Treasure Island with Michael – 10 October 2016

Coming by my other address lewiszuelow since my l.zuelow seems to be having some issues.


Thoughts of reading Treasure Island in Classic Comics while I was growing up came to the surface as we met at TI with Michael last Monday. With that title a mood is set for adventure, not only a search for buried treasure but also a mysterious and menacing cast of characters . . . most unlike our hiking group! Well, maybe, we’ll try for mysterious.

We who live in the North San Francisco Bay area recall that Robert Louis Stevenson spent the summer in 1880 on his honeymoon with his bride, Fanny Osborne, in the Napa Valley at an abandoned mining camp on Mt. Saint Helena. From this experience came his book “The Silverado Squatters”.

But I digress, Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay was constructed in 1936-37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition or World’s Fair.
It was made using quarried graywacke boulders as a surround atop Yerba Buena Shoals quarried from nearby Yerba Buena Island. The interior was then filled in by dredging up vast amounts of fill from San Francisco Bay. In a nice bit of irony, a lot of that fill came from the destructive hydraulic mining of the gold rush in the Sierra Nevada which was washed down to the bay by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Sadly this bay fill contained less treasure and more toxins from mining operations in the 19th Century containing Mercury, Arsenic and Asbestos. Fortunately and wonderfully District Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer favoring the farmers of California banned hydraulic mining on January 7, 1884 declaring that it was ”a public and private nuisance”. Yet the legacy of this mining continues today.,_San_Francisco

Since our last hike here, the island has become an enormous construction zone with large tracts behind cyclone fencing showing cautionary signs for radiation. The U.S. Navy seized the island in 1942 which along with adjoining Yerba Buena Island became a command and communications center for the Pacific Fleet. The island was also used for repair and salvage operations including the fleet of ships exposed to atomic blasts in the Pacific after WW 2. The Navy held classes in radioactive warfare in the later 1940s when sailors were trained in cleaning radioactive contamination on a “mocked-up ship perhaps appropriately called the USS Pandemonium – no doubt just a bit of Navy humor.


Morning fog obscures the San Francisco skyline with the Bay Bridge and a huge cruise ship gaining definition for the day. The views from TI are splendid and walking around the island opens up new vistas in every direction. Like Angel Island and Alcatraz the perspective changes, you are afforded an angle on things that you may have never seen before. We thought we knew how things looked but the new view says “not so fast”.

The fog continues to lift as Michael gives some background to the foreground. He talked about early soundings of San Francisco Bay using ropes with knots every six feet and the painstaking process of measuring the Bay. Since the basis for TI was Yerba Buena Shoals, an area that was hazardous to navigation and only 27 feet below the surface, you can see the value of this effort. We began to ask questions about depth knots and speed knots and how they differed? Here’s a clear explanation:

Cormorants gather on an abandoned dock with a piece of the Golden Gate Bridge at middle right “growing” out of the Presidio and mid-photo is the Raccoon a US Coast Guard ship used to clean debris from the Bay. It docks at the Bay Model in Sausalito. On Monday its mission was to assist in raising a small yacht which had sunk in the Bay during Fleet Week due to overloading.
Regarding the cormorants, I think Michael said that the white by the head is a pattern of Pelagic Cormorant Immatures. Need to up my game of Cormorant couth:

We are walking along the Riprap Greywacke boulder border for Treasure Island. Mined from nearby Yerba Buena Island the Greywacke rock is a part of the Franciscan Complex on the west coast. Seeing Franciscan Assemblage, I envision a large group of monks gathering in Assisi.

The Avenue of the Palms was the esplanade of the 1939 San Francisco Exposition and now is the scene of heavy equipment reshaping the area for a projected new city with housing complexes, hotel and even the possibility of the George Lucas Museum. The museum which has challenges in finding the right location might resurrect some of the character of the 39/40 Exposition. As the voice over concludes he says of this Western World’s Fair, “Too soon it will be too late”.

