Shady Dell- It Tried to Kill Me!

The words Shady Dell brings up images in my mind of a seedy motel in Florida. There would even be an alligator farm nearby. I tried but couldn't find that seedy motel but there are a heck of a lot of alligator farms in Florida.

The Shady Dell in Arizona looked interesting if you're looking to experience the 1950's.

Nine lovely, fully restored vintage aluminum travel trailers await you at the Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona. Whether it is the 33 foot Royal Mansion built in 1951 and restored with leopard carpet, martini glasses, Diner-style breakfast booth and phonograph with a collection of 78rpm records, or the 1947 Tiki Bus Polynesian Palace, complete with hand-carved outrigger bar and your own Tiki God, the Shady Dell’s individual trailers will surely send you back to a time when freedom was just another word for jumping in your aluminum house on wheels, finding the Rat Pack on the radio and navigating the open road in search of your own slice of the American Dream.

It might be a place to stay if I ever get to Ramsey Canyon, a famous birding area.

Our Shady Dell in Mendocino County is also near a noted birding spot known as Usal Beach Campground.

After a winding 35-mile drive north of Fort Bragg on Northern California’s remote craggy coast, you reach a hidden road. Beyond it, shrouded in fog, beckons a magical redwood forest fit for the set of a fantasy movie. Sword ferns, moss and lichens blanket the forest in green. Delicate orchids and trillium accent the duff. The silence is so profound it’s as if the forest is holding its hands over your ears.

…the plan includes a trail to lead visitors through the best parts of Shady Dell. Louisa Morris, Director of Conservation and Trail Programs at Mendocino Land Trust, is working with the League to lead the project.

Trail construction will begin on June 15, 2015, thanks to support from members like you and the California State Coastal Conservancy, which has contributed $3.4 million toward the forest’s purchase and the planning and building of the path.

“Creating a trail that will take people to the spectacular features of this forest is really exciting,” Morris said. The trail will add 2.3 miles to the Lost Coast Trail, fabled for leading hikers north through neighboring Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and beyond.

Now Shady Dell doesn’t have official trails, and it’s not ready for the public. Morris’s goal is for the trail to lead visitors along the towering cliffs and through the stand of candelabra trees. Construction is tentatively scheduled for completion by summer 2016.

“The candelabra trees are unforgettable,” she said. “You’ve never seen redwood trees like these. My vision for the trail is that you’ll come around and suddenly, there they will be. It will be magical.”

Where you might ask is Shady Dell?

The Shady Dell Creek property is adjacent to the 7,800-acre Sinkyone Wilderness State Park to the north and the 49,500 acre Redwood Forest Foundation property to the east, which is conserved by a working forest easement. Also to the north is the Sinkyone Intertribal Wilderness Council land, which connects to the 60,000-acre King Range National Conservation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. To the south are lands managed by Soper-Wheeler, a private timber company. Elevations across the property range from nine feet to 938feet and slopes from 0-80%.

The 957-acre property contains a variety of highly valuable habitats, including one mile of coastline with sandy beach and steep coastal bluffs, as well as riparian and forested habitat types.The coastal bluff scrub provides habitat for as many as five sensitive plant species, including Mendocino Coast Indian Paintbrush. Records from the California Natural Diversity Database indicate several occurrences of an old forest lichen named “Methuselah’s beard lichen” (Usnea Longissima) on the parcel, suggesting complex forest structure. The property also offers habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl and large fauna such as elk, deer, bear and bobcats. Early to mid-succession redwood and Douglas fir forest surrounds Shady Dell Creek, a tributary of Usal Creek, which supports habitat for Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout.

What is the project?

The planned trail corridor will meander through redwood forest, coastal bluff scrub and coastal prairie habitats. As designed, the trail will largely be constructed along the footprint of an existing legacy logging road, which will minimize any impacts to the plant and animal populations present. The trail route will include a ten foot buffer to avoid impacting a rare moss population (Fissidens pauperculus – poor pocket moss) discovered during the botanical study.

The proposed project involves construction of a 2.3 mile pedestrian trail which will include three wooden boardwalks, retaining walls, interpretive and directional signage, stairs(231), benches, a 25-foot pedestrian bridge, a viewing platform, and a small parking area. Most of the trail will be constructed on a legacy logging road and require minor vegetation removal. The trail has been designed to include a ten foot buffer to avoid any disturbance to a rare moss (Fissidens pauperculus) found to occur in the vicinity.

The History of the site can be found here.

