Devil’s Gulch with Michael – 1 December 2014

You wonder just how things get named after hiking along a beautiful, rippling brook in a quiet canyon only to realize that it is called Devil’s Gulch. How do names get attached to places, to people?

We’ve a number of names like this in the Bay Area. You’ll recall Devil’s Slide along a precipitous Route # 1 in San Mateo County which used to hear about this time of year because of rock slides and closures. Alcatraz was referred to as Uncle Sam’s Devil’s Island by one writer and the Miwoks kept their distance calling it “Island of the Evil Spirits”. Perhaps the most famous is Mt. Diablo, “Monte del Diablo” or thicket of the devil. There are exotic accounts about a feathered evil spirit (puy) appearing at different times on the mountain. At one time it was a consideration to name Conta Costa County, Diablo County, but the city fathers (why not the city mothers?) decided it might not be good for business.

But for naming the origins of Devil’s Gulch, not so much. Was it the difficult and precipitous trail and road from the upper Nicasio Valley area as some suggest. Devil’s Gulch is in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Taylor a very successful 19th Century worthy who came out to California in the 1850’s and established the first paper mill on the west coast. He married Sarah Washington Irving who was either a niece or namesake of the great writer and diplomat, Washington Irving. He of “The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow” fame, the horseman said to vanish after his hair raising ride in a “flash of fire and brimstone”. Perhaps Sarah and Samuel transferred some memories of the story to Devil’s Gulch and gave it the name. Or perhaps the great numbers of spawning bright red & black Coho Salmon writhing and dying in the stream gave passers by images of the sights, sounds and smells of an imagined hell. As T.S. Eliot writes, “The naming of Cats is a difficult matter, it isn’t just one of your holiday games.”

Our memories were sweet of an earlier hike we took here with Armando heightened by Armando himself joining us for this hike as well. On the previous hike he read us some of the poetry of Kenneth Rexroth who lived here in an abandoned cabin “especially during the gas-rationed World War II years”.

“The green spring that comes in November
With the first rains has restored the hills.”

Here’s a friendly Vimeo video of the hike set in part to the music of Morton Gould, his 1938 American Symphonette # 2, Pavanne along with Armando & Michael talking about this unique ecosystem and the song of the water in Lagunitas Creek.

Just below the parking area Lagunitas Creek runs close singing with the new rains. Sir Francis Drake, our longest Marin roadway, follows the creek closely though this part of the San Geronimo Valley. This was taken on 12-1-2014 @ 9:53:13 AM.

The group gathered and gathering on a misty morning.

Michael found a California Nutmeg (Torreya Californica) with its distinctive broad, sharp needles and while not the source of our spice is “strongly aromatic”. 03 project/Nutmeg.html

Michael spotted these Coral Fungi peeking up amid the leaf litter.

Harriet shares a marvelous ancient Redwood that escaped the felling so many others had to endure. Do you think Taylor or his wife protected this rare
old growth tree in the San Geronimo Valley?

John, Sue M and others share the moment as Michael illustrates with his trademark hand gestures. Michael found a Slender Salamander to show us and carefully held it so we all could see its long body with tiny legs and not interrupt its respiration through the skin.

Visiting from his home under a log is another lungless salamander, Ensatina eschscholtzi, found all the way from British Columbia to Baja California. We found him quite endearing with fetching eyes and colors.

Some slime mold on a log along the trail which Michael detailed for us as well as in his Perspectives Series on KQED.

Slime Mold: Perspectives | KQED Public Media for Northern CA

Definitely has the group’s attention, what was it?

Fog and rain mingle over the San Geronimo Valley in this view from the Barnabe Peak Trail.

Asked what might have dug this straight hole, Karen wowed us coming up with Mustelidae ( and we all guessed what creature would have been looking for some honey from a yellow jacket nest: badgers, weasels, fishers until we finally got to skunk which it turns out was conveniently located now in their own new family digs (order) found by Nancy F, thanks:
Here a survivor of getting “skunked” defends what is left of his turf.

Michael told us about his recent group trip to southern Bhutan and its newest national park. They were the first western tourists to visit the park.

He told about not being able to go across at a nearby border crossing from India (Assam) necessitating a long narrow mountain road trip in order to approach a different way. After a protracted reading of their passports at the new entry post, they were on their way.

On this life-on-the-edge mountain highway a tanker truck had taken a turn too fast and turned over blocking traffic in both directions. Michael suggested getting another van to meet them on the other side so they could continue on. Fortunately, they were able to move the truck enough to gain one lane for passing.

They were able to continue on their adventure arriving at Royal Manas park toward the end of day. They were able then to raft down a wild river in the twilight and gathering darkness for a breathtaking passage and amazing memory.

Lunch on the veranda.

The mix of weather as we looked over to Black Mountain showing its pyramidal side.

Rain prompts a short lunch.

Umbrellas sprout in the soft chaparral.

As with our current series of rains, the mood shifts and we get to walk into a different day.

Playing catch-up

Barnabe was Samuel P. Taylor’s Mule

The Taylor graves on Mt. Barnabe

Samuel P. Taylor’s original marker perhaps. Some interesting background on their lives not found on other sites.

Returning to the bridge overcrossing

Almost some pixilation or pointillism with the leaves, flowing into the scene.

Debriefing is great fun

Let’s see how the rock has changed, it’s over 3 hours later – 12-1-2014 @ 1:19:39

We revisit the rock to see how it has changed since this morning – 12-1-2014 @1:19:39 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s