We’ve made a few pilgrimages to Ring Mountain on the Tiburon Peninsula with our hike leaders Michael Ellis, Armando Quintero and most recently Jim Coleman. Each time has opened new vistas, some familiar views and a sense of privilege to be able to hike in this place remarkable both for its natural treasures and human history. Thoughts swirl about – the “precious” ring from Tolkein’s writings, maybe Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen, perhaps even the brass ring on some almost forgotten amusement park ride. Though as you’ll recall, the mountain was named for George E. Ring, Marin County Supervisor from 1895 to 1903. But be undaunted, there is much to see and feel in this magical landscape carved & heaved by thundering geology and visited by native Americans for thousands of years.
Ring Mountain has many descriptions in books and on the web, this is one of the richest and most poetic I’ve read. The author is Geoffrey Coffey, a San Francisco landscape architect who wrote this in another May, 22 May 2004. He relates at the end how Dr. Robert West in June of 1970 discovered a most unusual flower on Ring Mountain, a “previously unknown species of the mariposa lily, and named Calochortus tiburonensis in 1973. It has not been found to occur anywhere else in the world.” And later muses, “The more we learn, the more we realize how much more there is to learn. Despite all our vast advances of science and technology in recent centuries, we never noticed Calochortus tiburonensis until a few years ago . . . What other clues have we missed?”
Treking toward Turtle Rock and on the horizon the profile Mt. Tamalpais with the glint of the radar bubble on the West Peak. Mt. Tam has its own dark magic in the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan who in ‘90s taught middle school in San Francisco. http://www.rickriordan.co.uk/fun-stuff/percy-jackson/maps/mount-tamalpais
Arriving at Turtle Rock I’m reminded of the “selfie” photos the moon explorers took standing in front of the black obelisk in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, minus space suits.
Detail from Turtle Rock with lichens, perhaps a messenger from Middle Earth? https://baynature.org/articles/ring-mountain-rocks/
Ancient Coast Miwok (or forbears) grinding bowl (mortar) with an added pestle, the mortar being the bowl which is adjacent to a seasonal stream and the glittering remains of a shell midden. “Mortar holes and other artifacts found (on Ring Mountain) have been dated at nearly 2,400 years old.” https://baynature.org/articles/ring-mountain-rocks/ and for context http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/400_BC One of the “events” of 400 BC: “London has its origins on a rise above marshy waters at the point where the Walbrook joins the River Thames.” Is that a newt on the upper left edge?
Who is that man in the dark hat? Jim shares some moments on the grasses growing on this serpentine soil and what attracted our attention was a nice yellow bloom of Coastal Tarweed (Deinandra corumbosa) or is it Coast Tarweed (Media sativa)?
Some class room: a view of the Corte Madera Channel in northern San Francisco Bay, Point San Quentin at the west end of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge – the large building is San Quentin Prison, California’s oldest from 1852, beyond are the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Point San Pedro.
Going clockwise starting with the purple Ithuriel’s Spear (Brodiaea laxa) much deeper color than the ones we saw on Mt. Diablo, Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) named for G.T. Lay a botanist who visited California in 1827 sailing on the “Blossom”, Hairy Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata) – the generic name means “little pig” and pigs are said to like the roots (Lilian McHoul in Wild Flowers of Marin p.32) http://identifythatplant.com/dandelion-and-cats-ear/ and False Lupine (Thermopsis macrophyllia – the Pea Family) not seen so often on our hikes. For a nice sequence of California Coastal Prairie Wildflowers a site from Sonoma State University is most helpful: http://www.sonoma.edu/cei/prairie/prairie_desc/wildlfowers.shtml#viad
Jeannie illustrates the stickiness of Serpentine, a tradition that Armando started on one of our Mt. Tam hikes.
View of the east side of the Tiburon peninsula with lots of green cover and the straight line of the Golden Gate Ferry to or from Larkspur Landing. You can imagine these hillsides “developed” and covered with houses and say a silent thank you to Phyllis Ellman and the many others who saved Ring Mountain.
http://egret.org/pdfs/ACRBulletinF09.pdf Phyllis Ellman moved to Glen Ellen in 1980 and was a dedicated supporter of The Bouverie Preserve and Audubon Canyon Ranch. This appreciation has a last interview with her before her death in in 2009.
