Carson Ridge Hike transmogrifies into the Cataract Trail with David Lukas – 4 June 2012

What to our wondering eyes did appear but rain at the trailhead and wind on the heath.

Michael back in Tennessee with his Mom had arranged to have David be our hike leader and it was great to be with him again. Our last contact had been when some of us went to UC Merced with Armando and David was able to join us there.

It seemed like the stormy start coincided perfectly with 10 AM and David suggested a more protected hike along the Cataract Trail. The committee made a quick approving decision and down we went past Lily Lake and over the Alpine Lake Dam to the new trailhead. Great choice, matching the perfect hike to the day. We’d landed on our feet. Walking along Alpine Lake with the sprinkles sounding on the leaves overhead and raindrops hitting the surface of the water surrounded us with a moment of pure Zen (thank you Jon Stewart).
David talked about the mosses which were enjoying the rain along the trail and showed us some spore-bearing capsules, beak-like at the top of thin stalks. He and Janet had hand magnifiers that gave nice close-in views. He relayed that mosses are non-vascular plants absorbing water and nutrients directly through their leaves as they hunker down on the forest floor. The rain of debris in the forest constantly covers them so that creating their food with photosynthesis can be compromised. Their strategy is to gain some altitude finding a home on fallen or living tree or rock nearby. One way they are able to move about is by becoming attached to the feet of chipmunks as they scamper over them.
The trail was pure Santa Cruz with many banana slugs making their way about along with a couple of wonderful brown snails and a passing Rough-skinned Newt.
David talked about the incredible poison in this newt, that one animal has enough to kill 25,000 mice. The toxin binds to sodium channels in nerve cells and stops normal sodium ion transfer in and out of the cell with the result of paralysis and death. This is why it isn’t a good idea to swallow a newt in a fraternity initiation. He said that this poison (tetrodotoxin) is the same as found in the Japanese pufferfish. The common garter snake has developed an immunity so that it can successfully prey on the newt. The newt responds by developing even more toxic poison in what an article on this calls an evolutionary arms race.

The storm moves in and David is about to call the committee together. We hiked up this hill with Armando on a shuttle hike to Lake Lagunitas.

Raindrops on Alpine Lake, ephemeral beauty

Checking out some mosses at the trailhead

“Remembrance of things past” – the Redwood circle of life.

Spore capsules aloft over moss

Meditative moment along the trail

California Nutmeg

Rather like a honey dew

We heard what are becoming familiar wild calls from this snag

Looking a little closer, we spotted the profile of a young Osprey

Who finally came out for full inspection.

About to head back down the trail after lunch by a pool quite placid

The Committee does a victory lap

Explication by some Elk Clover, you can just spot its tiny blooms

David spotted this Redwood tree growing out of a fallen trunk with no connection to the ground beneath, another vertical is seen on this side of the stream.

Banana slug celebrating the rain moving smartly across some moss

One of the special brown snails having a quiet moment on a fallen log

Many thanks to David for a lovely hike! Lew

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