by the colonization by epiphytic plants, mostly mosses, that require a moist habitat. The lower side of the trunk will become a "desert" occupied by scattered colonies of lichens that will form a crust over the surface of the bark. The bark on the lower side will be hard and deeply furrowed, an indication that it will remain in place for long periods.
By the time they are 800 to 1,000 years old, the trees will have shingle-like bark that varies from 18 to 24 or more inches thick at their bases. The bark will be dark brown on the outside, often very rough with deep, wide furrows and great ridges connected at intervals by narrow cross ridges. The character and marking of the bark will vary between the dry and moist, depending on whether a tree is growing in an exposed or protected site. Trees in dry, exposed situations will have rougher, harder bark than will those in sheltered, moist situations. Their massive trunks will remain clear of branches for 100 feet or more and will have only a slight taper below the crown.
But for now, the great forest, variously highlighted and dappled by the ever-moving shafts of light from the sun, seems to be at peace. From high on the mountain comes the nasal trill of a varied thrush, and from somewhere near the stream comes the haunting melody of a Swainson's thrush. A Steller's jay calls, a raven croaks, a fly buzzes, and the quiet September afternoon becomes evening as slanting rays of the sun, creeping ever higher up the crowns of the giant firs, leave the floor of the forest in gathering darkness. contents
If it was the year 1000, you would see that, except for a few remnants on the north-facing slopes, winter's snow is about gone, and the high meadows just above the great burn of 987 are resplendent with mid-June flowers that nod and sway in gentle breezes. Fluffy clouds drift slowly across a deep blue sky, followed always by their shadows. The shadows glide silently up one hill and down another, grow large and shrink, combine, dissipate, and reform in some new shape. The shadows can only reflect the clouds that in turn can only reflect the constantly changing Universe.
A native youth of sixteen summers lies in the new grasses amidst the flowers of the meadow above the burn. His vision drifts idly with the clouds until it is riveted on a small, dark speck in the vast sweep of blue.
The midday sun warms the youth as he watches the speck sailing effortlessly in and out of cloud canyons and around cloud peaks. In his mind, he journeys to the dark speck, the great golden eagle riding the currents of warm air reflected from the earth into the sky, into the immensity and freedom of space, where there is no beginning and no end.
He soars wingtip to wingtip with the great bird. One with the eagle, one with the air, the warmth, the earth, the clouds, the sun, one with the Spirit that is the unity of all things; he is the Spirit and the Spirit is he.
Looking down, the youth sees that the meadow on which he was lying has become a riot of color surrounded above by the whiteness of snow and along its sides and below by the dark green of forest that encloses the brighter green of the burn with its splashes of yellows, reds, and blues. And within the great burn, connecting it within itself, connecting it with the forest, connecting it with the river of the lowland, and ultimately with the oceans of the world, is the pattern of the streams that from above appear like the naked branches of a maple tree in winter, despite the earthflow halfway between the bottom of the meadow and the big river in the valley below. A half mile long and a quarter mile wide, the earthflow has been intermittently active for 372 years. contents
The earthflow started in the year 875 at the base of a steep slope, where a mass of unstable soil became detached from an area of stable soil anchored by erosion-resistant bedrock. Once separated, the earth, indeed the whole forest, began moving toward the third-order stream at variable rates that were governed by the climatic cycles over the decades. During dry years, for example, there was no movement at all, but during years of moderate to heavy precipitation in the form of rain and snow, the earthflow moved anywhere from half an inch to 50 feet in a year, depending on how saturated the soil had become and on how long the saturation had lasted. In addition to the above factors, it has moved four to five inches during a 24-hour cycle following a severe rainstorm.
The dynamics of the earthflow are further complicated because it does not move all at once or even the same way in all areas. When one area moves, it changes the dynamics of the whole flow by altering the level of the water table that wets the thin layer of clay on which the mass of soil and trees is sliding. (Clay is fine-grained sediment that acts like a lubricant when wet, which reduces the friction between the mobile mass of earth above the layer of clay as it slides over the stable mass of earth below the layer of clay.) The amount of water in the clay determines which parts of the earthflow will move, when, how, at what speed, and how far.
As the earth slides downhill, some of the trees at the head of the slide are split up the middle because they straddle the active crack, where part of the tree is rooted in the well-anchored, stable soil and part of the tree is rooted in the unstable, sliding soil. As the soil moves downhill, the roots of the trees at the head of the slide are pulled straight out, whereas the roots of the trees along the edge of the earthflow are pulled downhill, parallel to the movement of the soil. Other trees are tilted by the movement of the earth, which makes them vulnerable to being blown over by winds that normally would not have uprooted them.
All of these processes act in concert to change the forest. As one part of the forest slides past the other, holes are created in the canopy along the margins of the active cracks, both within the earthflow and along its outer margins. Over time, these openings became multilayered areas in the forest with abundant vegetation under the canopy due to the increase in light that now reaches the forest floor.
As the earthflow moves downhill, it encroaches on the channel of the stream and periodically constricts the flow of water, particularly during a wet year, after a severe rainstorm, or during the swift melting of deep snow. Although the water may periodically flush most of the debris out of the stream's channel, over the decades, every incursion of soil, every rock, every tree has somehow changed the channel and therefore the dynamics of the stream—and this is but one stream. Throughout the centuries, Nature has altered and will alter the canvas of Her streams and rivers all over the forest. Again and again She will alter them with time, and gravity, and soil, and water, and ice, and rock, and wood.
The medium-sized stream into which the earthflow is moving has a smaller tributary that is formed by union of two head-water streams, one of which originates above the forest in the cirque above the meadow and the other of which originates within the forest from the spring below a high ridge. As well, Nature has designed and redesigned these streams as She has altered the forest with wind and fire, with rain and snow and ice, and finally with time and geological processes. But today, the 5th of September 1247, for 24 hours, for an instant in forever, these streams can be described on these pages, not in detail but in fleeting images to be seen only once and then only in the mind. Tomorrow they will be forever different.
The stream from the meadow is about two feet wide as it bounces and splashes around and over boulders, leaps as small waterfalls into little pools of deeper water created by subalpine fir and silver fir that have fallen into the stream and become lodged against boulders or some other obstruction. The waterfalls are interspersed with areas of riffles in which the stream becomes shallower and the water choppy as it flows over a rough, cobbly bottom.
The stream, descending from the meadow on its way into the forest, passes through a tangle of Sitka alder. The alders, 10 to 15 feet tall, have strongly bowed stems from the gravitational pressure of the snow as it creeps down the steep slope against their bases. Here the stream picks up an added volume of water that, moving slowly downhill below the soil of the meadow, seeps out of the ground in an area of small, flattish slabs of basalt, about one and a half feet square.
Over the centuries, this area, kept moist by the slowly trickling water, has become overgrown with mats of various kinds of mosses. Interspersed among these mats are grasses, sedges, and such flowering plants as the purple-blossomed alpine shooting star and white marsh marigold. It is here, where their burrows are protected from erosion by the vegetation, that the life cycle of the ancient dragonfly begins and ends. contents
The dragonfly inhabiting the seep by the alders is one species in a tiny remnant of a great group whose abundant fossil remains show that they flourished upon the earth as the dominant group of dragonflies during Jurassic times (between 180 and 135 million years ago). The ancient dragonfly of the seep is large, about three inches long, and blackish with a stout body, clear wings, and a rather rugged appearance. Although it lacks the finish of form and coloration that characterizes modern dragonflies found everywhere along the streams and the big river, the ancient dragonfly does have spots of yellow and half-rings of orange on its body.
Because it is the 5th of September 1247 and the season is late, at the very end of their period of flight, which normally occurs between the beginning of July and the end of August, only one or two old adults of these rare dragonflies can be seen sitting flattened down with their wings with their legs widely outspread on the dry, warm, sunny surfaces of low pieces of basalt. One takes off suddenly in a low, uneven flight. It flits back and forth until, reaching about 20 feet above the ground, it ceases to flap its wings and glides for a short time, before returning to its rock. However, had it been a hot day in July or early August, rather than the 5th of September, the spectacle of the ancient dragonfly would have been very different.
If we could return to the 25th of July, we would see the males leave the protective coloration of the forest trees on which they have been resting and arrive at the seep between eleven o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon. Each male then selects an oblong area four to six feet long and two to three feet wide and begins to patrol it; a patrol lasts but a few seconds after which the dragonfly finds a tall stalk of grass on which to perch. The perch is chosen not only to offer a clear flight path but also to allow the dragonfly to orient itself in a way that it receives the maximum sunlight. From its perch, a male can fly out and capture food, such as mosquitoes, small craneflies, and alderflies, or it can defend its territory against the encroachment of other dragonflies.
A territorial male is intensively aggressive against intruding dragonflies of all kinds and both sexes. When a dragonfly is spotted within three to six feet of an occupied perch, the male quickly flies to meet the intruder. Both dragonflies then hover face-to-face about six inches apart for a second or two before the defending male flies at the interloper. There ensues a great crashing of wings and bodies, after which the trespasser tries to escape by flying in an ascending vertical spiral that often terminates 18 to 20 feet above the seep as the defending male again attacks with a clashing of wings and bodies. Although the chase lasts just 30 seconds, it covers about 30 yards before the stranger is escorted beyond the boundary of the seep.
Females, having been bred beyond the seep in the edge of the forest, occasionally stray into a male's territory, at which time the male either ushers her out of his territory or attempts to copulate with her. Most females, however, arrive undetected at the seep between three o'clock and five o'clock in the afternoon and quickly descend to the ground, where they enter the thick vegetation's protective cover. Here, a female walks for a few seconds and then probes the wet, spongy mosses with her ovipositor, which is located near the tip of her long, slender abdomen. Preferring to lay her eggs in an organic substrate, the probing helps her to select just the right spots. She may spend five minutes to more than half an hour dipping her abdomen into the wet, spongy vegetation as she lays her eggs.
One female lays her tiny, ovoid, light brown eggs in the water under the moss on the 8th of July, but does not attach them to the plants. Sixteen days later, on the 24th of July, the young dragonflies are well along in their development. The eggs begin to hatch on the 3rd of August, after 26 days of development, but some do not hatch until the 8th of August, 31 days after being laid. This may have something to do with differences in the temperature of the water in which the eggs were deposited.
The young dragonfly inside the egg is called a pronymph, which simply means "before the nymph," and "nymph" means an immature stage (following hatching) of an insect that does not have a pupal stage. On hatching, the ancient dragonfly is transparent and has very long upright hairs on the upper surface of the abdomen. The tips of these hairs are curved downward toward the body and pick up debris as the nymph moves through the muck of its surroundings, which makes it indistinguishable from its habitat, and thus helps to protect it from predation.
Upon hatching, a nymph crawls through the mucky, watery habitat until it finds just the right spot, a place where the muck is deep enough for it to construct its burrow. A burrow normally consists of three parts: the opening at the top of the vertical section, which descends to a right-angle turn into a horizontal compartment.
The diameter of its burrow varies from three-eights to one-half of an inch; the vertical section is three to four inches long, and the horizontal section also is three to four inches long. At times, the first portion of the burrow is not strictly vertical but passes downward at an acute angle. There are even some burrows that have their openings under the edge of the basalt slabs and follow the rock along its projection for eight inches or more. These burrows always face upslope, perhaps to ensure an adequate flow of oxygenated water.
Occasionally, an additional short, horizontal section is made in the opening of the burrow just under the surface of the water. Here a nymph lies in wait for its prey, completely submerged in a shallow pool and completely camouflaged by the accumulation of debris held in the long hairs of its body. Most of the time, however, a nymph simply lies in wait for its prey near the opening of the vertical section of its burrow. Even though such a nymph is vulnerable to predation, it is well protected because, in addition to the camouflaging debris, it "plays dead" when touched and so blends almost perfectly with its background.
Although nymphs are active throughout the 24-hour cycle, they are most active in the evening and during the night when they appear at the openings of their burrows in the greatest numbers. Here, a nymph lies facing the opening of its burrow as it waits for prey, such as passing spiders, small ground beetles, and leaf beetles. Although they usually hunt from within the protection of their burrows, an occasional nymph will leave its burrow and forage in the open.
