Roy’s Redwoods with Michael – 6th March 2017

We were back on the trail last Monday with an auspicious beginning to our Footloose Forays Hikes, spring edition. While the bookends of the day gave us some more rain showers, the hike itself was in lovely, warm sunshine amid the green ver-dance of spring. Many in the group were returning from winter trips to faraway places: Tanzania, Galapagos, Sikkim, and New Zealand to name a few. Others of us have gone domestic in our journeys and some like me have watched the waters come down here in Marin in an amazing series of rain storms that inundated many areas around the San Francisco Bay – our local beat.

Some of our car pools from the south came up to the San Geronimo Valley on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This trip was over White’s Hill which separates east and west Marin. During the hike Sarah reported that the route in had been closed due to a landslide – seemingly in the DNA of White’s Hill. Voila, the return trip south required a new direction back home. White’s Hill has long been the separator between the different parts of Marin County starting as a “cart trail” and becoming a stage road from Olema to San Rafael in 1865. Later two tunnels were bored through White’s Hill with the construction of the North Pacific Coast Railroad in 1873 and 1874 and each one was called “Roy’s Tunnel”. The road was paved in 1929 and rail service was shut down in 1933 because travel by automobile became the preferred way to go . . . that is, unless there was a landslide.

The title to this entire valley area, Rancho Canada de San Geronimo, had been originally awarded to Rafael Cacho in 1844. Cacho was a Mexican military officer and friend of General Mariano Vallejo. The Rancho Canada de San Geronimo is a little less romantically The Valley of St.Jerome. “The Mexican government in this grant acknowledged Cacho’s loyal service. After only two years his finances forced a sale and the property went to Lt. Joseph Revere for $1000. Revere was a naval officer and grandson of Paul Revere who had served under Vallejo as well and had released the General from imprisonment at Sutter’s Fort. He’d discovered the valley while hunting elk and had fallen in love with it as a must have. He held the property only four years selling it to Rodman Price for $7500. But Price returned New Jersey when elected governor and left the operation to Lorenzo White, a 49er gold miner. For many years the area was known as White’s Valley, White’s Hill still bearing his name.”

Sold several times when Adolph Malliard acquired the Rancho in 1854 now for the handsome sum of $50,000, showing a nice foretaste of real estate values. He initially lived in San Rafael involved in horse breeding and railroad construction, perhaps an effective way of hedging his bets. Malliard’s father Louis was the son of Joseph Bonaparte who was the older brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. Malliard finally moved to the valley with his wife Annie in 1873 setting up housekeeping near Castle Rock in an area that would become today’s Woodacre. Annie loved her house in the Valley refusing ever to leave even though her family “pitied her isolation”. Her sister, Julia Ward Howe, who authored “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was an active abolitionist and suffragette who visited Annie many times in the Valley. It was Adolph Malliard who transferred title of two separate parcels of land of about 400-600 acres each to the brothers Roy, James and Thomas. From them we got the name for our destination, Roy’s Redwoods. The 309 acre tract for Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Reserve was a purchase by Marin Country Open Space District in 1978 made possible by a voter passed bond measure.

Below is an excellent history of the area by the Marin Conservation League and is part of their “Walk Into (Conservation) History” series # 18, a very helpful resource.


I relied on the previous site for the details of the historical background along with another excellent reference by Brian Dodd and Jean Berensmeier, found on the San Geronimo Community Center website. HISTORY OF THE SAN GERONIMO VALLEY.


Close to our parking area a beautiful stand of Redwoods is the appetizer of a hike to come Michael suggesting it for this fall’s Footloose hikes. We see the mother tree which was logged many years ago surrounded by the Redwood circle of new trees born from sprouts that form at the base of the tree. They utilize the nutrients and the root system of the mature tree. When it dies, a new generation continues its life creating a circle of trees called fairy rings.

Because of trail closures we needed to go to a different trail of Roy’s Redwoods Open Space which delivered wonderful views of the Valley – the Rancho Canada de San Geronimo spread out before us.

We circle the wagons as we are wont to do at the beginning of our hiking year to share a special moment in our lives since our last hike in December.

With mist rising on the far side of the Valley we begin some uphill stepping lively. It all begins with that first step. The map says this is the Moon Hill Trail. My read on the iPhone for the hike was 10,842 steps or 4.6 miles – we could correlate our figures sometime.

Pacific Hound’s Tongue (Cynoglossum grande) This is a Nature/Plus Blog that reminds me of Michael’s far-ranging and big picture observations along with smart commentary on a wide variety of subjects. The location of the blog is to the south of us in Carmel, Big Sur-Ventana area but the thoughts are expansive, fascinating and relevant. Other interesting segments are yours if you go to its “Home” marker at the top that includes “The Way of the Cyclist – Roads, Races and Rides”.

