Modini Mayacamas Preserves with Michael – 18 September 2017

We knew it would be a great day for a hike because there was hardly any traffic on northbound 101. Fog lifting on the hills gave our destination a whisp of mystery and a great cup of Flying Goat Coffee at the Jimtown Store sealed the deal. The omens were all good. Michael was able to snag an opening for us at Modini Myacamas Preserves in a call with its unique resident naturalist, David Self. This preserve is a part of the Audubon Canyon Ranch group of properties in the North San Francisco Bay which we’ve enjoyed visiting on a number of occasions. But this latest addition to ACR was a first visit for most of us. A number of our hikers have volunteered as docents for a number of years at Martin Griffen and Bouverie Preserves “sharing their time and love of nature with generations of schoolchildren.” A moment for some applause.

Jim and Shirley Modini as long time ranchers on the site of part of the reserve transferred their property to ACR in a bequest. The Modinis as “avid land conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts” were eager to pass on their land for preservation first as the Modini-Ingalis Preserve and then to Audubon which owned the adjoining Maycamas Mountains Sanctuary. In an interview Jim would relate how he’d go to Santa Rosa and Windsor and seeing all those subdivisions would drive him crazy. In the Press Democrat appreciation he said, “My place is going to be set aside, no development, (it’s) for the creatures and critters that crawl upon it.” The two land parcels were joined together as the Modini Mayacamas Preserves. “The Modini-Ingalis family had owned the property – primarily used for cattle grazing – since 1867. Jim Modini died on his ranch in November of 2011and Shirley followed in July of 2012 living on and loving their beloved property to the last.


A convenient stop close to our rendezvous point, the historic JImtown Store, a “landmark since 1895”.
Inge and Barb enjoy the flower garden in the distance with the largest group of monarch butterflies that we’ve seen in years.

The populations of monarchs and many other butterflies have been crashing dramatically in recent years all across the United States. Sightings have been rare in the last years often only seeing a single Monarch wafting its lonely way as it passes by – my flights into anthropomorphism. But today was a dramatic departure with numbers of monarchs cavorting in this flower garden sipping its nectars and seemingly carefree in the morning sunshine. California and the west coast Likewise lovely writing that focuses on the Mid-West and North East.

Michael introduced David Self to the group unable to resist telling us that David was well know for taking “selfies”. David was most articulate and passionate about sharing the Modini Mayacamas area with us. We appreciated and enjoyed his rich botanical background, whimsical humor and endearing style.

While we were caravanning up the hill, David stopped to show us this remarkable wild buckwheat bush, Eriogonum Fasciculatum. You too can help the butterflies and bees by planting it.

Stopping on the way up for the panorama, David recommended an app for the smart phones called Peak Finder which will give you specific identifications as you point your iPhone for 360 degrees and gives worldwide coverage. Lisa appears to be pointing out Mt. St. Helena (4,342 ft, 1,323 m) near Calistoga which has a very different profile from this perspective.

David indicated that Marin’s Mt. Tamalpais (2,576 ft., 785 m) is the peak visible furthest south . . . way on the horizon to the right.

In another direction we saw these enormous transmission towers bringing electricity from the Geysers, the largest geothermal production facility in the the United States and the world. a chart as you scroll down the page shows capacity for the USA a large portion of which is the Geysers at 3450 Megawatts (MW) in 2015 but that is just 0.4% of USA national generation, whereas the Philippines capacity is 1870 MW in 2015 and this is 27% of their national generation, Iceland’s capacity was 665 MW used for 30.0% of national generation and Kenya’s capacity is 594 in 2015 which is used for 51% if its national generation. Here’s a link to show the breakdown for USA energy sourcing, some surprising percentages, can they be right?

David told us about the ghost town of Pine Flat on the Modini Property that was a colorful flash in the pan destination in the 19th Century. “The Modini family first homesteaded in the area in 1867. His grandfather owned the Garibaldi Hotel in Pine Flat and his father ran the ranch, not far from the flourishing Pine Flat quicksilver mine”. “In a brief period in the early 1870’s, Pine Flat was said to be the fastest growing town in Northern California with a population of between 1,000 and 4,000 inhabitants, according to newspaper accounts of the day.”

Joe Pelaconi who has specialized in this history has written a book about the area, QUICKSILVER MINING IN SONOMA COUNTY, PINE FLAT PROSPECT FEVER. On a visit to the area overlooking the overgrown site, “Pelaconi observed that there were once 60 houses , at least 8 saloons, three good-sized hotels, four dry goods and grocery stores, a post office, two meat markets and a couple of livery stables. There also were references to “hurdy curdy” and “bawdy” houses, or bordellos. . . . There were no churches or schools …. you can only speculate it must have been a wild place,” Pelaconi said.—pine-flat.html

David led us on a brief hike into an area that had been burned during the Geysers Fire of 2004.
You can look down the road to see the longest controlled tire burn (Yaw Marks?) that I’ve seen, artistry on the macadam? This isn’t doughnuts, maybe drifting?