By the time a nymph reaches its last molt, it has a rough-hewn exterior and short, somewhat twisted legs. Its eyes are prominent at the front angles of a squarish head, and its body, which is not quite cylindrical, is hairy and is so encrusted with mucky debris that its coloration is obscured.
The seep is an ideal habitat for the nymphs of the ancient dragonfly, because the supply of water tends to be continuous within and between years and flows slowly. If the supply of water is not permanent, it will take several years for a nymph to develop. And the water must flow slowly, because the nymphs do not swim and are relatively slow moving. If, on the other hand, as occasionally has happened over the centuries, the seep largely dries out, the nymphs turn upside down in their burrows, with their heads in the receding water but with their abdomens above the it. In this position, they can breath air, an activity that they can sustain for days or even weeks, until more favorable conditions return.
With the advent of August, the fully developed nymphs leave their burrows and climb a short way up nearby vegetation, where they become quiescent. Here, their nymphal outer skins split and the newly formed adults emerge. They remain for a time sitting on their cast skins while their wings straighten and dry. Then, with seemingly effortless grace, they greet the hot breezes rising from the valley below. By the end of August, all adults have abandoned the nymphal skins of their past, and the cycle of the ancient dragonfly continues.
Once the stream enters the Douglas-fir forest, the number of its small waterfalls and pools increases because now some of the larger branches, broken off the 260-year-old trees over the last decade by heavy snows and ice, have fallen into the stream and formed small dams. There are fewer boulders in the ancient forest, and the stream's channel, now with a gradient not so steep as it was immediately below the meadow, is deeper and narrower in some spots and shallower and wider in others.
The stream flowing from a spring hidden behind the huge, partly buried Douglas-fir tree that fell diagonally across its mouth in the winter of 900 is six inches wide as it issues from the ground. The waters of the spring form small stream that flows freely for 20 feet or so before it is backed up by two Douglas-fir trees that sprawl across its channel. They fell 113 years ago during the winter of 1134, when wet snows turned to freezing rain in March and toppled the 800-year-old trees. Below the dam with its steep, overhanging banks and long, quiet pool is a tear-shaped gravel bar that extends partway across the stream, where the water has undermined the roots of a fir that has grown for centuries along its bank.
On this the 5th of September 1247, there is a soft, cool breeze blowing up the small stream that flows from the spring in the ancient forest at the base of the high ridge. It's a gentle afternoon as shafts of sunlight peek through gaps in the towering firs that enfold the pool in their protective shade. This pool is home to the scylla caddisfly. contents
Caddisflies in general are small to medium-sized insects that in appearance somewhat resemble moths. The four membranous wings, which are rather hairy, occasionally have scales and are usually held roof-like over the abdomen when the insect is at rest. The antennae are long and slender. Most caddisflies are rather dull-colored, but a few have bright patterns. Caddisflies undergo complete metamorphosis, and have aquatic larvae.
Having completed its growth, a larva fastens its case to some object in the water, seals the case's opening or openings, and pupates inside. When the pupa is fully developed, it chews its way out of the case, swims to the surface, crawls out of the water onto a stone, stick, or some other object, and emerges as an adult.
The scylla caddisfly is adapted to the cold springs and small streams of the ancient forest. The eggs are laid in masses that most often are suspended to the undersides of large trees that have fallen across a stream. Because females concentrate their egg-laying activities, most of the egg masses are aggregated on only a few fallen trees at each stream. The masses are arranged in rough rows within a clear, tacky, gelatinous matrix that usually contains between 50 and 600 eggs per mass. Developing larvae remain in the egg mass for three to five days when it begins to liquefy and the larvae are "dripped" into the stream or onto its banks. Periodic rainstorms during this time seem to facilitate the escape of larvae from the gelatinous matrix.
The larvae are caterpillar-like, with a well-developed head and thoracic legs, and a pair of hook-like appendages at the end of the abdomen. They breathe with filamentous gills that are attached to the abdominal segments.
The larvae construct slightly curved, cylindrical cases from grains of sand. Additional material is added when the larvae are actively growing, which results in a long, tapered case. The larval diet differs, depending on where the larvae are. For example, those in the spring spend much time on the sides of wet rocks, where they scrape bits of mosses and filamentous algae off the rocks, but those living in the pool below the spring feed primarily on the needles of Douglas-fir and western hemlock and on decomposing wood. A little further down the mountain, on the other hand, where the first big pool occurs in the main stream, the larvae feed primarily on the fallen leaves of red alder, when they are available.
The scylla caddisfly in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon has a two-year cycle, so during the second year, fully developed larvae cease feeding, pupate, and emerge from July through September. Although most caddisflies are rather weak fliers and usually live about a month as adults, scylla caddisflies overwinter in the canopy of the ancient Douglas-fir forest along the stream and start the cycle over again the following year.
Below the pool of the scylla caddisfly, the stream weaves it way through tangles of wood with their swirling eddies to flow serenely under the interlaced branches and green, filtered light of vine maples, only to bounce and churn in riffles, to cascade in small rapids and over low waterfalls, and then to flow again for a time in silent, reflective pools.
Thus the streams descend toward the big river, the one from the cirque for about one and a half miles and the one from the spring for about half a mile before they meet in the 260-year-old Douglas-fir forest that grew out of the ashes of the fire of 987. Here they join and become a larger stream that varies from about four feet wide during the period of low water in summer to about 16 feet wide during periods of high water in winter and spring. contents
Where Streams Join
There is a small, triangular area of sandy-looking sediments located in the fork of the "Y" where the two streams join and become one. The opening in the canopy of the forest created by this joining of the streams has greatly increased the amount of light reaching the ground. As a result, the bank between the forest's edge of the bar is covered by a thick bed of herbaceous plants, such as Oregon oxalis, miner's lettuce, and a dense band of elkclover, three to four feet tall. In addition, three clumped vine maples have stretched a couple of their limbs over the gravelly area. The surface of the gravel is dry on this warm, sunny September midday as Storm Hawk, a native youth of 19 summers, stops to examine its surface, the high spot of which is about three inches above the level of the water.
Storm hawk and Swift Coyote, his cousin of 23 summers, have been exploring the country by traveling in a large circle from their village across the mountains to the east. They have been gone many days, and on their way home, they saw a great forest fire from the north, as it was burning southward. They were wary and kept a sharp eye on the direction of the winds lest the fire turn northward and eastward, trapping them. They knew this was possible because it occasionally had happened to a hunter from the tribe in a distance time.
Five days ago, however, standing on a rocky point at the edge of a pass between two massive, snow-clad peaks, they saw that the fire had burned itself out south of the high ridge that jutted it tree-whiskered profile above the surrounding forest. They were heading toward the high ridge to explore its secrets because they knew from stories that many of their tribal elders had hunted the elk in the vicinity of the this huge stony rampart with its hidden spring of sweet water.
While Swift Coyote goes to explore the far side of the ridge, Storm Hawk is intent on finding spring they've been told about. Having seen from a high point approximately where the spring is, he decides to take a shortcut through the forest instead of following the stream. To do so, however, he must cross the stream.
Standing on the bank across from the sandy bar at the confluence of the two streams, he searches it for the tracks of animals. He sees none; yet he saw the tracks of black-tailed deer crossing to the other side just upstream from the bar. He thinks about it for another minute or two and then backs up from the bank, and takes a running leap. Landing in the middle of the bar, he instantly sinks to the middle of his chest in the sandy, sucking sediment deposited by the streams at the fork.
Storm Hawk, blind with panic, struggles, thereby causing himself to sink further into the sucking grip of the ooze. During his struggle, his right hand brushes against one of the out-stretched limbs of the vine maple. He stops struggling and looks up. Seeing the limb, he reaches for it only to find that he has settled too deeply in the ooze to grasp it with more than the tips of his fingers. The harder he tries to reach up, the further his thrashing body sinks away from the limb. Then he remembers his short hunting bow in its carrying case slung over his back.
Still fighting the panic welling up in waves from the pit of his stomach, he manages to get his bow out of its case. Reaching upward with the bow, he carefully slides it over the limb and slowly works the limb downward, closer and closer to his free hand.
"It's almost in reach. I must be patient. I must swallow my fear. If I get in a hurry, I'll just sink deeper and deeper and maybe lose the limb forever. Calling for help won't do any good, because Swift Coyote can't hear me. I must do this myself. The Great Spirit has given me a test, and I must succeed."
Finally, the limb in the grasp of his right hand, he begins to work himself upward out of the ooze. After minutes that seem like hours, he can reach the second limb; now he spans both limbs with his bow to even his weight and to add the strength of the limbs one to another. The vine maples are springy with much give so they easily bear his weight without breaking, as he wiggles and pulls, slowly and steadily, always working his body toward the maples' main stems.
An hour passes, then another and another. At last a tired, triumphant, and far wiser Storm Hawk that pulls himself free of the clutching, viscous tentacles embodied in the suspension of sandy sediments in the fork of the two streams.
Once free from the bar, he goes downstream about a quarter of a mile, crossing another small stream at its juncture with the one he has been following. About 50 feet below the union of the two streams is a large pool between two adjacent dams of fallen trees that he remembers seeing earlier in the day. The upper dam of three old Douglas-firs has been in place for 25 years, since the violent winter storm in 1222 that had blown them down.
One had been a 600-year-old tree that had died 50 years earlier and had stood as a barkless, whitened snag; the tree had been severely injured by the falling of another fir 75 years earlier. The year following the injury had been the beginning of a three-year drought that had so stressed the old fir that it could neither acquire nor mobilize sufficient resources to heal its injuries and sustain its life.
The other two had been live trees, one 635 years old, and one 641 years old. It was not wind alone that felled these trees, however. The stream had been undermining their roots for decades, and then in March, the heavy winter snows had become saturated with rain, which had turned to freezing rain, and then had frozen almost solid, and the violent storm that had blown in suddenly from the coast combined with the other factors to topple the ancient trees.
The dam at the lower end of the pool has been in place only a decade and is formed by a single old fir that was weakened over many years by a root rot fungus. It was blown over by gusty winds that preceded a thunderstorm in late July of 1237. Although the forest immediately above the stream was only 250 years old in 1237, the great fire of 987 had missed this clump of firs along the stream, which had ranged in age from 400 to 416 year old at the time of the fire.
As these trees fell into and across the stream, they smashed other vegetation, which in turn opened a relatively large hole in the canopy of the forest called a "light gap." With the sudden and dramatic increase in light reaching the stream and its banks, came a dramatic shift in vegetation. There was an immediate explosion of herbaceous vegetation: sedges, common monkeyflower, and coltsfoot, and such woody vegetation as devil's club and vine maple. The warming of the water also increased the potential for algae to grow on the rocks of the stream bed, and red alder quick to seed itself and to spread, adding not only leaves to the detritus-base energy system of the stream but also hardwood twigs and branches. (Detritus means dead, decomposing, and disintegrating organic materials, such as leaves, needles, twigs, bark, wood.)
Storm Hawk takes the case for his bow and his quiver of arrows off his shoulders and wades into the cold water, where he washes himself thoroughly. There is a deep, warm feeling in his chest and in the pit of his stomach. He knows that he has accomplished a great feat by mastering his fear; he knows that he is both humbler and wiser than he was in the morning of this day. For now he knows that any sandy bar in the fork of small streams that does not have the tracks of animals, especially of the larger animals, such as raccoon, wolf, deer, or elk, are not safe to step on.
Thinking to himself that it's a good day to be alive, he washes himself and carefully cleans his hunting weapons. Then he sits for a time in the late afternoon sun and idly watches the fallen leaves of red alder and the dead needles Douglas-fir and western hemlock float in lazy circles in the small eddies at the lower edges of the pool in which he had just bathed. He's in no hurry because it's now too late to search for the spring and join his cousin before darkness claims the land.
Nevertheless, feeling light of heart and at one with the forest and the streams, he starts to climb toward meadow where, according to the village elders, there is an ancient camp of his people hidden in a clump of subalpine fir, there to meet Swift Coyote. contents
Life in the Big Pool
Although Storm Hawk washed in the pool, he does not see most of the aquatic life hidden there, each in its own tiny recess in the stream. Could he, for example, have looked into the large pieces of submerged wood that made the dam that contained the pool, he would have seen the wood-eating larvae of small flies called midges.