The acquisition, completed Oct. 27 (2011) and announced today, is part of a complex transaction designed to preserve 50,635 acres of redwood forest in a remote coastal area north of Fort Bragg where environmental activists and loggers once battled over the fate of California's stands of timber.

You might be asking why I'm writing about this? Short answer is that the Mendocino Land Trust(MLT) contracted with me to do breeding bird surveys along the trail path. The long answer is there are various state agencies involved in the project and permits were needed for parts of it. The granting of these permits required the MLT to do these breeding bird surveys. Because of my volunteer time with the Big River Bird Surveys I was asked if I would like to be involved. I said yes and on April 14, I received the word that the team of Nicolet Houtz, MLT's Trails and Stewardship Coordinator, and myself had been approved by the California Department of Fish & Game to conduct the surveys. It was a historical day. The first time I have ever been paid to bird.

Based on the title of this post, maybe I said yes too fast. First of all I learned that I would have to get up at 2AM to get up to Usal Beach at sunrise. On June 4th, Nicolet, Louisa Morris, MLT's Associate Director (and master trail planner) and myself traveled to the project site to survey the south section of the trail. I remember the quote well. “we will have to do a little bush-whacking”. Bush-whacking in this case means hiking an undeveloped trail on the side of a sloping hill through poison oak and California Blackberries. Your footing starts to slip and you reach out to grab something and you get a handful of thorns or something else. At one point where the non-existing trail overlooks the ocean some 900 feet below I found myself hanging on for dear life looking down on that ocean. I started calling Nicolet and Louisa mountain goats.

After getting over to the interior section of the trail they had me climbing over fallen Redwoods and other types of trees. At one point my foot started slipping into the Shady Dell drainage. I believe it was Nicolet who said, I had better hang onto the tree because she had dropped a water bottle down into that drainage never to be seen again.

When we finished that section of the trail they decided to head back the way we came. The problem with that decision was that it was all uphill. I started falling behind. Legs were hurting, heart was pounding and I was breathing heavily. Had to stop frequently. The conversation between Nicolet and Louisa when they had to wait for me probably went something like this. “It looks like it's going to take a longtime to get back to the trailhead at this rate. Maybe one of us should go on ahead and bring the truck down the road to the trail.” That's what happened. Louisa went on ahead while Nicolet made sure I didn't get lost. I know the conversation didn't mention calling 911 because there's no cellphone coverage at Usal. I had to recuperate for a week and I think I still have thorns in my hand.

I learned my lesson from that survey. Started to pump the exercycle at the Woods where I live. I was going to be ready for the next one.

They started the trail on the 15th of June. Who are they? There are two groups helping to build the trail. One is the California Conservation Corps known as the CCC. I believe their motto is, “hard work, low pay, miserable conditions…and more!” The problem with the CCC is that they can be called away to fight fires at anytime. By a strange stroke of geography the Fortuna CCC crew was doing the work instead of the Mendocino County crew out of Ukiah.

The other group is AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps programs do more than move communities forward; they serve their members by creating jobs and providing pathways to opportunity for young people entering the workforce. AmeriCorps places thousands of young adults into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship.

I've heard that the hazards of trail building has taken it's toll on several of the workers. Two had to be taken out of the area to get steroid shots for poison oak. There has also been a Mountain Lion sighting that kept one of the cooks in a vehicle for part of a morning. I've also heard that campers in the Usal Campground play loud music and partake in lot's of booze and drugs during holiday weekends. It is also the only local place in the area where you can have lunch with a Roosevelt Elk. He's waiting for you to just stop by.

On July 2nd, Nicolet and I arrived to complete the bird survey on the north end of the trail. I had looked at a topo map of that section and decided that it should be easier on me but…I found out that the first section went straight up the side of a hill. It was going to be the place where most of the 231 stairs were going to be built. I did Ok on the hill because I was the leader and could control the pace. “STOP let's listen here” was my motto for the day. It was my first visit to the “Enchanted” Redwood Forest with it's Candelabra Trees. Being a big Lord of the Rings fan it reminded me of an elven or even an Ent forest.

