Category Archives: Fall 2015

Blackstone Canyon with Michael – 23 November 2015

We drove through some sweet autumn colors in suburban Marinwood on our way to the trailhead, the deep reds of the Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum), the brighteorange reds of the Chinese Pistache and the vibrant yellows of the Ginko biloba in full tilt. Michael had just returned from his trip to New York City to visit his son, Hunter, and to explore that urban “forest”. He was very pleased that he was able to add a new hooping location to his growing portfolio. This time is was in front of a favorite touchstone, the Apollo theater, and done with his usual style but in the rain – he loved the sign above that said “Amateur Night”.

Shot with his iPhone. You can spot Michael hooping, of course, you can.

Having a gather as we get together

A friend of Michael’s just coming back from her hike, she knits while she hikes and was making this for Syrian refugees. This site from another knitter develops the idea. This blog is done by a nurse on the Olympic Peninsula.

Maybe this was the time when Michael was talking about the Pistachio (Pistacia) which is in the Anacardiaceae family – quite a gathering around that table including cashews, mangos, poison sumac, poison ivy, poison oak, the smoke tree and many more cousins. The wiki article speaks of these flowering plants “bearing fruits that are drupes and in some cases producing urushiol, an irritant.”
A sidebar was remembering pistachios when they were red:

A Giant Chain Fern, Woodwardia fimbriata –

This hike wasn’t just meandering by a stream, it also had some chunky uphill (and downhill – they always seem to go together). Slow and steady made it. Big Bravo to everyone!

We’ve been celebrating a bumper year of Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) berries, here you can see them going all the way to the crest of this hillside.

Todays’s lunch spot arrived at by the best of intentions.

Michael mentioned at the start of the hike that he was thinking about the difference between INTENTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS. Intentions free you up to be yourself and focus on the things in life that really matter to you. Expectations on the other hand can be delimiting, filled with guilt (not living up to someone or something) and frustrating.
Here’s more of an explanation by Jack Elias:
This link relates to using the idea in teaching:

What a fine conclave of hiking friends and companions!

Plenty of room for conversations of all kinds

A dam on Blackstone Canyon Creek that an earlier farmer erected, we saw the rusty piping of this water project a number of times along our trail.
Michael mentioned that all dams eventually fill up and become less functional to non-functional demanding alternative planning. Here are some clear and informative maps of the Miller Creek Watershed. Blackstone Canyon Creek is in the top middle of each map. A number of other watershed areas are detailed with similar care and quality – nicely done! Here’s another excellent resource for the Miller Creek Watershed in which our hike is located – The Historical Ecology of Miller Creek. Here’s an example from further south of a dam’s removal in the Carmel River Valley.

John wears a tag with his medical history on his shoe, he said it had been more urgent earlier in his life but that he thought he’d put it on his hiking shoe for future reference.

Heidi shared that just after she’d take a first aid course including the Heimlich Maneuver. She was in a restaurant when a stranger at another table began to choke. She had things fresh in mind and was able to perform it and help the person to breath again. On another occasion someone mentioned actually plucking out a piece of lobster that was causing the choking from someone’s mouth. While the results may be smelly and messy, the saving of someone’s life far outweighs any temporary discomfort, concerns for propriety or embarrassment.

Spider sheet web across the grass capturing the dew drops

Here’s a VIMEO walkabout of our hike in Blackstone Canyon:

Blackstone Canyon with Michael – 23 November 2015 (1)

P.S. I’ll be taking a break from the last three hikes because of my surgery this next Thursday, December 3rd. Thanks for all of your loving care, prayers, meditations, emails, cards and continuing kindnesses. See you all on the trail with Michael in the Spring of 2016 or hopefully BEFORE. Hugs, Lew

Pilot Knobbing with Michael – 16 November 2015

We’ve always enjoyed the oases provided by the reservoir lakes of MMWD – the Marin Municipal Water District. Their bright blues, the sunlight reflecting off the water and the changing wave patterns have always attracted us – water based creatures that we are. Monday’s hike was no exception with the sparkling of Lake Lagunitas and Bon Tempe Lakes filling our views to the west and San Francisco and San Pablo Bays lighting up our water world to the east.

Phoenix Lake (411 acre feet) starts the MMWD chain of reservoirs. Then taking giant steps we come to Lake Lagunitas (350 AF), Bon Tempe Lake (4,017), Alpine Lake (8.891), Kent Lake (32,895) and then at a remove comes Nicasio Reservoir (22,430) and even further afield Soulajule Reservoir – 10.572 (“Soo-la-Hoo-lee”). Have we ever hiked here? We are fortunate in this time of drought that the MMWD reservoirs have 65.97% capacity when many lakes and reservoirs in California have half this or less.

Pilot Knob reflects in Bon Tempe Lake, 11-17-08, making the reflection a lot more substantial than the real thing. Wikipedia defines Pilot Knob as “a prominent elevated landmark that was useful navigational aid for hunters and travelers.” sounding very 19th Century. There are many Pilot Knobs across the United States (Missouri, North Carolina, Texas and Minnesota to name a few), maybe you grew up with one nearby. Mine was on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. How this particular hill got its name still bears some inquiry.

