Ramble on King Mountain, Larkspur with Michael – 19 November 2012

King Mountain was a fine example of a green belt hike, a happy melding of hills and homes. Fresh after the weekend rains and warm in the sunshine, the trail beckoned. We had that sense of solitude in nature but with the added seasoning of some passing dog walkers. One dog was in heaven to find so many people to throw the ball for him. From Place Names of Marin, “Charles W. Wright, Oakland manufacturer and head of the American Land & Trust Co. bought the 600 acre Patrick King ranch in 1887 and laid out a town. Lots were priced at $125 to $300 and were big enough to pasture horses and raise chickens. Wrights’s British-born wife Georgiana is credited with naming the town for a flower bloom in the hills; she thought the lupine was a larkspur. The post office named Larkspur dates from 1891 and the incorporated City of Larkspur from 1908.”

At the start, Michael shared with us that he was beginning a cluster headache but bravely led us part way round none the less with his rare, signature observations and questions. When he decided to head back down the trail, Jeannie who has hiked in this area frequently volunteered to lead our group round the loop. A big thanks to them both. We all share Kit and Jeannie’s messages for help and recovery.

P.S. Michael pointed out a small, ground hugging plant on a trail cut with trumpet shaped leaves, tried to locate it but didn’t succeed. What was that name? Clutch, Claw, chl, . . . ?

King Mountain is actually two “mountains”, Big King and Little King named for Patrick King, onetime owner of major acreage in Larkspur. (Place Names of Marin by Louise Teather, Scottwall Associates, San Francisco, 1986).

Some Acacia bushes coming up trailside. Michael said that the Acacia reference was recently decided to be the name for only the Australian variety eliminating the many African Acacia species.
This did not sit well in Africa. http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/the-acacia-debate
http://www.informante.web.na/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9548:africa-lost-generic-name-acacia-to-australia&catid=23:environment&Itemid=111

Louise added most helpfully that Acacias have gotten a bad reputation unfairly and unscientifically. She shared that there are many other (less showy) trees blooming at the same time that are much more the culprits for allergic reactions. http://sebastopol.towns.pressdemocrat.com/2012/03/news/acacia-trees-not-to-blame/ http://anpsa.org.au/APOL2007/jan07-s3.html

Looking toward Richmond and the East Bay, Mt. Diablo dominates the horizon. A Chevron tanker is at dock behind Red Rock Island which is for sale “price reduced” from $22 M to under $5 M for 5,78 acres. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/red-rock-island-for-sale_n_1659969.html
The Richmond-SanRafael Bridge leads over to Marin County with its famous roller coaster span. You can see the substantial concrete earthquake retrofit work at the base of the footings. Prior to the bridge’s official opening on Sept. 2, 1956, ferries plied San Pablo Bay from the docks in Richmond to the piers at San Quentin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond–San_Rafael_Bridge
A Golden Gate Catamaran Ferry begins to kick up the beginnings of a turkey tail in expectation of Thanksgiving. Maybe that should call them Catamarin?

As we were looking over to San Quentin, Michael was recalling an old Bogart movie where you never saw his face until after the escape from San Quentin and after the plastic surgery. What was the title? Not “Scarface” but yes, so recently forgotten, the walk down Filbert Steps with Don McLaurin when we walked past the house with Bogie’s picture in the window. Turner Classics has that opening sequence. http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/355769/Dark-Passage-Movie-Clip-Start-Taking-Chances.html What some of us saw last week with Don on that Filbert Steps Walk: http://www.movie-locations.com/movies/d/darkpassage.html

Looking toward San Quentin, Michael spots the chimney at the site of the old brickworks near Larkspur Landing (near the Melting Pot Restaurant) and recalls how a chimney just over the hill at the McNear’s Brickyear in San Rafael has been a stopping place for migrating Vaux’s Swifts: http://www.goldengateaudubon.org/blog-posts/swarms-of-swifts-in-san-rafael/

He went on to talk about the incredible speed of the swifts, 100 mph straight line flight and how they hang (rather than perch) with velcro-like attachment because they have no opposable claw.
Here is a splendid video of them swarming and landing in Eugene, Oregon set to the music of G.F. Telemann”s Trio Sonata in A Minor for Flutes and Piano.

