Muir Beach with Michael – 27 October 2014

TW 3 – “That was the week that was.”

Calling the meeting to order, additions and corrections to the minutes are always welcome.

Big Bon Voyage Bhutan to Michael! Lew et al

This past Monday at Muir Beach was a Goldilocks kind of day, not too hot, not too cold, just right. We found the turn to the beach at the classic line of mail boxes and the now iconic Pelican Inn. This traces from the first name of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon “The Pelican” later renamed “The Golden Hinde” by Drake mid-voyage in 1578. This was a “compliment to his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose armorial crest was a golden ‘hind’ (a female deer). Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake’s world voyage.” But why did Drake wait until he was on the high seas to make this change?

Close by is the famed Muir Woods which has taken the place of the “Crookedest Railway” as a touring destination which so attracted visitors to the San Francisco area from 1896 to 1930. The railway in fact featured Muir Woods with its famous “gravity cars” which swooped visitors down to the Woods, at the brakes was only the “gravity man”. Muir’s name can be found on a mountain, a glacier, as founder of the Sierra Club, a famous Sierra trail, scientific names for a mineral, plants and animals, a multiplicity of schools, a hospital and even a minor planet (2006). In his time, he was most pleased with the honor of Muir Woods Monument. Redwood is one of the few vegetatively reproducing conifers readily regenerating from stump sprouts along with seed cones. Because of its vigor, longevity and its phenomenal history, Muir embraced the Redwood as a particularly robust memorial. They are perhaps closer to eternal than glaciers that melt and mountains that erode away. “The genus has a rich fossil record in western North America represented by Eocene and Oligocene fossils . . .”

Muir Beach was named more as an afterthought than as a part of this dedication. Originally it was called Bello Beach after a Portuguese settler, Antonio Nunez Bello, who supposedly bought the entire hillside for a $10 gold piece in the early 20th Century.

Sarah Smith writing in her brief history of Muir Beach in 1970 says that the Bello Beach name was changed to Muir Beach in 1940. One writer indicated that the locals wanted to capitalize on the popularity of nearby Muir Woods.

We can imagine that John Muir and perhaps his fellow Scot and frequent hiking companion, William Keith (the famous western painter) could have come down to the beach when they went to Muir Woods together in 1908.

Looking a little greener in November of 2010 on our Diaz Ridge Hike with Armando.

A fine selection of hats ready for the hike. Michael points out the lay of the land on a topographical landscape sculpture in the new, redesigned parking area.
Behind us are the new restrooms, a sheer delight especially once you recall our last visit and the “rustic” porta-potties.

Some have enjoyed Doug McConnell on the Bay Area Back Roads program in the past. Here he has an informative video that succinctly describes the remarkable restoration process in the Muir Beach area that has been going on a number of years.

I’d forgotten that he’d suffered a small stroke in June of 2013:

The new bridge (all the way from Florida) leading to Muir Beach over wetlands and flood plain recently reclaimed. Various accounts disagree about its length 440 or 450’ with one measure at 235’ but I surmise that was the old bridge length. Wouldn’t more dates be a boon on the internet? We’ll have to measure it next visit. The bridge adds a sense of drama to both the walk to the beach and to a number of hiking trails available at the other end. It has striking tile displays along its railings that whet the appetite for the natural scene into which you are walking.

Here’s one of the tiles that is aimed at younger visitors.

Diana has steadily worked as a volunteer on the restoration. She shared some of her experiences most engagingly with the group. She’s been involved with removal of non-native plants like Harding grass and replanting with natives of the area. She also related how tiny transponders were placed in Coho salmon fry so that they could be monitored in their life cycles and welcomed back from the Pacific in their hoped for return.

Michael found a vagrant teasel plant relaying that it is one of the top ten invasive plants in California.

Michael lived here at Muir Beach when he was starting out in California after a long road a-winding on a motorcycle ride west. Was that the 70’s? He roomed with Sam Keen, the author, who later wrote “Fire in the Belly” and who lived here at the time.

