Marshall Beach with Michael – 21 September 2015

You may remember the old Cunard advertisement, “Getting there is half the fun.” Last Monday seemed to echo that statement not only with stop offs at the Bovine Bakery but also finding the long, untraveled road that led to the trailhead. Not only was it a road less traveled, it was a road untraveled for many of us. There were so many discoveries along the way: spectacular views of the Pacific as the land dropped off in the distance, a large dairy ranch harking back to the ranch beginnings on Pt. Reyes peninsula in the 1860’s and more California Quail in the surrounding fields than we’d ever seen in our lives. And that was only the beginning.

(These hike-logs can be also accessed on )

Arrivals, on a day when inland temperatures were in the 90’s found us enjoying the balmy 70’s and sea breezes on our hike down to Marshall Beach – not to be confused with Marshall which is on the other side of Tomales Bay across the way and across the water.

Hoisting hay bails to feed the herd in this ultra dry autumn, Quail crossing a cattle guard with aplomb, looking out toward the Pacific across the landscape and a mysterious rock formation underpinning the hillside above complete with caves below. Would the grizzlies here in the 19th Century have found a refuge?

A Red-tailed Hawk surveys his many prospects from a good vantage point. Michael pointed out on one of our Shollenberger hikes that there are many Red tail variants and one site lists 16 sub-species in North America. Whether this is a local bird or a part of the spectacular migration of hawks down the Pacific flyway, we’d need some further observations. Michael added that this is prime time for the migration observations from Hawk Hill located in the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate.

Tamales Bay sketches in the background along with the surrounding hills and mountains, that’s Elephant Mountain in the center or Black’s Mountain if you prefer. Further to the left, would that be the familiar profile of Mt. Tamalpais or is it Mt. Barnaby? The sun of autumn, viva Autumn Equinox 2015, shows our lengthening shadows – our shadow people joining us for the hike.

Harriet is describing her trip to Hetch Hetchy in the Sierra Nevada recently courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Because she volunteers as a docent at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park she enjoyed this opportunity to explore the SF water system which begins at O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. She enjoyed an overnight there in the Governor’s Cabin all courtesy of the SFPUC.

Marshall Beach is also a kayaker’s destination with camping permits available for them. Amazing to the group was finding substantial rest rooms adjacent to the beach, oh, I could have had that coffee at the Bovine. Jeannie added that vital information to the hiking description for next time, very thorough indeed and thanks.

Looking down from our trail we see how well watered this area is compared to the dry hills across Tomales Bay and the dry fields that we drove through on our way to the trailhead.

Michael talks about the many different nationalities of the 19th Century ranchers and workers on Pt. Reyes and the origins of the alphabet ranches. “The tenant ranches were rented by Irish, Swedish, Italian-speaking Swiss and Azore Islands-Portuguese families.”
He mused about the lawyers named Shafter, Shafter, Park and Heydenfledt who obtained title to over 50,000 acres on the peninsula, “Imagine a group of lawyers beginning with the name Shafter.” To their credit “The Shafters envisioned a more civil society for the nineteenth century Bay Area, refining bachelor ranch hands and educating ranch family children. Chinese, Canadian, Filipino, Mexican and German immigrants all found their chance to get started in America through dairying at Point Reyes.” cf. Creation of an Empire in Michael added that there were Croatian fisherman from the Dalmatian coast also in the Tomales Bay area.

Looking like a flight of swans across the bay we’re seeing the Audubon Cypress Grove & Tomales Bay Preserves which we’ve visited on a few occasions. “Here, scientists and volunteers study wintering shorebirds and waterbirds on Tomales Bay . . .”
Other Audubon locations in Marin/Sonoma: Audubon Canyon Ranch (where Margie has volunteered as a docent for many years) and Bouverie Preserve in the Sonoma Valley (where Inge and Kit volunteer as docents). Did I miss anyone? Southern Marin also has an Audubon Center and Sanctuary on Richardson Bay.

Michael relates that Tomales Bay is a drowned rift valley with the San Andreas Fault going straight down the center of the Bay, the North American Plate is across the water from us as we stand on the Pacific Plate looking right.

Looking far to the northeast Michael spotted the familiar profile of Mt. St. Helena at the end of the Napa Valley.

