Ring Mountain Roundelay with Michael – 17 December 2012 –

Longer shadows out there and cooler nights but much warmth in a circle of friends. Lew

Ring Mountain, perhaps The Hobbit’s Gollum is below hugging his “birthday-present treasure” as we head up the trail. Still it might not be so precious – more cursed if it was the stolen Ring of the Nibelung. Or maybe the mountain is named for another magic ring, one that might make you all knowing, enable travel to different worlds, provide immortality, invisibility or one that contains a part of Lord Voldemort’s soul. You might read that Ring Mountain was named a bit prosaically for George E. Ring who was a respected Marin County Supervisor from 1895 – 1903 but that can’t be the explanation. Another more magical one presents itself. There are curious ovals and circles on about 30 of the mountain’s boulders, ancient Indian petroglyphs whose meaning stirs the imagination. And it’s not only the carvings and connections with our previous forbears on the trail – Miwok Forayers but with these rocks themselves wandering in the depths of the earth like some Greek heroes. After these great pressures and temperatures for millions of years, they emerge into the sunlight on Ring Mountain.

http://baynature.org/articles/ring-mountain-rocks/ and http://sevenwondersofmarin.blogspot.com by a remarkable high school student and it is a destination in Sacred Places North America by Brad Olsen: http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/books.php?id=5614

We head up the Phyllis Ellman Trail. Mrs. Ellman, called “Mother Botany”, was another of the stalwart women of Marin who made an enormous difference because of her defense of the land on the Tiburon Peninsula and elsewhere in Marin at Audubon Canyon Ranch. Later, after moving to Glen Ellen she continued her calling at the Bouverie Preserve.

http://www.kenwoodpress.com/pub/a/3575?full=1 http://www.egret.org/pdfs/ACRBulletinF09.pdf

We’ve actually haven’t had rain during this hiking series. The night before this hike the weather was a little chancy (think pounding rain) but once again sunshine brightened our way. Wet and slippery under foot but we have a goal up there, the guy in the white pants.

Circling up for conversation and a view. Just above the poplars we see San Quentin Point and to the right, the Richmond San Rafael Bridge stretching across San Pablo Bay. A Coast Live Oak (alias Quercus agrifolia) hugs a Blue Schist Knocker at the left of the picture.

The conversation continues as Inge emerges from Michael’s profile, great to have her on board for the hike and potluck. Good luck to her as she develops some cooking classes.

Well, maybe it’s time now to add some salient information. Hikes with Michael are always rich in flora and fauna (alias Footloose Forays) ffFF, but also rich with the multitude of asides, new angles, wild words, fresh ways of thinking – the hikes are effin’ great. Thanks for rattling our cage, Michael! Why, the door is open!

Sometimes didactic, sometimes Socratic the ideas keep moving and shaking. Michael is our gadfly, devil’s advocate with amazing ids & wide ranging recollections often in Latin. And, oh, the words. Petrichor leaps to mind: http://wordsmith.org/words/petrichor.html Maybe you all could add one you recall to a “word backpack”.

The lichens give an autumnal feeling to this rock in a surround of young yarrow. We saw massive Blue Schist Knockers along the trail, we’d seen some on our Mt. Burdell Hike as well. Outcroppings of Blue Schist were favored by Native Americans for ceremonial sites and are the ones at the top of Ring Mountain. http://everything2.com/title/blueschist

The conversation continues with some neat triangulation. We are all Italians, some things are so much clearer with the hands. It’s the conversation moving into dance.

You can see the remains of shells like confetti on the ground. Who knows how deep this site might be with the remains of hundreds of years of Coast Miwok “potlucks”. Michael explained that the Miwok language was one of 80 to 90 distinct languages spoken within what are now the boundaries of today’s California. He relayed that it would have been far more complex than say, going to Europe and trying to understand one of those native languages or dialects. http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/~survey/languages/california-languages.php
http://oaklandnorth.net/2012/07/23/native-americans-work-to-revitalize-californias-indigenous-languages/ http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520266674

Here Michael’s found a remarkable Coast Miwok grinding stone with spectacular symmetry. http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=19244 We enjoyed the calming background music of the seasonal stream nearby that makes its way down to Triangle Marsh by the Bay.

