Our second hike with Jim took us very close to the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. With some of those images we began walking along the Stewart Trail recalling that the San Andreas Fault slipped more than fifteen feet here with trees swaying wildly, people knocked off their feet, equestrians thrown to the ground and that steam engine on its side at Pt. Reyes Station. It was a relaxing contrast when we could refocus on Jim’s excellent ids & descriptions of various grasses along our way, to be able to enjoy a more micro world with those macro edges of the Pacific & North American Plates sleeping below.
The hike along the fire trail moved up into lush undergrowth and impressive overgrowth highlighted with majestic Douglas Fir trees. It was a steady climb but a fairly gentle slope toward the top where we had lunch by an expansive Huckleberry patch serenaded by wrentits. We were able to hear streams running at various places at the bottom of steep slopes but the undergrowth completely covered them. Jim identified a number of bird songs along but again the trees obscured sightings so that it was mainly listening to and appreciating some beautiful music. Perhaps the highlight was the wild yet melodious calls of the Ospreys echoing down the canyons. Chris spotted an Osprey nest for sighting in a special moment and we were able to see them cruising just above the Douglas firs and circling higher in the blue sky. I wondered if some of these were Ospreys that we’d seen on our Muddy Hollow Hike chugging along with fish in their talons – face forward, of course.
Jim identified a Tanoak with Sudden Oak Death by the path mentioning that these trees do provide food and habitat for other creatures like woodpeckers and bark beetles. He also described how aphids on some flowers produced a sugary mixture from two tubes (dual exhausts?) that is relished by ants. The ants are diligent and appreciative farmers even going to the extent of bringing in their aphids at night to which Charlotte commented, “They must be sugar daddies.”
We enjoyed some equestrians as they came up from the horse corral at Five Brooks exploring the many trail possibilities. In fact, there were more trail signs than we’d seen on any of our other hikes which occasioned the odd reconnoiter as we made our way up the hill on the Stewart Trail to the Ridge Trail. Decisions, decisions.
We took this side trail early on (Roz’s Loop) and got into a meadow where Jim identified a number of grasses. Lots of Blue-eyed grass but I’ll leave the other ids alone.
Jim is explaining here how animals will forage the top showy section of a native grass but then the grass flowers and reproduces successfully from the bottom, more hidden part of the plant. Grasses do not need birds and insects for pollination disbursing their seeds in the wind.
A quiet pond early on
Checking out the possibilities
Western columbine, Aquilegia formosa, with poison oak and others in a surround
One of the majestic Douglas firs with poison oak vine entangles
Elk Clover, Aralia californica, about to bloom. A sign at the start of the trail noted that the Tule Elk are calving and nursing now.
Carol and Jeannie framing some passing equestrians
Exotic Foxgloves, Digitalis, both here and as we discovered, also along the Palomarin Trail.
A millipede joins us at lunch. Jim explained that the millipede eats decaying plant material while the centipede feasts on insects. Nice orange portholes on the sides.
The corral was full of horses in the morning when we started out. These may not have been needed today or perhaps have just returned. Thanks much Jim. L