We start with an extra layer this morning with temperatures dipping into the high 40s and 50s giving us a nice, crisp edge to begin our hike – layer up, layer down. Hardly worth commenting on when you live on the east coast, Spokane or Bodie – our record maker.,_California

We pause to read the map, Michael’s hat seems to have some tribal significance perhaps?

Beginning to warm up in the sunlight, Mt. Tamalpais one of our totems emerges in the distance.

Michael spots a bobcat in the brush. Just 20 seconds but a relaxed moment.

We pass a pair of “small” Redwoods in the forest, always evoking a sense of majesty if not grandeur. Redwood trees have a way of quieting the trail and leading to meditative moments.

Pilot Knob has some remarkable views from its open western side. Here on arrival we again feel like we are in the palm of Mt. Tamalpais. Lots of view for the 1,187’ of altitude or an alternate measure is 1,115’. This adds photos to the summit numbers helping to make associations and bringing back our recall.

Dense cover on the north side of Mt. Tam with the Fire Lookout prominent on the top left. We’ve enjoyed it before but perhaps this is a good moment to recall Gary Yost’s splendid “A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout”.
A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout. 3 years ago

Michael gave us a 360 degree tour of our view.

Looking east toward Mt. Diablo with the most northerly piece of San Francisco County, the island on the right side toward the bottom. Red Rock Island is the place where the boundaries of three counties come together. In addition to San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa . .”also converge on this high rock.” As we learned before, it was and is available for private purchase for only $5M. I wonder if you would need to pay taxes to all three counties?
The swarm you see on the slopes of Mt. Diablo is actually a souvenir from our first hike in the Tennessee Valley rain.

Moving back we gain some context and some rocks and lose the swarm. Often this water is called San Francisco Bay but here we are moving into San Pablo Bay, a huge northern reach of more shallow water.
Michael mentioned a unique B & B on an island in the Bay on East Brother Light Station:

Moving north through San Pablo Bay we find the Carquinez Bridge over the strait of the same name connecting Crockett and Vallejo – the route of Interstate 80 to and from Sacramento. Perhaps we see the Benicia-Martinez Bridge showing just above the saddle of the hills and the overarching whiteness which seems like a suggestion of clouds is actually snow in the Sierra, now becoming truly the Sierra Nevada.

The West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais formerly the highest part of the mountain until it was bulldozed during the Cold War to make a radar station.

Looking west across Bon Tempe Lake and Dam with Azalea Hill as a backdrop with a serpentine cut exposed. Pine Mountain is top right.

Maybe just a little skeptical . . .

Time for a sunny lunch

Sue tells us about an exhibition of photos of seven Jewish Gold Rush Cemeteries in various towns of the Sierra whose history she has been researching, writing and speaking about for a number of years. The exhibition is in San Francisco at the Sinai Memorial Chapel. Michael plans to have one of our urban walks include this display of photos by the award winning photographer, Ira Nowinski. And, we’ll have the rare pleasure of having Sue share some history and stories of Jewish Gold Rush Pioneers.

We check out the return trails from a local group of home-schoolers and Michael points the way down . . . the way we came up.

The trail goes through a number of stands of Madrone trees. We sometimes see them more singly on our trails but here there are hillsides of the Pacific madrone.

We find the fallen Madrone Matriarch which we visited with Armando in 2008.

November 17, 2008, closer to the time of the tree’s collapse.

November 17, 2008 – Mando and friends

Fall among the ferns. Western Bracken Fern giving its gray surround a splash of color. Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens, “A common fern in many habitats, but particularly moist areas in open meadows. Sometimes an indicator species for archaeologists as it
grows in disturbed areas and old building sites are outlined by these ferns. . . . The core of the long creeping underground black rhizomes were used by California Indians in basket design. The juice extracted from young fronds was used as a body deodorant.” Page 196
Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country and North Coast Ranges by Reny Parker

Meanwhile back at Lake Lagunitas

Is that Armando down by the shore? You’ll recall that he is a catch and release fisherman who knows these waters.

Michael speaks of the two types: the Dabbling Ducks and the Diving Ducks.
An Original DUCKumentary ~ Infographic: Meet the Ducks | Nature | PBS

We were treated to a busy Acorn Woodpecker “Fly About” as we approached the parking lot. Here with acorn in its beak one finds just the right hole for storing in their granary tree, an old snag that has a robust new mission in life. They have a masters in engineering fitting the acorns in so perfectly tight that the hungry competition can’t get at them.

Michael is reading to us about the decades long Walt Koenig study of Acorn Woodpeckers at the Hastings Natural History Reserve in Carmel Valley. The first video, “Avid for Acorns”, talks about Acorn Woodpeckers at Hastings with a number of others following on a variety of natural history subjects.

Next week: Blackstone Canyon in Marinwood/Terra Linda

Update and . . . visitor at the birdbath

Hello everyone,

Many, many thanks for all of your good wishes and sharing those high energy healing thoughts.