Clockwise we have a Cat that likes the water – seems to be tamping down the sand, perhaps a radiation monitor with its own portable generator, a construction zone in San Francisco as well at the top of high rises, and that radiation sign we don’t see much of these days.–235499911.html

Armand oversees a picnic at the north end of TI, lunch with a view of Richmond to the north, east bay to the right and center and just a suggestion of Marin to the left. There was stalwart fisherman at the end of riprap who did some kind of boulder ballet to get to his private fishing spot on the bay.

A Pelagic Cormorant relaxes on a slippery slope – he’d just finished his wing extend, a to be identified plant near our lunch spot, fog lifting over the Tiburon Peninsula and (where does a speedboat leave off and a yacht begin?) a yacht leaving not quite a turkey tail in the breeze – in the background left is the tower of the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley hills. Did you know that the Claremont had a slide fire escape?

“Original airport terminal building, another of the early uses planned for Treasure Island. Pam Am’s famous Clipper would circle and land in the bay, and then taxi in to the adjacent Clipper Cove.” Boeing 314 documentary with some footage of Clipper Cove. Pan American Clippers taking off from Clipper Cove This is a fascinating aural account from a very special blog that sadly has gone into hiatus.

Clipper Cove last Monday with a view of the new eastern section of the Bay Bridge. Scott reminded us that it has a functioning but incomplete bikeway.

We walked around this still in tact part of Treasure Island, nearby were two huge hangers.

In anticipation of international commercial air service, Treasure Island was originally slated to become San Francisco’s second airport,

operated simultaneously with Mills Field (now San Francisco International Airport.

A 3/30/32 rendering (courtesy of Tim Tyler) depicted the proposed Golden Gate Union Air Terminal on the north end of the island,

with 2 intersecting runways & a row of hangars on the southern side of the airfield.

An undated (circa 1930s?) artist’s conception looking northwest at the planned Treasure Island Airport.

It showed the 2 seaplane hangars & terminal which would eventually be built on the south end,

along with a never-built series of 9 runways emanating from a central point on the north end of the island.


We walked out on a wide, long pier that was once used by the navy for larger ship landings and on Monday had two enormous tugboats used for moving ships around the bay and for fire suppression.

The tugs are contracted with Standard Oil in Richmond, California and also work around the bay. They are owned by Foss Maritime which was founded in 1889 by Thea Foss (1857-1927) and her husband Andrew Foss.
Note that the tug in this video does not have the fire suppression system (in orange at the rear of the tugs that we observed). Foss lists Seattle as home port and this video is taken in Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington A friendly crew member came out and talked to us about the tug and what it does, he is one of four on duty all the time on the tug.

Statuary in front of the Pan Am Air Terminal, to the left is Spirit of India, Female 1938, by Jacques Schnier (American, 1898-1988). this is one of twenty sculptures produced for the Court of Pacifica at the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. Another sculpture by Schnier and you guessed it, Spirit of India, Male 1938. The building was designed to be an airline terminal, but World War 2 intervened and instead the entire island became US Navy base. This has a great video from that time (with those authoritative narrators) describing the Exposition.

The catamaran ferry from Vallejo steams by the cruise ship and then a tug makes its way past with the Transamerica Pyramid providing a visual.
Michael talked of the San Francisco Bar Pilots special role in SF Bay navigation. Then a sailboat passes Angel Island with Fort McDowell (East Garrison) in the background and the Vallejo Ferry outward bound to as one person called it Valley Joe.

Michael finds a bit of naval history along the trail, Inge looks across the bay at the lifting fog, Sue and friends maybe looking at terns diving in the water for sardines or was it anchovies and thanks to Paul for taking my picture as everyone else looks seaward.

I can hear the ukuleles now. But no, the fog has lifted and . . . we are still on Treasure Island looking over to Mt. Tamalpais, our Marin touchstone.

The Great Beach of Pt. Reyes with Michael – 26 September 2016

“For it’s a long, long time from May to December, But the days grow short when you reach September. . .” from “September Song” by
Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson. What happened to our long, sunny evenings – all of a sudden it seems dark at dinner?