The point (land’s end) was owned by the Borden family (of Elsie the Cow fame) at one time

The water at the top of the beach is where the Redwood Creek breakout to the sea occurs with the hoped for rains and tides of autumn/winter – the Coho salmon hoping a lot harder than we are. The rocky promontory in the middle of the skyline is the Muir Beach Overlook accessed just north on Highway # 1 and well worth a visit.

Just above here and quite far away from the water, Scott spotted a river otter on the trail. Michael thought that it was probably a wandering male checking out the possibilities. Some of you may recall that we saw a sea otter just off Chimney Rock at Pt. Reyes on an earlier hike with Armando.

We were watching the ship now out in the shipping lane disembark her San Francisco Bar Pilot. Calm today but on a rope ladder it can be very demanding and dangerous on a stormy sea.

The hikers are standing just above the saddle area where peregrine falcons were raised in the wild by researchers, students and volunteers in the 1970’s after the population had been decimated by DDT and habitat loss.

Michael told the story of “Bob the Peregrine Falcon” who had been carefully wild raised and was now at the point of leaving the nest albeit with the same reluctance true of some kids in Marin. Bob seemed to disappear and they scrambled desperately to find him until his radio signal started coming in loud & clear over a monitor. They eagerly found their way to the spot where the signal was coming from only to sadly realize that the fastest bird on earth had to rest in a tree. That was when a great horned owl saw his chance. Bob’s beeper continued bravely on in the midst of his remains.

We were mostly walking through soft chaparral but here at the bridge Michael pointed out a Pacific Wax Myrtle tree rising above the surrounding coyote bushes, a native which grows well in a variety of environments and which requires very little attention once established.

Sharply defined line and change of color in the water: change in water depth? current patterns? We could even write to “Ask the Naturalist” at Bay Nature Magazine.

A binocular moment

Picnic at Pirate’s Cove or at least near Pirate’s Cove. Wikipedia calls it “an embayment” between Muir Beach and Tennessee Cove. Weekend Sherpa calls it a “quintessential Northern California pocket beach’. David Middlecamp writes in The San Luis Obispo Tribune about a Pirate’s Cove and Sir Francis Drake.
While he seems to be talking about a place on the San Luis coast, his writing is so engaging and descriptions so apt that they could describe our Pirate’s Cove. (And we must be aware of their threat to our Sir Francis Drake landing sites.)

The cove with an orange shoelace for spice.

Michael identified this as a Fallstreak Hole, his email linked to The Cloud Appreciation Society, a fun group with a terrific website that you can join if you wish.–-a-new-understanding/

Probably the oldest kind of plant along the trail.

Amid the soft chaparral

Heading back with some downhill momentum

Looking as fresh as at the start of the hike, three of our musketeers show some “true colors shining through”. We return to go, collect our memories and await our next tour around the board, I think I want the shoe.

Muir Beach and the mouth of Redwood Creek muted in the afternoon sun

New Footloose Hiker waiting in the wings but in the meantime she waves good-bye with her pail and shovel.

P.S. Quick stop at Muir Beach Overlook:

Just a snatch of Muir Beach below but a nice view of our Coastal Trail heading to Pirates Cove

The overlook not to be overlooked

Looking upcoast toward Slide Ranch (cognoscenti will spot a white yurt at the edge of the pine trees). Bolinas Ridge is peeking up in burnished gold upper right and the longer Bolinas Point and Duxbury Reef are stretching into the Pacific.

Two of the base end stations, so called “gopher holes” from WW 2, installations at the top of the stairs

The duty personnel ordered heavy winter gear from the army – boots, parkas, and winter hats to handle the cold of the summer fogs in which they found themselves shivering. The army was bewildered having just filled an order for Hamilton Air Base (also in Marin) with shorts and light summer clothing.

P.P.S A few photos of the 29 Nov. 2010 Hike on Diaz Ridge with Armando. The hike showed us some of the earlier work on the Muir Beach complex stabilizing the hillside with new planting & contouring above the beach, repairing the previous erosion and degradation.

It was a little cooler day than the one we enjoyed last Monday.

The new path follows the contour of the land, the old one not so much.

Chris with his staff checks the progress in Redwood Creek reclamation. (The staff is successfully keeping the cougars at a safe distance.)

Mail incoming and outgoing! Viva USPS!

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