As you may recall, I had a CT scan in late September which discovered a growth outside the pelvis behind my rectal area. Then on September 30 they did a biopsy on the tumor finding it to be a rare carcinoma. They have been working on the source of the cancer in order to develop the best treatment strategy. It has been described as slow-growing and CT & MRI scans have found no spreading in my chest or head area. Last week we worked through that it was not a urologic cancer which had been one suggested source. I have an appointment next week with a colorectal surgeon at Kaiser San Francisco to determine the next steps to be taken.

I’ll be needing to take a few hikes off to get all of this taken care of but hopefully will be back on the trail with all of you soon.

Love and hugs all around, Lew

+ = + = + =

Meanwhile on Monday in the garden, we had a beautiful, breath-taking moment. I checked with Michael and he said that it was difficult to be sure whether it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) or a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooper) but which ever it was, it was wild and wonderful!
It seemed to be a juvenile without the more distinctive adult markings. Color me quizzical.

Sweet Hike with Michael at Sugarloaf – 5 October 2015

Hello, You can access this hike as well as many previous ones at the WordPress site:


Michael was back from Hula Hoop Camp to lead us up the mountain. He took hooping up a number of years ago and has developed impressive skills and aplomb. Sometimes he will be hooping before one of our hikes lending to a meditation before the day begins. He takes the hoops on his more distant Footloose Forays, to many destinations around the world. It provides an incredible opening with the people he meets and an opportunity to communicate in a playful, joyful way between cultures. Once you see grade school children in Africa or Bhutan monks in the shadows of the Himalayas hooping with Michael, you know he is our roving Ambassador of Hooping.

Sugarloaf was closed in December of 2011”for the first time in its 48-year history due to state of California budget problems. Eager to reopen the precious 3,900-acre gem, Team Sugarloaf worked with the State Parks to develop an operating plan that would enable it to become fully functional to the public. Under the agreement, the state maintains ownership of the park while Team Sugarloaf manages operations.” A group of five organizations headed by the Sonoma Ecology Center now maintains and operates the park. from January 10, 2014 BAY NATURE MAGAZINE had chronicled and continues write about the California State Park closure saga with great care. Dipping into any of their articles would be edifying.

The park looked terrific on last Monday’s hike and their website is far and away one of the best I’ve seen for history of a state park. The park history docent, Larry Maniscalco, has done a splendid job describing Sugarloaf history from times of the Wappo Indians who lived along the “headwaters of Sonoma Creek before the first Spanish settlers came to California”, the charring of Sugarloaf with the rampant production of charcoal in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the state’s purchase of the property in 1920 becoming a part of the State Park System in 1964, the “colorful characters” of the Hippie history in the 1960’s and in time for Halloween – a section on the “Ghosts of Sugarloaf”. All of these links are found in the following web address:

Larry Maniscalco writes of the Sugarloaf name at the beginning of the history section of the website: “Sugar wasn’t always sold in the neat paper packages that we buy in the supermarket these days. Before the turn of the century, in came in loaves that looked something like oversized, upside-down ice cream cones; the grocer just broke off pieces for his customers. So, many western mountains and hills including the ridge at the southern edge of the park were named after the familiar ‘Sugarloaf’.” The sugarloaf required a special category of hardware to break off a portion of the loaf for use, woe be to the sweet tooth who forgot his nippers.
In a splendid and fascinating 2005 history of sugar refining, “How Sweet it Is” by Virginia Mescher she beautifully describes sugar’s sometimes ugly pathway to the present. She writes about the use of slaves in sugar cane production. The Spanish used native peoples as slaves in the sugar processing and began to import slaves from Africa in 1512. The Portuguese did the same in Brazil in 1583. She writes, “In two hundred years, millions of slaves had been imported from Africa into the New World just to work on the sugar plantations.”
She continues, “By the nineteenth century, few changes had been made in the refining process since the Venetians began processing sugar in the fourteenth century. . . (then) The Boston Sugar Refinery introduced granulated sugar in 1853.” This sugar was packed in barrels but that too required a sugar auger or “sugar devil” to bore into the barrel and crack the hardened sugar. “Sugar was not sold in individual containers until the late 1890’s.” Probably even then it would have been wise to keep your nippers and augers at the ready.

Heading up the Bald Mountain Trail, after our hike with Jennie last week and this one with Michael, there are only 48 other Bald Mountains for us to climb in California.

Tarweed, Holozonia (Green’s white crown) highlights the edge of the trail. I hadn’t appreciated the numbers of Tarplants in our area mostly coming upon Deinandra (fragrant tarplant) on our trails. The current issue of the Marin Native Plant Society Newsletter has a fine page of Tarplants if you scroll down to page 6. Don’t miss along the way on page 5 that Lace Lichen (Ramalina menziesii) becomes at the official California state lichen going into effect on January 1st, 2016. We are the first state to “recognize a lichen as a state symbol”. You’ll recall stopping under some Monterey Pines on our Marshall Beach Hike and enjoying the lace lichen there.

