Island of the Angels with Jim – 7 April 2014

Last Monday was one of those days that you want to stretch into – sniffing the air, enjoying the sunshine on your face and taking a leisurely walk to the Tiburon-Angel Island Ferry. It felt like a Stephen Sondheim moment, maybe a “a weekend in the country” but without the complications. Islands have their own sense of time and place leaving behind the stress & schedule of the mainland for something of a pause or parentheses. We might be sailing out into the Aegean – faces set for Mykonos, Santorini, or Rhodes. Vacation was not to be confused with vocation. Still, we had that pesky ferry schedule to remember, push away from the dock in Tiburon at 10 and then the return at 1:20 to Ayala Cove. There is a certain persistence of memory, 10 AM and 1:20 PM. But for now we’d suspend our disbelief. We were on island time.

You’ll recall that Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailing under cross and crown of Spain arrived at Point Reyes Headlands on January 6, 1603. La Punta de los Reyes provided his harbor on the day that the visit of the Three Kings is celebrated in Spain and Latin America. Perhaps even then it was a day of celebration and gift giving adored by all children in the Spanish world. He anchored in Drake’s Bay no doubt enjoying a respite from the waves and perhaps memories of his own childhood – the excitement of gifts at the end of the 12 Days of Christmas with the celebration of Epiphany.

San Francisco Bay fogs kept her secrets from the European explorers for another 172 years until Juan de Ayala passed through the Golden Gate in his ship the San Carlos on August 5, 1775. The Portola expedition had made the first European sighting of the Bay by land from the top of the western ridge of Montara Mountain west of San Bruno on October 31, 1769. You’ll recall that our Footloose group hiked up to this memorable point with Armando. No doubt this sighting and concerns about Russian expansion (“The Russians are Coming”) fostered expeditions by land to the area by Juan Bautista de Anza and that of Juan de Ayala by sea. Ayala was unable to make contact with de Anza but explored the great San Francisco Bay from August 5th until his return south on September 18, 1775.

He named Yerba Buena Island Isla de Alcatraces or Island of the Pelicans, a name later transferred in 1826 to Alcatraz Island. He tried a number of anchorages in the bay but most weren’t stable because of the tides. He found a site off Angel Island (Ayala Cove) the most satisfactory. He is credited with naming the island whose full name was Isla de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles (Island of Our Lady of the Angels) and it seems probable that he was there on or near August 15 when the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated. This celebration commemorates the belief that the Virgin Mary’s body was carried to heaven by angels.


A quiet morning in Tiburon

Angel Island is beyond the breakwater with the profile of Alcatraz before the skyline of San Francisco looking a bit like a bar graph

Our vessel awaits along with a mysterious destination.

Not yet having “cast off” with all that means. It looks like some splicing to our rope which we are at the end of. I got to thinking of those enormous hawsers on the great ships and how they are made and used. No doubt our fellow hiker Armand with his marine experience could add to our knowledge along with the SF Bay Pilot in Carol and Tom’s family. Welcome to the world of rope:
Here’s a great beginning article for the rope enthusiast.

Never fear, we have help available when we are “out” on the water.

We are perhaps seeing the line between the down flow of the Sacramento River and the inflow from the Bay tides, with some kayakers enjoying a calm day on the Bay and the Bridge over the Golden Gate into which long ago sailed Juan Manuel de Ayala y Aranza.

Some relaxed camaraderie on the fantail, is there a word for women’s camaraderie?

The natives are not restless, they’re sleeping. The pillow appears to be designed by ancient Egyptians:

Jim leads a discussion under a Coastal Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia:

From the Wikipedia entry for Coast Live Oak leaves: “The leaves are dark green, often convex . . . the leaf margin is spiny-toothed, with sharp thistly fibers that extend from the lateral leaf veins, The outer layers are designed for maximum solar absorption, containing two to three layers of photosynthetic cells. These outer leaves are deemed to be small in size to more efficiently re-radiate the heat gained from solar capture. Shaded leaves are generally broader and thinner, having only a single layer of photosynthetic cells. The convex leaf shape may be useful for interior leaves which depend on capturing reflected light scattered in random directions from the outer canopy.”

