“Spirit of the Forest” by Debbie Catalina

Abbott Butte spruce Photos by Kathleen Pyle

June fifth. Still spring. Delicious mist blanketing the valley. My car hugging the twisting, curving road, the road hugging the higher ground, and the high ground itself hugging the selvages of great flat stretching southward. Thoughts wandered. What would our class be like? What would the other students be like? What was SFI like? What would the teachers be like? What would we learn of the “Spirit of the Forest”? Soon I would know.

Soon tires were crunching on the gravel. Soon my feet were crunching along the gravel path to a door that opened into a great room where tables and chairs and a white board announced that this was where the class would begin. Exhibits of maps and animals and artifacts lined counter tops and walls of the room, and soon our instructors arrived. An enjoyable morning, a rambling group discussion of tips, techniques, and getting acquainted. Over lunch, several of us shared a bench on a patio facing the fields. Swallows chattered to nestlings in the eaves. Lizards scrambled about on a low stone wall.

“Look!” one of us exclaimed, and turning collective gazes, we saw to the east, immobile and floating on the thermals, a great raptor. Suddenly, it folded its wings and fell to the earth like a stone – only to rise again with lunch clasped tightly in its taloned-grasp.

More sharing in the afternoon: this time, from our instructors, Diana Coggle, reading from her own published work, and from Mart Turner with a photo essay of his own work.

Crunching back across the gravel to the road in the afternoon, then our feet raising tiny puffs of red dirt hiking along the road until we reached a trail heading, up, up, and up – still following the trail along the side of a canyon – delicate scents of dry cedar and bay laurel on the air, pine, madrone, and great black oaks, scattered across the open wood, down into the steep canyon, then back up again to the top where giant and singular oak stood defiant, a sentinel watching over all.

Golden shafts of light, moving fast, refocused our attention from minute to minute from the sweep and geometry of the landscape and back again to the ferns, the vines, the bark, and the stones.

That was when I saw it: single powder-blue bloom, smaller than a penny and all alone in a similarly slender shaft of light, like a tiny diva, a lone finale in a spot-light in the middle of a great, great stage.


From the idyllic valley, over the river, then through town we went, carpooling on day two toward distant peaks until finally angling away from the highway and toward the wistful and piquant peaks of the Siskiyou Crest.

The road twisted and turned, occasionally flashing its brilliant green-brown-black serpentine sides in the sun. I squinted into the glare.

We followed the mountain side. Fir and cedar replaced madrone and oak. Slopes angled ever more steeply up, trees grew larger, and soon we were catching occasional glimpses of great deep canyons below.

We spent the day on the mountain, cool and moist among the great dark conifers in the morning then in the afternoon climbing at last to a rocky prominence that felt like the top of the world.


This was a fabulous day, a day of solitary wanderings, finding our own pictures, creating our own narratives.DSCN4690Though shy at first, I finally felt that the forest had flung her doors wide, sharing raptors, flowers, rocks, trees, smells, sounds – and even clues to great mysteries.

I think about this adventure still; my trip to the watershed was itself a watershed for me. It was of great to benefit – from three days in a group of like-minded souls and distinguished, established artists sharing their insights with us, learning new skills, to making new memories and just having fun, but it was a bit more – something I am still conceptualizing – and that is this: the only force that can save this planet is the love and the magic that only she herself can unleash.

This is the magic that’s hiding in the Spirit of the Forest, the spirit we need to unleash, and we will only be able to unleash it to the extent we can sharpen our skills in it to others, as suggested by these famous words: “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

~ Debbie Catalina

Debbie Catalina is working toward her SFI Naturalist Certificate. She received a Siskiyou Audubon Society scholarship in order to enroll in “The Spirit of the Forest” taught in June 2015 by photographer Mark Turner and writer Diana Coogle.

Posted in Adult Education, Biodiversity, Forests, Klamath Siskiyou bioregion, Natural landscapes, Nature photography, Nature writing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Capturing the Spirit of the Forest by Caci Dunahoo

Edited_DSC00745Siskiyou Field Institute held an amazing class on The Spirit of the Forest the weekend of June 5th through the 7th. The class was about capturing the spirit of the forest through pictures and words. Dr. Diana Coogle taught the writing portion of the class. While exploring the forest, Dr. Coogle had the class take notes. Then she helped us translate the notes into writing. In addition, Dr. Coogle taught the class the importance of prompts and playing with different literary techniques. When the class completed their rough draft writing, she assisted us with editing tips and guidance.