At one point our trail paralleled the road the leads from Nicasio to San Geronimo Valley. Along the roadway is a loving memorial to Cecy Krone, “A bicyclist killed by a drunk driver” on September 4th, 1999. Here is the beautiful website honoring her memory.

Heading onto Barnaby Mountain Fire Road (?), a different approach than we’ve done before from Devil’s Gulch Trailhead.

Stopping along the way to catch up and catch the view

True Turkey Tail Fungi (Trametes versicolor) or False Turkey Tail?
I needed a better view of the underside.

We passed some new bee boxes not yet in use and Michael recalled his time bee-keeping when he was living in Tennessee.

“To bee or not to bee . . .” With his usual spontaneity Michael shared a fascinating account of bee life and loves – all ad lib – there’s a bit of wind noise at times but hopefully not too distracting.

Sun Cups (Taraxia ovata – Calflora notes that Camissonia ovata is not an active name in their species table). The two photos on top of the grid are Sun Cups.
Reny Parker uses Camissonia ovata, Lilian McHoul uses Oenothera ovata and Margaret Armstrong in her 1915 “Field Book of Western Wildflowers” calls them Lavauxia primiveris. But she is describing a desert version in Arizona and does in her write-up talk of Taraxia ovata “on the southwestern coast with “the same little fresh, sunny faces.”
Michael has alerted us a number of times to the changes of many Latin names for wildflowers, I’m still hanging on to Zauschneria californica for California Fuchsia even though Calflora uses Epilobium canum as the primary name now. Zauschneria does appear as an alternate, I don’t want to give up on any name beginning with Z.
Sun Cups are also referred to as Golden Eggs. McHoul comments that her Oenothera ovata name comes from the Greek meaning wine-scenting, “the plant once being used for that purpose”. She continues, “This plant has a rosette of basal leaves that sometimes have reddish main veins. . . the large yellow petals are roundish and pointed at the apex.” Parker mentions something that Michael commented on, “There is no stem, as what looks like a stem is a very long flower tube and the ovary is hidden underground.”

The two photos at bottom are the common Western Butercup (Ranuculus californicus) is called Ranunculus repens by McHoul but all the rest seems to stick with californicus so less of an identity crisis. The Ranunculus comes from the diminutive form of Latin “rana” for frog because the plant thrives in a moist habitat.

Many Indian Warriors accompanied us on our hike so we felt well protected. Pedicularis densiflora has a long blooming season beginning in winter and extending into summer. “Before the flower blooms one may confuse the leaves for that of a fern. Common to dry bushy slopes, the Indian Warrior is an early harbinger of the flowers of spring.”
Parker, P. 112. McHoul points out that the pedicularis is the Latin word for louse and the alternate less appealing name of Lousewort. She too mentions the leaves which Michael commented about are fernlike, “much dissected and toothed.”

We all enjoyed meeting a Marin County Work Crew at the top of our hike, so fresh and enthusiastic they recharged us as we topped that hill. They were monitoring and pulling out the invasive broom which is a scourge in Marin, Sonoma, many other places in California and the west coast. This is an excellent Broom Blog (I had to say that) but actually this is more a site that is thorough, detailed and clearly written even sometimes with a sense of humor. The links are also very helpful. Check out the Documentary which puts it all together.
Here’s a short video from Oregon, They are struggling with broom in Australia as well. One different technique mentioned is cutting close to the ground and immediately covering the stump with chemicals.

Michael spots a great overlook of the Valley for our lunch but it seems to have gigantic ants which could prove problematic. We need to read “Leiningen Versus the Ants” by Carl Stephenson again. That goes back to me listening in bed to the ESCAPE series dramatized for radio. I think I pulled the covers up over my head on August 4, 1948!

And, yes, the ant is wearing sun glasses and carrying a golf club.

Picnic lunch viewing the Valley

Rowena went on Michael’s recent trip to Tanzania and in addition to a huge life experience she brought back a genuine Tanzanite Necklace. Tanzanite is so rare because it is found and mined in a small area only four kilometers wide and two kilometers long at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in the Manyara Region of Northern Tanzania. It was discovered by a Tanzanian Jumanne Mhero Ngoma in the Mererani Hills of Manyara Region in Northern Tanzania in 1967, near the city of Arusha.

Going downhill? It’s always easier with that momentum on the way down.

Michael has a regularly broadcast Perspective on KQED fm, this most recent one was on Totem Animals. Here it is should you have missed it:

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