Michael with a bemused smile has some Coyote brush for our attention. He pointed out that it is dioecious, meaning “that it produces male and female flowers on DIFFERENT plants. Here in this specimen it seems like the same plant has both but he showed us that, no, there were two distinct plants growing together. gives a lovely, clear description. The Ukiah chapter of the Native Plant Society describes the Coyote brush succinctly as well a piece on Tarweed.

We saw a flock of Bushtits in the Coyote bushes which took off in a puff of feathers, Michael said that they can live their entire lives most happily in the Coyote brush. They are wonderfully energetic – always in motion right side up, upside down – true acrobats and always “all together now”. I’m borrowing a photo of them enjoying our birdbath from earlier in the year.,_Kenwood.html

Michael is illustrating the angling of Manzanita leaves (and his book) to the sun, one for sun exposure, the other for shade. Even though Seattle would be an atypical area for most Manzanitas and a landscaping tree, Arthur Lee Jacobson gives a wonderful description with many succulent details.

Here some Manzanitas have been shaded out by trees and having lost their light for photosynthesis are dead or dying. Michael talked about the fuel this provides in a California fire cycle. While focusing on Southern California in this link, the basic message is ours as well. The 10% high severity fires that this link speaks of may well be increasing with giant steps due to the continuing drought as suggested in the feedback of fire crews in the recent Valley Fire.
BAY NATURE has an excellent, current article on the destructive Morgan Fire on Mt. Diablo in September of 2013 and the recovery that is in progress.

Chamise along our trail, we saw it in great profusion on our Mitchell Canyon hike on Mt. Diablo. Here’s an insightful article about it from Bay Nature:

Having passed through the chaparral and Manzanita dominated areas we pause in the shade as our trail becomes a paved road that leads through an oak forest to the top of Bald Mountain. The road is for maintenance of a cellular tower atop the mountain. Recall that odd fake tree atop Mt. Barnaby?

A closer view with hats, that’s Sonoma Mountain dominating on the other side of Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon.

Closing in on the summit and lunch, Michael points out the the blue sign for the Bay Area Ridge Trail, well, he mentioned it earlier. He mused it would be fun to see how many links of the developing trail we have hiked.

Moving down smartly toward the parking area past the high grass, you think any Festuca Californica?

Back with our memories.

P.S. Hopefully not too revolutionary. . . .

Dear Footloose Amigas and Amigos, I had a CT scan on Sept. 25 which discovered a 4.8 cm growth outside my pelvis, on the 30th of September a biopsy with an intervention radiologist (using the CT to take the biopsy) found the growth to be possibly related to my urinary tract. Good news is that it is not a return of my colon cancer from 2008. Also my blood tests seem in all the normal parameters. A CT scan of my chest (the earlier one was specific to the pelvis) to see if there was any spreading was also negative, phew. I have doctors’ appointments this coming Monday with a urologist and my oncologist (who was so terrific at the time of my colon surgery) so will have to sadly miss the hike up Mt. Wittenberg with all of you. I’ll keep you all up to date.

Hugs, Lew

Climbing Mt. Baldy with Jennie – 28 September 2015

Our Deer Park hike had a new destination this time as Jennie led us on a memorable climb to Mt. Baldy’s 360 degree view. There was Mt. Tamalpais dominating to the south, Mt. Diablo projecting a clear profile above a line of white fog far to the east and San Anselmo below in a fine imitation of a child’s Lego construction. One of the highlights of our hike was a 15 minute quiet-meditation portion in which Jennie had us walking a bit apart/together. We’re a social group with lots to share each week so this contrast, a quiet time along the way was a great idea. All of sudden there were the sounds of the trail crunching under our feet, bird calls echoing through the forest, pungent smells of the bay trees and dry grasses, the contrast in light going from dappled shade to bright sunshine, hearing our breathing and feeling our hearts beating – the joy of being alive together in friendship on the trail.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” Our National Parks, 1901, p.56 by John Muir Bald Mountain near Fairfax, CA may not be the highest but it was a top experience for us on Monday, listed here as Bald Hill. – Our mountain whether you call it Bald Mountain, Bald Hill, or Mt. Baldy is one of Fifty Bald Mountains in California . . .

Jennie is an artist, teaches the first grade, leads vision quest hikes, is a baker and shares Michael’s enthusiasms for adventuring into the natural world around us.
Mixed Media Workshop with Jennie Oppenheimer – Healdsburg Center for the Arts

Sharing before the hike with poles at the ready

Jennie explains the plan to take part of the walk on the quiet side.

Worn Springs Fire Road crosses our path and we wonder how far back it traces, maybe buckboards teetering their way up and down these hills in days gone by.

Sue B. captures the moment when we catch our breath atop the Deer Park Trail. Sue’s a splendid photographer with an insightful photo journal of her travels.

Perhaps a nice linger in the shade of a live oak

Getting a bit of altitude with San Pablo Bay, “northern extension of San Francisco Bay” in the distance.
PRBO Conservation Science: The Observer Number 139

Familiar profile of Mt. Tamalpais as some of our hikers approach the top of Mt. Baldy. Tom Killion made some his remarkable woodblock prints into his first handprinted book “28 Views of Mount Tamalpais”.