“Just as you cannot blame the pen for what the author writes,” stressed Mark Turner, the photographer teaching the class,  “the camera doesn’t take a good or bad photo, it’s what’s behind the camera.” Mr. Turner led the class on a photography field trip to the forest and taught us how to look for the elements of a good photo and techniques for composing publishable photos. After spending most of the day photographing the forest, the class selected their favorite photos. Then Mark shared a variety of editing techniques and tools. At the end of the day, the class selected photos and pieces of writing to go together and presented their final pieces to the rest of the class.


I learned so much from this class and I am so grateful for meeting the other students. Spending so much time connecting to the spirit of the forest inspired me. I took a photography class in high school but Mr. Turner taught me more in three days than I learned in two years. Hearing Dr. Coogle’s writings and having her assist me with my own writing was helpful, too. I am happy to have the opportunity while assisting with youth education and maintenance at Siskiyou Field Institute. SFI let me attend the class on scholarship as a member of AmeriCorps NCCC. I’ve had wonderful experiences at SFI!

Digital Camera

All photos by Caci Dunahoo

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Botanizing at Poker Flat by Chelsea Reha

Poker Flat botanizers

The SFI “Crash Course” botanizers at Poker Flat. Photo by Chelsea Reha.

Poker Flat botanizing 2“Advanced Plant ID Crash Course” at Poker Flat” with Linda Ann Vorobik was a relaxing and educational three days of botanizing at Poker Flat, as well as at the Siskiyou Field Institute’s beautiful Deer Creek Center. Our small class size made it possible for Linda to address everyone’s questions and
comments as we worked. Her botanical artwork was a wonderful and unexpected bonus.

The course began with a lesson in plant anatomy and terminology, complete with excellent handouts featuring Linda’s detailed illustrations. Featured plant families of the course were Cyperaceae, Asteraceae, Juncaceae, and Poaceae. They are all challenging families with specially modified anatomy and unique terminology. Although it was late in the season, we found plenty of plants to key along Deer Creek and in the adjacent fen. Among the many things that we identified from Deer Creek Center were Glyceria grandis, Panicum acuminatum, Carex mendocinensis, Carex nudata, Juncus orthophyllus, Juncus xiphioides, and Deschampsia cespitosa; all common and lovely native plants of Selma.

Poker Flat students

Class members trying to identify a sedge with instructor Linda Vorobik (second from left). Photo by Chelsea Reha.

2014 0710 Lili pard pard LOW RES

Lilium pardalinum wigginsii and pollinator friend photographed by Linda Vorobik.

2014 July Care ampl LOW RES

Carex amplifolia at Poker Flat. Photo by Linda Vorobik.

Botanizing at Poker Flat  was naturally the highlight of the course. Poker Flat is a 25-acre meadow located just north of the Siskiyou Wilderness at about 5500 ft. elevation. It is very plant-diverse and rich in native flora. As we wandered through the meadow, Linda pointed out plants that we collected or jotted down on our species lists. I was very impressed with Linda’s knowledge as well as the enthusiasm of the class. Botanizing with other plant lovers is awesome! We identified dozens of species from Poker Flat and the surrounding area. We encountered many native Carex, Juncus,

and Luzula species as well as many native members of the family Poaceae such as Danthonia californica, Hordeum brachyantherum, Elymus elymiodes, Elymus glaucus, and Phleum alpinum.

This was a great class and I look forward to more classes from Linda Vorobik and from the Siskiyou Field Institute.Taking this course expanded my botanical knowledge as well as my appreciation of the Siskiyou Field Institute and the enthusiastic students and educators that the institute draws to our unique region. As a resident of Selma, I feel so fortunate to have this resource in my backyard. Thank you to everyone who has contributed whether as an educator, student, board member, volunteer, etc. May the Siskiyou Field Institute have continued success in the beautiful Illinois Valley!

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July 2014 Dragonflies in Josephine County

This past weekend, Dave and I taught a 2-day workshop on “Dragonflies in the State of Jefferson” offered through Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma, Josephine County, Oregon. Day 1 was our usual Introduction to Dragonflies, and Day 2 was our only “Intermediate” level class. In the Intermediate class, we go to rivers and a high mountain lake.


This racer snake is visibly digesting a recent meal.

We visited 4 sites over the 2 days; the wind on the first day was in our favor while we were at Lake Selmac. Not only did it keep us cooler, it caused many Odes to perch in the nearby willows. This lake has an abundance of skimmers, esp. Widow and Eight-spotted, and also many Common Whitetails. Almost totally lacking were any Damselflies and the Meadowhawks. Temperatures ranged from 82 to 96 degrees during the day.