There is a greater variety of larval midges that eat the wood of deciduous trees, such as red alder, than there is of larvae that eat the wood of coniferous trees, such as Douglas-fir. Some of the wood-eating larvae inhabit sound wood that fell into the water and has been only slightly decayed by fungi; others inhabit wood that started its decomposition process on land and was well rotted before it fell into the water. Midge larvae inhabiting the more rotten wood are those that burrow the deepest into it.
Not all larval midges are eaters of wood, however; most larvae associated with wood are collector-gatherers. Some are predaceous and capture live animals as prey; others are herbaceous and feed on living plants, such as algae and diatoms. In fact, not all larval midges are aquatic in their habitat requirements. A few live in decaying vegetation, under bark, or in moist soil. Most of them are scavengers. The larvae of some species are red because of the presence of hemoglobin in their blood, and they are known as bloodworms.
Aquatic forms in the big pool live in tubes or cases. The larvae swim by means of characteristic whipping movements of their bodies, something akin to the movements of mosquito larvae (mosquitoes, which are also flies).
Adult midges are small and delicate, somewhat mosquito-like in appearance, and the males usually have feathery antennae. Midges often occur in huge swarms, usually in the evening, and the humming of such a swarm can be heard for a considerable distance. Storm Hawk, who often has seen and heard swarms of midges neither knows nor probably cares that some larvae are actually eating the ancient Douglas-firs, whose slowly rotting stems form the dam of the pool nor that once the adults take wing they will become the main food of the California bat, the smallest bat in the forest.
The pool is also the home of stoneflies and mayflies. The stoneflies are medium-sized, somewhat flattened, soft-bodied, rather drab-colored insects. They are poor fliers and are seldom found far from the steams and rocky lakes. They have four, rather long, membranous wings of which the hind wings are slightly shorter than the front wings. Stoneflies at rest hold their wings flat over the abdomen. The antennae are long, slender, and many segmented. Cerci, a pair of appendages at the end of the abdomen, are present and are usually long. Stoneflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis, and the nymphal stages of development are aquatic.
Females lay from about 90 to over 800 eggs at a time. Some females may fly over the surface of the water and dip their abdomens into it as they extrude their masses of eggs that seem to explode in the water as the gelatinous masses expand. Others alight on the surface of the water and extrude their masses of eggs at or below the waterline, where the masses separate, and the eggs sink. The eggs had a sticky coating, which attaches them to the bottom of the stream, where they hatch after an incubation period that may be as short as three weeks to as long as seven months.
Stonefly nymphs are somewhat elongate and flattened with long antennae, long cerci. They are similar to mayfly nymphs, but lack a middle caudal filament—that is, they have only two tails, while mayfly nymphs have three. The gills are also different in that mayfly nymphs have leaf-like gills along the sides of the abdomen; whereas stonefly nymphs have branched gills on the thorax and about the bases of the legs.
Stonefly nymphs often are found under stones in the streams and along the shores of the mountain lakes, hence their common name, but they may occasionally be found anywhere in a stream where food is available. Some species feed on plant material in the nymphal stage; others are predaceous or omnivorous.
Mature stonefly nymphs crawl out of the water when they are ready to emerge as adults; although some remain close to the water on vegetation or stones above the surface, others may crawl as high as eight feet up into trees. Some emerge, feed, and mate during the autumn and winter. The nymphs of these species generally feed on plants, and the adults feed chiefly on blue-green algae during daylight hours. Those emerging during summer, however, vary in nymphal feeding habits, and many do not feed as adults.
The mayflies of the pool are small to medium-sized, elongate, very soft-bodied insects with two or three long, threadlike tails. Adults have membranous wings with numerous veins. The front wings are large and triangular; whereas the hind wings are small and rounded and may be vestigial or absent in some species. The wings at rest are held together above the body. The antennae are small, bristle-like, and inconspicuous. The immature stages are aquatic, and the metamorphosis is simple.
Mayfly nymphs may be found in a variety of aquatic habitats. Some are streamlined in form and very active, while others are burrowing in habit and rather sedentary. They can usually be recognized by the leaf-like gills along the sides of their abdomens and their three long tails. Stonefly nymphs, on the other hand, are similar but have only two tails (the cerci), and their gills are on the thorax (only rarely on the abdomen) and are not leaf-like.
Nymphal mayflies feed on algae, leaves that fall into the water and sink, fungal mycelia, and a variety of spores. The larvae of some species also ingest many tiny particle of wood in their feeding, but this is thought to be incidental to feeding generally on decaying plant materials. The fungal mycelia, which can be a high proportion of the diet in some, is probably from the surfaces of the rotting leaves and wood.
When ready to transform to the winged stage, the nymph rises to the surface of the water, molts, and flies a short distance to the shore, where it usually alights on the vegetation. At this stage, the mayfly is rather dull in appearance and is more or less hairy; it molts once more, usually the next day, and emerges as an adult. The adult is smooth and shining with longer tails and legs than the previous stage. Mayflies are the only insects that molt after the wings become functional.
The aquatic stages require a year or more to develop, but the adults, which have vestigial mouth parts and do not feed, seldom live more than a day or two. Adults often engage in spectacular swarming flights during which mating takes place. The individuals in a swarm are usually all males that often fly up and down in unison. Sooner or later females will enter the swarm, at which time a male will seize a female and fly away with her.
The eggs are laid on the surface of the water or are attached to vegetation or stones in the water. In cases where the eggs are laid on the surface of the water, they may be simply washed off the end of the abdomen a few at a time, or they may all be laid in one clump. In one case the female lays her eggs in a milky mass and dies immediately. Once laid, the eggs sink and often adhere to objects on the bottom of the stream. The number of eggs laid by one female varies from as few as 50 to over 7,500.
These are only a few of the aquatic organisms that inhabit the streams from the lake in the cirque and the spring to the pool between the large, fallen trees where the Storm Hawk bathed himself. And yet, even among these few organisms, there is already an incredible partitioning of the available resources, even if food habits are the only consideration. For example, in the pool are immature dragonflies, stoneflies, midges, mayflies, and caddisflies. These insects can be separated into four functional feeding groups: shredders, grazers, collectors, and predators.
The shredders are dependent on large pieces of organic material, such as leaves, needles, wood, and other plant parts that are derived primarily from the margins of the stream, including the top of the forest canopy. Grazers are adapted for removing attached algae, especially where it grows on the surfaces of rocks and fallen trees in the current. Collectors use minute particles of organic matter, generally less than one sixteenth of an inch in size that they glean either by filtering the materials from the passing water or by actively gathering the chosen materials from deposits in the sediments of the stream bottom. Predators, on the other hand, are adapted through behavior and specialized body parts for capturing prey.
Because predators feed somewhat non-selectively on all functional groups, their behavior indicates little about the stream-streamside interactions. For example, here in the small- the medium-sized streams of the ancient forest, almost 58 percent of the aquatic insects are shredders, about 23 percent are collectors, about 12 percent are grazers, and about seven percent are predators. This combination of functional feeding groups is capable of utilizing the entire input of organic materials that fall into the stream as it flows through the forest.
If, however, you were to examine the big river, you would find that about 45 percent of the large aquatic insects are collectors, about 32 percent are predators, about 19 percent are grazers, and only about 4 percent are shredders. There are very few shredders left because the leaves and needles are no longer so important; first because the supply has dwindled drastically as the stream grew in size, and second because the greater expanse of open water stimulates the production of mosses and algae that has replaced the leaves and needles as a source of food. The main difference, however, is that the big river itself is a collector from all of the smaller tributary streams that funnel the remaining organic material of their respective water-catchments into the big river. Thus, the main functional feeding group in the big river is that of the collectors. Again, the combination of functional feeding groups is capable of utilizing the entire input of organic material, but this time not from a relatively small, shaded stream flowing through a tall, relatively closed canopy, but rather a large, open stream with little influence from the forest canopy.
Should you now continue to the mouth of the big river, and then down the Willamette River to the Columbia, you would find that about 80 percent of the organisms again are collectors and about 20 percent are predators. Both the shredders and the grazers have disappeared.
The adventures of Storm Hawk and what he sees and does not see means nothing to the stream. From the large pool, the stream, which now varies from about 15 feet wide to about 60 feet wide, journeys two and a half miles west-northwest through the forest on its way to the big river. Along this journey, it wends its way under, around, and through Nature's obstructions.
One such obstruction occurs in a narrow place about half a mile below the big pool. Here, the bottom of the earthflow has been sliding gradually and intermittently into the stream's channel for the last 363 years. If the years could have been captured on film through time-lapse photography, it would appear as if the forest were on a jerky, start-and-stop conveyer belt that is gradually constricting the stream's channel with soil, rocks, live trees, standing dead trees called snags, stumps, fallen dead trees, and other debris. All this material is being deposited in the stream's channel, where it may become relatively stabilized for a time, only to be flushed downstream by the periodic, severe, winter storms.
Today, there exists a crisscrossed pile of trees and woody debris that is about 20 feet high and extends about 50 feet down stream on the side of the earthflow. Above the dam is a long pool of quiet water that reflects the forest trees on the left-hand side of the stream across from the foot of the earthflow. The right-hand side of the stream, along the foot of the earthflow, has a rocky, gravelly bar about 30 feet wide and 50 to 60 feet long. The bar is the result of the earthflow's deposit of forest soils, which then get washed away, leaving the gravel and rocks behind. Here and there, water seeps out of the foot of the earthflow to form rivulets that enter the stream under the debris dam. The stream seeps, gurgles, splashes, tumbles and flows through the dam only to reunite with itself under the jumble of wood and continue its journey to the big river. contents
The Dam and the Ouzel
The great fallen trees that form the anchoring matrix of the dam are firmly in contact with the upper bank of the stream channel across from the foot of the earthflow itself. Here, a pair of water ouzels live amidst the jumbled, ancient trees.
Water ouzels, also called a dippers, are small birds about five and three-fourths inches long. Solitary birds, ouzels have dark gray plumages, white eyelids, short, stiff, rounded wings, and short, cocked tails. They are often seen bobbing up and down on rocks along the stream. Or they may be seen flitting about in the spray of a waterfall or cascade, diving into foaming eddies, or stepping into the stream to walk under water against the current in search of aquatic insects, such as caddisflies whose empty cases the ouzels leave in piles on the rocks. When walking under water, they hold their wings partly outstretched and angled slightly downward so that the rushing water will hold them against the bottom of the stream.
Ouzels are uniquely adapted to their to their cold, rushing habitat by strong legs and feet and oil glands at the base of their tails that are about 10 times larger that those of related land-dwelling birds of equivalent size, the substance of which protects their feathers against the water. In addition, each nostril is covered by a movable scale that excludes water when need be.
Their flight is low and direct, and their song, although long and melodious with trills and repetitions, is often replaced with a call note given singly as a bird moves from one rock to another or as a rapid series when the bird takes flight. This call sounds similar to bzeet or bz-ze-ze-ze-ze-ze-et.
The female began building her nest in late March on top of a large, flat, moss-covered rock protruding from the bank of the stream across from the foot of the earthflow. The bulky nest, about a foot in diameter, is made of green and yellowish mosses collected from the rocks in and along the margin of the stream and from those trees of the dam that are near the surface of the water. The mosses are deftly interwoven and felted together, and a neatly arched entrance is constructed in the side near the bottom of the nest, which causes the whole affair to look somewhat like an old-fashion brick oven.
The nest, behind a small waterfall pouring over the fallen trees of the dam, is 10 feet within the jumble of dead trees, three feet above the water, and 15 feet below the level of the bottom of the pool on the upstream side of the dam. The swirling, drifting spray rising from the cascading water as it plunges into the stream below keeps the outer mosses wet and alive as though they had not been plucked and is a perfect camouflage for the nest, which the ouzels reach from the more open, downstream side of the dam.
She laid her four, oval, white eggs between the 5th and the 8th of April, and incubated them by herself until they hatched between the 18th and the 21st of April. Both parents nurture the youngsters, but their mother assumes the primary responsibility for keeping them well fed.