Just peeking above the straight line fog is Mt. Diablo’s double peak with San Francisco Bay in between, it’s a bit of a stretch to see I know but sometimes it’s all in the details.

What or who goes up must come down . . . this time for lunch.

Picnic lunch in the shade, Jennie shared some of her deliciously moist oatmeal cookies for desert along with a marvelous poem by David Whyte entitled “Mameen”. Cookies and poetry go really well together, here’s just a part:

“Remember the way you are all possibilities
you can see and how you live best
as an appreciator of horizons,
whether you reach them or not.”

A small celebration of autumn with madrone red against the blue sky

Resting at our lunch spot from a couple of previous hikes on the Yolanda Ridge Trail

Heading down from Six Points we cross a bridge which we hope will be over a rushing stream in the not too distant future.

That classic bay tree on the edge of the Fairfax-San Anselmo Children’s center grounds with its symphony of branches, you’ll recall the turkey vulture that we saw resting on one of its lichen covered limbs on a previous hike.

The trailhead for all of the hikes in Deer Park goes by the Fairfax-San Anselmo Children’s Center. That’s a tame cougar lurking in the background.

Can’t beat Hokusai’s wave homage on a wall of the Fairfax-San Anselmo Children’s Center “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” as a finale – trying for a new view of it each time we’re here, in the vein of those many views of Mt. Fuji.
Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The hike is ALSO available at: for this and previous hike-logs.

Extra credit:


Marshall Beach with Michael – 21 September 2015

You may remember the old Cunard advertisement, “Getting there is half the fun.” Last Monday seemed to echo that statement not only with stop offs at the Bovine Bakery but also finding the long, untraveled road that led to the trailhead. Not only was it a road less traveled, it was a road untraveled for many of us. There were so many discoveries along the way: spectacular views of the Pacific as the land dropped off in the distance, a large dairy ranch harking back to the ranch beginnings on Pt. Reyes peninsula in the 1860’s and more California Quail in the surrounding fields than we’d ever seen in our lives. And that was only the beginning.

(These hike-logs can be also accessed on )

Arrivals, on a day when inland temperatures were in the 90’s found us enjoying the balmy 70’s and sea breezes on our hike down to Marshall Beach – not to be confused with Marshall which is on the other side of Tomales Bay across the way and across the water.

Hoisting hay bails to feed the herd in this ultra dry autumn, Quail crossing a cattle guard with aplomb, looking out toward the Pacific across the landscape and a mysterious rock formation underpinning the hillside above complete with caves below. Would the grizzlies here in the 19th Century have found a refuge?

A Red-tailed Hawk surveys his many prospects from a good vantage point. Michael pointed out on one of our Shollenberger hikes that there are many Red tail variants and one site lists 16 sub-species in North America. Whether this is a local bird or a part of the spectacular migration of hawks down the Pacific flyway, we’d need some further observations. Michael added that this is prime time for the migration observations from Hawk Hill located in the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate.

Tamales Bay sketches in the background along with the surrounding hills and mountains, that’s Elephant Mountain in the center or Black’s Mountain if you prefer. Further to the left, would that be the familiar profile of Mt. Tamalpais or is it Mt. Barnaby? The sun of autumn, viva Autumn Equinox 2015, shows our lengthening shadows – our shadow people joining us for the hike.

Harriet is describing her trip to Hetch Hetchy in the Sierra Nevada recently courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Because she volunteers as a docent at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park she enjoyed this opportunity to explore the SF water system which begins at O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. She enjoyed an overnight there in the Governor’s Cabin all courtesy of the SFPUC.

Marshall Beach is also a kayaker’s destination with camping permits available for them. Amazing to the group was finding substantial rest rooms adjacent to the beach, oh, I could have had that coffee at the Bovine. Jeannie added that vital information to the hiking description for next time, very thorough indeed and thanks.

Looking down from our trail we see how well watered this area is compared to the dry hills across Tomales Bay and the dry fields that we drove through on our way to the trailhead.

Michael talks about the many different nationalities of the 19th Century ranchers and workers on Pt. Reyes and the origins of the alphabet ranches. “The tenant ranches were rented by Irish, Swedish, Italian-speaking Swiss and Azore Islands-Portuguese families.”
He mused about the lawyers named Shafter, Shafter, Park and Heydenfledt who obtained title to over 50,000 acres on the peninsula, “Imagine a group of lawyers beginning with the name Shafter.” To their credit “The Shafters envisioned a more civil society for the nineteenth century Bay Area, refining bachelor ranch hands and educating ranch family children. Chinese, Canadian, Filipino, Mexican and German immigrants all found their chance to get started in America through dairying at Point Reyes.” cf. Creation of an Empire in Michael added that there were Croatian fisherman from the Dalmatian coast also in the Tomales Bay area.