Flame Skimmer

Flame Skimmer

IMG_1785vIn fact, Meadowhawks were extremely scarce the whole weekend….maybe 4 individuals seen in total. In past years we’ve found 35 species including 5 kinds of Meadowhawks. I wonder why they were ‘no-shows’ this year?

After a classroom session on Sunday morning, including an hour on dragonfly migration by Celeste Mazzacano who’d JUST returned from Mexico, we ventured out to the Forks of the Illinois State Park, then on to a small pond at an old mine site, followed by our drive up to Bolan Lake at ~6000′ elevation in the Siskiyou Mountains. Temperatures this day ranged the high of 95F when we left the Forks of the Illinois, to 76F at Bolan Lake.


Yellow-legged frog








Here’s a list of the species that at least one of us saw:


Day 1 – S=Lake Selmac; D=Deer Creek & Darlingtonia fen (both in Selma, OR)

Day 2 – I=Forks of the Illinois Rv SP (Cave Junction); W=”Waldo” pond, west side of road at Waldo Mine site; B=Bolan Lake (both accessed from the road into Happy Camp, CA)

River Jewelwing – I
Northern Spreadwing – W
California Dancer – D, I
Emma’s Dancer – D, I
Sooty Dancer – D, I
Vivid Dancer – D, I
Boreal Bluet – S, B
Pacific Forktail – S
Western Forktail – I, S
Black Petaltail (dead) – B
Shadow Darner – B (in-hand)
Common Green Darner – S, B
Blue-eyed Darner ? – S
Bison Snaketail – D, I
Western River Cruiser ? – I
Pacific Spiketail ? – D
American Emerald – B
Western Pondhawk – S, I, W
Chalk-fronted Corporal – B
Eight-spotted Skimmer – S, I, W
Widow Skimmer – S
Twelve-spotted Skimmer – S
Four-spotted Skimmer – B
Flame Skimmer – I, B
Blue Dasher – S, W
Common Whitetail – S, I, W
Variegated Meadowhawk – S, W
Cardinal Meadowhawk – S
Black Saddlebags – S

We’re hoping to hear reports from several new Oregon and Washington Dragonfly enthusiasts now here on this discussion group!!

Special thanks to Day 2 participants Gary Shaffer, Norm Barrett and Celeste Mazzacano who helped with finding odes and identifications.

IMG_1782DragonflyGroupCeleste also gave a presentation about the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership sponsored by the Xerces Society.


Kathy & Dave Biggs

The Biggs

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Field Sketching by Mary Raby

Just wanted to share some of my pictures from the field sketching class taught by Linda Vorobik. The class was fun, relaxed, and inspiring. I learned about plant identification and botany — this was my goal but I was pleasantly surprised to also get an art class complete with field sessions and helpful critiques. Thank you, Siskiyou Field Institute, for such quality learning in such a beautiful setting.

— Mary Raby

Vancouveria by MR

Vancouveria hexandra, the inside-out flower.


A darlingtonia photographed by Mary Raby.




Mary sketching beside a stream outside O’Brien.


Some of the sketch-worthy forms we saw in the field included a convolvulus




a lomatium, or desert parsley,


a sedum


and the colorful leaf bracts of an Indian paintbrush.

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Siskiyou Mountains and Streams: A July Class with a View by Paula Springhart


SFI’s Siskiyou Mountains and Streams class started with a moderate 6 mile hike of about 600 ft. elevation gain and a 360 degree view once we reached the top of Mt. Elijah.


We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day and a more stimulating and diverse experience.  The class involved birding, botanizing and stream-and-fish ecology, presented by expert naturalist, Rich Nawa.  Oh, and did I mention the evening private tour of the caves by mystic storyteller, John Roth?


Scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)

Even though it was near the end of the season for most blooms, the higher elevation Bigelow Lake meadows  were awash with hundreds of red and yellow flowers (Scarlet Paint Brush and Bigelow Sneezeweed).  Also there was a sighting of Washington Lily, a bloom that perfumed the air with  gorgeous fragrance.


Washington or Cascade Lily (Lilium washingtonianum)


California corn lily (Veratrum californicum).

The first evening of this two-day class, we all gathered at the Oregon Caves Chateau for a sumptuous dinner.  It was here that I started paying attention to the layout of the Monument buildings, pathways, and the Chateau itself. They were so cleverly and expertly designed to almost seamlessly wed wilderness, comfort and ease.   It is a tribute to the many people, Civilian Construction Corps, architects and contractors that their craftsmanship, care and commitment still remains for us to enjoy.

ImageStudent Ron Johnson at Bigelow Lake, abundant with Spatterdock (Nuphar polysepala).

