Muir Beach Hike with Michael – 26 November 2012

Our last visit to the Muir Beach area was with Armando on November 29, 2010 when we had a shuttle hike and came down the newly sculptured Dias Ridge Trail. Two years later this last Monday, we returned to tackle a new trail loop with Michael. Muir Beach used to be called Bello Beach after a Portuguese land owner in the area, Antonio Nunez Bello, who is alleged to have bought the whole hillside for a $10 gold piece! He bought the land from the Tamalpais Land and Water Company. The same company which had earlier sold 611 acres of the future Muir Woods area in 1905 to U.S. Congressman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thatcher Kent for $45,000. Bello’s purchase was called the “T Ranch” and was a grazing area, part of the old Rancho Sausalito. At some point later on, Bello Beach became Muir Beach but it remains very bello or bella to this day.

Michael is talking about the extensive Redwood Creek reclamation project sponsored by the National Park Service, the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy and many other key contributors. The bridge giving us this view is part of the project spanning the creek and its floodplain from the visitor gathering area. He was saying that earlier views of creek maintenance simple involved clearing everything out but a natural creek has downed logs & various natural barriers that do not block the flow and do provide places for salmon and steelhead to spawn.

Heading up the Coastal Trail with the fog softening the profiles.

Here Michael is showing us a sprig of Solanum americanum called variously White Nightshade, American Black Nightshade, Common Nightshade, Smallflower Nightshade, or Glossy Nightshade. It seems to have a bipolar personality some being annual, some perennial. It also is hermaphroditic, pollinated by insects, likes moist soil and ironically doesn’t like shade. Its young green berries are especially toxic as can be the dark, ripe berries as well as other parts of the plant. There is some variation in toxicity from one area to another. The herbaceous flowering plant has a wide and uncertain range not only in the western US but is also found in South America, Kenya, Tanzania, & Hawaii among other locales. It has caused the deaths of children with its toxic levels of glycoalkalids, solanine and solamargine. More irony in that it is used as medicine in various places and some cultures eat the the young shoots.

As some of you will recall when Michael arrived on his motorcycle, he stayed at Slide Ranch which is just a little further up Highway 1. He’s pointing out another place where he lived in Muir Beach over on the far hill.

The place is the home of the author Sam Keen.

View of the parking area in the process of still more improvement.

In the early 1950s Charles and Eleanor Borden decided to settle down on Spindrift Point near Muir Beach. You can just see the brown outlines of their home designed by the noted architect, Henry Hill. The small house was modeled on nautical themes and ship construction. Charles was a famous American sailor who was born in Oakland and first went to sea at the age of 13. He sailed extensively through his life circling the globe four times and crossing the Pacific numerous times in his 17′ boat. Of this special spot he declared, “Thoreau has always been my bible and the Pacific has been my Walden – until I found this place.” He had a special cottage to do his writing authoring numerous books on sailing and sailors as well as articles for journals about his sailing life.

After his death in 1968, Eleanor (Dixie) continued to live in their idyl leading tours over Spindrift Point for the Nature Conservancy and in 1983 at a volunteer for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory began watching gill-netters from her “strategically positioned Muir Beach home counting birds caught in nets.” Michael pointed out that gill netting was perfectly legal at the time. The gill-netters were dropping their nets from the water’s surface all the way to the bottom catching everything and wreaking great havoc with birds, harbor porpoises, and many other marine animals. Eleanor counted the birds in their nets and because “the fisherman did not know that Borden was watching, she was also able to observe attempts to conceal the extent of the bycatch. One day the fisherman, who were now aware of the public outcry over the dead birds on beaches, put 70 bird carcasses into a weighted plastic bag and dumped it overboard . .” (Volunteer Monitor, winter ’02/11) Her work along with others was instrumental in passage of legislation in 1987 imposing strict regulations and closures of the gill net fishery. Eleanor Borden died in fall of 2001 in San Rafael. You can scroll down:

Beginning the 800′ ascent

Michael told us about a Peregrine Falcon Restoration project from 1977. After the population was decimated by DDT, the population came close to extinction. Because of the work of of people like Brian Walton of the Predatory Bird Research Group at UC Santa Cruz and the help of hundreds of volunteers these magnificent birds have returned.

Making a point on the point

And then putting a finer point on it.

Looking down from the same point we see some Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) pull outs on the rocks below. They are the most widely distributed pinniped and can be brown, tan or gray and some in the Bay Area are reddish due to trace elements of iron and selenium. Gregarious animals they like to be close to shore in sub tidal and intertidal zones. They feed in shallow littoral waters with herring, flounder, hake, anchovies and other on the menu. They stick to familiar haul out sites and resting spots. The pups are able to swim and dive within hours of birth.

Hanging a left toward Coyote Ridge

Top of the climb, relaxing in the moment.

This is where the Helen Keller quotation which Michael sent us goes.

Hope Cottage in the fog. It was built by her son, Arturo Richardson, in her honor: George Wheelwright III was Hope’s husband and Auturo’s step father. George was a Harvard Physics professor who with Edwin Land founded the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories, Boston, 1932 and the Polaroid Corporation in 1936.

Heidi has stayed here a couple of times and said it was memorable, view terrific and a long way down to dinner at the Zen Center.

There are an amazing number of links on the net to Hope Cottage.

Some of the housing at the Zen Center at Green Gulch:,162&pageid=1771

Zinnias hanging in there, blooming tough

Along the way at Green Gulch Farm:

Completing our circle

Signposts along our way

November 2010 with Armando, a cooler day on the Dias Ridge Trail. Best thoughts, Lew

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