A boulder with curious sculpted marking as we walk down to Turtle Rock
Another of those picnic spots to remember with the hill (or was it the 602 ft. mountain) sweeping down to Richardson Bay. Belvedere Island is at the center and beyond the gray outline of San Francisco or more poetically by George Sterling in 1920, “The Cool, Grey City of Love”. To realize how fortunate we are that many fought to save and conserve this land and . . . water, you may recall that the Reber Plan in the late 1940s designed to fill in great swaths of San Francisco Bay including part of Richardson Bay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fy16vKonJUM
A mushroom cloud in a good way – part of our picnic antipasto.
The Turtle welcomes some climbing explorers on its back after all in other incarnations it’s holding up the world.
Jim talked about grasses after lunch, here he’s comparing the skinny one a native meadow barley, Hordeum brachyantherum, with the larger one, Hordeum murinum, false barley.
The green grass lecture table – Jim shared a wealth of information about a number of grasses that he collected on the hike. Excellent site from Sonoma State University’s Center for Environmental Inquiry on California’s Coastal Prairies http://www.sonoma.edu/cei/prairie/prairie_desc/grasses_rushes_sedges.shtml Jim has some photo credits in these articles including some frolicking Sonoma County cattle in a prairie pasture.
Rattlesnake Grass mini (Briza minima) and maxi (Briza maxima), invasive non-natives and very familiar on our trails.
http://www.sonoma.edu/cei/prairie/prairie_desc/invasives.shtml#brma Sonoma State University continues to cover the invasives that concludes with one of our favorite non-natives, the Red-Stem Filaree with its corkscrew seeds.
And so we leave Turtle Rock until our next visit – the blue-green Serpentine rocks glowing in the sunshine.
Great commentary about the 2010 effort to de-list Serpentine as the California state rock:
Barb heads down the hill with a pole and a smile.
The Petroglyph Boulder now fenced and somewhat protected. You need to be on a special hike to observe it these days. We were able in the past to see it up close.
The carvings date back 5000 to 8000 years and were made by the Hokan or Penutian speaking peoples. cf. http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=19244
From our hike with Armando on 19 May 2008, we get an idea of the sculpting from pre-history.
Marin dwarf flax, Hesperolinon congestum: “Occurrence limited to one or a few highly restricted populations or present in such small numbers that it is seldom reported, endemic to California and endangered throughout its range.” http://www.nps.gov/prsf/learn/nature/marin-dwarf-flax.htm
Tiburon buckwheat, Erigonum luteolum var. caninum which was in a number of places during our hike i.e. mostly the Phyllis Ellman Trail. http://www.marin.edu/~jim/ring/rplant.html
A Seep Monkey flower, Mimulus gutatus, blooming happily in a small remnant stream, http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/1000–mimulus-guttatus, a Royal Larkspur, Delphinium variegated, surprises in the dry grasses, a wheel of Sky (?) Lupine reminds of a great spinning galaxy, the foreground grass Jim describes as a “special” one, our native Melica californica.
Like the tops of some Bavarian churches these await identification, a beetle proves that California poppies are not just for looking, succulent Dudleya farinosa enjoying the Serpentine locations,
and a Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia http://www.sfbaywildlife.info/species/butterflies.htm
The Tiburon Mariposa Lily, Calochortus tiburonensis, enjoying its only location on earth amid the Serpentine on Ring Mountain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calochortus_tiburonensis
Because we didn’t spot them on our hike, I returned yesterday (22 May 2015) and was able to locate them next to an upper trail. CNPS indicates a brief window from mid-May into the beginning of June.
A California native Bumble Bee (Bombus californicus) enjoys brunch in a recently opened Tiburon Mariposa Lily.
And a P. S. – a photo from our 2008 Ring Mountain hike with Armando