Muir Beach and Green Gulch Farm & Zen Center with Michael – 24 April 2017

Heading south on 101 the usual profile of Mt. Tam was among the missing lost in a blanket of fog. The rain was a mixed bag with sometimes wipers, sometimes not. We inadvertently got into the start of a classic car procession (1959 or earlier) that was going over the mountain to Stinson Beach and destinations north. Memories of my first car returned, a black 1958 VW Bug and that unique feeling of the freedom – – the open road. There we were in my 2002 Camry, a part of this procession of collector cars from the 50s. A few people were on the sides of the road in the fog waiving and taking pictures of our parade. Then our turn came up and the classic cars went on up the mountain and we took the left down toward Muir Woods. We’d become, if only for a few brief, shiny and wistful moments a part of the venerable California Mille – Amici americani della Mille Miglia (American Friends of the Mille Miglia – the original in Brescia, Italy). It’s a 1000 mile classic car tour of northern California that has been held every spring since 1991- now in its 27th year.

Originally our hike was a trip to both Muir Woods and Muir Beach. But Michael had checked out the trails to Muir Woods and it was badly overgrown – another time. As we arrived at the new and much improved parking lot at Muir Beach, he gave us some choices. We made the pivot to “plan Bravo” enjoying the beach and its new, improved profile as well as a walk over to nearby Green Gulch Farm.

Here’s a Vimeo video of our hike with Igor Levit playing Bach’s Partita No 5 in G major. Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer here during the Muir Beach renewal. She and her group planted the native plants and shrubs we were looking at from the bridge. This year we saw the amazing difference from a spotty, stressed environment there to a lush and natural beach backdrop. This was a rainy day hike with a meditative quality heightened by our visit to Green Gulch Farm and the Zen Center. (With a whoops post script.)

Here’s the gathering of the tribe at Muir Beach parking lot while we get a break from the rain, the new restrooms continue to be a boon to woman and mankind getting us off on the right foot.

Michael talks about our hike options while the weather holds off. He also reminds us that this Redwood Creek is one of multitude of Redwood Creeks in California.

Diana shares some of the process of her volunteer work here, renewing and planting in this back beach area.

Joy in this renewal of native plants in this area – a bravo job.

Looking down at the restoration, Michael points out some Beach Evening Primrose (Camissonia cheiranthifolia). Reny Parker writes in her “Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country …” “Beach Evening Primrose is found along sand dunes and beaches. It favors full sun and sand. The solitary flowers are yellow, turning to reddish. They are formed from four bright yellow petals, sometimes with one or two red spots toward the base. Short lived, each flower opens at dawn and blooms for only one day.” P.68

A park worker putting some rock riprap (fun to say fast) together for hillside support at the southside of Muir Beach, anyone with a tendency toward hernias is advised to skip the next picture. The mini caterpillar utility mover makes smaller site-specific projects possible. And just for fun:

You often are thankful that you packed some cold weather gear for coastal adventures. Even in the summertime perhaps especially then it comes in handy with the wind and fogs.

Redwood Creek as it passes out to the Pacific across the northern edge of Muir Beach. Great efforts have been expended to save the Coho Salmon and steelhead that are unique to this creek, fish that are able to hone in on, to smell this particular water of “home”. Odysseus citing Ithaca after his long journey at sea might leap to memory. Michael likes to remind us that this would be the last trip for the salmon who make this return only once but that
the steelhead return to sea for repeat performances. As he says, if I were to be reincarnated, it’s better to be a Steelhead – choose that one every time.
The flow of water in winter and spring augmented by the rains is strong. It forms a passage across the beach which can close later on in the year as the flow subsides. For the salmon and steelhead timing is everything.

Jeannie spots a passing Caspian Tern which conveniently circles back over our heads. After calling it a Caspian, Michael corrects himself saying, “No it’s a U-tern”. Many other terns followed, as we know one good turn deserving another.
P.S. You can see the riprap work in the distance at the base of the hill.

While beachcombing we not only discover a bit of drift wood but some drift paper as well, interesting to think how it got here. We wish them well on the DMV test.

