Stern Grove Foray with Michael and Harriet – December 12, 2016

It was a beautiful day in the midst of a series of storms, the rain was much welcomed and admired but the pause was a delight. It was like that moment of silence in a piece of music that can make all the difference. We met at the entrance to Stern Grove – corner of 19th Avenue and Sloat Blvd. This was our final hike of the fall season 2016 so you know what that means – POTLUCK. Harriet’s home is nearby the Grove, most conveniently located for whetted appetites.
The Stern Grove Festival website notes that it was established in 1938 and is the “oldest admission-free summer performing arts festival of its kind in America”. Rosalie M. Stern bought this land at the suggestion of John McLaren then Supt. of San Francisco Parks to be used as a memorial for her husband Sigmund who had been a great civic leader and she gave it to the City of San Francisco in 1931. She stipulated that it was to be used solely for recreation including “music, dramatics and pageantry” and under the jurisdiction and control of the Playground Commission of San Francisco of which she was president.

Many in the group said that they hadn’t been to the Grove recently or even at all after many years living in the area. It was a day of discovery for some and for others who’ve gone to the grove for the summer concerts, a chance to see it in a December mood. During the 19th Century the areas of Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach and Stern Grove were called “Outside Lands” because “the area was covered with sand dunes and was considered inaccessible and uninhabitable.”

Because Michael was slowed down with a flat tire, Harriet led our walk down the hill into a very different world on a roadway with WPA origins lined with stately eucalyptus trees and the occasional Redwood. Harriet loves red!

Our first stop was near the Trocadero – the area was once called the Trocadero Ranch. It’s a grand Victorian cottage from the turn of the 19th Century built by George Green, Jr. in 1892. The Trocadero was a famous Victorian-style road house in what was originally this remote part of San Francisco. It became a a destination for socializing, dancing, gambling at roulette tables and in a doff of the hat to the sportsmen, fishing. At the Trocadero we looked about for a for a view of the Eiffel Tower but for that had to rely on our memories. Whether we’re hearing echoes of the swirling music of the Can Can or the Ragtime music of Scott Joplin, the word “Trocadero” transports us to another time.
But along with those echoing memories we were enjoying the calm and quiet of the Grove. Harriet filled us in on some of the history of this destination.,_San_Francisco

All the world’s a stage 1-7 with variations in the cast: Great introduction to the Festival From Rick Prelinger’s Internet Archive, yes it’s without music but also a chance to see the sunlight of 1948 at the Grove. I kept turning up the sound which isn’t there. Quite sprightly and fun once you get into it. The Archive is well worth exploring and has plenty of sound as well in other visuals. And I became quite restless for the music after a few minutes. What about a world without sound? Even the “silent” movies had that musical backdrop. Then there’s color as well not only in films but in our everyday lives. Sound and color, are we lucky or what. Remembering the Mazurka of Coppelia by Leo Delibes done by the Bolshoi Ballet in another venue – music at last! – Covers the high points well and you have to love them for the title “From a Cow Pasture to Cantatas” The Romantic Story of San Francisco’s Sigmund Stern Grove.

Our audience seems to have gone home, oh well, we were just rehearsing! Off to Pine Lake Park which I hadn’t discovered previously even after going to Stern Grove for a number of years.

Moon noticed this remarkable eucalyptus log which seems to contain the waves of the sea.

Construction as we walked toward Pine Lake: a workman locating a large water pipe – improving the infrastructure below.

Coyotes were mentioned in 1847 records and now they’re back. Some think they returned to San Francisco by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

We came by a great meadow filled with dogs . . . and their owners. This area is a place where the dogs can run freely unlike some of the other Federal areas that are now minimizing off-leash prospects. There is a remarkable dog owning community here with a long history.

There was a special bulletin board for the dog owners with some memorials as well as some practical suggestions for taking care of your dog.

Eucalyptus reflections in Pine Lake which was also known as Laguna Puerca or Pig Lake in the 19th Century. It is one of three fresh water lakes in San Francisco along with Mountain Lake in the Presidio and Lake Merced. Some special history in this one after the bus directions: “Established:1931” includes how “A homesteader, a widow, a tenor and a park superintendent became the unlikely mix that produced Stern Grove and Pine Lake Park.”

Michael asks us about this one called poly got, smart weed or Polygonum amphibium (alternately Persicaria amphibia). In the knotweed family it takes a variety of forms so having more than one name may relate to various types or just be synonymous. It is native to North America. “Plants that occur in wetland habitats typically specialize in either growing on waterlogged but not flooded muddy soils , or in the water itself (either submerged or floating on the surface). Relatively few plants are able to grow under both conditions.” Water Smartweed is one of these as the Polygonum amphibium name implies.

