Rock Springs with Michael – 25 May 2015

Last week we got to see Mt. Tamalpais from Ring Mountain and this week it was the other way round. As we drove up Mount Tam Monday morning, the fog played tag with us. Ah, we’re out of it and into the sunshine. Whoops, we’re back in the fog. Keep the lights on, I think we’re almost there. Ah, there it is, Rock Springs. There was a special freshness in the air as we stretched into the day.

Sunlight begins to share the air with the receding fog. As we began our hike, Michael observed an area beneath a fir tree showing very wet footprint. “Fog Drip”, he said. This fog moisture collection by trees provides a substantial amount of water for their growth and health. Coastal Redwoods are able to capture significant amounts of water from the fog with their needles (like catcher’s mitts) and remarkably, move it both up and down their majestic lengths.

Looking out from Bolinas Ridge toward the Pacific. On some Saturday evenings this parking lot comes alive and turns into a cool observatory when the fog is quite willing. Scott in our group is a member of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers. He comes up here to share the stars with all comers.

Gorgeous rock bearing gifts, Michael spots a resident. Can you see him? Left side on the edge of the lower part just before El Cap but maybe a closer view.

A Blue Belly with a soft blue lichen surround is warming up for the day.

Meditative moment for this runner who had just come up by us on a nearby trail, love that posture.

Graceful Pacific Madrones (Arbutus menziesii) marching up a hill by the trail to the Mountain Theater.

Huge Serpentine blocks quarried on the mountain were wrestled into place in 1936 by CCC workers to make an amphitheater reminiscent of Greece and Rome.

This year’s production is PETER PAN, you can see there’s plenty of space for flying.

Poison Oak variations along the trail, Michael pointed out that the Latin name is Toxicodendron diversilobum, diverse indeed. Perhaps we’re clear that the bottom photo shows our nemesis but the top, just an oak tree sprouting? Nope, that’s poison oak as well. We’ve seen it recently diminutive in the ground hugging chaparral out on Chimney Rock and earlier at Annadel Park in Santa Rosa winding up Douglas Fir trees with massive vines.

Coming out of a forest we’re now in chaparral, these edges are rich with plants and animals, an “ecotone” as Michael pointed out. Things quiet down as you go into the forest or out into the grassland but it’s these edges where you find the action.

Not much growing on this serpentine outcrop. Michael relates that it is composed of potentially toxic materials: magnesium, chromium and nickel – low in the plant nutrients, potassium and calcium. But surprisingly many plants have adapted to this unusual environment.

Manzanita berries (Arctostaphylos hookeri ssp. montana) which the Miwok crushed for a sweet, unfermented cider. McHoul in “Wildflowers of Marin” identifies an Arctostaphylos cushingiana named for Sidney B. Cushing, builder of the Mt. Tamalpais railroad. There are many identified in the Arctostaphylos group and apparently the Miwok used at least four varieties in their ciders, you can imagine tastings under the Redwoods. , An Indian Paintbrush ablaze in a dry patch of coyote bush, Michael mentioned the third one was a Calochortus bloom, not the one we sought at Ring Mountain (Calochortus tiburonensis), maybe Calochortus minimum, just flying by tsomp here. and finally the fourth, perhaps Goldwire (Hypericum concinnum) in the St. John’s Wort Family,

Michael spotted an Ash-throated flycatcher at the top of the middle tree and an Acorn woodpecker along for company in the skeletal tree on the left. Just scroll down in this link:

We stop to enjoy some Elk Clover along the trail, the nearest elk are over at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. It is in the Araliaceae – Ginseng family.

Lunch at the picnic tables of the West Point Inn and Barb takes a photo of three passing Memorial Day hikers.

The after dinner conversation was partly about the new California Common Core State Content Standards with a number of our teacher-hikers.

Passing plane reflecting bright white in the sunshine.

Going back on the same trail is always different.

Michael stops to share this California “Rhodi” with us, our one and only, Rhododendron occidentale. In the past, he has sent us remarkable photos of the gorgeous plethora of Rhododendrons blooming in Bhutan.

Michael points out a flower from the Rhodi’s bloom

Returning to our starting point, we are welcomed by this faithful hound, a quite dignified tri-color beagle – the fog remains on the horizon.

You may recall the remarkable Gary Yost, his superb films. His videos of the fire lookout on Mt. Tamalpais and restoration of the West Peak of Mt. Tam in “The Invisible Peak” were beautifully done. Here is one devoted just to the ocean of the Bay fog from the vantage of the mountain, “Full Moon Pacific Blanket.”

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