“By the beautiful sea, how happy we’ll be”. To go along with the California Mille, we have the musical BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA from 1954.
And some music from a local Muir Beach composer and performers that gives a great feeling for the community and its spirit. References to the “Pelican” are to the venerable Pelican Inn.

Here is the youtube rendition of MUIR BEACH by the local composer and performer, Willow Wray (1950-2014). She is described in the muirbeachcomer of August 2014 “… our songbird and friend taught us all so much about living, and about dying with such incredible grace and courage!”

Pink flowering Currant in the Gooseberry Family with the name, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum. Fascinating article in the January 2012 PACIFIC HORTICULTURE giving a neat Ribes tour. As you scroll down you’ll find this currant. The author writes, this is “One of over 430 California native pants introduced to the public by horticultural pioneer
Theodore Payne, pink flowering currant is widely available and versatile. … used as an understory shrub, it is harmonious with toyon, oaks and coffee berry.
… leaves are sticky and pungent. Dark blue berries are popular with birds in the fall. Found from Humboldt to Santa Barbara counties in the Coast Ranges”

Michael finds a wild cucumber, we often see the galloping vine but the fruit of the vine not as often. Also called a Manroot, the Wild Cucumber can have an enormous tuber. The Wikipedia article describes it, “The anthropomorphic common names “man root’ and “old man” derive from the swollen lobes and arm-like extensions of the unearthed tuber. On old plants, the tuber can be several meters long and weigh in excess of 100 kg (220 lb). – This claim has a “citation needed” added. Michael mentioned that the Latin name Marah fabaceus comes from Exodus 15:22-25 and refers to bitter water. Native Americans used it for a variety of purposes treating aches, sores, kidney trouble, venereal disease and women cut slices from the fruit when they wanted to stop breast feeding putting the bitter slices (sans stickers) on their nipples.

Continuing our promenade Michael points out the Western Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) blooming in all of its delicate glory with a leafy surround next to the trail. It’s a member of the Rose Family

Just a bit further on he spots a Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) in the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae). Reny Parker writes, “A treat to behold in many moist coastal habitats, …. The glossy deep purple double berries ripen near summer’s end and are presented in a cup of now bright maroon bracts appearing as a reddish ruff of Tudor women’s dress. A delight to the eye but brutally bitter to the taste.” P. 207

Green Gulch Farm Stand in a quiet space before it gets busy later in the year.
George W. Wheelwright III and his wife soon to be, Hope Richardson, decided to move west from Corpus Christi, Texas buying an 800 acre cattle ranch in Green Gulch, California in 1945. Mr. Wheelwright’s storied career had a restless quality wearing many hats including being a co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation. In writing a history of Green Gulch Farm, Mick Spoke relates that Mr. Wheelwright virtually gave Green Gulch to the Zen Center in the summer of 1972. “The two main requirements we have to honor in perpetuity are to maintain a working farm – this is part of Mr. Wheelwright and Hope’s request – and in the spirit of the surrounding Golden Gate National Recreation Authority property, be open to the public for trails. The Zen Center had at this time already proved itself with Tassajara as an able steward of an inholding surrounded by wilderness”. Rich and extensive history.

Cultivated field as we walk further into the Green Gulch property.

Planting in the rain, sounds like a good subject for a haiku.

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatie) in the Pea Family. “Crimson clover is commonly used as a winter or summer annual cover crop in rotation with vegetables or field crops.” Meditation and action

The yew hedges mark the entrance to this garden Alan Chadwick designed with four entries or exits.
“One of the original architects of the gardens at Green Gulch was the renowned late horticulturist Alan Chadwick — who had introduced the biodynamic farming techniques influenced by Rudolf Steiner on the farm. Chadwick’s grave is marked by a stupa on site. Author Fenton Johnson writes that Green Gulch Farm, ’serves as a model for living on the land in the context of Zen Buddhist practice.”

Holly is our ambassador, she seems to know someone at all our ports of call.

What a garden shed can be with imagination. From a visitor’s point of view with insights from a beginner – bear with the ads.

What a great way to begin your gardening day.

One of the workers describes their work in renewing and rehabilitating the creek that flows through Green Gulch.

Native plants and boulders at this point to maintain the creek sides.

Heading to the top of the Zen Center

Large temple bell in its superb belfry

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