Andrews Forest old growth canopy - after the rains
Old growth understory
Lookout Creek drainage, McKenzie River Valley: this place feels as though it ought to make salamanders happy, and by living here for a short while, I hope to more fully grasp the haunting uniqueness of the Inyo Mountains slender salamander. One file in the Andrews database lists eight salamander species as occurring here, although I suspect that a thorough search might yield a few more. In any case, one of the documented species is the Oregon slender salamander, Batrachoseps wrighti; along with the Inyo Mountains slender salamander and the Kern Plateau slender salamander (Batrachoseps robustus), the three species form a single lineage, united by several unique skeletal traits and similarities in their mitochondrial DNA. It’s a puzzle to me that, although B. campi and B. robustus are isolated from one another by only thirty miles, while the ranges of B. campi and B. wrighti are separated by six hundred miles, the genetic differences among the species are roughly equal.
The Andrews, then, has attracted me for two reasons - the way in which it contrasts with the Death Valley region, and the presence of a close relative of the Inyo Mountains slender salamander. It is a perfect place in which to study and contemplate old growth forests, of course, but by virtue of contrast, it also is a wonderful environment in which to reflect on what I witnessed in the desert. I desire contradiction and diversity.... This morning, before I went walking in the rain, one Andrews staff member apologized for the weather, and said that it was too bad that I’d “hit a bad week.” No worries; I want dampness, fog, and rain – just not so much that it soaks through my rain gear, and makes me whine.
Rough-skinned newt, Andrews Experimental Forest