Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis) in Northern California's Klamath Mountains

Shasta region whitebark pine

6. Goosenest - coming soon

7. Whaleback

8. Haight Mountain

9. Antelope Creek RNA

10. Ash Creek Butte

11. Brewer Creek (Mt. Shasta)

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Whaleback - 8,528'

Just to the north of Mount Shasta are two 8,000+ foot composite volcanos. One of them is unnamed and the other, and highest, is called the Whaleback. This area is actively being salvage-logged, included fringe lower elevation whitebark pine forests. High mortality in lodgepole pine from mountain pine beetle is common and whitepine blister rust is also present.

The Whaleback
From the summit of the Whaleback looking through and old-growth forest of whitebark pine toward Ash Creek Butte.

The Whaleback interior crater
In the center of the volcanic mountain is a small crater. Within that crater high mortality is beingcaused by mountain pine beetle attacks, especially in the lodgepole pine but also with the less-common whitebark pine.

The Whaleback summit
From the summit, looking toward the other nearby unnamed peak, you can see the high lodgepole pine mortality in the basin—and the salvage logging operations going on because of it—as well as the whitebark and lodgepole mortality on the north-face..


West Haight Mountain

This was my favorite whitebark-destination in the Mount Shasta region. It is extremely difficult to get to as you have to travel a long, arduous, 4-wheel drive road from the isolated town of Tennent, but once there a wonderland of wildness awaits. The hike from the road to the summit of West Haight takes you through hemlock and fir forest, a spectacular volcanic basin with pika surviving in the large boulder fields and golden eagles soaring above, as well as old-growth forests of whitebark pine filling the entire basin. This basin also held the only evidence of fire in whitebark pine forest outside of the Warner Mountains.

West Haight Mountain
Looking east across the basin below West Haight toward Haight Mountain (which I did not climb). This entire picture is filled with whitebark. On the right (south and east) there are Cercocarpus ledifolius on the windswept, fire-prone ridgelines.

Haight Mtn Ridgeline
This wind-swept south-facing ridgeline used to be dominated by old growth whitebark pine but these trees are now being encroached by white fir due to both the lack of fire and climate change.

West haight Mountain
From the summit looking southwest toward Antelope Creek RNA and the McCloud River country.


Antelope Creek RNA

Antelope Creek was designated a Research Natural Area by Todd Keeler-Wolf because of its unique natural features, including stands of whitebark pine. This is a remote destination that requires driving active logging roads and hiking through clear cuts. Once within the RNA however, a wonderland of lakes, hemlock-fir forests, and high-country heaven awaits.

Antelope Creek RNA
Above Antelope Creek Lakes, whitebark pine cling to the ridgeline—here looking toward Ash Creek Butte and Mount Shasta.

Antelope Creek whitebark pine
High mortality (~50%) was observed in the whitebark pine along the ridgeline between Rainbow Mountain and Antelope Creek Lakes.


Ash Creek Butte Fossil Rock Glacier Geologic Area

Talk about difficult to access. This area was swarming with active logging and the large vehicular travel that comes with it. Once in the north-facing basin, it was a walk back in time. Old-growth hemlock forest decorates the interior of the volcanically created and glacially carved cirque while the high-elevation ridgelines hold pure whitebark pine forest. The whitebarks did show signs of both blister rust and mountain pine beetles, but overall the populations are healthy and vigorous. Find more information here from the forest service.

Ash Creek Butte Fossil Rock Glacier Geologic Area
As the smoke began to roll in from the southern Oregon wildfires, views from the summit of Ash Creek Butte were still rewarding. The basin is an amazing formations that is still holding snow after a dry winter. New habitat is opening up on the north face of the crater and being pioneered by whitebark pine due to snowpack that has been decreasing for many years now.


Brewer Creek Trailhead - Mount Shasta

I am ashamed to say that the only way I had seen Mount Shasta before this summer was from the Bunny Flat Trailhead. I targeted Brewer Creek because of its proximity to other whitebark pine destinations to the north and east of the peak. I was not disappointed. Brewer creek offered whitebark pine forest mixed with Shasta fir, western white pine, and mountain hemlock as well as windswept and diminutive pure stands at higher elevations that were outside the ecological amplitude of those other species.

Brewer Creek - Mount Shasta
Looking east toward Ash Creek Butte, this windswept whitebark pine forest was suffering from branch die-back, particularly in the "newer" leaders. These leaders seemed to diverge from a ground-creeping bauplan that was successful when snowpack was deeper and lingered longer.

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