Oat Hill Mine Trail with Michael – 21 April 2014

Begin forwarded message:

From: Lewis and Pat Zuelow <lewiszuelow>

Subject: Oat Hill Mine Trail with Michael – 21 April 2014

Date: April 23, 2014 at 7:59:52 PM PDT

To: lewiszuelow

You might say that last Monday’s hike was 3.4 million years in the making and not just because of Michael’s long flight back from Bali to lead the hike! The rocks along the way were mostly from volcanic activity in the area from the late Miocene and early Pliocene epochs. The author of this vivid description, Dean A. Enderlin writes, “The initial eruptions were explosive in nature, and may have been similar to the Mt. St. Helen’s blast of 1980 in the state of Washington. The Napa Valley, which is today green and peaceful, would have been a hellish place. Thick clouds of volcanic ash filled the air, blocking out the sun in a gray, dismal gloom. Harmonic earthquake tremors constantly shook the land…indicators of upward-moving magma bodies and harbingers of imminent volcanic eruptions. Heavy toxic gases, like hydrogen sulfide (with its characteristic rotten egg smell), permeated the air, and concentrated in low-lying areas. Glowing red avalanches of incandescent gas and superheated ash would occasionally belch from a volcanic vent, searing all life in their paths.” This was not yet a viable destination for the Wine Train or maybe most of the bus tours.

Oat Hill Road geology
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobatin the upper Napa Valley. By far … This map is adapted from a portion of the U.S. GeologicalSurvey’s … The hike to the Palisades is approximately four miles.
www.napaoutdoors.org/…/Geology%20of%20the%20Oat%20Hill%20Road… /file

Development of the Calistoga area at the top of Napa Valley was the brain child of Sam Brannon who envisioned making this area the “Saratoga of California” after Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. According to legend he proclaimed this intention while in an inebriated state and came out with the “Calistoga of Sarafornia”. “The first geothermal well was drilled sometime prior to 1871. Over eighty other thermal water wells have been drilled since that time, some to the depths of over 2000 feet. . . . The thermal waters of this area are an artifact of the Sonoma Volcanic volcanism. Even though the volcanic activity has subsided here, the heat remains. The heating of the water takes place at great depths. The waters of Calistoga hot springshave risen from these depths along convenient pathways through rock…most likely fault zones and permeable rock formations beneath the valley floor.”

Thanks to Penny for finding this remarkable description of “Napa Valley then” and sharing it with Michael . . . and he with us along the way.

And so the Oat Hill Mine Trail begins, the way is rocky but we are among friends.

Gathering at the trailhead close to the intersection of the Silverado Trail and Highway 29. The gigantic truck is heading south from the Clear Lake area, how long is it? http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/traffops/engineering/trucks/truck-length-routes.htm On the left side of the picture is an old gas station overhang now part of a house on the corner.

A better view of the old gas station drive under, would you think fifty years ago? Maybe more. What kinds of cars filled up there on their way to Clear Lake?

Michael is talking about “the White Man’s Footsteps”, Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) found abundantly in this area. The second Latin identifier refers to its lance shaped leaves. But don’t look for any bananas.
The Plantains that I grew up with in upstate New York were more ground hugging and had oval leaves.

One of a cast of thousands, millions . . . “The flowers are on a spike, crowded at the top of the stem — the lower ones blooming first, the stamens showing conspicuously.” McHoul, Lilian, FLOWERS OF MARIN, A. & C. Philpott, The Tamal Land Press, Fairfax, CA.

Just after the main group had passed those at the rear spotted a Gray Fox sitting on the trail.  Jeannie was concerned because it was having trouble moving and thought that it could be sick or might have been poisoned. She called to alert Michael and we trooped back down from the Plantain for this rare event. Ann Caple was quick to the opportunity and got this photo with her cell phone, thanks much! Male or female, not sure.  Might that gorgeous tail be a clue?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_fox http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Urocyon_cinereoargenteus/

Just fresh off our plantains, Michael spies some Turkey Vultures enjoying a tree with a view and they give us a chance to enjoy them close-up before taking off. http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/peterson/resources/identifications/tuvu/index.shtml

You’ll recall Mrs. Elizabeth Terwilliger getting President Reagan to a “V is for Vulture” moment. The new world and old world vultures look similar because of convergent evolution i.e.”… natural selection similarly shapes unrelated animals adapting to the same conditions.” They developed on separate evolutionary paths not tracing back to a single individual. The Turkey Vulture often arrives first at the carcass because of its remarkable sense of smell. It provides both a cleansing and a recycling moment. You can just make out the large orifice in its beak that facilitates its exquisite nasal prowess.