Ouzels are extremely clean in their habits. For instance, the youngsters, when they need to defecate, turn their tails toward the nest's entrance and "shoot" their fecal masses four to six inches from the nest. Although they do not always succeed in clearing the nest, the mother inspects the nest often and picks up and carries away any excrement that is found adhering to it. Because the fecal masses are enclosed in a membrane, many of them fall unbroken into the water and are carried downstream.
After about 18 days of rapid growth, the fledglings leave the crowded nest. Once outside, amidst raucous calling, the young follow the stream while their parents, flying short distances, entice their youngsters from rock to rock, where they are fed nymphal mayflies and caddisflies, as well as other aquatic insects that are gleaned from the stream's bottom.
On occasion, however, adult mayflies or caddisflies fall off stream-side vegetation into quiet water, in which case the ouzel swims like a duck, using its feet as paddles, or flaps along the surface with its wings and picks up the floating insect, if it can do so before a cutthroat trout gets it. At other times, the ouzels hunt amongst the rocks for small fish, such as young-of-the-year cutthroat trout. Fish as large as two to three inches in length are captured, taken ashore, and killed by beating them vigorously. Some of the fish escape, and others, too large to be swallow, are abandoned.
The ouzels will brave the winter, and even feed under the ice, where it forms. During extremely cold winters, when the quiet pools freeze over, the ouzels move about freely under the ice from one air hole to another with unerring certainty.
But for now, the 5th of September, the ouzel's nest is empty. The birds can still be seen and heard, however, as they patrol the stream in search of food or sing from some favorite rock. The water ouzel and the stream are inseparable as their songs blend in harmony on the autumn breezes. contents
A Hairy Caddisfly's Story
Another of the creatures that lives along the stream by the earthflow is the hairy caddisfly, whose head looks not unlike that of "Frair Tuck." The hairy caddisfly begins its life as one of between 100 and 200 eggs arranged roughly in rows in a clear, tacky, gelatinous mass about one-half inch in diameter. The mass of eggs can be found sometime in April or May suspended two to eight inches above the surface of the water on the exposed rootlets of plants that are growing in one of the small seeps, which emanate from the foot of the earthflow. The mass of eggs is so situated that water running down the exposed rootlet keeps them wet. The larvae hatch after an incubation period of about three weeks and will require two years to complete their development.
Larval hairy caddisflies construct cases from the fragments of woody material in such a manner that a case plus the larvae that lives inside are fully buoyant. Thus, when dislodged into the stream from its bank, the larvae withdraw into their cases, become quiescent, and are carried by the current on the surface of the water. When they become lodged against the margin of the stream or in the flotsam (material floating on the surface of the water) behind a debris dam, they crawl out of the water onto leaves or wood. In this way, the cases provide a mechanism for dispersal of the larvae into new habitats. Such flotation increases the probability that larvae displaced into the current of small streams by high water from winter storms will come to rest against suitable habitats along the banks of medium-sized streams.
Once on land, these semi-aquatic, semi-terrestrial larvae abide in damp habitats, where the capillary action through their larval cases from their moist surroundings provides a saturated atmosphere internal to the cases that helps the larvae to remain moist. The dense fringe of hairs (setae) may act in concert with the flattened head to form a lid and gasket during periods of drought to seal in moisture. In addition, the shape of the cases and the forces of the surface tension that are generated between the damp cases and the damp substrate allow larvae to cling to nearly vertical pieces of wood without the aid of either claws on their feet or the use of silken threads.
The larvae grow slowly during their first year, even though they molt to the fourth larval state during this time. During spring and summer, which are periods of low availability of fallen leaves of red alder, the larvae cling to and feed on wet wood along the margin of the stream. During autumn and winter, however, they feed on the fallen, wet leaves of red alder. Although larvae feed on leaves and wood that has been conditioned by decay fungi, they are not eating much of either the actual leaves or wood but rather are feeding on the fruiting bodies and on the hyphae of the fungi that are decaying both the leaves and the wood.
The most rapid gain in weight occurs during the autumn and winter, after leaf-fall of the second year, when larvae are most commonly associated with the damp leaves of red alder on the bank of the stream. About 80 percent of the total weight of the larvae is achieved during this period. Moreover, rapid growth and molting to the fifth and final stage occurs during late spring or early summer of that second year, and is followed by a loss in weight during late summer, possibly due to a quiescent period associated with normal conditions of summer drought. At such times, the larvae burrow into debris along the margins of the stream.
After completing their larval development during their second winter, the larvae wedge themselves into damp, rotten wood along the margins of the stream and become pupae. With completion of their transformation, they emerge as winged adults around the third week in April and fly until about the second week in August, gradually making their way upstream. Then, as the last survivors die, the masses of eggs laid above the surface of the water of seeps and springs at the sources of little streams assures that another generation of hairy caddisflies will once again ride the current to medium-sized streams on the foaming waters of winter storms.
Below the debris dam, by the earthflow, the stream flows to the left side of its channel as it rounds a bend to the right. Once around the bend, it straightens out and becomes shallower as it flows over a fairly even cobbly bottom to form a riffle for about 50 yards before it begins to cascade suddenly down a steep gradient, swirling around some boulders and splashing against and over others only to become a riffle again, than a frothing rapid, another cascade, and then a quiet pool above another debris dam. There are more riffles, debris dams, a cascade of two, and some pools. There are wide spots made by old, forgotten landslides, where sunlight penetrates and warms the water, and there are reaches of relative darkness in deep, twisting, forests canyons where the water is again cooled. There are little seeps and small streams that freely contribute their waters to those from the big pool; and there are gravel bars and scattered, fallen trees that seem to clutch at the water as it passes. Then comes the sound of the big river as the stream rounds its final bend and empties itself into the rushing body of 10,000 streams all blended into a roaring chorus on their way to the sea.
Winter comes early this year, and by December, five feet of snow have fallen on the forest. It snows all winter as one storm after another adds its infinite variety of flakes to the growing blanket of white. contents
The Great Landslide
January, February, and March of 1248 see no letup in the fury of winter. On the 12th of April, however, an abrupt warming trend begins as Chinook winds blow in off the Central Pacific Ocean. The snow, melting fast now, is saturated by rains that begin on the 15th of April and continue on and off until the 2nd of May, when the daily temperature ranges between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for three weeks.
The snow in the cirque, fanned by the Chinook winds, begins melting slowly at first and only on the surface, but as that continues to melt and the water to soak downward, causing the underlying snow to become wet and compacted, the speed of melting increases. Under the snow, the water collects on the lake, whose surface has been frozen to a depth of two to three feet and cannot hold more water. While some water freezes to the lake's surface ice, most flows over the ice into the stream of the meadow.
The snow on the meadow at first melts only on the surface. But as the warm winds continue, the water soaks downward wetting and compacting the underlying snow and the speed of melting increases. As the water collects under the snow, now melting too fast to infiltrate the soil, it flows over the soil's surface to the stream. The stream, in turn, swollen with the water from both the cirque and the meadow, loses its clarity.
The rushing water picks away at its banks, rolls rocks normally too heavy to be moved, and carries an unusual load of silt. Included in the silt is some of the gray flourlike material that once was the spine of the mountain. These former boulders, ground by the glacial gristmill into the gray powder known as glacial flour, has, for the moment, turned the stream of the meadow grayish. Thus instead of clear water, it is a murky grayish stream that races headlong toward the forest in the spring of 1248, a stream that carries part of the mountain's spine raised from cosmic dust over the eons only to be returned to earthen dust over the millennia.
Throughout most of the winter, the ancient trees have held the snow in their crowns high off the floor of the forest. Now, however, the warm, Chinook winds, which alternately caress and buffet the tops of the trees, begin to melt the snow, which grows heavy with water and fall in massive, saturated clumps to the floor of the forest. Everywhere the snow is melting, the trees are dripping, and the saturated soil can hold no more water, which begins to flow over the surface of the land. The floor of the forest seems awash as day after day the water flows in thin sheets that become tiny rivulets, collecting fir needles and twigs, forming tiny dams of debris from the floor of the forest only to break the dams or to flow around them, surging forward, ever forward, ever downhill toward other, larger streams.
As the melting continues, the soil becomes saturated and the earthflow, which is a half of a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, above the medium-sized stream becomes active after having been relatively quiescent over the last two and a half decades. The dynamics of the earthflow are complicated. It does not move all at once or even the same way in all areas. When one area does move, however, it changes the dynamics of the whole earthflow by altering the level of the water table that wets the thin layer of clay on which the mass of soil and trees is sliding. And now the clay becomes as grease, allowing the mobile mass of earth above the layer of clay to slide over the stable mass of earth below the layer of clay.
On the night of the 30th of April, a violent storm blows in off the coast. Its warm, blustery winds, whirling through the darkness, whip the trees and pelt them with large drops of warm rain. Wind and rain together hasten even more the melting of the snow. Then, deep belowground it starts.
The particles of clay, which have been more or less bound together by friction for lo these many years, begin to let go of their bonds. Slowly, slowly they begin to separate and move, hesitantly at first, but as the water content in their midst increases, they begin to slide past one another. The earthflow shifts accordingly, and in so doing it settles in one spot only to become more fluid in another.
As the soil adjusts, water is forced into a layer of clay along the south side of the earthflow. This layer is not a part of the earthflow itself, but is a separate layer between the bottom of the earthflow and the surface of the ground. Here and there the tiny roots of the forest trees are pulled and stretched until they snap as the soil begins to slide. As each rootlet gives way, the forest's grip on the slope lessens until larger and larger roots, stretched beyond their endurance, snap and tear.
Shortly after midnight on the 1st of May, a crack appears in the surface of the soil. The floor of the forest is rent asunder with a sucking, gurgling sound and a forested area a quarter mile long and an eighth mile wide begins to tremble, then to move. The whole forest seems to be moving past itself in slow motion. Then the lower portion of the slope above the stream gives way to the upslope-weight of the shifting mass of soil, rocks, and vegetation, and the forest suddenly careens into the night. Dizzily swaying trees begin knocking against one another and seem desperately to clutch and grab at their firmly rooted neighbors as they shoot past them down the slope.
Part way to the stream is a massive intrusion of solid rock that suddenly forces the sliding mass to the left, much the way a bobsled is controlled by its track. Here the edge of the earthflow leaves the ground and flings itself 30 feet high against the standing trees, breaking some off, battering and twisting others, while spewing mud, debris, and small, ground-dwelling animals struck dumb with terror into the surrounding forest. Other animals, such as red tree voles and northern flying squirrels, are catapulted from their treetop nests. In mere seconds, the roar recedes into the night, and it is a raw, gaping wound that greets the dawn. Where once there had stood an ancient forest, all that remains is naked, mineral soil and rock that is slowly being cleansed of its remaining clay by the rain and the rivulets of water washing its surface more than 30 feet below the surrounding floor of the forest.
Below this wound is another layer of clay on which the earthflow is moving. And while the landslide raced off into the night, the earthflow will continue to move slowly toward the stream. It will be decades, even centuries, before the earth ceases to flow. By then, not a single trace of tonight's landslide will remain, and yet a few of the ancient trees of the forest, those silent witnesses of creation, will know, for they are among the longest living historians in the world.
As the soil gives way above the stream, the leading edge of the forest, pushed from upslope, tears through the stream and is thrust part way up the slope on the other side. Water, fish, aquatic insects, the rocks of the stream's bottom, the existing debris dam, and the ouzel's nest of 1247 are all flung hither and yon as the approaching roar in the night is translated into a new debris dam over 50 feet high, 500 yards long, and more than 100 yards wide. With the stream's flow severed, dawn finds a new lake forming above the debris dam and an empty stream channel below.
Nature has erased Her canvas and has begun anew. The art and creativity of eons is gone, vanished forever into the ongoing creation of ever-new novelty—that which is and that which is yet to be.
The trees are the legacy of the forest to the water; they are a gift to the streams, rivers, and oceans of the world. The trees of the forest are a gift of another place and another time, for they are of the forest, of the centuries past, of this instance in the present, in the perfectly executed power of creation. Here the past and the present come together and design the present and the future as the trees journey from the forest to the sea. This legacy of trees, this journey to the sea is but the completion of the cycle even as the rain and the snow are the legacy of the sea to the forest, of the water to the trees. As the waters of the sea have journeyed inland over the centuries to the trees of the forest, so now the trees of the forest shall journey over the decades to the waters of the sea. And thus is fulfilled an immutable law of the universe—change, the only constant in the cosmic dance.