Looking like a flight of swans across the bay we’re seeing the Audubon Cypress Grove & Tomales Bay Preserves which we’ve visited on a few occasions. “Here, scientists and volunteers study wintering shorebirds and waterbirds on Tomales Bay . . .”
Other Audubon locations in Marin/Sonoma: Audubon Canyon Ranch (where Margie has volunteered as a docent for many years) and Bouverie Preserve in the Sonoma Valley (where Inge and Kit volunteer as docents). Did I miss anyone? Southern Marin also has an Audubon Center and Sanctuary on Richardson Bay.

Michael relates that Tomales Bay is a drowned rift valley with the San Andreas Fault going straight down the center of the Bay, the North American Plate is across the water from us as we stand on the Pacific Plate looking right.

Looking far to the northeast Michael spotted the familiar profile of Mt. St. Helena at the end of the Napa Valley.

We spotted a number of birds at this point including the always exciting White-tailed Kite, a Say’s Phoebe and this cooperative White-crowned Sparrow.

The down slope to the bay with the faint sound of a motor boat.

We stop in the shade of some Monterey Pines and Michael asks a question about these trees. Jeannie nails the ID – its needle’s bunch in three along with some mnemonic help in Mon-ter-rey.

Lace lichens (Ramalina menziesii) hanging from the branches, someone mentioned that lichens seem to like dead branches. We’ve enjoyed a lovely display of these on our hikes at Bouverie Preserve.

Marshall Beach with Michael, it felt remarkably like Lake Tahoe without the altitude.

Taking some sun on a fallen Eucalyptus tree, a Western gull, Larus occidentalis. Clicking one the pictures in Wiki will give you some remarkable close-ups.

Looking for a lunch spot with, maybe, some shade

Success. It’s beach seating with every spot guaranteed for the contour. I think Michael is checking out some filamentous green algae which has concentrations of orange pigments masking the green chlorophyll and giving it the surprising orange color.

Showing us a couple of plants washed up on the beach one more primitive and the other more modern. In his right hand he holds some kelp which along with all seaweeds are algae and as such are primitive plants with no root structure. “There is a holdfast that looks like a root system but it is merely an anchor holding the pant to the seabed.” The float bladder is called a pneumatocyst. It is filled with gas providing the buoyancy needed to lift the blades of the plant to the surface where the plant, perhaps a Giant Kelp (Macrocystis), combines the sunlight with nutrients from the ocean in photosynthesis to provide food for growth. And what amazing growth it can be extending 1 or even 2 feet per day until reaching a length of over 100 feed. – From the Monterey Bay Aquarium

In addition, Michael showed us how to cut one of these floats to various levels and then by blowing over the circular edge you can get a series of “piercing” notes at different places on the musical scale. Kind of like a piccolo, it was more fun just to watch and listen. In his left hand is sea grass which Scott got to sing with quite a lot of gusto by compressing the grass next to his thumbs and blowing, it was a reed instrument! Perhaps you remember this technique from growing up. We have the beginnings of a group, maybe take it on the road or at least, the beach. How about a catchy name?

Michael said that the less ancient sea grass is rooted and produces edible seeds and fruit. “The seagrasses are the only flowering plants (angiosperms) that can live underwater. More closely related to terrestrial lilies and gingers than to true grasses, they grow in sediment on the sea floor with erect, elongate leaves and a buried root-like structure (rhizome).
They live in the coastal waters of most of the world’s continents and are the main diet of dugongs and green turtles also providing habitat for smaller marine mammals, some of which, like prawns and fish, are commercially important. They also absorb nutrients from the coastal run-off and stabilize sediment, helping to keep water clear.” My source site that includes a very informative video.

Michael mentioned from his travels to the Gulf of California that there is a native tribe, the Seri, (Did they get the spelling right? Imagine asking Siri to find the Seri.) that especially depends on sea grasses.

One more beach find was the Sea Rocket, Cakile maritima, here with its bloom and the little two stage rockets. Michael added that this was the first plant to grow on the newly emerged volcanic island of Surtsey in 1965.

Scott looks on as Michael shows the two-stage rocket effect.

Speaking of orbital experiences, Michael researched kayaks some years ago and bought a used stock Necky Tofino double and in the process realized that this was the very boat that Ed Gillet used on his epic paddle from Monterey, California to Maui, Hawaii in 1987. “Not only did he arrive safely 2,200 miles from his put-in, but he also pulled off what we rank as the greatest paddling adventure in the 30-year history of CANOE & KAYAK. We’ll also put it among the greatest solo adventures of all time, any sport, because Gillet showed that for 64 days, Nature was conquerable, if unpredictable.”

When Michael had an opportunity to donate the kayak to a projected kayaking museum, he called Gillet to see if he wanted the kayak back. Gillet thought about it for a few moments and then said, “No.” For his more recent information. (Be sure to check out his youtube recommendation on a Virginia Woolf video on Sept. 23.) His enthusiasm for this film gives us an idea that his English classes at Eastlake High in Chula Vista, California may well share the same excitement of his kayaking to Maui! Some current photos of Ed Gillet taken last March along with a Johnny Carson interview with him in 1987.

