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Botanical Getaway

Summer Field Botany class goes on the road

The Green Tortoise sits at the shoreline of Lake Helen near the 10,457 foot peak of Mt.  Lassen.
Photo provided by Ken Carloni
The Green Tortoise sits at the shoreline of Lake Helen near the 10,457 foot peak of Mt. Lassen.

From the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the crest of the Cascade Mountain Range, Botany professor Ken Carloni has been opening the eyes of students and community members to a whole new world with his annual field botany tour.

Carloni will lead students on a six day journey starting June 17 that will tour some of the planet’s most diverse ecosystems in southwestern Oregon and northern California.

 “I have run around this area for the better part of 40 years now,” Carloni said. “I put this tour together of all my favorite places.”

In addition, students will travel in a little bit of style provided by Green Tortoise Bus Tours. Founded in 1974, the San Francisco based tour company hosts trips all across North America.

The buses are virtual transformers. Their spacious communal seating has the ability to convert into bunk-beds which provide sleeping quarters if needed.

For the first leg of their journey, Carloni and his band of botany enthusiasts will board the Tortoise and head for the Siskiyou Mountains.

“This Klamath/Siskiyou area is truly one of the most botanically diverse areas in the world,” Carloni said. “We are going down through the Siskiyous first, and we’ll camp on the Smith River. They have a really neat campground there called Panther Flat.”

Members of the 2013 Botany Tour visit the Redwoods.
Photo provided by Ken Carloni
Members of the 2013 Botany Tour visit the Redwoods.

The following day students will visit the Redwoods, home to the tallest trees in the world.

“We have the next day to go through the big trees at Newton Drury. Then we will do the Lady Bird Johnson grove in the afternoon and then camp south of the parks that night,” Carloni said.

A trip to Mt. Lassen will calm any worries about a post Redwoods letdown. The 10,457-foot Lassen is the southern most active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. 

“We will wake up at Lassen, and visit the Northern Lakes. There is some really cool botany around those lakes,” Carloni said. “We will also visit Bernie Falls which is spectacular.”

MacArthur-Bernie Falls, the second oldest state park in California, is a breathtaking waterfall that forms from a series of underground springs, culminating in a 129 foot drop across a volcanic rock face.

“Bernie Falls is really the most hidden gem. Everybody has pretty much heard of or visited Lassen, Crater Lake, or the Redwoods,” Carloni said. “Bernie Falls is one that not a lot of people know about.”

The next leg of the trip places the group at the Lava Beds National Monument east of Mt. Lassen.

“The Lava Beds is a desert ecosystem, but it’s blooming in late June,” Carloni stated. “The wildflowers are just crazy.”

However, the desert environment will not be the tour’s sole purpose for stopping.

Botany tour veteran and BioChemistry major at UCC, Nikki Jonson remembers the petroglyph walls of the Lava Beds as being the highlight of the tour.

“You stand in a giant basin that once held water and look up at a towering wall of Native American art,” Johnson said. “You feel like you have traveled through time. It’s just an incredibly humbling experience.”

The Lava Beds are also the sight of “Captain Jack’s Stronghold.” During the Modoc Indian War of 1872-1873, approximately 50 Modoc warriors and their leader, Captain Jack, used a twisting maze of lava tubes and the harsh terrain provided by the volcanic landscape to their advantage in a standoff against the U.S. Army.

Botany students will visit MacArthur-Bernie Falls, California’s second oldest state park.
Photo provided by Ken Carloni
Botany students will visit MacArthur-Bernie Falls, California’s second oldest state park.

Against overwhelming odds, Captain Jack and his men held the Army at bay for five months before succumbing to U.S. forces.  

The tours’ final destination is a June 22 stop into our own backyard with Crater Lake. Students finish up by winding their way back home down the North Umpqua Highway.

Some may argue that $650 is too much for a six day journey into woods. In addition, some express reservations about the trip being difficult physically.

Carloni explains the tour is all inclusive. All lodging, meals, gas, and park fees are included. In addition, Carloni assures that it doesn’t require participants to be in ideal shape.

“If you remotely like being in the outdoors, and getting out into this environment around you, then you can’t go wrong. Some folks call three stars instead of four roughing it. If that’s the case maybe this tour is not for you.” Carloni said. “The range of ecosystems, from the ocean to the crest, to the rain forest and the desert, where in the world do you get that kind of diversity of habitats? Not very many places.”

While the trip may be all-inclusive, it also doesn’t hurt that a guide is provided.

“Ken Carloni is a fabulous guide who will answer all your questions and beyond,” Johnson stated. “I could not suggest a more knowledgeable, down to earth tour guide.”

There are only four seats remaining for the 2014 summer botany tour. Students and community members still have time to sign up for it as a community education class. For more information, contact Dr. Ken Carloni at (541) 440-7641, or ken.carloni@umpqua.edu.