The new debris dam is a twisted mass of trees and other vegetation that appears to be plastered together with mud, soil, and rocks. If you could see into the debris, you would find the broken, smashed bodies of many small mammals, salamanders, frogs, some resident birds, and even a black bear that had been awakened from its winter sleep by the shifting earth. The bear had looked out of its den under the tangle of seven ancient Douglas-firs that had been blown over a decade ago, and although the bear could not see anything in the black of the night, it felt the earth tremble and heard the trees creaking and groaning as they rubbed against one another. Then the earth started to move and the bear, confused and frightened, had lurched into the night only to be trapped as the ground opened and subsequently killed by a falling tree. Countless lives, including those of the trees and other plants, form the tortured mass of debris plastered together with a mortar of mud.
On the other side of the stream, fish are scattered on the floor of the forest, some more than 20 yards from the edge of the yesterday's stream. A large cutthroat trout lies dead at the base of a Douglas-fir tree against which it was crushed as the debris dam flung the stream's water ahead of itself. And below the debris dam, an empty stream leaves trout, sculpins, and the larva of the Pacific giant salamander trapped in pools where they will be easy prey for the mink and the river otter that will visit the stream within a week or two.
Almost all of the eggs of the spring-run Chinook salmon that were laid early last winter in the gravels, called redds, of the bottoms of the medium-sized stream and some of its tributaries were flushed into the big river by the high water of late April. Those few that survived will perish before their journey to the sea is completed. But the cycle of the Chinook salmon from the streams and their tributaries will go on because there are broods from four previous years already at sea.
It's now June in this year of 1248, and the spring-run Chinook leave the sea and enter to Columbia River and then the Willamette River on their way to the medium-sized stream, a trickle of which begins to show below the debris dam, but it is not enough to fill the stream's old channel.
The stream swells slowly during July, and by August is flowing at about half of its original capacity. Although late autumn is wet, much wetter than normal, when the mature Chinook of three years ago, 1246, return from the sea in early October they not only find low water in the stream but also find the upper reaches of the stream blocked by the impassible dam, as well as the stream bottom scoured clean of gravel in which to lay their eggs, and so they die without successfully spawning. Thus, their entire journey, which is to survive to reproduce and thereby ensure that their seed and their species continues into the illusion of the future, has failed, but Nature's design often holds something in reserve while allowing creation to continue, and so it is with the cycle of the spring-run Chinook.
Although for the moment the debris dam is impassible to the returning Chinook, were it to remain in place for a few years so it could be washed clean of soil and rocks, the stream would eventually create a passageway through the structure that would allow the salmon to progress upstream. In fact, once the water had cleansed the dam, may fish, such as cutthroat trout and young salmon, would find protective cover deep within the confines of the dam. contents
Debris Torrents and Driftwood
Twelve forty-nine dawns a cold year in which a long winter and a heavy snow pack is carried over into early July. When the snow finally melts, it is replaced by rain that continues almost daily until it snows again. The combination of melting snow and continuing rain once again saturates the soil beyond its capacity, and water seems to be everywhere.
Then, in December, an unusual storm moves in off the coast with warm winds that approach 100 miles per hour and driving rain that falls in sheets. Deer race wildly throughout the forest in panic. Red tree voles and flying squirrels are blown out of trees—nests and all. Giant Douglas-firs bend, twist, and break; others are blown over. The tops of red alder snapped like matchsticks, and limbs are torn from bigleaf maples along the big river. Hour after hour the rain assaults the forest with blinding fury, and everywhere water converges on the streams, which become raging, silt-laden torrents as the soil of the forest washes away.
The lake behind the dam is filling to capacity. The water can no longer find its way through the jumbled mass of fallen trees and debris fast enough to relieve the mounting pressure. Water now fills the entire valley behind the dam and begins to flow around its edges and to spill over its top. It then begins to seep under and through the dam. The tremendous power of the ever-probing water causes a tree here and a tree there to shift its position, and suddenly, with the shift of one pivotal tree deep within the dam, it gives way. The central portion floats upward and is borne toward the big river on the crest of the raging, swirling, leaping torrent of brown, frothy water.
The dam, which has become a slurry of debris, soil, and water, crashes against the left side of stream's channel as it rounds a bend to the right, where the channel straightens out and becomes shallower. Here, the torrent scours the cobbly bottom of the riffle before crashing into the boulder-strewn cascade, only to scour the next riffle and pound the frothing rapid, before crashing into the next cascade, and then plunging into the once quiet pool above the long-stable debris dam, which explodes downstream with the force of the debris torrent.
The unleashed fury of the torrent hurtles wildly into the dawn, devouring riffles, demolishing old dams, drowning cascades, and violating pools. Ahead of the debris torrent are wide spots, the remnants forgotten landslides, where sunlight and warmed the water, and there are reaches of relative darkness in deep, twisting, tree-clad canyons.
Small seeps and little streams freely contribute their waters, at which gravel bars and scattered, fallen trees seem to clutch as it passes. Suddenly, they're either gone, vanished without a trace, whereas the streams remain as unrecognizable dark water and bare rock, altered forever by the torrent. And then comes the incredible roar as the torrent enters the frenzy of the big river. Some of the debris becomes lodged on a high point along the outer edge of the floodplain in the river's first bend; the rest, however, is scattered hither and yon, as single pieces or as clumps, along five miles of the river.
Debris torrents usually travel short distances and may not affect large rivers unless a headwater channel discharges directly into a mainstream, as happens in many glacial valleys. Large woody debris, however, can still be clumped along intermediate and large rivers as a result of infrequent events, such as major floods. Movement of floatable debris from headwaters or floodplains may form massive accumulations of driftwood wherever the channel narrows or the gradient is low enough for zones of deposition to develop.
Extensive dams of debris are common in coastal streams, as are sporadic, large accumulations of debris that are deposited on the upper banks of streams and on terraces along floodplains that are inundated only during severe floods. Because such debris is normally above the water line, its use by fish as habitat is limited to high flows. But this temporary refuge, provided by inundated accumulations of debris along the upper banks of streams with well developed floodplains, may be very important if fish are to survive when the velocity of the water in the main channel is high.
The process of transport and the chemical constituents of the wood affect the time woody debris stays in stream channels because they affect its rate of decomposition and its resistance to breaking and abrasion. Debris from conifers decays at about one percent per year in streams, although the rate may vary among species. Western redcedar, for example, resists decomposition in streams better than does Douglas-fir or western hemlock, but all three conifers far outlast red alder.
Other aspects of debris that influence its stability within a stream and river system include its orientation, its degree of burial, and the proportion of a given piece of wood that lies in the water. Wood is stable if its angle or orientation is within 30 degrees of the direction of the flowing water. It is likely to move, however, if the angle of orientation is greater then 60 degrees off the direction of the flowing water.
Whether a piece of wood is buried depends in part on the rate sediments are deposited in the channel, coupled with the longevity of the wood. The degree to which wood is buried exerts a strong influence on whether or not it moves; a piece with both ends anchored to the streambed or to the bank moves less than does wood with only one end buried or with both ends free. Partially buried wood is more likely to move downstream during a storm than is wood that is completely or nearly completely buried.
Stable accumulations of driftwood are important for creating and maintaining good habitat for fish. If the driftwood does not move frequently, it functions to create and maintain pools, protective cover, and collects the fine materials, such as needles, leaves, and twigs, that are the source of energy for the stream. Size of the driftwood, including its length and diameter, is a major factor that contributes to its stability. The length of a piece of driftwood appears to be the most important attribute of its stability, where high flows of water are sufficient to float large pieces.
Other characteristics, such as the presence of a rootwad or branches, also influence when or where a piece of driftwood will move. Branches and rootwads add to the stability of driftwood by increasing its mass and the surface area that is available to get caught on obstructions within and along a stream. Whole trees are thus potentially more stable than are fragments of trees. Fragments about half of the width of a stream channel full of water tend to be floated downstream during typical winter storms, but large pieces of driftwood with intact rootwads may remain in place for at least 70 years in small, low-gradient streams.
Relatively short pieces of driftwood can become stable in narrow channels, but longer pieces are necessary for stability in wider channels. Driftwood, whose length exceeds that of a channel full of water, may have much of its weight supported by the ground outside of the channel, where it lodges against standing trees during high streamflow.
Even the largest fallen trees, however, cannot span the full width of a large river from bank to bank. Therefore, the amount of wood and the number of fallen trees that lie on exposed gravel bars provides a supply of wood in a river channel, even though the wood's position in may change annually. However, the likelihood of fallen trees being transported back to the main channel—unless the river changes is course—is greatly reduced once they have formed large accumulations at bends in the river or on the outer margins of the floodplain. Thus, some pieces of wood from the conifers of the ancient forest below the meadow will remain in the "big river" for more than 200 years.
Ultimately, there are three ways in which the wood will be removed from the river. The most powerful way is through the mechanism of physical abrasion. Sand and gravel carried at flood velocities abrade large pieces of wood. Abrasion is greater in high-gradient or sediment-rich streams and rivers than in gentle, spring-fed or low-gradient streams and rivers.
The second way wood is removed is through severe flooding that displaces great quantities of wood both downstream and onto the upper floodplain, where it becomes more clumped through either the forces of flooding or debris torrents. On small, coastal streams, debris torrents may temporarily dam sections of streams, only to have the dams fail with the resulting debris scouring more wood from the channel and depositing it high on the banks of the stream or in estuaries.
The third way wood is removed is through biological decomposition, but this is a minor process wood removal. Waterlogged wood decays slowly, but wood at the stream-land interface hosts active microbial and invertebrate activity. Here, biotic communities respond to a gradient of temperature, moisture, and oxygen. Wetting and drying of the wood at the stream-land interface allows its rapid biological decomposition.
Today, however, the storm, with its energy spent, dissipates. The sky clears for a few days and the sun shines as high pressure moves southward out of arctic Canada to settle over the Cascade Mountains. Although the stream returns to its pre-storm level, its channel will never be the same.
The remains of the earthflow are visible as a great gash in the forest and as remnants of the debris dam on either side of the stream channel. As for the stream, the debris torrent scoured the channel as it traveled downstream, and it left a track that is nearly devoid of sediment. What large woody debris remains, lies parallel to the direction of the streamflow, as opposed to its prior diagonal orientation. This shift in orientation has, for a time, reduced the channel's width, the variability of its depth, the undercutting of its banks, the areas of its pools, and the stability of its channel. The immediate result is reduced quality and diversity of habitat for fish in this reach of stream.
There is one pool, however, where a huge Douglas-fir was struck by the passing debris torrent. The ancient fir, its roots gradually undermined over the last couple of centuries by the high, swift water that has surged down the stream following storms and the annual melting of snow, shudders with the impact of the blow, but remains standing as the debris torrent races out of sight.
With its grip in the earth weakened by the loss of soil around its roots and by the bruising blow of the passing debris, the tree stands two more days, only to be struck a glancing blow by a large, falling snag that died 50 years ago in 1199.
The old tree quivers with the blow; its top shakes, and then begins to lean toward the stream. Bits of soil fall away from its undermined roots, and its center of gravity shifts slightly. The tree is now held in place by little more that half of its roots, and they are being severely strained as the tree leans ever so gradually toward the stream. An hour passes, then another. Then the soil on the uphill side of the tree begins to move, and the tree to shudder, as its roots groan and snap belowground. Its top, 200 feet above the floor of the forest, begins to sway and then, with a swooshing, moaning sound, it crashes diagonally downstream across the pool. Here it will remain for a decade, until 1259, floating up and down in place as storms come and go. And during this decade, it will provide habitat for the cutthroat trout.
The fallen trees will create new habitats for a time; then another storm will come along with more high water and the trees, which are no longer just trees, but rather trees that have become driftwood, will continue their journey from the forest to the sea. And with each novel circumstance encountered, they will provide a habitat in a new location for a different group of plants and animals. contents
Although the debris dam has lost a few pieces of itself as it floats down the big river, a third of the large, drifting trees are pushed onto the gravel bar of the floodplain by a sudden shift in the current about five miles below the stream out of whose mouth the wood spewed. Here it lies through summer heat, autumn rains, and winter snows, and spring floods until 1259. During this time, much of the soil is washed from the rootwads as the trees' naked roots slowly begin to bleach under the sun.