Tennessee Valley with Michael – 14 September 2015

Thanks very much for your past appreciations for these occasional hike-logs. If you’d rather not receive them, do let me know.
Best thoughts, Lew


What a pleasure to have some blustery winds and rain in our faces on Monday’s hike. We welcomed the unexpected weather for its excitement and maybe even didn’t mind getting a bit soggy along the way. After a summer of hot and dry, the contrast was refreshing to say the least. It came at a time when we were keenly aware of the devastating fires north of us in Lake County and so we wished for some of this wet to be sent in that direction. Michael collected clothing, blankets and other material from the group to help the many who’ve lost their homes and are displaced by the raging flames. Lisa suggested we also could contribute to the Red Cross support effort for the Valley fire which is at the site and organized there. GIVE WHERE YOU LIVE: How to help Valley Fire victims in Lake County, Napa County | and Matt & his wife have taken in a friend who was completely burned out at Harbin Hot Springs.

Michael just back from Burning Man (just a bit of irony) and Nancy share the same stylist?

Time for our adventures over the summer since our spring hikes. You can see the tasty loaf of Challah Bread that Hillary passed around the circle, a perfect sharing for Rosh Hashanah, and wished us all a Happy New Year. This felt especially good in the midst of our interminable drought and the Sierra snow pack lowest in 500 years – the taste of rain seemed a fine harbinger.

A pair of ravens shelter on a serpentine boulder just above the parking lot. David Lukas writes in his excellent book, BAY AREA BIRDS, that “they are one of the world’s most intriguing birds, and if you watch closely you will perceive their intelligence, creativity and personality.” David recommends reading about ravens in more detail in Bernd Heinrich’s ‘Mind of a Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds”. P. 194

Miwok Livery Stables is at the other side of the parking lot. Imagine houses and streets all up and around these hills. That was the plan for this entire area including the magnificent overlooks of San Francisco Bay on the far side. The name of the development was Marincello perhaps reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
The elaborate gate to this complex for “30,000 residents in 50 apartment towers along with hundreds of homes and townhouses” was just to the left of this picture. The project was narrowly approved by the Marin Board of Supervisors in 1965 everyone believing that this private property’s development was sealed in stone.
Fortunately, brave people stood up and stood in the way. Three lawyers representing the City of Sausalito, Douglas Ferguson, Bob Praetzel and Marty Rosen filed a lawsuit against the developer, Thomas Frough and financer Gulf Oil saying Marincello was improperly zoned back in 1964. The public had been allowed only six days to review the zoning instead of the legal ten days. This minor technicality opened the door to many other zoning inaccuracies that Marin County had approved in 1965.
By 1970 Frouge and Gulf “made amends and were finally about to get their overdue project back on track. However, that same year they were dealt a crushing blow. The court ruled that the entire project was improperly zoned and they would have to throw out their plans and submit a brand new plan from scratch. Finally, after the court’s ruling, the Board of Supervisors announced they would no longer support the project.”
Enter Huey Johnson, a conservation pathfinder who was the western director of The Nature Conservancy. He met with Gulf Oil Corporation about selling the valuable land to the park service in early 1970. ” After Gulf lost their lawsuit, this finally became an attractive option. In 1972, the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy for $6.5 million and then transferred to the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area.”
The Tennessee Valley Gate to Marincello was finally torn down in 1976. “Huey Johnson, Douglas Ferguson and Martin Rosen founded The Trust for Public Land in 1972, an organization dedicated to conserving land for people across the United States.”

Starting out on the Tennessee Valley Trail heading for the beach. The trail is a very popular for walking, hiking, biking, running and equestrians – lots of activity.

Michael talks about wild turkeys being a vastly different creature from the domestic turkey. They are totally savvy in their surroundings, the adults can pose a danger to hikers and they can quite dramatically fly. The sign urges staying clear of them and suggests stomping your feet to scare them off. Michael highly recommended a BBC film that has been shown on PBS called MY LIFE AS A TURKEY, filmed in Florida. Running almost an hour, it is well worth setting aside this time for a remarkable experience.
From the film talking about the turkey’s singular ability to live in the n-o-w:

“Don’t betray the moment
for some abstraction
up ahead.”

The sky misting in and on my camera lens.

Mystery ampulesque, plastic container seen a couple of times along the trail. This one is near where we spotted a yellow jacket nest on a previous hike. Some kind of repellent? Any ideas?

Moving back the group stands near a Monterey Cypress on the right and a Monterey Pine complements things on the left. A raindrop necklace joins them both. Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey cypress) description

Nearby, Michael pointed out deer antler rub marks on this willow tree. He mused for a moment about the healing and pain controlling properties of willow bark extract, salicylic acid, from which we derive aspirin. But then again he concluded that maybe it is just another tree to help the removal of velvet or an announcement of a dominant buck in the area leaving both markings and scent.

Approaching a Tennessee Beach Overlook

Heading down to a misty Tennessee Beach its “V” shaped hills framing the scene as the surrounding flora turns a richer green evidencing fresh water.