At the top of the hill it mostly leveled off and the old logging road took us to the north side of the Shady Dell drainage. Handled the way back well with no one having to wait for me to catch up. That exercycle may have paid-off.
Nicolet did find something interesting at the top of the trail. There was a trail and game camera attached to a tree. We waved and smiled as we went by.
The plan is for the trail to be finished in August with finishing touches added in September but that may depend on the fire season. Word of advice. If you are out of shape and want to walk the entire trail start at the south end. More of your walk will be downhill. Have a vehicle waiting at the other end.
My work on the trail is done and I should be ending this post here but during my research I came upon some documentation of a contradictory nature concerning trails. Another title of this post could have been, Care to Join the Debate–Trails or no Trails. Those of you who read my blog know that I've used that theme for several of my posts.
It seems that all trails are not created equal.

More and more studies over the last 15 years have found that when we visit the great outdoors, we have much more of an effect than we realize. Even seemingly low-impact activities like hiking, cross-country skiing and bird-watching often affect wildlife, from bighorn sheep to wolves, birds, amphibians and tiny invertebrates, and in subtle ways.

Impacts from outdoor recreation and tourism are the fourth-leading reason that species are listed by the federal government as threatened or endangered, behind threats from nonnative species, urban growth and agriculture.

You'd be surprised by the ripples left by a day-hiker's ramble through the woods. In 2008 Sarah Reed, an associate conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and her colleagues found fivefold declines in detections of bobcats, coyotes and other midsize carnivores in protected areas in California that allowed quiet recreation activities like hiking, compared with protected areas that prohibited those activities.

“That is the kind of difference that you don't see often in ecological studies,” Dr. Reed said. Dogs, a frequent villain, weren't the issue for these carnivores; people were, according to her research.

Birds get ruffled, too. Researchers who studied trails around Boulder, Colo., found that populations of several species of songbirds, including pygmy nuthatches and Western meadowlarks, were lowest near trails. “There's something about the presence of humans and their pets when they go on hikes that causes a bit of a 'death zone' of 100 meters on either side of a trail,” said Prof. Rick Knight of Colorado State University.

You can read the article here. It would appear that trail builders are starting to take notice of these impacts.

Typically, the impacts to wildlife from trails aren’t as great as those from intensive development. More and more, however, we realize that— no matter how carefully we tread and no matter how much we desire to “leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures”— building trails can effect wildlife. By entering an area, we may change the ecology of a system that is complex and frequently hard to understand.

Sometimes the effects of building and using a trail are minor and fleeting. Other times they may be more substantial and long-lasting.

The state of Colorado has developed a handbook on the subject. Closer to home is this, Public Access and Wildlife Compatibility Report, developed by the San Francisco Conservation and Development Commission.

There is evidence that public access may have adverse effects on wildlife. Adverse effects on wildlife from human activities may be both direct (such as harassment or harvest) and indirect (such as habitat modification), and effects can be both immediate and long term. Immediate effects may include: nest abandonment (which may increase risk of predation of eggs or young), flushing, increased stress, which can lead to reduced feeding or site abandonment. Long-term effects may include decreased reproductive success, decreased population within species, or decreased number of total species. If improperly sited, public access may fragment habitats and serve as predator access routes to wildlife areas.

Potential adverse effects from public access can be addressed through the employment of siting, design and management strategies to avoid or minimize adverse effects, including such strategies as use restrictions, buffers, periodic closures or the prohibition of public access in specific areas. Siting, design and management strategies can be effective in avoiding or reducing adverse effects on wildlife.

As you read above, the Shady Dell Trail will “largely be constructed along the footprint of an existing legacy logging road, which will minimize any impacts to the plant and animal populations present.” The path to the Candelabra Trees is already known and being used by the public. A well planned access trail will prevent damage to the surrounding habitat. The crews have already remove an abandoned vehicle from the location and cleaned up a dump site but there will be a trail in parts where no trail existed before. In this day and age nothing is black and white. I do know that in working with the Mendocino Land Trust I have developed a new appreciation for the capabilities of their staff and their goals.

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir














2 thoughts on “Shady Dell- It Tried to Kill Me!

  1. I suppose the good news is you didn’t get poison oak, nor fall into the Shady Dell drainage. Thanks for this informative post

  2. Hey Richard. As I was reading the first part of your blog I was thinking of Edward Abbey. He probably wouldn’t approve of a trail, although he was more against paved roads. Stan and I hiked with Erin around Boulder and we were never out of site of many other hikers no matter how far we went. Busy place.
    Talked to John and found out he spent his birthday in the hospital. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He really needs to say good-bye to Wells Fargo. I don’t know why he puts himself through that. Hope your birthday was much better. I’m leaving in a few hours for Las Vegas. It will be good to see everyone but I am really becoming a recluse. Just want my peace and quiet.

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