The straw colored hills beginning to show their green are highlighted by this superb Toyon providing food for Cedar Waxwings, American Robins and many others. But for us, it’s a splendid splash of color along our muted trail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heteromeles

Michael mentioned a book that called these Lombardy Poplars “the exclamation points of man”. The phrase comes from a remarkable book by Edgar Anderson entitled, Plants, Man And Life “It is a freak form of the Italian black poplar, which turned up years ago. It is like black poplar in everything except that its branches grow straight upwards alongside the main trunk instead of spreading away from it. Cuttings were rooted from the original freak tree, and then cuttings were made from them, and cuttings from these in turn. So from hand to hand and from nursery to nursery these upright black poplars have spread around the world.” (P.76) After this he gets into a fascinating discussion of “homologous variation” now calling them “sports” and pointing out that they occur widely in nature. The book proceeds into a fascinating discussion of the study of cereal crops by a Russian botanist named Vavilov who discovered five areas of primal growth for crop plants on earth. Anderson writes “In these few centers, an insignificant fraction of the earth’s surface, is much more variability of the crop plants than in the rest of the world put together.”

Looking north in San Pablo Bay we see the East Brother Light Station now also a Bed and Breakfast. Michael added that it would be a noisy stay on a foggy night, otherwise all the pleasures of island living. They have a fun website: http://www.ebls.org/

Also across the Bay we can just see the Marin Islands over the western anchorage of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. He told us that there are the larger East Island and the 3 acre West Island, the one which is a bird sanctuary and the one we could view with a telescope from Kit’s back garden. East Island was bought by Thomas Crowley, a SF Bay Tugboat baron, for $25,438 in 1929. They were purchased for a nature preserve in 1992. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/SAN-RAFAEL-Refuge-in-the-bay-Birds-dwell-on-2670035.php

Let’s see, I think Michael said Hairy Cat’s Ear (Hypochoeris radicata) in the Sunflower Family but I was remiss in checking out the leaves at the base which according to Lilian McHoul in Wild Flowers of Marin should look like dandelion leaves. She quotes Thoreau at the start of her book, “How much virtue there is in simply seeing.” I’ve been enjoying a swell site that focuses on Marin: http://flowersofmarin.wordpress.com

And now, what we’ve all had been waiting for, POTLUCK AT SUE MORRIS’S HOUSE! YES! We brought our appetites and left our shoes. When we arrived, Sue was welcoming us at the door with a big smile, I know, that was the picture. Thank you Sue for a fantastic time! You made everything so comfortable, relaxed, and lively! And what a bravo smorgasbord!

Setting up the Potluck in the kitchen, sharing the moment. Now to try some of those recipes at home, yes, I will try this at home.

This is not a Sierra Tree Frog. It’s Jeannie’s Frog King or better, Frog Queen about to sing a sweet song. Unforgettable rendition. Michael captures the moment while Charlotte and Armand move on with the conversation. Maybe we could add Michael’s potluck photos to fill out the party coverage or anyone else’s?

Bon Voyage to our traveling Footloose Forayers: Sue Morris & Laura going to the Galapagos with Michael and to Mari & her husband with Michael to Tanzania!! Did I leave anyone out? We are such a traveling group – remembering Larry’s trip to Egypt and Kit’s to Cuba (earlier Sue Morris had done this cultural exchange as well), Sue Baum to Turkey-Croatia-Italy, Jeannie going to Scotland with her grandkids, now kids not so much, Carol Brost to Turkey, Anne Caple to Wales, Nancy to Southern France, Margie Guggenheim to Antarctica but not this year, Heidi bicycling vast distances for Aids Support, Louise going on ocean voyages, Karen going to India but I think that was last year and then our super Explorer and Guide Michael like a butterfly in so many Ports of Call. And I have missed many of your further forays and not even touched dramatic domestic trips. Forgive me for that, I’ll pay better attention. Looking forward to getting to know you all better and further. Amazing to have all this adventuring among us, to go away and to come back home to our trails around the Bay sharing the moments together, what a great pleasure!!

We do, of course, remember our friend Maureen, one of the FF Charter members who passed ahead on the longer trek this year. We mark her courage, bravery and her wonderful “wicked” sense of humor. We’ll miss her along the trail and 11:30 AM will always be a special time along the way. And we’ll long remember her trip to the African bush with Dottie just last July, it seems like yesterday.

Footloose Fall 2012 has been great fun to share with you all, kind of “catch a falling star and put it in your pocket”. Thanks for all of your encouraging comments, much appreciated. Thanks to Michael, Jim Coleman and Don McLaurin for leading the hikes with such aplomb. Thanks to Jeannie for keeping us on the straight and not so narrow. Thanks to Scott for all of his work on a composite edition of Fall 2012. Longest night of the year coming up, Happy Solstice. Enjoy all those sparkling stars overhead. Looking forward to Spring Footloose 2013 with you! Lew

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