Maybe it’s a “Scottish Loch” or better their smaller version, a “lochan”? This is just a free association because of the verdance in and around this pond, unusual in our dry California summer – especially this one. Take a break and enjoy this terrific Wikipedia entry, they’ve all got a name and a history. It’s called water lust.

Tennessee Beach as we gather by a riveted and torn iron (steel?) section of a ship’s hull with thoughts about that morning of March 6th, 1853 when the SS Tennessee came aground in what was then called Indian Cove.

Was this from the SS Tennessee? It was a wooden ship but along with 3 masts it did have steam engines to drive the paddle wheels with the necessary metal construction – water/steam tanks/stacks and was called the Steamer Tennessee. This combined marine technology had been in place a lot earlier in the 19th Century, “the first purpose-built transatlantic steamship, SS Great Western (a side wheel paddle steamer with four masts) made its maiden voyage in 1838.” There were many of these paddlewheel steamers with sail masts plying the Panama Route either from New York – Panama or Panama – San Francisco. The California Gold Rush provided many passengers for a number of years. You can find the SS Tennessee down in the following link. It gives an idea of the number and various sizes of these vessels in service at this time in history.

Not to mention Tsunamis

Finding some shelter out of the wind on the stairs to the Tennessee Beach Overlook, it’s lunchtime and time not to overlook the beach.

Built by “a notable shipbuilder and naval architect, William H. Webb”, the SS Tennessee was one of a long production line of ships which was launched from their New York shipyards this one on 25th October 1848. You can find it at # 40 on this list of 135 vessels.
It was originally built for the New York – Savannah trade and made its first voyage there on 22nd March 1849. Then it was purchased by Pacific Mail SS Co. and left New York on 6th December 1849 and arrived in Panama (after going round Cape Horn) on 12th March 1850. She found 3000 people eagerly awaiting passage to San Francisco. Originally constructed to accommodate 200 passengers, she had been enlarged in 1849 to carry 200 Cabin and 350 steerage class passengers.

How many voyages had the SS Tennessee made in those years from March of 1850 until the March of her demise, 1853. One time pattern noted: down to Panama in 14 days, 8 hours with a return of 14 days, 4 hours. If she actually took two trips each month there may have been a possibility of 2 trips X 36 months so perhaps around 72 successful voyages? The Daily Alta wrote at the time that it was “one of the finest and certainly the most profitable vessel in the employ of the Company”. It must have seemed especially strange to have missed the opening of the Golden Gate, the Heads as they were called, due to heavy fog. For Captain E. Mellus to find himself staring at an unfamiliar shore line with menacing rocks and in heavy surf after all these successful trips was odd indeed. He attempted to back up the ship three times but without success. The Sacramento Union writes, “During this critical time, the captain’s presence of mind never forsook him.” Some accounts have him running the ship aground on the sandy beach as a kind of 19th Century Sully Sullenberger. Others speak of the ship being brought unto the beach by the waves.
But to the great fortune of all of the passengers, some 550 by some records including 100 women and children, they’d been saved and were safely disembarking onto the beach from the ship’s stern. The cargo and a sizable & important mail dispatch were also saved. There was an investigating committee formed to evaluate the captain and crew. They found them not only blameless but commended their professionalism and valor in the face of such a possible disaster. The passengers as well applauded their actions writing a letter of profound thanks and appreciation. Initially it was thought that the Tennessee could be saved but the hull was a total loss, “as she appears to have a broken back.” They also hoped to save the machinery but that too was unsuccessful. Some pieces can still be seen at low tide and perhaps we saw some ourselves on the beach.

The return to the parking lot with just a small portion of challah bread still left for the trail ahead.

Post Script and “post” is appropriate: The Tennessee like the other ships plying the Panama circuit carried letters for the Post Office.

“Pacific Mail Steamer Tennessee Ashore Passengers and Mails Safe” Sacramento Union, March 9. 1853

“The passengers, mails, baggage and provisions were all safely landed from the ship . . .”

“The mail by the Tennessee was received at the Post Office at half-past 3-o’clock yesterday afternoon, and although the largest yet made up for this State, was opened, sorted from the confused mass it presented, and a delivery made by 9 o’clock in the evening. It should be borne in mind by those who are inclined to complain at not getting their letters immediately on the arrival of the mail, that upwards of 200 large bags, containing some 70,000 letters and nearly as many papers, cannot be sorted and boxed before they are fairly in the office.
Nor can the Postmaster perform miracles, however willing he may be to accommodate the public. Thirty persons were hard at work in the distribution of this mail, in order to facilitate a portion of its delivery last evening ‘an accommodation all must admit, and entirely gratuitous on the part of Mr. Moore. The Postmaster is not required to keep his office open after 5 o’clock in the afternoon, either for delivery or reception of letters; and if we are not mistaken, he violates a regulation of the Department on the sailing and arrival of every mail.”

“Neither snow not rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Two if by sea
Western Cover Society | Exhibits | Western Expresses | Mail Routes One if by land

P.P.S. This is a little shaky: