The kill zone

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A couple weeks ago while we were up in the Mammoth Lakes area we visited another of Jack’s Lodgepole Pine tree sampling sites. Except instead of being in a burned out forest on Glass Mountain (like I showed you earlier) they were in a CO2 kill zone adjacent to Horseshoe Lake in the Mammoth Mountains.

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What exactly does that mean? Basically, there’s so much CO2 coming out of the volcanic soil that it’s killing everything on the surface.

If you pitched a tent on this land so much CO2 would collect in it overnight it would kill you.

Whoa, huh?

It’s a pretty amazing sight. Everything is white, ashy and kind of wintery looking with tree skeletons and fallen timber. It’s really quite beautiful if you ignore the whole “it could kill you” aspect.

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We tromped all over so Jack could visit his sampling sites and check for progress since his last visit. Turns out a lot more has died in just a matter of weeks.

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One of his sampling sites, marked unobtrusively with a small stake and metal flag 3-inches long and barely noticeable against the ashy backdrop.

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The CO2 kill zone is adjacent to Horseshoe Lake, a popular place for people to come walk their dogs off leash. Just 100 yards away the forest is green and lush.

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I am constantly amazed at how different landscapes can be from one mile to the next.

I’m experienced enough to expect radical changes in the landscape as we drive down the road or hike the next hill. Intellectually I’m jaded. And yet I’m always blown away when I witness it, like I’ve never seen the metamorphosis before. It’s still shocking and delightful every time.

Fascinating.

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