CA Sister on Spruce - Mt Elijah

California Sister butterfly aboard a spruce on the Mt. Elijah trail.

The second day was full of cool splashing waters and tall shade giving trees.  We descended to Caves Creek behind the chateau, viewed aquatic insects on the undersides of submerged rocks, viewed aquatic insects on the undersides of submerged rocks, viewed and learned to identify rainbow fry from salmon fry by looking at them from the banks of the creeks using binoculars.  Enjoyed the trail along Grayback and concluded at the historic Grayback campground.

Photos from left: Base of glass canning jar imbedded in pillar of foot bridge, along Caves Creek trail; hikers headed for Bigelow Lake; student Kathy Mechling standing by Big Tree; a gold variant of Castilleja; Alice Eastwood erigeron (Erigeron aliciae) formed cheerful throngs along the woodland and meadow trails.

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State of Jefferson Dragonflies by Kathy and Dave Biggs


Photo of Kathy Biggs and students by Dave Biggs.

Introduction to State of Jefferson Dragonflies

We taught a 2 day workshop at the Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma, OR. The first day we teach a ‘beginner’s’ class and take the folks to Lake Selmac to see the Skimmers, a few darners and some pond damsels. This lake is Ode-intense….I’ve NEVER seen more Widow Skimmers anywhere. They flew all about us, in-wheel, in-tandem, in pursuit, in battle, in all, great!! The Autumn Meadowhawk was a first for the workshop.

Eight-spotted Skimmer

Eight-spotted Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

Our species list, all seen at Lake Selmac, except for those marked as occurring on Deer Creek and the Darlingtonia Fen behind it.

Autumn Meadowhawk, first sighting at Lake Selmac. Photo by Dave Biggs.

Autumn Meadowhawk, (teneral female) first sighting at Lake Selmac. Photo by Norman Barrett.

Lake Selmac species list, July 27

Grappletail, Deer Creek fen
 W. Pondhawk
8-spot Skimmer
Widow Skimmer
Flame Skimmer

 Blue Dasher
 Co. Whitetail Cardinal Meadowhawk
AUTUMN Meadowhawk, one teneral female, photos taken
Black Saddlebags, ‘tramea dance’ observed
Emma’s Dancer, Deer Creek
Sooty Dancer, Deer Creek
Tule Bluet
W. Forktail
Pacific Forktail
C. Green Darner

Intermediate Dragonflies

The 2nd day of our Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma, OR. we teach an ‘intermediate” class and then take the folks to Forks of the Illinois River State Park where we walk up the river in hopes of finding River Jewelwings and then search the rocky shoreline for Clubtails. This year we saw no Jewelwings as we walked up river to the small backwater area where they are usually the thickest….had just apologized to the group for probably arriving too late this season, when a bunch of females and one male showed up. Yey!!
At Lake Bolan, 5440’, we found thousands of bluets, every grass blade had one! …plus those in flight.

Species list for Forks State Park and Bolan Lake July 28th

I=Forks of the Illinois Rv.
B=Bolan Lake
D=Deer Creek

River Jewelwing – I, 5 f,1m
Emma’s Dancer – D, ~6
California Dancer – I, assumed this species, several
Sooty Dancer – I, several dozen; D, half dozen
Vivid Dancer – I, a few
No/Bo Bluet – B. abundant – both species have been recorded here before
Pacific Forktail I, a few m&F
Western Forktail- I, 1m & 1 f
Shadow Darner – B, 4 in-hand, more present, assumed this species
Common Green Darner – a male in flight
Pacific Clubtail – I (possibly this species photographed, awaiting Alan’s photos)
Bison Snaketail – I, ~10, including some males and females in-hand
Pacific Spiketail/Western River Cruiser -I,  possibly both species seen, but only from a distance
American Emerald – B, one female in hand. Other Emeralds over the lake assumed to be this species.
Eight-spotted Skimmer – I, 4-6 males
Four-spotted Skimmer – B, 1 male in-hand
Flame Skimmer – I, 2 males
Variegated Meadowhawk – I, 1 female photographed


Female bison snaketail photographed by Dave Biggs.

Male Bison Snaketail photographed at Forks State Park, Illinois River

Male Bison Snaketail photographed at Forks State Park, Illinois River

Other dragonfly photos by student Alan Harper (Shown photographing horizontally below): http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanharper/sets/72157634868633220/

Norm Barrett

Dragonfly hunter Norman Barrett examines a netted species.

Class best Intermediate Dragonflies class on the lookout in Bolan Lake.
Photo by Daniel Newberry.
Dflies Class Biggs
Intermediate class at the Illinois River.
Photo by Dave Biggs.
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