We spotted a number of birds at this point including the always exciting White-tailed Kite, a Say’s Phoebe and this cooperative White-crowned Sparrow.

The down slope to the bay with the faint sound of a motor boat.

We stop in the shade of some Monterey Pines and Michael asks a question about these trees. Jeannie nails the ID – its needle’s bunch in three along with some mnemonic help in Mon-ter-rey.

Lace lichens (Ramalina menziesii) hanging from the branches, someone mentioned that lichens seem to like dead branches. We’ve enjoyed a lovely display of these on our hikes at Bouverie Preserve.

Marshall Beach with Michael, it felt remarkably like Lake Tahoe without the altitude.

Taking some sun on a fallen Eucalyptus tree, a Western gull, Larus occidentalis. Clicking one the pictures in Wiki will give you some remarkable close-ups.

Looking for a lunch spot with, maybe, some shade

Success. It’s beach seating with every spot guaranteed for the contour. I think Michael is checking out some filamentous green algae which has concentrations of orange pigments masking the green chlorophyll and giving it the surprising orange color.

Showing us a couple of plants washed up on the beach one more primitive and the other more modern. In his right hand he holds some kelp which along with all seaweeds are algae and as such are primitive plants with no root structure. “There is a holdfast that looks like a root system but it is merely an anchor holding the pant to the seabed.” The float bladder is called a pneumatocyst. It is filled with gas providing the buoyancy needed to lift the blades of the plant to the surface where the plant, perhaps a Giant Kelp (Macrocystis), combines the sunlight with nutrients from the ocean in photosynthesis to provide food for growth. And what amazing growth it can be extending 1 or even 2 feet per day until reaching a length of over 100 feed. – From the Monterey Bay Aquarium

In addition, Michael showed us how to cut one of these floats to various levels and then by blowing over the circular edge you can get a series of “piercing” notes at different places on the musical scale. Kind of like a piccolo, it was more fun just to watch and listen. In his left hand is sea grass which Scott got to sing with quite a lot of gusto by compressing the grass next to his thumbs and blowing, it was a reed instrument! Perhaps you remember this technique from growing up. We have the beginnings of a group, maybe take it on the road or at least, the beach. How about a catchy name?

Michael said that the less ancient sea grass is rooted and produces edible seeds and fruit. “The seagrasses are the only flowering plants (angiosperms) that can live underwater. More closely related to terrestrial lilies and gingers than to true grasses, they grow in sediment on the sea floor with erect, elongate leaves and a buried root-like structure (rhizome).
They live in the coastal waters of most of the world’s continents and are the main diet of dugongs and green turtles also providing habitat for smaller marine mammals, some of which, like prawns and fish, are commercially important. They also absorb nutrients from the coastal run-off and stabilize sediment, helping to keep water clear.” My source site that includes a very informative video.

Michael mentioned from his travels to the Gulf of California that there is a native tribe, the Seri, (Did they get the spelling right? Imagine asking Siri to find the Seri.) that especially depends on sea grasses.

One more beach find was the Sea Rocket, Cakile maritima, here with its bloom and the little two stage rockets. Michael added that this was the first plant to grow on the newly emerged volcanic island of Surtsey in 1965.

Scott looks on as Michael shows the two-stage rocket effect.

Speaking of orbital experiences, Michael researched kayaks some years ago and bought a used stock Necky Tofino double and in the process realized that this was the very boat that Ed Gillet used on his epic paddle from Monterey, California to Maui, Hawaii in 1987. “Not only did he arrive safely 2,200 miles from his put-in, but he also pulled off what we rank as the greatest paddling adventure in the 30-year history of CANOE & KAYAK. We’ll also put it among the greatest solo adventures of all time, any sport, because Gillet showed that for 64 days, Nature was conquerable, if unpredictable.”

When Michael had an opportunity to donate the kayak to a projected kayaking museum, he called Gillet to see if he wanted the kayak back. Gillet thought about it for a few moments and then said, “No.” For his more recent information. (Be sure to check out his youtube recommendation on a Virginia Woolf video on Sept. 23.) His enthusiasm for this film gives us an idea that his English classes at Eastlake High in Chula Vista, California may well share the same excitement of his kayaking to Maui! Some current photos of Ed Gillet taken last March along with a Johnny Carson interview with him in 1987.

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