I recall humming this chorus when I was a newsboy delivering the Schenectady Gazette in the late 1940s and having only a little idea of its bittersweet qualities. It sounded romantic and poignant and that was enough for me. Now I read that it came from 1938’s “Knickerbocker Holiday” and was about Peter Stuyvesant, 1647 governor of what was later New York and a portrayal of a “semi-fascist government in New Amsterdam”. Bing Crosby recorded it in 1943 and Frank Sinatra in 1946. I think I’m remembering and hearing Sinatra rather than Crosby in my memory. Later it was Sinatra for sure with “Autumn Leaves”, I recall hearing it while I was driving across the Berkshires on the border of Massachusetts and New York State in 1957. And just maybe having watched the great BBC TV show “From May to December” starring
Anton Rodgers, Eve Matheson and Lesley Dunlop in the 1990s may have helped to keep those memories fresh.


Every good hike needs to start at the Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station.

Just a half hour away is our destination at South Beach, a part of the Great Beach of Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Usually called Pt. Reyes Beach but sometimes called 10 Mile Beach most accounts now credit it with 11 miles. It is an enormous strand on the north side of the Pt. Reyes Peninsula and “Great Beach” does it justice.

Michael gave a brief description of our tidal patterns with visuals courtesy of the Great Beach’s tabula rasa. This is a really complete explanation and description including equations for amplitude, you can go deep or just have fun surfing its waves.

Bullwhip kelp, Nereocystis can be sculptured, played for music, jumped with, weaponized or eaten.
Sadly, it also needs help.
This seems to be a pattern in the southern hemisphere as well.

Variations on a theme:

Watching some Semipalmated plovers in the photo and thinking as well about the Western Snowy Plover’s breeding locations further east on this beach. The struggle to save the Western snowy plovers (North Beach, Kehoe Beach and Abbott’s Lagoon) is ongoing. really captivating video with lots of valuable insights – This link begins with a description of the work being done by Carolyn Campbell, a Snowy Plover Biological Technician. If you scroll down you will find an account of our own, Michael Ellis, Field Institute Instructor as well. – a short, lovely video of plovers in fight over the nearby Limantour Beach – those “Mesmerizing Murmurations” .
How Do Starling Flocks Create Those Mesmerizing Murmurations? | All About Birds

Talking to the group about invasion and displacement of native beach grasses by European beachgrass (Ammophilia arenaria) which, despite its romantic Latin name has been a devastating invader. In the photo the beachgrass is closest to the group and before that we have a native dwarf coyote brush in bloom. Sadly it is intermixed with ice plant, another invader, in red. While the focus of this link is the restoration of native dune grasses at Lanphere Dunes in Humboldt Bay, the story is very similar on Pt. Reyes Beach, in fact, the photos are almost interchangeable. discussing the impact of Ammophilia on Tidestrom’s Lupine Excellent summary!

Around 1869 John McLaren is credited with the first introduction of European beach grass on the west coast when he used it to stabilize the sand dunes to create Golden Gate Park. It was a remarkable process turning what they thought of as “sand desert” into an amazing park for San Francisco.

And just a bit of information on “highway ice plant” in the invasive plant world. Best not to use the term Hottentot fig which is a pejorative.

and last but really first the Dwarf Coyote Brush’s poetic description from San Marcos Growers:
Baccharis pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’ at San Marcos Growers

Lunch not in the Redwoods but on a Redwood log at our hike’s apogee with the surf surround sound. The plastic bag is being used to collect plastic debris we found along the beach. Michael’s visiting friend Viola picked up the bag from the beach and then picked up plastic debris we found along the way (with a little help from her friends) keeping out at least something more going into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Nice definition of gyre in the course of the article so now you know what Lewis Carroll was referring to in his spectacular Jabberwocky.

