Bear Valley with Hunter – 24 October 2016

Last Monday’s weather was restless with windy sprinkles and skittering clouds sending a message of what’s coming over the hills – a perfect day for a hike.
We take as our example Winslow Homer who used to love going out along the rocks of Prout’s Neck on the Maine coast especially on stormy days. His friends and family would urge him to come back in to home and hearth but his response was, “Come out here it’s perfectly grand!” Our hike down Bear Valley with Michael’s son Hunter was one of those exciting days you wouldn’t want to miss. Hunter was standing in for Michael who had shoulder surgery last Friday and needs recovery time. Some of us had met Hunter before and Michael has most recently shared the excitement and happiness of Hunter’s wedding last June. It was very cool to have him leading us on the trail.

As we walked down Bear Valley, a variety of sounds all about welcomed us from the flowing of Bear Creek next to the trail to the high sounds of wind blowing in the tops of the huge Douglas Firs by the hillsides of our walk. The song of their needles in the wind was curious because it sounded like pelting down rain but as we walked we were almost dry maybe experiencing some of that “sound and fury signifying nothing” or at least of no drenching rain. We have a fascination with rain here in California, it is such an event after a long dry summer that we’d like to not only run it up a flag pole, print banner headlines but also announce it with flashing lights on some grand marquee. Memories come back of rollicking thunder storms, getting wet to the bone – longing for a warm bath & some dry clothes and jumping into puddles on your way home from school. Glorious rain and yes, glorious mud. – A lovely, eclectic book about RAIN as the heroine, the hero in its many splendored forms – life giving and amazingly destructive. Describing Prout’s Neck, Maine and Winslow Homer’s studio Lovely tete-a tete between the inimitable Flanders and Swann singing the Hippopotamus Song and my origin of “glorious mud”. Rain sounds should you not have enough available.


Gathering up ourselves before the hike we get to meet with Hunter, today’s hike leader. Everyone has a different kind of pack, I think Viola gets the prize.

The Bear Valley Trail has green archways giving a sense of protection and calm – the sounds of Bear Creek along the trail provide some of the background music.

We’ve passed by Elk Clover on a number of our hikes on Mt. Tamalpais and at Pt. Reyes. “It is the only member of the ginseng family native to California and southwestern Oregon.” Here’s is some Aralia californica that we passed along the way. Not a clover but there could be actual elk browsing this plant in more remote sections of the park. One reference gave Gold Rush miners credit for the name. You’ll also recall miner’s lettuce.

We greet a passing equestrian returning to the visitor center. We’ve had a number of Pt. Reyes hikes with Michael and Jim in the Five Brooks area where there are stables and trail riders. There we’ve enjoyed meeting equestrians on a regular basis.

Pt. Reyes National Seashore used to be a center for Morgan horses which were an integral part of the National Park system in the west.

Arriving at Divide Meadow we reconnoiter and wonder when the rain will come down in earnest. The Bear Creek Trail continues down to the coast but this is the high point of the trail. The former trail destination was an overlook in the area of Arch Rock but a deadly rockslide in March 2015 brought about a trail closure.

Looking out on a portion of Divide Meadow where a country club/hunting club was located from the 1890s until the 1934 Depression. The first club was centered at the “Howard Cottage in Bear Valley as a hunting lodge and summer resort”. “In 1890, thirty-seven members of San Francisco’s exclusive Pacific Union Club formed an equally exclusive country club for which they leased 1000 acres in Bear Valley . . . and another 76,000 – odd acres as a hunting preserve.” Seems enormous.

This is a rare and wonderful account of Marin County in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. If you scroll down you can read about the climate of Pt. Reyes as “positively intoxicating . . . . There is champagne in the very atmosphere.” When scroll down and you come to “Point Reyes in Leisure” the description begins with folks getting off the North Pacific Coast Railroad at Tocaloma.

Divide Meadow is the high spot for this trail c. 360’ above sea level.

Lots of green in these familiar plants along our way clockwise in upper left with Coast Live Oak, California Bay, grasses with rain drops and California Hazelnut.

Back at the Visitor’s Center there is just time to take the Earthquake Trail Loop. This area of Olema Valley was thought to be the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake but recent studies have found that it was just off the coast near Pacifica. Oh well, good spirits reign just prior to another kind of rain. – Well written and extensive with good photos & many links.

The rain begins, something that always takes getting used to. They used to call them slickers or dusters.’s_Oilskin_Duster

Looking up the stairs showing the displacement of the farmer’s fence by the 1906 Earthquake. Clear description of the 1906 Quake with excellent detail.

Looking down from the top of the steps

Lunch beneath a large sculpted California Bay tree

Maybe the work of a California Acorn Woodpecker or perhaps a Red-breasted Sapsucker, maybe both or others. Looks like a life’s work when you look up the trunk. Author, author. Or better recalling the Acorn Woodpecker communities, “Authors, Authors.”

A pair of ravens bid us hasta luego.

P.S. With thanks for the vision of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and many others:

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