Near the center of this virtually impenetrable mass of driftwood is an old tree with a large, hollow branch that is broken off three feet away from its base. The branch is 18 inches in diameter with a 12-inch diameter hollow extending its full length and into the stem of the old tree. Here a female mink has dug her den five feet into the rotten heart of the tree, which she reached through the hollow branch, and she has raised her young in this den for the past three years.
Mink are long-bodied, muscular, cylindrical carnivores. A large male may reach 28 inches in length and weigh up to two and a third pounds. They have short legs and a hairy, moderately bushy tail that comprises about one-third of their total body length. The head is horizontally flat, tapering to a blunt nose. The ears are low, wide, round, and hairy; the eyes are relatively small. A mink's pelage is composed of coarse, glossy guard hairs overlying a thick, soft, fine underfur. In summer, the pelage varies from dull, reddish brown to light reddish brown; in winter it varies from rich, dark brown to nearly black. The pelage is uniform in color except for variable streaks or spots of white on the chin, chest, or belly. Although the white markings are the same throughout the year, mink retain their dark coats, which do not turn to white in winter, as do the coats of their cousin, the weasel. Mink have well developed anal glands through which a startled or frightened animal may secrete an unmistakable, pungent, "minky" odor that often hangs in the air long after the animal has vanished.
Primarily active during the night, it is not uncommon for mink to be abroad during the day. Mainly aquatic in habits, they are most commonly associated with freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes; along the coast, however, they also frequent the brackish water of estuaries, the mouths of rivers, and salt marshes, as well as occasionally visiting rocky points jutting into the sea.
Mink tend to be nocturnal throughout the year; this tendency is in general synchrony with the annual day-night cycle. Although patterns of activity change seasonally, the amount of daylight is not a decisive synchronizer. Activity normally begins after sunset and during the summer is most closely correlated with the onset of darkness. Cessation of activity is less affected by sunrise. The amount of nightly activity is higher, more concentrated, during short summer nights, whereas during long winter nights the amount of activity is lower at any one time and is spread out over a longer period. In addition to the length of the night, there also is a direct correlation between activity and temperature. Mink increase their activity as the temperature drops; thus the colder the night, the longer the duration of activity, presumably because of the need for a greater amount of food.
The size and shape of home ranges of mink vary in accordance with the immediate topography, as well as the availability of food. (A home range is the area that an animal covers during its normal, daily 24-hour activities and which it does not defend against others of its own kind.) A mink's home range tends to be long and narrow, approximating the shape of the body of water along which it lives. Although an individual covers its entire home range over a period of time, such coverage is not evenly distributed. Two of the basic factors that influence an individual's use of its home range are the location of its active dens and the pattern of its daily movements.
A mink tends to concentrate its activity in restricted areas, the location of which seems to be dictated by the availability of usable dens, normally from two to five. Further, during a period of activity, a mink continually moves back and forth within a restricted area, usually about 325 yards long. Sooner or later it moves to another restricted area, and the patterns of continuous back and forth movement are repeated. Thus, a mink eventually visits its entire home range, but this type of movement causes a great irregularity in the intensity of use of the home range. Such irregularity may be influenced in large measure by the availability of food, as well as by suitable hunting places.
A mink that is familiar with its entire home range covers it more leisurely than does an individual not so familiar with its home range. When moving from one restricted area to another during winter, mink normally follow the banks of their homebodies of water, regardless of the direction of the current. Throughout the rest of the year, however, they generally follow the bank only when moving upstream, which means they are hunting into the wind because the cool nighttime breezes flow downstream with the water.
The size of home ranges of adult mink varies not only according to the sex of an individual but also according to the season. Home ranges of males average about two miles in length, whereas those of females average about 350 yards. Males cover the greatest distances during the spring, which coincides with the breeding season and their search for mates.
The home ranges of juveniles are considerably smaller than those of adults, but they also vary according to the sex of the individual and the season. Home ranges of males average about one mile in length, whereas those of females about half a mile. Males move around moderately during their first summer. As autumn approaches, their movement increases, probably as a result of dispersal. They are most sedentary during winter and most widely traveled during spring—their first breeding season. Females, on the other hand, appear to do much of their wandering during their first summer and are most stationary the following spring—their first breeding season also.
Lacking no measure of curiosity, they examine every nook and cranny in their path, as well as some to which they have to make special trips. Their usual mode of travel is to follow the water's edge until something of interest necessitates swimming to be investigated. Completing an investigation, they again follow the edge of the water. Though they seldom swim great distances, they are excellent swimmers. And on occasion, a mink may float down a stream while curled up asleep.
Not particularly friendly with one another, mink are not as solitary as are most other members of the genus Mustela. When mink do meet, however, there may be a fight that consists of much shrieking, snarling, tumbling, and sometimes the discharge of the fetid odor from their anal glands. Although mink probably inflict few injuries on one another as a rule, there are fights to the death, such as the one that took place last spring when two resident males happened to meet the confluence of stream from the big pool and the river.
Both were large males that had been roaming their home ranges in search for receptive females with which to mate. One male claimed the stream and it tributaries as his home range, while the other claimed that portion of the river into which the stream emptied.
The moon was just rising when the two came face to face about three feet apart on the small gravel bar on the north side of the stream's mouth. They both instantly stopped and looked at each other, their small eyes burning like the embers of a fire. They opened their mouths slightly, arched their backs and stretched forward their necks, all the while crouching their hindquarters closer and closer to the ground. Their bodies began to quiver as muscles tensed. Then, breathing rapidly, they slowly advanced toward each other. When about 18 inches apart, they paused as each gathered all the strength possible for the final lunge.
A minute passed, a very long minute, then one of the mink turned his head a little to the right; the other instantly did the same. The eternal seconds passed; as the count reached 10 or 12, they sprang forward so quickly no human eye could see their motion. Catching each other by the throat just in back of the lower jaw, they held on with a grip that meant death to the one that let go first.
Determined to fight to the death, they wounded each other round after round. Finally, exhausted from the loss of blood, they spread their forefeet to brace themselves and stood perfectly still, each with its fangs sunk in the other's throat. Again the seconds dragged by until one of them staggered, and then fell. In falling, he pulled his opponent over with him, and they both lay on the gravel and grew weaker and weaker until they ceased to breath.
A patrolling raven found their stiff bodies the next morning. The mink's mortal combat of the night produced the raven's meal. Thus is each strand in the web of life part of every other strand through circumstances, which offer choices that in turn couple or uncouple other choices that once made set into motion the ripples of other circumstances that flow in all directions until the entire universe is affected by the never-ending stories.
The reflexes of mink are exceedingly quick, yet the animals are relatively slow runners and thus normally seek shelter rather than trying to outrun a pursuer. A cornered mink, however, is "bad medicine" for any member of the dog family that attempts to get a grip on it. A mink is far quicker than any dog, and usually gets the first hold, on a dog's nose or lip—taking full command of the situation.
Mink normally live in a burrow or den, which is near water and may be in a hole under the roots of a live tree, a stump, or a fallen tree, and when possible in a hollow tree. Those mink that live along the Willamette River, into which the big river empties, usually take over the abandoned or pilfered burrow of a muskrat or other mammal, but sometimes they dig their own burrows. A mink's burrow is usually eight to twelve or more feet long, four or more inches in diameter, and two to three feet under the surface of the ground, always with one or more entrances just above the level of the water.
Male mink have their own dens and do not build as complete a nest as do the females, which have an enlarged nursery chamber in the burrow a few feet back from the waterside entrance. The nursery is 10 to 12 inches in diameter, and is lined with grasses, plant fibers, feathers, and fur to make a snug home of the kits. Adults keep their abodes clean by defecating and urinating outside of their burrows.
When snug in their dens, mink may sleep so soundly that at times it looks like a "sleep of death." When so sleeping, they are difficult to awaken, but once aroused, they are instantly in full command of their senses.
Mink primarily are carnivorous, eating fish, frogs, snakes, mammals, birds and their eggs, crayfish, fresh-water clams and mussels, as well as some insects. Along the coast, however, mink hunt in tide pools and also eat marine clams.
Although a mink's sense of smell may be as acute as its sense of hearing, its sight is only moderate. Mink appear to do much of their hunting by scent, and when a mink tracks a rabbit or hare, it appears to be of a single-minded purpose and the outcome seems inevitable.
The outcome is not inevitable, however, when mink hunt the mountain beaver in their own burrows. It may be that a large, male mink can subdue a young mountain beaver, but an adult mountain beaver may well dictate a different ending since the quickness, maneuverability in small spaces, and viciousness of this ancient rodent, as well as its compact, muscular structure, and strong front teeth, undoubtedly operate as a potent system of defense.
The breeding season begins in late January or early February and lasts through March or early April. During the season of breeding, a male may visit two or more females and a female may receive two or more males; she also may share her den with a male.
Because of delayed implantation, the gestation period varies from 40 to 75 days but averages 51 days. (Delayed implantation means that a fertilized egg floats around in the uterus for some time before it becomes implanted or attached to the wall of the uterus and begins to grow.) The embryo becomes implanted and grows actively for only 30 to 32 days before birth.
A single litter, usually of four, but ranging from two to 10, is born during April or May. The young, called "kits," are born in a clean nest. At birth, kits are naked, pale pinkish, with closed eyes; they weigh about three tenths of an ounce. However, they soon are covered with fine, short, silvery-white hair that is replaced by a dull, fluffy, reddish brown coat when the young are about two weeks old. They grow rapidly, and by the time they are 25 days old, their eyes are open and they have a sleek coat of short hair. Weaning is begun in five or six weeks, and when about eight weeks old, the young attempt to capture their own prey. A family normally remains together until autumn when each individual goes its own way. contents
A Drifted Tree Remains
As the rest of the debris dam of 1249 moved down the big river and into the Willamette River, it lost more of its pieces. The rootwad of one full-length, 652-year-old Douglas-fir became entangle in woody debris that was too well anchored to the shore to be floated out into the raging current. So, as the storm water's furious rush abated, the old tree settled onto the gravel bar of the flood plain. During the next nine years, the high water of winter flowed over the tree but not with enough force to move it very much.
Being well-anchored and too large to move, the tree's huge stem posed an obstacle that sufficiently slowed the force of the water's current and caused it to drop part of its suspended sediments on the downstream side of the tree's stem. Here, enough soil accumulated that, within the last four years, a number of seedlings of red alder have become established and are growing vigorously, as is black cottonwood and Oregon ash in the clay swales. So it is that driftwood severely batters streamside vegetation at times as it journeys toward the sea, but protects it at other times, even to the point of allowing the forest to claim part of the floodplain for a time.
As the alders grew and other vegetation, such as willows, streamside sage, thistles, fireweed, horsetail, sedges, and grasses, began to establish in and around the anchored accumulation of driftwood on the floodplain, a number of small mammals move into the storm-created habitat. These included the deer mouse, the long-tailed vole, the western red-backed vole, the Townsend chipmunk, and the dusky shrew, to name a few. In turn, the long-tailed weasel, the short-tailed weasel, and the mink began to hunt in and amongst the accumulations of driftwood on the river's floodplains.
Further, as deer mice, long-tailed voles, an occasional western red-backed vole, and Townsend chipmunks began to use the accumulation of driftwood as habitat, they simultaneously began to inoculate the soil with the spores of mycorrhizal fungi.
The term mycorrhiza, literally meaning "fungus-root," denotes the symbiotic relationship between certain fungi and plant roots. Fungi that produce hypogeous sporocarps (belowground fruiting bodies) are probably all mycorrhizal. Woody plants in the families Pinaceae (pine, true firs, spruce, larch, Douglas-fir, hemlock), Fagaceae (oak), and Betulaceae (birch, alder) especially depend on mycorrhiza-forming fungi for nutrient uptake, a phenomenon traceable back some 400 million years to the earliest known fossils of plant rooting structures.