Framed by Lace Lichen (Ramalina menziesii)hanging from a Live Oak tree

Take a moment to adjust your eyes, here’s some Phacelia imbricata native to much of California. Phacelia Californica presents a similar picture with a purple bloom. commonly found in dry, rocky places. “In bud the flowers appear in dense hairy coils, like curled up green caterpillars. The small white to lavender flowers are cylinders or bells with long stamens sticking out well beyond the petals. Each flower looks like a little round head with antennae waving above. Insects are attracted to the fuzzy white flowers of this plant.” Parker, Reny, Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country & North Coast Ranges, Northcreek Ranch Press, Cloverdale, CA, 2007.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phacelia_imbricata http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phacelia_californica

Blue Oaks dot these hillsides, these are rare on our hikes. They have adapted to drought and dry climates with tough waxy leaves which help conserve water. http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/blue_oak.htm And this being Napa Valley there is a Blue Oak Vineyard. http://www.blueoakvineyard.com

Penny is sharing the work of the Land Trust of Napa County. She is a docent, leader on their hikes and a member of our group. They have been instrumental in saving land from development, preserving natural habitat and developing access trails for hiking throughout the Napa Valley
http://www.napalandtrust.org https://www.facebook.com/NapaLandTrust

Michael spies an Andesite boulder along the trail, a gigantic visual aid in our quest to get some geology under our belts.

Close-up of our specimen. http://www.geology.sdsu.edu/how_volcanoes_work/andesiterhyolite_lava.html
And in keeping with the area there is an Andesite Vineyard. http://www.andesitevineyard.com

Looking for an honest man, we pass a Diogenes’ lantern to light our way. Calochortus amabilis has appeared later on up the trail like lovely butterflies against the the gray-brown hillside. The name according to McHoul comes from the Greek kalos, beautiful, and chortus, grass referring to the flowers and the grassy leaves. It is also called the Golden Fairy Lantern and is a member of the Lily Family, Liliaceae. They are “found in chaparral, foothill woodlands and mixed evergreen forests. Preferring shade they are often found peeking out from under a shrub.” Parker, Wildflowers of N. California, P. 63.

Another flash of YELLOW along the way comes from a Mule Ears plant, Wyethia glabra in the Sunflower family. McHoule writes that it was names for Capt. Nathaniel Wyeth who discovered the genus in 1833. The specific name refers to the fact that the plant is smooth, not hairy. There is also a Narrow-Leaved Mule Ears, Wyethia angustifolia, with leaves on the stem that are smaller and stalkless with conspicuous hairs on the edges. http://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/species_query.cgi?where-taxon=Wyethia+glabra

Usually we see this earlier in the spring with the tall, central red bloom (the flowers are in terminal dense clusters) of the Indian Warrior, Pedicularis densiflora. But now we can call it by its other name of Lousewort in its more fern-like presentation. McHoul fills us in with the Latin, pediculus, a louse.

The Oat Hill Trail was a road that took over 20 years to build from the 1870’s to the 1890’s. Here we see the wagon track marks in the stone marking all the jounces and bounces endured by all those traveling this way. Many of the wagons would have been carrying Cinnabar ore from the mines up the trail. Cinnabar is converted to mercury in a distillation sequence that is highly toxic all along the production chain from the dust of the mining to the steam of the final process. Cinnebar has been mined from paleolithic times used for the orange coloration and later was discovered to be a mercury source used in the gold mining process to separate the gold from its ore. Mercury is also used in gilding of gold and silver from jewelry to church roofs and is the cause of countless worker deaths. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnabar http://www.1849.org/ggg/mercury.html

The Oat Mine Trail can be quite unrelentingly sunny so this somewhat overcast day made the hike a pleasure. We were discussing the high spot and thinking it must be Sonoma Mountain but will be happy to be corrected. Faintly visible in the lower right is a winery that is a reconstruction a castle from the 12th & 13th Centuries, Castello di Amorosa. Here’s a closer view from our lunch spot:


Don McLaurin and Inge Fraser happily joined us on this hike. Don (in the blue trousers and black T shirt) has led us on a number of San Francisco hikes and is a great San Francisco City Guide. We’ve enjoyed exploring with him: Golden Gate Park and Japanese Tea Garden, the Haight-Asbury, and Fisherman’s Wharf Areas making many fresh and fascinating discoveries along the way. He asked Michael about the “Cali” of California and the Amazons that were reputed to live here. We decided we needed to look this one up.