My very favorite YouTube:

Clockwise – a mussel shell seemingly fashioned in Italian marble, the fin of a Bottlenose Dolphin (you’ll recall Flipper) from a pod that swam by us sporting & playing the water (did I try to get them in mid-air, oh yes), bull kelp with driftwood collar or is a driftwood with a mike and Ammophilia arminaria, the villain in our story.
Michael said that the dolphins are from warmer southern California waters, recent arrivals with the ocean warming. Bill Keener who is a friend of Michaels said that poignantly, one of them died along Ocean Beach in San Francisco recently washing up on shore. Its mate stayed nearby in the water for a long time – keeping company with the one lost.

The return with the dogs front and back in center, the Dachshunds traveling together.

Taking a break on our Good Ship Lollypop

Adios to those waves until next time

Climbing Mt. Burdell with Michael – 12 September 2016

Come with us for tales of yesteryear or perhaps better, yesterweek and welcome – it’s fun to share. This time the descriptions and links are above the photos, in other editions they have been below. Do you have a preference – what works best for you? Let me know if you’d rather not receive these.
Best thoughts, Lew

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It is the time of Turkey Mullein and Tar Weed. We know for sure that Autumn is on its way and
even a bit early with these cool evenings
and a Harvest Moon.
Wakened by the clarion calls of Canada geese
v’d overhead in ever larger formations,
we sense they too have the restlessness of
a changing season.

The first hike of the fall is a time of renewal after a summer of exploring. Perhaps it was in the nearby with hikes in the San Francisco area and maybe beyond to Washington’s Lake Chelan, Vancouver or Newfoundland. Further afield Michael was leading a trip to Brazil’s Pantanal near the equator. Others in the group were far above the equator heading into arctic waters. We are definitely a group of travelers and that adventurous spirit continues as we head into the discoveries of Footloose Fall Hikes 2016.

Gathering at the San Andreas gate in good spirits, it’s a sol n sombra crowd.

Just up the hill we circle the wagons to share our summer adventures, just a “group of friends”. We also get to relate to some four footed hikers

Stopping at the top of the first rise to group-up at two path choices – a V in the trail, remembering Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” or perhaps the trail not taken. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost – Poetry Foundation

Every autumn we walk along different dry trails and are amazed by the robust qualities of these two plants coming into their own. Inge also added that turkey mullein is called doveweed and we speculated on that description. Why do you think? – This one done with a swell sense of humor, who would have thought a botanist could break out!

I recall talking with Judith Lowry one time and hearing her enthusiasm for tarweed (as well as the rest in the array of California natives). After this, I began to look & sniff again appreciating them spread out along the way, out in the fields and into the hills. Their distinctive tarry odor – she describes its “clean pungent aroma” is a definitive. She points out that they are not limited to autumn which is when we usually notice them.

The explication of turkey mullein is somehow clearer with the hands.
The Fascinating Science Behind ‘Talking’ With Your Hands | Huffington Post

Inge spotted this hawk in a California buckeye tree. She thought that it was perhaps a Northern Harrier but we wished for a scope to clarify the siting.
David Lukas writes in his BAY AREA BIRDS, “Flying mere feet above the ground, harriers patrol grasslands and marshes searching for voles, birds, reptiles and other small animals hidden in tall grasses, mostly relying on sounds to capture their prey with pinpoint accuracy. These hunting flights can be quite dramatic to watch as harriers systematically crisis-cross fields in grid-like patterns and zero in on their prey with acrobatic pull-ups, cart wheels, drop- pounces, and other fancy wingwork.” p. 70, Bay Area Birds.

The tree we know, some its distinctive fruit is still hanging on after its typical early leaf drop.

A juvenile Pacific gopher snake that we spied crossing the trail. Some thought about a young yellow bellied racer but that tale is much longer as Michael wrote in his email. This one seemed comfortable after it warmed up in Michael’s hand.

Into the horizon

Dry pond on Mt. Burdell, it’s summer time and the living is grassy. Michael talks about the female frogs sleeping below the grasses (the life below) and asks us to listen to their songs.

A fog bank hangs in on the coastal hills:

Framed with some Buckeye fruit we’re settling down for lunch in the high grass. We were treated to a wonderful flock of ravens soaring on the breezes. All at once a red tailed hawk dove down almost snagging one of them – high drama in the meantime.
Perhaps the hawk regretted his boldness.

Heading back down we’re able to pick up on some of the views we missed. Here is one of the rock quarry atop Mt. Burdell. From the California Journal of Mines and Geology you can scroll down to, “Mt. Burdell was the source of hundreds of thousands of hand shaped andesite paving blocks. Since paving blocks were often used for ballast on sailing ships, when next you admire a cobblestone street in Europe, check to see if there is a country origin stamp crediting Novato as the source of the materials.” Cf. this article ‎

And a view of the former Fireman’s Fund Insurance complex and our transportation backbone, Highway 101 at the Atherton/San Marin overcrossing, with surprisingly few cars at this time of day.

On the downslope making our way through some scree and gaining momentum

Back at the San Andreas Gate, “The beginning is the end is the beginning” (Thanks to Smashing Pumpkins.)

Billy Collins has a great poem, “Aristotle”, about beginnings, middles and ends from his collection PICNIC, LIGHTNING, 1998 University of Pittsburg Press.

Footloose Spring 2016 – Finale Potluck at Michael’s Casa – 6/13/16

Hi Everyone,

Many thanks for your warm welcome back which Pat and I much cherished and appreciated. It was amazing to be back on the inside looking out rather than the other way round. Your kindness and caring from Michael through the group of our Footloose friends was felt throughout my recovery time like a helping hand up through a rough place on the trail. It’s been like a protracted trip with lots of holds and downtime at the airport.

Last Monday’s hike/walk to Luther Burbank’s Home and Garden along with the delicious potluck with so many tasty choices was great finale. I know you’re always supposed to “leave them hungry” so they come back but we all left full and happy especially with the fresh peach ice cream dessert ala Scott and Barbara Now we really want to come back! Lew & Pat

Here’s a short Vimeo slide show remembering some of these moments we all enjoyed. The music called “Jersey Bounce” is by the Warren Greig Trio.


We’re gathering in Michael’s expansive, new backyard complete with snooker table and frisky cacti. His great new house on Slater Avenue is in a Santa Rosa Historic District full of unique homes safely before the ranch style – from the 19th and early 20th century. We walked by the nearby Cherry Street Historic district on our hike to Luther Burbank Gardens:


One of the Dol hareubang volcanic rock statues from Jeju Island on the southern tip of Korea where Santa Rosa’s sister city of Bukjeju is located.
The carved basalt figures were a gift to Santa Rosa in 2003. The “Stone Grandfathers” are 8 feet tall and specialize in protection from danger and by rubbing their noses, fertility.


Just down from the Dol hareubang statues is the Luther Burbank House, greenhouse and garden. Arriving in Santa Rosa, California in 1875,Burbank was an early enthusiast: “I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned.”


A stop at Porto Bello Hats (or maybe “Persona Nueva Hats”) on the way back was just perfect. Most of us wear practical hats on the hikes but hats can be so much more. When you look at pictures of folks in the early 20th Century there is hardly a bare head to be seen. Here is a scene from the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1905.
From the stand point of men’s hats, Robert Krulwich wrote an intriguing article for NPR:

Memories of Dr. Seuss’s doffed tributes in “The Cat in the Hat” and “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins”


Michael avec des chapeaux –


A Porch with a View

California likes the lichen

Hi Everyone,

Last week the Marin Independent Journal had an article about the lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii) becoming California’s official state lichen. Michael had told us about this on our September 2015 hike at Marshall Beach so he’d already put us in the loop back then – thanks for the head’s up! Even though we can usually read the IJ with dispatch each day, this was a sweet article to linger over. Bravo to the California Lichen Society and Assemblyman Marc Levin for sponsoring this bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last summer going into effect this January 1st. It was fun at a time when mycologists again celebrate the mushroom world to give some of the spot light to the “lowly lichens” – finally getting the respect they deserve.

Monterey Pine with lace lichens and Footloose hikers with Michael

Lace lichen catching some sunlight, blowing in the breeze. We’ve enjoyed them as well artfully dangling from many oaks at Audubon’s Bouverie Preserve.

There are a number of fascinating links about lichens, here are a few for your perusal. The California Lichen Society has an address in Fairfax, California. Be sure to check out their Facebook insert with the link with a fascinating conversation with Dr. James Lendemer, Assistant Curator in the New York Botanical Garden. “Hastings is a Biological Field Station of the University of California . . . in the Santa Lucia mountain range in Monterey County, California.” Here it describes the lace lichen being a combination of fungus and algae. “Often called ’Spanish Moss’, lace lichen is not a moss. In fact, the ’Spanish Moss’ of the south-eastern states is not a moss either.” Excellent summary of the role of lace lichens from nesting material for hummingbirds to their role in capturing wind-borne nutrients. This splendid article not only describes lace lichen but also gives us more detail on some of the other members of the lichen family. Their history goes back 400 hundred million years but from their architecture they are “likely latecomers, evolutionarily speaking”. Some nice forays into Greek philosophy and a surprising interaction with some Ramalina completes the short account.
The author, Elizabeth Lopatto, writes “It frustrates and saddens me that our humbler parks are relatively barren of the weird dangling nonsense.” “In the mid-19th century, it was misclassified in the moss and liverwort family. Beatrix Potter, of Peter Rabbit fame, was an unlikely lichen champion. . . . She produced many wonderful, detailed drawings of fungus and lichen species. Since she was a woman, though, a male scientist had to present her scientific paper and research to the Linnean Society of London.” Some of you may know and remember this beautiful trail at Pt. Lobos State Natural Reserve.

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Progress on the patient front though I still have the wound vac for a few more weeks (cf. that black strap in the last picture). Energy is improving each day and while I may not see you on the first hikes hopefully down the line sooner rather than later. Thanks for your outpouring of love and caring, you’re the very best campaneros of the trail. Pat & Lew

Blackstone Canyon with Michael – 23 November 2015

We drove through some sweet autumn colors in suburban Marinwood on our way to the trailhead, the deep reds of the Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum), the brighteorange reds of the Chinese Pistache and the vibrant yellows of the Ginko biloba in full tilt. Michael had just returned from his trip to New York City to visit his son, Hunter, and to explore that urban “forest”. He was very pleased that he was able to add a new hooping location to his growing portfolio. This time is was in front of a favorite touchstone, the Apollo theater, and done with his usual style but in the rain – he loved the sign above that said “Amateur Night”.

Shot with his iPhone. You can spot Michael hooping, of course, you can.

Having a gather as we get together

A friend of Michael’s just coming back from her hike, she knits while she hikes and was making this for Syrian refugees. This site from another knitter develops the idea. This blog is done by a nurse on the Olympic Peninsula.

Maybe this was the time when Michael was talking about the Pistachio (Pistacia) which is in the Anacardiaceae family – quite a gathering around that table including cashews, mangos, poison sumac, poison ivy, poison oak, the smoke tree and many more cousins. The wiki article speaks of these flowering plants “bearing fruits that are drupes and in some cases producing urushiol, an irritant.”
A sidebar was remembering pistachios when they were red:

A Giant Chain Fern, Woodwardia fimbriata –

This hike wasn’t just meandering by a stream, it also had some chunky uphill (and downhill – they always seem to go together). Slow and steady made it. Big Bravo to everyone!

We’ve been celebrating a bumper year of Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) berries, here you can see them going all the way to the crest of this hillside.

Todays’s lunch spot arrived at by the best of intentions.

Michael mentioned at the start of the hike that he was thinking about the difference between INTENTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS. Intentions free you up to be yourself and focus on the things in life that really matter to you. Expectations on the other hand can be delimiting, filled with guilt (not living up to someone or something) and frustrating.
Here’s more of an explanation by Jack Elias:
This link relates to using the idea in teaching:

What a fine conclave of hiking friends and companions!

