Ankang, Day 2 - To the Wilds

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On our second day in Ankang, we would get up and travel to Nan Gongshan National Park, about 3 hours southwest of Ankang, near the town of Lan Gao.  This area is well-visited by tourists.  As we entered the area, there were many billboards advertising whitewater trips as well as opportunities to see a lot of wildlife.

The landscape from Ankang to Lan Gao was slighly different than what we had seen between Yichang and Dalaoling.  The major difference was the slope of the mountains - very, very steep!  Even steeper than what we encountered at Dalaoling.  As a result, there was not as much cultivation (although there was still a lot of it).  We hardly saw any tea planted here, most likely because of a difference in climate (too cold, we imagined). 

In Lan Gao, we picked up the Director of Forestry for the area, Mr. Liao.  Between Lan Gao and Nan Gaoshan, we briefly stopped at an area where reforestation efforts with Chinese chestnut ("ban li") were underway.  We asked why Chinese chestnut.  They replied that the species would not only provide stability for the mountainside (vs. planting corn or rice), but that it would also provide a crop at the same time.  Although the trees would be weeded (by hand) and planted in rows much like in an orchard, because the trees were being planted as part of an afforestation project, they would be overseen by the local forestry administration, no agriculture.

Before lunch, we would also travel to an area where some local people were cutting Castanea henryi for firewood.  As we climbed up the muddy road, the sound of chainsaws and axes grew louder and louder.  As we approached a local home, we met several local loggers actively cutting both Castanea henryi and Castanea mollissima.  We stopped to chat and measure a couple of the felled Castanea mollissima.

After meeting the loggers, we continue to climb up the mountain, past the house and through their garden, to an area where the loggers had already cut several specimens.  It was actually somewhat lucky to have them cut as we had an opportunity to look at the growth and count their ages. 

We took data on a handful of trees and then had a decision to make.  We could either hike on up about 2 miles to see a large stand of Castanea seguinii or we could make our way to the Park to begin looking at the trees there.  Having eaten so much food as we had, my vote was for the hike, but I was overruled (and for good reason - we would see more Castanea mollissima in the Park).  We would make our way to the park and, with it, lunch!


More farming with terracing.  Terracing is even more necessary in this area.  And notice the vegetables growing right along the side of the road.  Someone on the bus quipped about how this is one place [China] where you could definitely get hit by a car while gardening.

Though hard to differentiate in this picture, this whole hillside is covered in planted Chinese chestnuts as part of reforestation efforts.  The trees toward the bottom of the hill are about 1-2 years old.  The trees at the middle of the hill are about 3-4 years old.  And those at the top of the hill are about 6 years old.  Previously, this area would be cultivated for other crops, likely corn and/or rice.


The mountains here are steep and big!  Farming has to be chore in this area.  While travelling through this area, Fred H. used this opportunity to tell one of his favorite West Virginia jokes.  Something like: "A fellow was going down the road in West Virginia and spotted a farmer lying in the middle of the road.  He went up to the farmer and said 'Hey mister, you alright?'.  The farmer said, 'Yeah, I reckon.  But that's the third time this week I've fallen out of my cornfield.'".  Actually, that's probably the kindest joke about West Virginia that was told during this trip.  But actually, we saw several cornfields where you definitely could fall out.  It's much steeper than WV.


Measuring a fallen Castanea mollissima with the local loggers.


Castanea henryi nut and bur.


Castanea henryi leaves and burs.  The leaves of C. henryi are more like those of Castanea crenata (Japanese chestnut) than any other species.  C. henryi leaves are typically more narrow (especially true of sun-leaves) and are totally glabrous (without hairs) on the underside.  C. crenata has many stellate hairs and 9-celled trichomes on the underside.


Songlin and Fred work their way up through the fallen trees.  All of those trees are chestnuts, either C. henryi or C. mollissima, cut primarily for firewood.  These trees were all approximately 28-32 years of age.


Cut portion of Castanea mollissima with Kim's pen. 

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This page contains a single entry by SARA FITZSIMMONS published on October 8, 2008 1:47 PM.

Ankang, Day 1 - Chestnut Orchards was the previous entry in this blog.

Nan Gongshan National Park - Wild ban li! is the next entry in this blog.

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