San Bruno Mountain with Michael — 1 June 2015

San Bruno Mountain has a remarkable support group in SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN WATCH: With the vision of David Schooley and many others this group developed starting in 1969. It is dedicated to the preservation of this unique and irreplaceable open space. It’s a mountain but also very much an island of natural life going back to the Ohlone Indians and beyond – in the midst of ongoing and surrounding urban development. By attendance at San Mateo County Supervisors’ Meetings, distributing leaflets, bulletins, press releases and more they rallied the people who lived on the mountain’s edges to the cause. With the discovery of the rare and endangered Mission Blue Butterfly on one area of the mountain by Dick Arnold from UC Berkeley and Larry Orzak residential development was halted. But developers found a “compromise” workaround to the Endangered Species Act with the benignly named Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Schooley writes, “It is not surprising, but a bitter irony that across the valley on the Northeast Ridge, where rare and endangered habitat on the Mountain has been destroyed, streets within the new subdivision carved out of the mountain’s flanks now bear names like, “Mission Blue Drive” and “Silverspot Lane.” Like the road, the fight goes ever on. This is Schooley’s account of the history behind San Bruno Mountain Watch Their active website has a number of enjoyable videos as well as blogs, posts, poetry and art.

Saving San Bruno Mountain might have been a different story. Fortune shone on the mountain in the form of some strange bedfellows. Perhaps if not for the San Francisco Dump in Brisbane and the cemeteries of Colma both at the base of San Bruno Mountain, the “little boxes made of ticky-tacky” might have powered on and covered the mountain. Odd sentinels but sometimes the nemesis can become the gate keeper. Colma has been there since the 1880’s as an accessible final destination with trains of the time stopping at most of the cemeteries. Then in 1914 with land becoming too valuable for the living, eviction notices were sent out to San Francisco cemeteries and many of their occupants found themselves on a second final trip this time to Colma. In response to these evictions, cemetery operators in 1924 founded Colma as a necropolis to protect it from “capricious acts of government”. Dedicated to the memory of those passed on, it remains a solid bastion for its “residents” and a protective barrier for the living on the ocean side of the mountain.

If you were driving to SFO in the 1960s you may have driven down the Bayshore Freeway and on the way gone through distinctive smells, plumes of smoke and blowing debris across your path. You were passing Brisbane, a town that a company called Sanitary Fill helped to incorporate in 1961. The dump had its origins in 1932 as a “fill-and-cover” dumping ground for San Francisco. But it was not to be a company town and the residents formed Brisbane Citizens for Civic Progress (BCCP) and won an election on the dump when the people of Brisbane voted to stop the influx of garbage immediately. But there was the contract with Sanitary Fill like some kind of noxious necklace still round the town’s neck. Happily Brisbane hired a lawyer, Caspar Weinberger, and won the contest and was able to as Marijke Rijsberman writes in her fascinating blog, “to turn the garbage tide.” Who thought that landfill could be so interesting? This site is a treasure trove of San Francisco history.

Parking area interpretive shelter near the trailheads.

Arrival under some foggy skies

Michael talks about his first times here on San Bruno Mountain in the 1970s after his arrival in California and still on his motorcycle.

He shared David Schooley’s remarkable dedication to saving this Mountain, a man so dedicated to preserving nature that he did not own or drive a car.

We took the Summit Loop Trail.

Getting into the chaparral with the Bay below and the East Bay almost imagination Always amazing to find specialist blogs on exotic subjects.

Gaining some altitude, we begin to feast on the views which were remarkable. Here the San Francisco skyline with the Bay bridge leading to the Yerba Buena Island anchorage. That’s Mt. Tamalpais’ profile on the left horizon where we hiked last Monday.

A bouquet of Indian or Wight’s Paintbrush (Castilleja wightii) which has a long blooming season to be enjoyed through spring and summer. It was moved like some of the San Francisco “residents” not to Colma but to the Figwort family.

More of the San Francisco skyline away from downtown

Native bunch grasses and SF skyline. The ID was?

Getting swallowed in the landscape

Higher vantage point showing more of the surrounding developments, ships perhaps waiting on the tide.

We passed a number of mounds of the Mound Harvester Ant with great activity going on in each. In looking for more information, there were a lot of references to pest removal (Orkin etc.) but not too much about the ants’ natural history.

Moving smartly beyond the ant mound, Michael finds a lunch spot with a view.

Looking down on Colma

Serpentine of another sort as we look toward (towards in Britain) the Pacific, shopping available.

And with Lake Merced in the next quadrant looking almost like an indentation of the Pacific Ocean. There is a cool map in this link showing San Francisco as an island 125,000 years ago separated from the Peninsula by the Colma Strait.

At least Armand is paying attention. We noted some maintenance going on in one of the towers as well. The narrator seems unusually calm. These workers aren’t quite at the 1768 foot level, today anyway.

Look up, look down, look all around. A lovely stand of Dudleyas. We found some Dudleya cymosa on our Deer Park hike and D. farinosa on the Ring Mt. expedition.

Harriet wore her Baltimore Ravens Cap and it was an amazing draw. At lunch we were treated to a large flock of soaring ravens in what seemed to be a spring meet-up doing some lyrical acrobatics, maybe teenagers on the dating scene.

Red Elderberry was along the trail, think “Red Pyramids”. We saw the Blue Ederberries on our Mt. Diablo, Mitchell Canyon hike.

The Mt. Sutro Tower constructed in 1973 helped eliminate the line-of-sight television signal problems in an area with many hills and many of the TV towers used on Mt. San Bruno.

On the downhill loop

We’ve worked back around to the City skyline.

The popcorn flower, Western Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea.

The return continues across a small bridge. It would work even better if there was a stream flowing beneath.

Also crossing the bridge – it’s the little things, where are you going and with what wings will you fly?

San Bruno Mountain with fog moving in.

P.S. Larry spotted some Salvia spathacea, hummingbird sage, which I missed along the way. But it is not to be missed.–salvia-spathacea

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