Pilot Knobbing with Michael – 16 November 2015

We’ve always enjoyed the oases provided by the reservoir lakes of MMWD – the Marin Municipal Water District. Their bright blues, the sunlight reflecting off the water and the changing wave patterns have always attracted us – water based creatures that we are. Monday’s hike was no exception with the sparkling of Lake Lagunitas and Bon Tempe Lakes filling our views to the west and San Francisco and San Pablo Bays lighting up our water world to the east.

Phoenix Lake (411 acre feet) starts the MMWD chain of reservoirs. Then taking giant steps we come to Lake Lagunitas (350 AF), Bon Tempe Lake (4,017), Alpine Lake (8.891), Kent Lake (32,895) and then at a remove comes Nicasio Reservoir (22,430) and even further afield Soulajule Reservoir – 10.572 (“Soo-la-Hoo-lee”). Have we ever hiked here? We are fortunate in this time of drought that the MMWD reservoirs have 65.97% capacity when many lakes and reservoirs in California have half this or less.

Pilot Knob reflects in Bon Tempe Lake, 11-17-08, making the reflection a lot more substantial than the real thing. Wikipedia defines Pilot Knob as “a prominent elevated landmark that was useful navigational aid for hunters and travelers.” sounding very 19th Century. There are many Pilot Knobs across the United States (Missouri, North Carolina, Texas and Minnesota to name a few), maybe you grew up with one nearby. Mine was on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. How this particular hill got its name still bears some inquiry.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_Knob

We start with an extra layer this morning with temperatures dipping into the high 40s and 50s giving us a nice, crisp edge to begin our hike – layer up, layer down. Hardly worth commenting on when you live on the east coast, Spokane or Bodie – our record maker. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodie,_California
http://thestormking.com/Sierra_Stories/Bodie/bodie.html
http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/ca/bodie.html

We pause to read the map, Michael’s hat seems to have some tribal significance perhaps?

Beginning to warm up in the sunlight, Mt. Tamalpais one of our totems emerges in the distance.

Michael spots a bobcat in the brush. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU2mfWhTbJM Just 20 seconds but a relaxed moment. http://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2012/07/11/tracking-big-cats-to-learn-their-secrets/

We pass a pair of “small” Redwoods in the forest, always evoking a sense of majesty if not grandeur. Redwood trees have a way of quieting the trail and leading to meditative moments.

Pilot Knob has some remarkable views from its open western side. Here on arrival we again feel like we are in the palm of Mt. Tamalpais. Lots of view for the 1,187’ of altitude or an alternate measure is 1,115’.
http://www.summitpost.org/marin-county-mountains-ridges-and-hills/826882#chapter_23 This adds photos to the summit numbers helping to make associations and bringing back our recall.

Dense cover on the north side of Mt. Tam with the Fire Lookout prominent on the top left. We’ve enjoyed it before but perhaps this is a good moment to recall Gary Yost’s splendid “A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout”.
A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout. 3 years ago

Michael gave us a 360 degree tour of our view.

Looking east toward Mt. Diablo with the most northerly piece of San Francisco County, the island on the right side toward the bottom. Red Rock Island is the place where the boundaries of three counties come together. In addition to San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa . .”also converge on this high rock.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Rock_Island As we learned before, it was and is available for private purchase for only $5M. I wonder if you would need to pay taxes to all three counties? http://seakayaker.tripod.com/redrock.htm
The swarm you see on the slopes of Mt. Diablo is actually a souvenir from our first hike in the Tennessee Valley rain.

Moving back we gain some context and some rocks and lose the swarm. Often this water is called San Francisco Bay but here we are moving into San Pablo Bay, a huge northern reach of more shallow water.
http://www2.epa.gov/sfbay-delta/about-watershed
Michael mentioned a unique B & B on an island in the Bay on East Brother Light Station: http://www.ebls.org https://www.facebook.com/EastBrotherLightStation/videos?ref=page_internal

Moving north through San Pablo Bay we find the Carquinez Bridge over the strait of the same name connecting Crockett and Vallejo – the route of Interstate 80 to and from Sacramento. Perhaps we see the Benicia-Martinez Bridge showing just above the saddle of the hills and the overarching whiteness which seems like a suggestion of clouds is actually snow in the Sierra, now becoming truly the Sierra Nevada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carquinez_Bridge

The West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais formerly the highest part of the mountain until it was bulldozed during the Cold War to make a radar station. http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20140214/mt-tam-documentary-the-invisible-peak-posted-online

Looking west across Bon Tempe Lake and Dam with Azalea Hill as a backdrop with a serpentine cut exposed. Pine Mountain is top right.

Maybe just a little skeptical . . .

Time for a sunny lunch

Sue tells us about an exhibition of photos of seven Jewish Gold Rush Cemeteries in various towns of the Sierra whose history she has been researching, writing and speaking about for a number of years. The exhibition is in San Francisco at the Sinai Memorial Chapel. Michael plans to have one of our urban walks include this display of photos by the award winning photographer, Ira Nowinski. And, we’ll have the rare pleasure of having Sue share some history and stories of Jewish Gold Rush Pioneers.

We check out the return trails from a local group of home-schoolers and Michael points the way down . . . the way we came up.

The trail goes through a number of stands of Madrone trees. We sometimes see them more singly on our trails but here there are hillsides of the Pacific madrone. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbutus_menziesii

We find the fallen Madrone Matriarch which we visited with Armando in 2008.

November 17, 2008, closer to the time of the tree’s collapse.

November 17, 2008 – Mando and friends

Fall among the ferns. Western Bracken Fern giving its gray surround a splash of color. Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens, “A common fern in many habitats, but particularly moist areas in open meadows. Sometimes an indicator species for archaeologists as it
grows in disturbed areas and old building sites are outlined by these ferns. . . . The core of the long creeping underground black rhizomes were used by California Indians in basket design. The juice extracted from young fronds was used as a body deodorant.” Page 196
Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country and North Coast Ranges by Reny Parker
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bracken

Meanwhile back at Lake Lagunitas

Is that Armando down by the shore? You’ll recall that he is a catch and release fisherman who knows these waters.

Michael speaks of the two types: the Dabbling Ducks and the Diving Ducks.
http://blogs.sandiegozoo.org/2012/07/18/dabbling-vs-diving-ducks/
An Original DUCKumentary ~ Infographic: Meet the Ducks | Nature | PBS

We were treated to a busy Acorn Woodpecker “Fly About” as we approached the parking lot. Here with acorn in its beak one finds just the right hole for storing in their granary tree, an old snag that has a robust new mission in life. They have a masters in engineering fitting the acorns in so perfectly tight that the hungry competition can’t get at them.

Michael is reading to us about the decades long Walt Koenig study of Acorn Woodpeckers at the Hastings Natural History Reserve in Carmel Valley. http://www.hastingsreserve.org/Resident%20Web%20Pages/Koenig%20Web%20Pages/AWIntroPoster/AWposter.html
http://www.nbb.cornell.edu/wkoenig/
http://nrs.ucop.edu/media/videos/index_3.htm The first video, “Avid for Acorns”, talks about Acorn Woodpeckers at Hastings with a number of others following on a variety of natural history subjects.

Next week: Blackstone Canyon in Marinwood/Terra Linda

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