Mycorrhizal fungi absorb nutrients and water from soil and translocate them to a host plant. In turn, the host provides sugars from photosynthesis to the mycorrhizal fungi. Fungal hyphae (the "mold" part of the fungus) extend into the soil and serve as extensions of the hosts' root systems and are both physiologically and geometrically more effective at nutrient absorption than are the roots themselves.
The host plant provides simple sugars and other metabolites to the chlorophyll-lacking mycorrhizal fungi, which generally are not competent saprophytes (a living plant that derives its nutrients from dead or decaying organic material). Fungal hyphae penetrate the tiny, non-woody rootlets of the host plant to form a balanced, harmless mycorrhizal symbiosis with the roots. The fungus absorbs minerals, other nutrients, and water from the soil and translocates them into the host. Further, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, such as Azospirillum spp., that occur inside the mycorrhiza use a fungal "extract" as food and in turn fix atmospheric nitrogen. The available nitrogen may be used both by the fungus and the host tree. In effect, mycorrhiza-forming fungi serve as a highly efficient extension of the host root system.
Many of the fungi also produce growth regulators that induce production of new root tips and increase their useful lifespan. At the same time, host plants prevent the fungi from damaging their roots. Mycorrhizal colonization enhances resistance to attack by pathogens. Some mycorrhizal fungi produce compounds that prevent pathogens from even contacting the root system.
Sporocarps (fungus fruiting bodies) are the initial link between hypogeous, mycorrhizal fungi and the small mammals. As a sporocarp matures, it produces a strong odor that attracts the foraging mammal. Evidence of a small mammal's foraging remains as shallow pits in the forest soil and occasional partially eaten sporocarps.
Sporocarps of hypogeous fungi contain nutrients necessary for small animals that eat them. In addition to nutritional values, sporocarps also contain water, fungal spores, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and yeast.
When small mammals eat sporocarps, they consume fungal tissue that contains nutrients, water, viable fungal spores, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and yeast. Pieces of sporocarp move to the stomach, where fungal tissue is digested; then through the small intestine, where absorption takes place; then on to the cecum. The cecum is like an eddy along a swift stream; it concentrates, mixes, and retains fungal spores, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and yeast. Deer mice retained fungal spores in the cecum for more than a month after ingestion. Undigested material, including cecal contents, is formed into excretory pellets in the lower colon. These pellets, expelled through the rectum, contain all the viable elements.
A fecal pellet is more than a package of waste products; it's a "pill of symbiosis" dispensed throughout the forest. Each fecal pellet contains four components of potential importance to the forest: (1) spores of hypogeous mycorrhizal fungi, (2) yeast , (3) nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and (4) the complete nutrient component for nitrogen-fixing bacteria, like the yolk that feeds the chicken forming in the white of an egg.
Each fecal pellet contains viable spores of the mycorrhizal fungi, and each fecal pellet also contains the entire nutrient requirement for Azospirillum spp. The yeast, as a part of the nutrient base, has the ability to stimulate both growth and nitrogen fixation in Azospirillum spp. Moreover, extractives from the abundant yeast propagules stimulate spore germination in some mycorrhizal-forming fungi.
If all this sounds incredibly complicated, that's because it is. And it is only an infinitesimal glimpse of a forest's total complexity, which in this case is extended onto the river's floodplain, and may in time allow the forest to extend itself onto the floodplain also. But for now, in this year of 1259, the small mammals that are visiting back and forth between the established forest along the river's edge and the driftwood are gradually inoculating the soil under the driftwood with their spore-laden feces.
Again years pass, and in addition to small mammals, such as common mergansers, harlequin ducks, spotted sand pipers, and nighthawks occasionally use the accumulations of driftwood as habitat for nesting. As well, song sparrows, violet green swallows, robins, and cedar waxwings, use it for perches. contents
The Willamette River
The Willamette River begins as two primary forks, one in the Coast Range to the south and west of its confluence with the big river and the other near the crest of the Cascade Range to the south and east of its confluence with the big river. The Willamette already is well-defined by the time the waters of the big river empty into it. Yet its beginnings, as with all rivers, are the myriad small seeps and springs that give rise to the little streams that join to become bigger streams, that join to become larger streams and so on. Thus, by the time the Willamette reaches the big river, it is already hundreds of miles long, when all of its tributaries are taken into account. It is, however, still fairly shallow and its bottom still rocky because it has not yet reached the deep soils of the broad, flat valley. The valley, confined between the Coast Range and the Cascade Range, extends northward to the Columbia River.
The year 1267 starts out dry, very dry, and the Willamette River is much lower than usual. In late August, the humidity begins to climb and thunderheads begin to build along the eastern edge the valley, where several storms unleash their brief fury. However, one storm, with much lightning and little rain, starts the southeastern edge of the valley on fire. The fire, driven by hot, east winds, races through the dead and dying grasses, through the streamside vegetation, and leaps the waters of the Willamette just north of its confluence with the big river. Now free of constraints, the fire seems to fling itself here and there, the one fire becoming a hundred fires, as the wind plays like a wild, unruly demon
The wind continues for a day or two. Then, as suddenly as it began, the wind dies away leaving the day heavy, hot, and still. Thick, greenish black smoke seems to be everywhere billowing thousands of feet into the air, and the day grows dark as the sun is blotted out. Great curls of smoke rise and tumble over one another as they push and joust and leapfrog their way to the heavens, only to become capped with a great, white cloud as the hot air from the fire condenses in the cold air high above the valley. The air on the floor of the valley is thick, and the sun, when seen, is a large, red ball suspended somewhere above the smoke.
The fire burns for days and spreads into the Coast Range where the forest becomes a raging inferno. Then, during the second week of September, the weather abruptly changes, and it begins to rain. It becomes one of those autumns when summer is suddenly over and winter begins.
It rains steadily for days and weeks and the streams and rivers rise. The Willamette is well over its banks by the end of December, and still it rains. In mid-December, a violent storm blows in from the ocean, and the combination of warm rain on snow causes rapid melting and runoff so everywhere it seems is water. The Willamette is a brown, roiling torrent, with pieces of trees and whole trees floating, bobbing, and swirling in its murky current, as the waters collect driftwood from every tributary and move it into the main river.
The storm, its energy spent on the second day, dissipates and the rain lessens. The solid, gray cover of clouds begins to open and here and there the sun shines through. As the flow of water subsides and its level to lower, its cargo of driftwood is redistributed along the entire arterial system of rivers and streams.
The area of the Willamette Valley into which the Willamette River flows, is richly vegetated by grasses and forbs and savannahs of Oregon white oak. Along the streams and the rivers of the valley, however, the shrubs and trees are so thick that when the early European explorers will encounter this riparian forest they will call it "brakes."
The valley bottom itself is largely devoid of trees because the indigenous people routinely burn the valley to allow them to hunt large game more easily by accentuating the boundaries between cover along the water ways and the open areas of forage. But along the Willamette River, the riparian forest is one to three miles wide and has a diverse species of trees that range from sugar pine on the dry, well drained soils to black cottonwood and Oregon ash in the wet areas. Both the width and the interior dampness of the riparian forest make it exceedingly resistant to fire.
The area of the Willamette Valley into which the Willamette River flows, is richly vegetated by grasses and forbs and savannahs of Oregon white oak. Along the streams and the rivers of the valley, however, the shrubs and trees are so thick that when the early European explorers will encounter this riparian forest they will call it "brakes."
The valley bottom itself is largely devoid of trees because the indigenous people routinely burn the valley to allow them to hunt large game more easily by accentuating the boundaries between cover along the water ways and the open areas of forage. But along the Willamette River, the riparian forest is one to three miles wide and has a diverse species of trees that range from sugar pine on the dry, well drained soils to black cottonwood and Oregon ash in the wet areas. Both the width and the interior dampness of the riparian forest make it exceedingly resistant to fire.
The vegetation of the forest along the river is aided by debris that accumulates as a result of floods and provides protected areas in which fine soils are deposited and seedlings grow. The forest is thus a diverse mosaic of ages and species of trees that is predictable on the basis of how wet or dry a site is, how often it is flooded, and how long it is submerged by high water. This rich forest is an intimate partner with the river.
The storm of 1267 left some trees of the forest partly submerged in the water with their rootwads entangled in the shrubs and young ash trees along the edge of the Willamette, where its channel divides into a multi-channeled river (also called a braided channel) that weaves its way in and out of islands, sloughs, and a broad expanse of riparian vegetation dominated by Oregon ash and black cottonwood. In other areas, accumulations of driftwood have been combed out of the floodwaters by the trees and dense vegetation of the riparian forest. And in still other areas, accumulations of driftwood lie exposed on gravel bars on the upriver edge of islands, or trapped on gravel bars against the river's high, steep banks in the great bends of its channel, where it meanders through the deep soil of the valley floor. Driftwood also blocks the openings of side channels and clogs sloughs. Here and there driftwood has been left lying amidst the prairie grasses of the valley floor along the edge of the river. In the river, occasional trees have their tops embedded in the muddy, slimy bottom in the middle of the channel with their naked roots stick out of the water like wooden fingers that clutch at passing driftwood. contents
One 70-foot piece of a Douglas-fir, which started its journey as a broken, fallen tree on the night of the great landslide in 1248, now lies where the receding water left it in a flood channel along the edge of the prairie just above the steep bank in a bend of the river. Today, the 3rd of January 1271, a Townsend mole, burrowing just under the surface of the prairie soil in search of food, bumps into the driftwood and is forced to make a detour.
Townsend moles are robust, compact mammals between seven and nine inches long. Their front feet are flat, pale pinkish, and scantily haired. The palms are nearly as broad as they are long, and the claws are broad, flat, heavy, and adapted for digging. The forelegs and shoulders are anatomically modified in such a way that the front feet are permanently turned outward. Moles have minute but visible eyes and long, tapering snouts. Their snouts and lower lips are pinkish and essentially devoid of hair. The tips of the noses are naked with crescent-shaped nostrils opening upward. The short, round, thick tails are slightly constricted at the bases and taper toward the ends. There are indistinct circular rows of scales and sparse, coarse hairs on the tails. The dorsal pelage is brownish black to black and slightly lighter on the underside. The pelage is composed of soft, flexible hairs, all about the same length. The hairs become smaller in diameter near the body, making the pelage much like velvet with a metallic luster when smooth. Such structure allows the hairs to lie in any direction, enabling a mole to go forward or backward in small burrows.
Townsend moles are primarily nocturnal, but are occasionally active during the day. Almost exclusively subterranean in their habits, they spend almost all of their time burrowing in the rich soil of the valley floor. Moles are essentially solitary animals that live in established, interconnecting burrow systems with little or no overlap. Should two moles meet, they frequently try intimidating each other or fight violently, with much soundless writhing, tumbling, and biting. Such aggressive or defensive behavior may be a manifestation of intense efforts to retain home sites. On the other hand, when crowded into restricted areas during times of severe flooding, individuals show some tolerance for one another.
Moles inhabiting low areas of sparse populations and poorly drained soils move greater distances than do moles inhabiting higher areas with greater densities in population and better drained soils. Poor drainage, coupled with a scarcity of earthworms—the moles' principal food—induces the animals to extend their movements and to seek higher terrain.
During the flood of 1267, moles in low-lying areas had their burrows inundated with water. Reluctant to travel on the surface of the ground, many of them constructed shallow burrows, following the upward contour of the land for great distances, ahead of the rising water. Some made it to higher ground only to be forced to swim when this area also became flooded. Although good swimmers, they were unable to orient toward higher terrain. Those that succeeded in reaching land were exhausted, and some, rather than burrowing, only buried their heads in the soil. When the floodwater subsided, over a hundred moles lay dead in the many piles of drifted debris.
The mole's season of reproduction begins in December, and females carry their young from February through April, when they give birth to litters that range from one to four, but usually two to three. At birth, babies are about two inches long and weigh less than two-tenths of an ounce. They are hairless and their skin is whitish to pink. By the time they are 10 days old, their skin is becoming bluish to blackish with developing hair. When 36 days old, they are about four and a half inches long and weigh almost three ounces. They are not only covered with short, soft hair but also begin at this age, or shortly thereafter, to leave the nest.
Because of the high, average, winter rainfall and the tendency of the soils of the valley to saturate with water during the reproductive season, female moles search for slightly elevated areas in which to construct their nursery nests. Such areas vary from a few inches to several feet above the surrounding land.