Jeanne Alexander writing for the Neighborhood Parks Council in San Francisco mentions another invader, the Pine Lake was “covered with a smothering blanket of aquatic primrose in 1997 which was removed with an aquatic harvester . . . but the plant has come back in full force and again needs mass removal.”
A Ludwigia water primrose has been a huge challenge in the freshwater wetland of Santa Rosa (CA.) Laguna.

When I first came to Sonoma, California in 1962, I was introduced to the then huge Eucalyptus trees leading up to the Buena Vista Winery and was amazed coming from the east coast that this tree kept its leaves but shed its bark. The frequent shedding may prevent fungi, parasites and epiphytes (mosses and lichens) from persisting on their trunk and stems. It also reduces the risk of sheltering insects that could damage the trees.

The Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globus) trees of Stern Grove have great majesty and define the area of the dell with their striking size and presentation. But there has been a long running discussion in California about invasive vs. native because of this imported exotic. George M. Green settled the area and stabilized the sand dunes by “planting thousands of cypress, pine and eucalyptus trees” in 1871. (The trees had been introduced to California by Australians at the time of the Gold Rush in 1849-1850.) He also “further developed their land by planting “Holland Grass” on the sand dunes to prevent them shifting with the wind.” The venerable John McLaren planted them in Golden Gate Park (along with beach grass) and by 1879 there were more than 155,000 trees there, mostly Eucalyptus globulus, Monterey pine and Monterey cypress according to one source.
They were planted for fast growing windbreaks in treeless areas, what oak growth might take 200 years the eucalyptus could achieve in 20. Initially, they were thought to be useful for lumber but the young trees though large had irregular grains and bent and shrank when dried. It was discovered that good eucalyptus timber required decades or centuries of growth and the young wood wouldn’t even make good fence posts or railroad ties.
As the role of beach grass and eucalyptus in California’s landscape is discussed, it is good to remember that the pioneers were faced with galloping sand dunes in these “Outside Lands” of what would become Stern Grove and Golden Gate Park (along withthe adjoining districts). In 1853 a map designated this area as the “Great Sand Bank” for the sparsely settled and treeless landscape, some have said it was “Sand Francisco”. Area just south of San Francisco and further down the coast in Santa Barbara

Michael pointed out the beauty of this eucalyptus stump. (algal or fungal etching?)

Courtesy along the trail. The dog owners also showed courtesy by what they didn’t leave as well.

The return trail – the outgoing trail was just like the incoming trail, curious symmetry.

Harriet tells us about the new tiers (that’s tiers) for concert goers. It was always a “tradition” to have to dig in your heels on the hill in order not to end up in someone else’s picnic. There are also some poles laid sideways further up that ought to help too but these stone walls are really functional and beautiful.

Paul and Larry point out some amenities of today’s Trocadero

Thinking Iditarod thoughts

Harriet gives us instructions about getting to her place.

In her kitchen she describes the lay of the land with deserts lurking in the background

Harriet’s family also gave us a warm welcome – Mitchell, Janet and Harriet.

My fork was on the way so I just happened to finish my Peet’s.

All around me were vegetables, Harriet’s colorful kitchen theme at last gives them front & center rather than as an afterthought or an also ran.

We traded in our usual rocks for this delicious indoor picnic.

Barb and Inge are finishing a bowl of Scott’s homemade ice cream this time flavored for the holiday with candy canes. They’re good neighbors and serious ice cream aficionados.

Quiet conversations and view of the incoming fog from Mt. Tamalpais?

Fond Farewells

Footloose Forays Farewell – 2016 (with a few unable to make it, sigh) Wishing you a most remarkable holiday and a sweet Solstice on December 21st @ 2:44 AM (in San Francisco) but don’t set your alarm in alarm – the days will be getting longer. Looking forward to the Spring Hiking Series in March 2017.

Many thanks to Harriet for making this great shot available, here we’re rehearsing our footloose.

Michael writes in his new Footloose Forays brochure for 2017-2018, “I started this Footloose series in 1984 and some folks have been hiking with me since nearly the beginning! Monday morning hikes are a great way to start the week. We identify the abundant flora and diverse fauna in our backyard and learn about the geologic and human history of the Bay Area. Our endlessly fascinating and entertaining fellow hikers are yet another bonus!”

My previous hike-logs can be found at They are a small record of this wonderful group and its remarkable leaders just since 2011 and perhaps a bit earlier. My WordPress site continues the process of construction like the worker exposing the pipes in Stern Grove. Friends in the group and beyond are helping with this step back into our history together and forward into the future. I’ve always thought about Footloose Forays as something rare and special, definitely to be shared, savored and remembered. Lew

From that bulletin board in Stern Grove and, of course from the magical and whimsical writing of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s