Plenty of room for conversations of all kinds

A dam on Blackstone Canyon Creek that an earlier farmer erected, we saw the rusty piping of this water project a number of times along our trail.
Michael mentioned that all dams eventually fill up and become less functional to non-functional demanding alternative planning. Here are some clear and informative maps of the Miller Creek Watershed. Blackstone Canyon Creek is in the top middle of each map. A number of other watershed areas are detailed with similar care and quality – nicely done! Here’s another excellent resource for the Miller Creek Watershed in which our hike is located – The Historical Ecology of Miller Creek. Here’s an example from further south of a dam’s removal in the Carmel River Valley.

John wears a tag with his medical history on his shoe, he said it had been more urgent earlier in his life but that he thought he’d put it on his hiking shoe for future reference.

Heidi shared that just after she’d take a first aid course including the Heimlich Maneuver. She was in a restaurant when a stranger at another table began to choke. She had things fresh in mind and was able to perform it and help the person to breath again. On another occasion someone mentioned actually plucking out a piece of lobster that was causing the choking from someone’s mouth. While the results may be smelly and messy, the saving of someone’s life far outweighs any temporary discomfort, concerns for propriety or embarrassment.

Spider sheet web across the grass capturing the dew drops

Here’s a VIMEO walkabout of our hike in Blackstone Canyon:

Blackstone Canyon with Michael – 23 November 2015 (1)

P.S. I’ll be taking a break from the last three hikes because of my surgery this next Thursday, December 3rd. Thanks for all of your loving care, prayers, meditations, emails, cards and continuing kindnesses. See you all on the trail with Michael in the Spring of 2016 or hopefully BEFORE. Hugs, Lew

Pilot Knobbing with Michael – 16 November 2015

We’ve always enjoyed the oases provided by the reservoir lakes of MMWD – the Marin Municipal Water District. Their bright blues, the sunlight reflecting off the water and the changing wave patterns have always attracted us – water based creatures that we are. Monday’s hike was no exception with the sparkling of Lake Lagunitas and Bon Tempe Lakes filling our views to the west and San Francisco and San Pablo Bays lighting up our water world to the east.

Phoenix Lake (411 acre feet) starts the MMWD chain of reservoirs. Then taking giant steps we come to Lake Lagunitas (350 AF), Bon Tempe Lake (4,017), Alpine Lake (8.891), Kent Lake (32,895) and then at a remove comes Nicasio Reservoir (22,430) and even further afield Soulajule Reservoir – 10.572 (“Soo-la-Hoo-lee”). Have we ever hiked here? We are fortunate in this time of drought that the MMWD reservoirs have 65.97% capacity when many lakes and reservoirs in California have half this or less.

Pilot Knob reflects in Bon Tempe Lake, 11-17-08, making the reflection a lot more substantial than the real thing. Wikipedia defines Pilot Knob as “a prominent elevated landmark that was useful navigational aid for hunters and travelers.” sounding very 19th Century. There are many Pilot Knobs across the United States (Missouri, North Carolina, Texas and Minnesota to name a few), maybe you grew up with one nearby. Mine was on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. How this particular hill got its name still bears some inquiry.

We start with an extra layer this morning with temperatures dipping into the high 40s and 50s giving us a nice, crisp edge to begin our hike – layer up, layer down. Hardly worth commenting on when you live on the east coast, Spokane or Bodie – our record maker.,_California

We pause to read the map, Michael’s hat seems to have some tribal significance perhaps?

Beginning to warm up in the sunlight, Mt. Tamalpais one of our totems emerges in the distance.

Michael spots a bobcat in the brush. Just 20 seconds but a relaxed moment.

We pass a pair of “small” Redwoods in the forest, always evoking a sense of majesty if not grandeur. Redwood trees have a way of quieting the trail and leading to meditative moments.

Pilot Knob has some remarkable views from its open western side. Here on arrival we again feel like we are in the palm of Mt. Tamalpais. Lots of view for the 1,187’ of altitude or an alternate measure is 1,115’. This adds photos to the summit numbers helping to make associations and bringing back our recall.