Nursery nests usually are situated under, or within three feet, of a single, large mound of earth called a "fortress," but they also may be located near the center of clusters of several normally sized mounds that are concentrated within a six- to nine-foot area. (The conical mounds of soil on the surface of the ground represent excess soil that the animals push out of their burrows as they dig them.)
Nest cavities are constructed from three inches to almost two feet below the surface of the ground. They are spherical, and average about nine inches in diameter and about six inches in height. Three to 11 lateral tunnels enter the cavities. Many cavities have a burrow, called a "bolt-hole" leading several inches straight down from the floor of the cavity, then turning up and joining an upper-level burrow. In addition to allowing a quick escape, the bolt hole also provides drainage.
Nursery nests are normally constructed several days before birth of the young and are composed of two layers. The inner layer, forming about 25 percent of the nest, is often made with fine, dry grasses, but occasionally with mosses or leaves. The outer layer is made with coarse grasses that are still green and frequently wet. Since the coarse grasses sometimes have their root systems intact, it is thought that a mole may gather the nest material in shallow burrows by grasping the roots of the grass with its mouth and pulling the whole plant underground. The coarse grasses are matted and interwoven to form a compact, protective shell about two inches thick around the dry, inner nest. Green grasses are added to the outer layer several times during the months the nest is occupied by the young.
As the wet grasses decay, they generate a considerable amount of heat that is largely retained in the nest cavities because there is no rapid movement of air to dissipate the heat. Nestlings are thus kept warm, even when their mothers are absent. The mother keeps her nursery nests clean of feces and other waste materials.
Young moles disperse at night during the month after weaning. Areas chosen by the dispersing young as home sites appear to depend more on the suitability of the habitat than on the number of moles already residing in the area. About 87 percent of the dispersing young will stay within about 30 yards of their birthplace. Thus, until another flood sweeps it away, generations of moles will burrow alongside and under the driftwood of the mountains that is now resting amidst the grasses and flowers of the prairie on the bank above the Willamette River. contents
Pond Turtle's Sunbath
Further down river, where the water runs slower and deeper in one of the tree-lined channels just off of the main channel, two drifted trees lie partially submerged just inside the mouth of a side channel. Held in place by their branches sticking into the mud of the channel's bottom, both are nearly horizontal in the water.
It's a warm, clear afternoon in late June, and a light breeze, blowing through the stately Oregon ash, causes the long plums of blue-grayish green lichens to sway. As the gentle breeze teases the pollen that has collected on the surface of the water, a western pond turtle pokes its head above the murky, greenish surface and clambers onto one of the partially submerged trees to join the dozen or so other turtles that are already warming themselves in the sun.
The pond turtle shares part of the river with its cousin, the painted turtle. The pond turtle is less brightly colored than its relative, and has an upper shell, called the carapace, that is dark greenish brown, dark brown, or blackish, often with fine radiating black and light yellowish lines on the large dorsal plates. The lower shell, called the plastron, is relatively light yellowish brown, sometimes with varied darker markings. The upper shell is widest just behind its middle, and both shells usually have growth ridges on the individual plates. Adults range from about six inches to seven and a half inches in the length of their upper shell. The head and legs are light to dark brown with scattered black markings.
Pond turtles are thoroughly aquatic and inhabit mashes, sloughs, moderately deep ponds, and the slow-moving portions of valley-bottom streams and rivers. They require sites for basking in the sun, such as partially submerged driftwood, mats of aquatic vegetation, exposed rocks, muddy banks, or may even climb a short way onto the branches of trees that dip into the water from vegetation growing along the banks. The turtles are aggressive when competing with one another for sites to bask. Such aggression involves biting, pushing, and open-mouth threats in which the bright edges of the mouth and the reddish tissues inside of the mouth are exposed and may serve as warning signals.
Although the pond turtles usually hibernate in the mud at the bottom of the river, they occasionally may be seen basking on sunny days during winter in the southern end of the valley.
By the time a pond turtle's upper shell reaches about five inches in length, the turtle is sexually mature. Males can be distinguished from females at this time because the male's lower shell is slightly concave toward the animal's tail, whereas the female's is flat or slightly convex.
Female turtles leave the water from late May to early June to find sites for their nests. Although they use sandy banks near the water when these are available, they may travel up to a hundred yards or more away from water into the sunny prairie to lay their eggs. Under these circumstances, they dig holes about four inches deep in the firm to hard soil, and lay between three and eleven elliptical, white eggs with a hard shell. Eggs range from one and a quarter to one and three quarters inches in length. Once the eggs have been laid, they are covered with the soil that was removed to make the hole in which they were laid.
When the eggs hatch, the youngsters' upper shells are about an inch long, as they immediately begin their journey to the water. They will have upper shells that are about two and a half inches long when they are two years old and about five and a half inches long when they reach 10 years of age. They probably attain sexual maturity when they are eight years old.
Being omnivorous, they eat such things as the pods of water-lilies, fish, worms, and carrion. contents
Muskrat, Pond Turtle's Neighbor
In addition to the turtles that use the driftwood by day, a muskrat uses it by night to climb out of the water and eat its food. Muskrats, which get their name from the pronounced, sweet, musky odor from the secretion of glands in the anal area, are the largest voles in the world. (A vole is often thought of as a "meadow mouse.") Adults range in length from about fifteen and a half inches to 24 inches, and they weigh up to three and a half pounds. They have small eyes and small ears; the latter are nearly concealed in the pelage. The pelage is composed of two types of hair—underfur and guard hairs. The underfur is short, thick, fine, and very soft, whereas the guard hairs, which are interspersed throughout the underfur, are long, coarse, dark, and shiny. It is the long guard hairs that produce the dominant coloration of the back and sides, which varies from a glossy dark brown to almost black, becoming more reddish brown on the sides. The throat, chest, and belly are dominated by the underfur and are lighter in color and duller because there are few shiny guard hairs, so the pelage is light reddish brown across the chest and belly but light gray on the throat and in anal area.
Muskrats are well adapted for swimming. They have "swimming fringes" of short, stiff hairs along the margins of each hind foot, including the webs between the toes. These fringes increase the surface area of the feet and aid in propelling the animals through the water. Their scaly, almost hairless tails are vertically flattened and act as rudders.
Muskrats are active throughout the year. Although they may be seen at any time, they are mainly active at twilight and throughout the night. Muskrats are not particularly sociable, even with one another. They are quiet mammals, both vocally and in motion, seldom attracting attention by making noise. When startled, however, they enter the water with a loud splash and may swim a long distance under water before coming to the surface.
In western Oregon, muskrats seldom build the conical or dome-shaped houses of vegetation for which they are famous throughout most of their geographical distribution. Instead, they dig burrows into the banks of whatever water they inhabit. These bank-burrows are evident where muskrats are living in "tidewater" near the mouths of rivers that empty into the sea. When the tide goes out, many of the entrances to their burrows are exposed until it comes in again.
A bank-burrow may be simply a tunnel leading into an enlarged chamber that is the living quarters, or there may be a series of chambers and tunnels. In some instances, a bank is so riddled by tunnels and chambers that it occasionally collapses under the feet of the native peoples as they hunt and fish along the river.
Muskrats that live in the rivers of the valley have burrows with entrances from six to fifteen inches below the surface of the water during its low level of summer, but some may be as deep as two and a half feet below the surface. Burrows ranges from about five to eight inches in diameter and from about six to twenty-seven feet in length. The tunnel terminates in a spherical nest chamber that is above the level of the water and is between twelve and fifteen inches in diameter. The nest proper is composed of a bulky, loose mass of vegetation, primarily the leaves of cattails when these are available.
Muskrats eat a wide variety of plants, such as cattails, rushes, sedges, skunk cabbage, pondweeds, water lilies, deerfern, and swordfern. In addition to plants, they occasionally eat small pond turtles, freshwater snails and clams, crayfish, fish, and some salamanders. In turn, muskrats are eaten by mink, their principal predators, as well as river otters, coyotes, bobcats, and great horned owls.
Male muskrats are reproductively active from March through November, whereas females are receptive active from May to October. The usual size of a litter is six to eight, but as many as fifteen young are occasionally born in a single litter. A female will raise at least two litters, and sometimes as many as three or four in a year. Under optimum conditions, this may translate into sixteen to twenty young being raised in one season by a single female.
The gestation period is about twenty-nine days. At two weeks of age the youngsters can swim, dive, and eat green vegetation. Although young muskrats grow rapidly, they do not breed until the year after their birth.
The drifted trees that the young muskrats will come to know during their first summer may not be permanent features in their lives. If they live long enough, they will witness flooding of a magnitude that will free the trees from their moorings in the river's bottom and, being largely water-logged, they will sink somewhere in the Willamette River, never again to resurface.
Over the next twenty years, floods come and go. Each flood moves downriver some of the driftwood that originated in the great landslide of 1248. Finally, riding the crest of a series of severe storms in the winter of 1291-1292, a few pieces, primarily the large portions of whole trees, begin to join the waters of the mighty Columbia River after a journey of more than 200 miles from the cold, swift stream on the slope of the Cascade Mountains that flows south-southwest into the big river in the valley bottom that flows west into the Willamette and its complex of channels that flows north into the Columbia.
Having moved by fits and starts, having briefly rested in quiet pools, having crashed through rapids and cascades, having been beached away from the water between floods on bars of gravel and sand and on valley terraces, and having been flung over the great falls of the Willamette, where Oregon City is now located, the first driftwood to reach the waters of the Columbia has been traveling 43 years. Travel-worn and partly rotten, the driftwood is smaller than when it started.
Here it is necessary to understand a little of how floods work in moving driftwood. If it is a big flood that initially deposits a piece of driftwood, say a whole tree, on the shore of an island or on a gravel bar, it generally will take a storm of at least equal or even greater magnitude to refloat the driftwood and to move it quickly downstream. For example, if a big flood, with an interval of recurrence every fifty years, is followed over the next decade or so by floods of the magnitude that tend to recur at two-, five-, ten-, or twenty-year intervals, then the driftwood will not move very much. If, however, the driftwood enters the big river or the Willamette on a flood of the magnitude that normally occurs once every ten years, and this is followed over the next decade of so by floods that normally occur every twenty, thirty, or fifty years, then the driftwood is moved either further up the bank or downstream.
In a large, multi-channeled river, such as the Willamette in its upper valley, relatively small floods can move and store a great deal of wood via another mechanism. As the height of the river rises, the floating wood, including whole trees, accumulates at the bends of the channels and often forms dams that clog a channel's ability to carry the flood waters. The water then backs up, and the turbulent floodwaters find an alternate route through the valley bottom.
In the process of creating a new channel, more trees topple into the river and are carried downstream. The adjacent riverside forest and trees from the forests upstream combine to connect the river with its valley by creating new aquatic habitats, such as oxbow lakes. (An oxbow lake is a U-shaped bend in a river that is cut off from the river as the river shifts its course but which retains is water.)
Rivers are dynamic, migrating laterally across their valleys, cutting off their bends, and continually eroding some of their banks only to build others downstream by depositing the soil carried in their waters. Streamside forests add to this mutual, physical process by stabilizing banks and combing the floodwaters for fertile sediments and driftwood, which makes floodplains such rich areas for farming.
A multi-channeled area of a river is more dynamic than a single channel because large driftwood in multi-channeled areas clogs side channels and sends floodwaters downstream by another routes. Thus, floods of intermediate size that occur every ten to twenty years can move a great deal of wood.
So it is that each piece encounters different circumstances along its journey and thus becomes part of a never-ending story of cause and effect through the long corridors of time. Some, for example, becomes entangled in streamside vegetation; some is detoured into side channels; other pieces become stuck in the slimy mud of the river's bottom, where they eventually become water-logged and sink to remain for centuries as habitat, because water-logged wood is slow to rot. The rest will lie somewhere partly in or near the water and rot, or become partly waterlogged, or both, so that from storm to storm there is less of it for the water to transport. Thus, through the decades and centuries, driftwood from the mountains is consumed by the river to flow in its current, unrecognizable in form yet vital as its life energy. contents
© chris maser 2008. All rights reserved.