Five Brooks with Jim – 10 November 2014

Five Brooks is the equestrian area of Pt. Reyes National Seashore and we often share the trail here with riders and their mounts. The morning sunshine highlights our many choices. But for now we’ll pick up our packs and poles and head out on the trail, was it called “Shank’s mare”?

The Vimeo video is a quick eleven minute view of our hike with some added photos and, drum roll please, an opportunity to hear Jim on three occasions describing the amazing life of a dead stump, what goes on in some old Douglas Firs and the remarkable history of a woodrat midden.

The music at the start is Scott Joplin playing “The Palm Leaf Rag” (1903) from the record, “The Entertainer, Classic Ragtime from Rare Piano Rolls”. Toward the end we have Ferde Grofe playing his arrangement (in part) of “The Limehouse Blues” (1922) on an Ampico recording.

The school bus at the beginning was a happy circumstance. A class from Bolinas-Stinson School was in the middle of a natural history class in the middle of the parking lot. Pat taught a variety of grades at Bolinas-Stinson (mostly Kindergarten) for twenty five years.

We started out on the Stewart Trail for 2.6 steady uphill miles, we’ve gone up and back on the Stewart a couple of times. This time Jim suggested a circle route and everyone was enthusiastic. This was the way that Jeannie pioneered on one of the earlier hikes. We continued on the Ridge Trail for .08 of a mile and then went across on the Bolema Trail (Bolinas/Olema) coming back to our start on the Olema Valley Trail (1.2) miles at the Five Brooks Trailhead.

Hike leader for the day was John Muir or as he is called by Jim and his daughter, Lucy, “Gramps”. Part of the qualification for Footloose hike leader, I think, is loving Halloween, dressing up in costumes and donning new personas. This was the first time we’d seen this side of Jim. You’ll recall Michael’s legendary Halloween costumes, parades and celebrations at his house on McDonald Avenue in days of yore.

Lucy was able to join us for the hike since it was Veteran’s Day, a day off from school. Note the way cool boots and sparkling backpack.

Before heading up the hill we check into the old mill pond and see the steady as you go American Coots, American Wigeons, and Harriet spotted a wood duck in all of its glory on her last hike here. A different trail but initially the same as ours and Jules Evans is remarkable., – This is a site by David Leahy that I just discovered, fabulous bird photography of a number of western areas.

Jim is talking about the Big Leaf Maple and suggests that it could be a source for maple syrup, noted at the end of this Wiki article:

Some late morning fog in Olema Valley looking over at Bolinas Ridge

Some huge Douglas Fir trees adorned our trails which were originally logging roads. We wonder why these trees were spared. You’ll recall that one of the reasons for saving Muir Woods was its inaccessibility. Jim spoke about the ancient trees being prime habitat for Spotted owls, Ospreys and others.

A large branch makes a 90 degree turn toward the sun.

A 1999 scientific paper on fire history in the Point Reyes area talks of hills without forests in earlier eras. “Von Kotzebue during an expedition in the 1810’s described the Point Reyes area as ‘barren with few scattered trees on the higher elevations and patches of dwarf shrubs in the valleys’.
cf. p. 213

Jim said shrews were very ancient animals that occupy a distinct niche.

We got into a short discussion of “shrewish” and wondered if the adjective was ever used to describe men? New site for me, quite engaging.

Jim spotted some great pack rat (woodrat) middens along the Ridge Trail. He recalled a wonderful cut-away display of a nest like this showing tunnels and rooms, a veritable woodrat condominium that could be centuries old. Nancy mentioned that there is a display of such a nest at the Oakland Museum. Showing the dioramas and an intrepid pack rat builder with twig at the ready at the entry to her midden. Engagingly written article with many photos though some are the “specimens in collections” type which makes me kind of sad. It’s a part of science perhaps necessary but I was recalling Michael’s description of scientists making an ambitious “collection” of some of the last remaining Elephant Seals on earth. In May of 1892 two men found 9 elephant seals on Isla de Guadalupe of the Baja Mexican Coast. (The species had been considered extinct in 1883.) The men proceeded to kill 7 of the 9 and took them to the Smithsonian’s museum collection. Ok, we’re talking wood rats here but still I like the attitude of the next link a bit better.

Lunch on the trail with no galloping horses or zinging mountain bikes, what’s that sound?

Oak gall in a golden cup oak (canyon live Oak):

“The life cycle of gall wasps hinges on a near miracle of timing. Since adult gall wasps live only about a week and don’t eat during that time, their most important task is to find the proper host organ (a bud, leaf, or new stem) and lay eggs in it. This means that the adults’ emergence must coincide with the proper stage in the development of the host tree species. The tree’s development varies with the weather, so wasps’ must as well. When the time is right, a female deposits an egg and also injects a chemical into the tree that clauses it to form a nutritive shell around each egg.” More on this in the link which focuses on the Blue Oak but bears enough similarities:

As an added pleasure Jim shook seedlings from a female Coyote Bush in full blush. Airborne they flew to land on the leaves of this golden cup oak. You can see their feathery presence landed on the leaves in three or four places. Perhaps we have a small reprise of Rosetta’s lander Philae alighting on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko or maybe vice-versa.

And lastly, we got talking about “galling” the word. Wordnik coming in handy again:

Kit spotted a young California California garter snake, here Jim holds it for a moment while Kit and Lucy look on.

Fallen Douglas Fir becoming a home for generations of life and a diagonal contrast along the trail. Interesting how many net references to fallen trees are concerned with their danger to passing humans’ lives and property, hard to find the “nursery of life” theme I was after.

Even though there have been just a few light suggestions of rain here in Northern California, this trail had numbers of mushrooms and other fungi, the rushing sound if not the sight of some of the “brooks” of Five Brooks and some glorious mud holes.

Larry and Jim are between the shadows and casting some of their own as the Olema Valley Trail descends.

On our return, the California Quail were very busy in the brambles near the mill pond, so was a darting red shouldered hawk. Some color variations in this site from southern California but many continuities with fine videos of quail in the snow, quail babies called walnuts, and distinctive quail voices are heard.

At the parking area looking over toward Bolinas Ridge with a full view of Lucy’s sparkling backpack. . .

Big leaf maple leaf in pumpkin colors on the grass, big leaf maple syrup? The quest continues.

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