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The Gaardes’ Hells Hollow Tree Farm

(May 2013)

Tree Farms are either inherited or purchased. We purchased our 80-acreTree Farm in 1977. It is located at 3,000 feet near Groveland, Tuolumne County, just west of the West entrance to Yosemite National Park. The area is designated on topography maps as “Hells Hollow,” the seasonal creek that runs through the property is called “Hells Hollow Creek,” and it is on “Hells Hollow Road.” Our Tree Farm is affectionately referred to by our family as “Hells Hollow.” Apparently the name was derived from the area’s extreme hot and cold temperatures.

The property has incense cedar, ponderosa pine, black oak and sugar pine. The property was part of a homestead in the area and at the time we purchased the property it was owned by Alma Pavid. The property was in the Pavid family when Mrs. Pavid married Leander Pavid. Mr. Pavid was a Professor at UC Berkeley and Mrs. Pavid was a student there. Mrs. Pavid told of the two of them traveling to Groveland from Berkeley on a bus and being met in Groveland by a neighbor who brought them to the property in his buckboard. The cabin on the property was brought from a neighboring site to its’ present location in 1916. The picture of the cabin shows Mrs. Pavid sitting on the front porch on her honeymoon in 1921. This still is the center part of our cabin which was built with full dimension lumber. Prior to our purchase, two bedrooms, bath and storage area were added. Electricity and a well were added in 1982.

During the first 20+/- years of owning the property we were raising our four children and primary use of the property was on weekends and summer vacations for family fun with Christmas tree cutting parties, cutting firewood, outings with family and friends, and our children bringing their friends for weekends playing in the woods. On one occasion we supplied the nursery school children each with their own seedling cedar tree to replant in their back yards in the Valley.

Ralph Barbara Gaarde
Ralph Barbara Gaarde
Ralph Barbara Gaarde

In 1999 we learned from an article in the Farm Bureau newspaper, there was to be a meeting of “Forest Landowners of California” (FLC) with a field trip to the Allen Edwards tree farm in Colfax. We signed up for just the field day trip in hopes of learning what the organization was about and spent the day in the forest with others who owned tree farms. We decided that we could learn about managing a Tree Farm from this group. We joined that same year and have been members ever since. We are also members of the American Tree Farm System and our tree farm is ATFS certified.

We realized we had a lot to learn! In 2000, we did a Timber Harvest Plan with a neighbor and our first commercial thinning of 188MBF was done on the property. We participated in an EQIP program, masticating approximately 53 acres of brush, black oak and manzanita. We then replanted 4,800 pine trees. The trees in the replanted areas are now nine (9) to ten (10) feet tall and growing well. Keeping up with the manzanita and black oak resprouts continues to be a challenge today. There is a never-ending clipping and spraying.

We learned about a Non Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) through FLC and in 2003 we had one prepared for future planning. This past year, 2012, we did our first entry under the NTMP harvesting 220MBF. We also participated in an additional thirteen (13) acre EQIP program masticating portions of the property that still had large quantities of brush and manzanita.

The seasonal creek attracts deer, bears, mountain lions and other critters to the area for water. A trail camera captures the evidence. There are many different wild flowers, favorites being Shooting Stars, Indian Warriors, and Mariposa Lilly. Spring and summer bring a good variety of birds, e.g. humming birds, nuthatches, grosbeaks, juncos, a variety of woodpeckers including pileated, stellar jays and ravens, just to name a few. Especially amazing are the lady bugs that at times cover the trees, bushes, and the ground. They winter in the same locations each year and then migrate to higher elevations, returning in the fall.

We are thankful that our family has been able to use and enjoy this beautiful property during these past thirty five (35) years and look forward to many more years of working on the land and enjoying our Hells Hollow Tree Farm.