Dense cover on the north side of Mt. Tam with the Fire Lookout prominent on the top left. We’ve enjoyed it before but perhaps this is a good moment to recall Gary Yost’s splendid “A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout”.
A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout. 3 years ago

Michael gave us a 360 degree tour of our view.

Looking east toward Mt. Diablo with the most northerly piece of San Francisco County, the island on the right side toward the bottom. Red Rock Island is the place where the boundaries of three counties come together. In addition to San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa . .”also converge on this high rock.” As we learned before, it was and is available for private purchase for only $5M. I wonder if you would need to pay taxes to all three counties?
The swarm you see on the slopes of Mt. Diablo is actually a souvenir from our first hike in the Tennessee Valley rain.

Moving back we gain some context and some rocks and lose the swarm. Often this water is called San Francisco Bay but here we are moving into San Pablo Bay, a huge northern reach of more shallow water.
Michael mentioned a unique B & B on an island in the Bay on East Brother Light Station:

Moving north through San Pablo Bay we find the Carquinez Bridge over the strait of the same name connecting Crockett and Vallejo – the route of Interstate 80 to and from Sacramento. Perhaps we see the Benicia-Martinez Bridge showing just above the saddle of the hills and the overarching whiteness which seems like a suggestion of clouds is actually snow in the Sierra, now becoming truly the Sierra Nevada.

The West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais formerly the highest part of the mountain until it was bulldozed during the Cold War to make a radar station.

Looking west across Bon Tempe Lake and Dam with Azalea Hill as a backdrop with a serpentine cut exposed. Pine Mountain is top right.

Maybe just a little skeptical . . .

Time for a sunny lunch

Sue tells us about an exhibition of photos of seven Jewish Gold Rush Cemeteries in various towns of the Sierra whose history she has been researching, writing and speaking about for a number of years. The exhibition is in San Francisco at the Sinai Memorial Chapel. Michael plans to have one of our urban walks include this display of photos by the award winning photographer, Ira Nowinski. And, we’ll have the rare pleasure of having Sue share some history and stories of Jewish Gold Rush Pioneers.

We check out the return trails from a local group of home-schoolers and Michael points the way down . . . the way we came up.

The trail goes through a number of stands of Madrone trees. We sometimes see them more singly on our trails but here there are hillsides of the Pacific madrone.

We find the fallen Madrone Matriarch which we visited with Armando in 2008.

November 17, 2008, closer to the time of the tree’s collapse.

November 17, 2008 – Mando and friends

Fall among the ferns. Western Bracken Fern giving its gray surround a splash of color. Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens, “A common fern in many habitats, but particularly moist areas in open meadows. Sometimes an indicator species for archaeologists as it
grows in disturbed areas and old building sites are outlined by these ferns. . . . The core of the long creeping underground black rhizomes were used by California Indians in basket design. The juice extracted from young fronds was used as a body deodorant.” Page 196
Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country and North Coast Ranges by Reny Parker

Meanwhile back at Lake Lagunitas

Is that Armando down by the shore? You’ll recall that he is a catch and release fisherman who knows these waters.

Michael speaks of the two types: the Dabbling Ducks and the Diving Ducks.
An Original DUCKumentary ~ Infographic: Meet the Ducks | Nature | PBS

We were treated to a busy Acorn Woodpecker “Fly About” as we approached the parking lot. Here with acorn in its beak one finds just the right hole for storing in their granary tree, an old snag that has a robust new mission in life. They have a masters in engineering fitting the acorns in so perfectly tight that the hungry competition can’t get at them.

Michael is reading to us about the decades long Walt Koenig study of Acorn Woodpeckers at the Hastings Natural History Reserve in Carmel Valley. The first video, “Avid for Acorns”, talks about Acorn Woodpeckers at Hastings with a number of others following on a variety of natural history subjects.

Next week: Blackstone Canyon in Marinwood/Terra Linda