First of all the Cali isn’t the Kali of Indian legend who is misunderstood according to this site, she is not a vengeful goddess of violence. She rather is the goddess that brings death to the ego and a self centered view of reality. She is the goddess who liberates souls and is the counterpart of Shiva the destroyer.
Here’s the source: http://www.goddess.ws/kali.html

The Wikipedia entry on California’s Etymology refers to an exhaustive work by Ruth Putnam in 1917. She wrote, “that both Calafia and California most likely came from the Arabic word khalifa which means steward or leader. The same word in Spanish was CALIFA, easily made into California to stand for “land of the Caliph”, or Calafia to stand for the “female caliph”. Putnam also wrote that THE SONG OF ROLAND held a passing mention to a place called Califerne, perhaps named because it was the caliph’s domain, a place of infidel rebellion.” Which sounds apt. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymology_of_California

UC SANTA BARBARA GEOGRAPHY DEPARTMENT has a succulent entry on the subject which adds an indigenous term, kali forno, meaning “high mountains.” Then references the 1510 novel by Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo, The Adventures of the Esplandian, which described California as a mythical island ruled over by the legendary and gorgeous Queen Califa, queen of the Amazons. Reading their edition, addition and erudition will be great fun for you:

Finally, enjoy the scholarship and the sense of humor from something called Wandering Lizard History:

Some of Michael’s “Azure Richards” which he uses for Blue Dicks when he’s leading those under 18. Here’s a lovely description done by the Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA. http://www.goldenwestcollege.edu/garden/plantofmonth/0211.html
And we can enjoy them in Yosemite as well. http://www.yosemitehikes.com/wildflowers/blue-dicks/blue-dicks.ht

Time for a picnic lunch overlooking the Napa Valley, first to find some flat spot so sliding down the hill is obviated. Next, locate lunch and keep it from rolling down the hill. Then, enjoy the hill, the view and the conversation. Finally, realize that getting down is more challenging than climbing up.

Michael shared some memories of his trip to Bali with us. He asked how many of the group had been and about a quarter raised their hands and some, had visited more than once. He talked about the warmth, hospitality of the people and the joy of their dances. Each village has its own musical culture and everyone can sing and play and instrument so that the concept of being a musician is foreign, everyone is a musician. He relayed that the gamelans of one village could not be played at another because each is tuned to one village alone. He was saddened by the lack of connection with nature and felt it had some similarities with the old concept of man being the “lord of creation”. There is a ceremony of cleansing for nature once or twice a year. There are also cock fights to the death with razor blades. There’s lots of trash left about. There’s the roar of the motor scooters. And at the same time there’s the beauty of the people and the marvelous imagination of their customs, beliefs and celebrations.

“Balinese reality is vastly more inclusive that Western consciousness allows. The Balinese have a word, “sekala.” for the things which you can perceive with your sense of vision, hearing, smell air touch. There is another word, “niskala,” for “that which cannot be sensed directly, but which can only be felt within.” In the West, we only recognize sekala phenomena as real”, but in Bali they make no distinction between the two.” From Bali History and Culture, http://www.baliclick.com/about-bali-history-culture.asp

We got into a discussion of the genocide of from 500,000 to 1,000,000 people in Indonesia including Bali under the Suharto regime in a few short months in 1965.

Now the downhill

Enjoyed the sweet perfume of the California Buckeye trees on the way. CNPS writes “The flowering spikes of the California buckeye
(Aesculuis californica) are beautiful and fragrant, and a magnet for butterflies and native bees. It’s fragrant foliage has earned the moniker cowboy cologne.”

Return to go and enjoying some final fellowship in the shade before heading out into that white light.

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