Looking down on our point of disembarkation from the Sunset Trail on our climb to the top of Mt. Caroline Livermore. More water patterns perhaps showing the currents in flux (what currents do) and in the distance is the Richmond San Rafael Bridge, Red Rock Island at its east end, and the Chevron tanker docks in Richmond.

Brief rest overlooking (l to r) Belvedere Island, Mill Valley at the base of Mt. Tamalpais and the Tiburon hills. Our views of Mt. Tamalpais are usually more of the prominent East Peak as we drive along Rt. 101and from around the Bay. Here the long spine of the mountain is more clearly visible.

The trail had battalions of Hound’s Tongue plants along the way. They seemed fresh and prolific on the island, the ones we’ve been observing on the other hikes are more at the end of their bloom. Our favorite Lilian McHoul writes in FLOWERS OF MARIN that they are from the borage family, Cynoglossum grande is based on the Greek kuno for dog and gloss meaning tongue. Remember that great word glossolalia, speaking in tongues. “The plant has erect stems one to three feet tall; the leaves mostly basal are long and ovate, slightly hairy on the lower surface. The flowers are dark or light blue resembling our common Forget-Me-Not shape; the tube is usually purple.”

Jim found a no longer with us California pipevine swallowtail along the trail (Battus philenor hirsute), we had seen a number on the trail chugging along, that is we were doing the chugging. This is a female, from the distinctive spots. The wonderful iridescence is a little muted in death.

Here’s a splay of leaves along the way. Mostly Wild Cucumber vine in evidence, Manroot i.e. with the corkscrew tendril but the leaf front and center is part of a California Pipevine which is the destination for those wild winging Swallowtails we watched fly by us. The serrated leaf is what?


Getting closer to the top of Mt. Livermore the group stretches out into infinity with the slight shape of Treasure Island on the right.

Angel Island provides views you don’t see from any other part of the Bay Area. The City with the Western Span of the Bay Bridge and Alcatraz looking like a container ship cruising into the bay.

The entire bay is opening up as we get closer to the top. You can just make out the tower of the new Willie Brown section of the Bay Bridge. You can see the Yerba Buena Island anchorage and Treasure Island extending toward us from there in the middle.

Moving to our left we’re now looking toward the East Bay Hills over the East Garrison/Fort McDowell. Is that Brooks Island Regional Preserve on the left, what do you think?

A field of Cow Parsnips as we approach lunch but maybe we’ll leave them to the cows or rather the black tailed deer ( First Hound’s Tongue and then Cow Parsnips. Still looking for Hairy Cat’s Ears, Tomcat Clover, Cranesbill, Dogwood, Goat’s Beard, Harebell, CaliforniaTiger Lilies, Lizard Tail, Monkey Flowers, Mule Ears, Skunkweed, Western Dog Violet and the Wake Robin.

We’ve made the summit of Mt. Livermore and are tucking into lunch but have the return half of the hike ahead. Jim contemplates how to remind us that the ferry leaves at 1:20.
Caroline Sealy Livermore was a Warrior Queen of Marin County Conservation working tirelessly from the 1930’s until her death in 1968. Concerned about ruthless development in Marin County after the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge she and others in the Marin Conservation League along with other groups have left us the county we enjoy today. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for saving the land from urban sprawl, providing a framework for sustained conservation, development of an infrastructure that maintains the unspoiled natural world around us and . . . no billboards.

Made it with time to spare!

The Golden Gate Bridge still in place with a sailboat catching the afternoon breeze.

Cruising back and just about to the Tiburon dock. “Home is the sailor, home from the sea” is maybe a little over the top coming from someone who got really seasick just going out to the Farallons on a whale watch!

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