Michael pointed out that the swifts are migrating from as far the north as British Columbia, Washington and Oregon on their way to Mexico and Central America. Relatively small, they are about 4.75″ long with a wingspan of 12″ and weighing .6 oz or 17 g according to Sibley who mentions that these short tailed swifts have been “aptly described as cigars with wings.”
http://audubonportland.org/wcc/urban/vauxsswift http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/vauxcam/
http://healdsburg.towns.pressdemocrat.com/2012/09/news/bird-lovers-await-return-of-swifts-to-healdsburg/ http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2012/09/vauxs_swifts_return_to_do.php
http://westcoastswifts.org

A Pyracantha (I just found out that Paracantha is genus of tephritid fruit flies!) and a Toyon Bush are happily juxtaposed along the trail providing a great splash of color and food for the native birds and those just passing through. Michael thought that we saw a flock of Cedar Waxwings at a distance, they would delight in this presentation.
http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=PYRAC

http://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-calrecnum=4140 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heteromeles http://flowersofmarin.wordpress.com/tag/toyon/

Heteromeles arbutifolia
Janet Larner Lowry writes in Gardening with a Wild Heart (University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 1999) “. . . Nor will naturalizing pyracantha, for although its berries may seem to make birds amusingly inebriated, they will actually expose them to predation and interfere with activities necessary for their survival. Instead, we plant toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, with its bright hollylike berries at Christmastime, the shrub for which Hollywood is named.”

Teasel starting out and finishing here in a ditch, they like wet places. Michael mentioned that it formerly (and perhaps still?) was used for cording wool. Interesting history in this link though I couldn’t vouch for the uses:http: //www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_teasel.htm

Armand holds a Madrone berry from a Pacific Madrone Tree. The berry is heavy so it falls close to the to the trunk into the leaf litter but it is often carried away by many admirers: birds (mourning doves and band tailed pigeons), rodents, deer and wood rats. http://seattletimes.com/html/outdoors/2002049584_nwwmadrona30.html https://sites.google.com/site/pacificmadrone52/
The Strawberry tree Arbutus ‘Unedo’ is a Mediterranean species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbutus_unedo and a hybrid Arbutus ‘Marina” has this interesting background: http://www.smgrowers.com/info/arbmarina.asp

Tam & Toyon

Perhaps inspired by the seasonal stream bed that we are passing Michael is telling us about “bights” and how they are more shallow than bays. Here with a bit of advertising is a rather nice discussion of bights: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-bight.htm Not sure if he got into Forebay but that is fun as well: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-forebay.htm

We stopped along the trail to ID two scourges of California and the West Coast: French Broom on the top and Scotch Broom on the bottom. The Marin Independent Journal reported last week that the Marin Municipal Water District is preparing an environmental analysis of two plans to tame invasive plants running wild on Mt. Tamalpais. One uses herbicides (glyphosate, a chemical found in Roundup) to rid the mountain of French broom and other invasive shrubs. This would cost about $1.6 M annually while the other plan that forgoes herbicides would cost about $5.8 M a year according to the article: http://www.marinij.com/fairfax/ci_22008188/public-speaks-herbicide-plan-mount-tam A well written article by John W. Leblanc working with UC Davis titled with a sense of humor i.e. “Getting a Handle on Broom”: http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8049.pdf & http://wiki.bugwood.org/Cytisus_scoparius

Walking along the Tam side of King Mt. we found a more open forest canopy here highlighted by a Bigleaf maple: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_macrophyllum
http://blog.oregonlive.com/terryrichard/2011/04/oregon_loses_worlds_largest_bi.html

After lunch as Jeannie led us down the other side of King Mt., she pointed out the shady distinctiveness of this side of King Mt. The presentation is darker and wetter with prominent Redwood growth along with ferns and mosses in this higher moisture area. Here we found some neat examples of California Nutmeg which was used by Native Americans for food, making bows and the sharp pointed needles were used by the Pomo for tattooing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torreya_californica

Torreya californica is not the source of our nutmeg but its fruits are similar in appearance: http://theepicentre.com/spice/nutmeg/

Expecting, perhaps, to see Bilbo Baggins coming round one of these boulders

The picnic lunch at an urban interface. Who owns this area? Perhaps a nice donation to the Marin Open Space District? Picnic at the top next time?

A bee on my bumper greeting me on our return.

Wishing everyone much happiness on Thanksgiving, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/the-prayer-of-an-unconventional-family/ Lew

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