David stands by a large Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) that had fallen over the road in the fire and needed to be cut up and moved. The ponderosa is the most widely distributed pine species in North America according to the Wikipedia introduction. The NPR link describes Ponderosas in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest during a hike there in 2009.

Yampa in harvest mode (Perideridia californica?) (Perideridia kelloggii?) et. al, Rod holding it steady, thanks. Peri – deri – dia what a neat rhythm, you could even chant or sing it as you walked along. As to which one this is, that needs more work. Yampa is in the carrot family “valued for its edible plants: carrots, celery, fennel, chervil, parsley, parsnip and herbs including coriander, cumin, caraway, dill, and angelica. However, it is unwise to eat wild members of this family unless their identification is certain as some are extremely poisonous. … The common name “yampah” comes from the Yampeh Ute Indians of Colorado. The word yampeh means “big medicine”, and Kellogg’s yampeh was a staple of this and many other native-american tribes” Cf.

David comments here about Yampa and Camas lilies. – just a few of the possibilities David said there is no “correct” pronunciation.

Since the name of the preserve includes Maya – camas, I’m wondering if the camas lilies whom the Native Americans relied on as an extremely valuable food source may have found its way into the name, perhaps via some tribal designations?

David pointed out this Gumplant (Grindelia stricta) in the Sunflower family. It was a surprise to find it here since we’ve seen it mostly at the ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore, sometimes in the dunes and sometimes on the Chimney Rock Trail. But it seems to like scrub too as this plant attests.
The plant is named for a Russian botanist, a professor David Grindel notes Lilian McHoul (who calls it Gumweed and sites another variety – Grindelia hirsutula meaning hairy). There were so many references to Grindel just calling him Prof. that I began thinking that was his first name! The buds and flowers exude a milky substance somewhat the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. This stickiness discourages them from being eaten. Hilary Stewart in her book DRINK IN THE WILD … observes “Several gum weeds bear their bright yellow flowers, like miniature sunflowers atop gummy burrs, on bushy plants that vary their location. One species prefers open, dry places, often growing on freshly disturbed ground; another seeks the windswept surf spray of the coast; a third enjoys the warmth of the interior lands.” She describes how to make Gumweed tea and she also was the one who knew Grindel’s first name and dates which were 1776-1836. Was he born on the 4th of July? Is Grindel an americanization? I found a Reinhard Grindel who is the current president of the German football association, so maybe, a German background?

There was much talk of milkweed in conjunction with maintaining and planting this valuable plant in order to help return the butterfly populations to their former numbers. From the Xerces Society site: “Milkweeds (Asclepias app.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly
(Danaus plexippus) and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico.” David identified this as a Narrowleaf Milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) in the Dogbane Family, Apocynaceae (Milkweed)

Here David talks about the “Monarchs of the Glen” er, rather monarch butterflies –

The milkweed was in a seasonal stream bed which became our go to lunch spot. Looking up, were we having a power lunch? Did Sheri mention the power lines overhead happily transporting electricity from the Geysers but not so happily, maybe, that the EMFS from power lines were perhaps threatening our health?

Some smooth stones in the stream bed

We came upon a recently dead mole lying in state on the dry grasses of the stream bed. Michael relayed that a mole is not a rodent but rather an insectivore. Sadly most of the internet references to moles seem to relate to trapping or extermination rather than the valuable service they provide to the gardener and the land. This one was beautifully marked with pinkish-white appendages and even with a small white tail. – Michael talked at length to us about what a moles’s life is like.

Kit discovering that mole skin is remarkably soft. Moleskin from its original usage of actual animal’s skins has fortunately morphed into a descriptive word for cotton textiles; You can also add an “e” and it morphs again into a description of paper and notebooks:

David pointed out a hole in a dead tree trunk perhaps from the 2004 fire that was home for a Pileated Woodpecker . Below the trunk was a robust growth of grapes whether California Wild Grape (Vitus californica) or something more exotic I’m not sure. Perhaps this bird is a connoisseur of the many exotic varieties in the Healdsburg area.–California_Wild_Grape/ Mr. Miranda’s remarkable pictures show he’s a big fan of Dryocopus pileatus.

Many thanks to David for his outstanding introduction to Modini Mayacamas Preserves.

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