Category Archives: spring 2013

A Tale of Three Houses – June 17 2013

Our last hike of Spring Footloose 2013 plumbed some memories, discovered new worlds nearby and ended with delicious conversation at our potluck most lucky. We met at Michael’s former home on McDonald Avenue, Santa Rosa where we’ve enjoyed festive potlucks past and shared some of those amazing Halloween celebrations complete with marching band. We got a chance to walk around in all the rooms once again in a farewell tour of this remarkable and historic house. It felt renewed and ready for the next owner and it was important for us to linger a moment inside and out to say goodbye.

Rod, Mari, Armand and Sarah talking with Michael and Cappie Garrett in the entry and living room of 925 McDonald – Pat descending the staircase. Cappie is a neighborhood friend of Michael’s who knows the McDonald area history and shared some with us on the walk. Cappie is on the Santa Rosa Cultural Heritage Board.

A YouTube video records the 2011 Halloween celebration, Michael may be seen at 10:45 on the video . . . “there’s an interesting character there . .”

Here is a 2011 Press Democrat article questioning if the Halloween celebration has gotten too large:

December of 2011 after our expedition to Gourmet Mushroom, Inc. in Sebastopol, we gathered on the steps of 925 for a picture.

Some autumn colors of 2011 adding to the Christmas celebration

Larry adds to the festivities with his famous reindeer reprise.

925 McDonald Avenue with Chris reconnoitering

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Just across the street is the venerable “McDonald House”, no relation to Ronald. Many words spring to mind mostly edible: confection, gingerbread or wedding cake – maybe we were just hungry before the potluck. The McDonald House has a storied history starting with its construction in 1879 as a summer home for the McDonald family whose primary residence was in San Francisco. Patterned after the family home in Natchez, Mississippi of Raphine North McDonald the mansion retained the name of the ancestor home of “Mableton”. Built by her husband, Col. Mark Lindsay McDonald, it is a classic of Victorian architecture. Col. Lindsay was then head of the Santa Rosa Water Company. You can see the context of rich and elegant homes in this wealthy southern city, a hub of trade and commerce along the Mississippi. It isn’t clear what home Mableton was or if it still exists but take a look at # 20 and see if Glen Auburn looks familiar.

Harriet asked how they would have gotten from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, not as easy as crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and taking 101 north. Ferries had been plying the SF Bay since John Reed’s first sailboat ferry in 1826 so ferry service had a long history by 1879. There are a variety of train possibilities with the Petaluma and Haystack Railroad on the map in 1868, the Napa Valley Railroad establishing service in 1865 with a connecting ferry in Vallejo and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad beginning service in the late 1800s. It would be an intriguing effort to figure out how they might have traveled to their Santa Rosa mansion. There was a Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad incorporated in 1903 with predecessor horsecar lines built in Petaluma and Santa Rosa 1888-1891. We’ve photos of horsecar lines going down McDonald Avenue so perhaps after the initial carriages this was their next means of travel. When did they begin to drive? Be sure to read “The Battle of Sebastopol Road” for a terrific example of free market competition.

And now that the McDonalds have made the journey, here is their destination.

1015 McDonald Avenue – Here’s a link to the best site I’ve found detailing the history and architecture of the McDonald family and their Mableton mansion including a photo of the disastrous fire in 1977. This site is amazing as well.

The building played a big supporting role with some modifications in Disney’s 1960 film Pollyanna:

John and Jennifer Webley are the new (2005) owners of Mableton, John Webley Jr. opens the gate as we arrive. John is a friend and former neighbor of Michael’s on McDonald Avenue. Michael had arranged for our tour with him. He kindly took us all around from the basement to the widow’s walk. He said at one point there was a move to demolish the mansion and replace it with condominiums! John is a graduate student preparing to go on an archaeological dig next week in Jordan.

From the Press Democrat in 2010:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation fights for the preservation of historic structures and locations that are threatened with “development” and destruction. They fight for buildings of historic significance large and small, for areas like national battlefields that could be saved as parks, for national trails, for old movie theaters that face the wrecker’s ball – for the history that needs remembering, for the history that makes us who we are.

John Webley Sr. has been the prime mover in the house’s renewal working with architects, a design consultant and contractors to bring the building back to its former 1879 glory.
Mr. Webley is the co-founder of Advanced Fibre Communications, former chairman of Turin Networks and founder of Sonoma Cools. He and his wife “bought the McDonald Mansion in 2005 for $3.6 M, a record price for a residential property inside the Santa Rosa city limits.” Some helpful background in this article about their honorary degrees from SSU.
Michael commented that the extensive reconstruction process has provided jobs for many contractors in Santa Rosa through these challenging economic times. This article gives some some background on the previous owner, Dr. Jack Leissring, who acquired the property in 1974 “in dilapidated form”. It was while working on its restoration that the 1977 fire destroyed the roof and second story. Dr. Leissring was passing by as our group was leaving so we were able to meet him. He was particularly excited about the new brick maze on the property.

The entry level of the library, a spiral staircase leads up to another level.

The entry Main Hall with doors leading off to the Library, the Turkish Parlor, the Ladies’ Parlor, and the Gentleman’s Parlor – your choice on a tour of Victoriana.

Some details of the reconstruction showing a variety of remarkable wallpapers, many of the light fixtures are period and acquired by the Webleys on a trip back east, looking down from the widow’s walk on the entry path and two solid and beautifully rendered newels at the landing on the stairs.

John leads us up the stairs to the second floor. There’s an elevator through that doorway + hallway and stair detail.

Looking down the hallway to the stairs with some of the artwork done by one of the Wembley daughters, Sarah, who studied at the Florence Academy of Art.

A band plays from the gazebo at outside events in the gardens.

In the basement billiard room a good question from Sue Morris for Michael. Let’s see, what was that about?

Jennifer Webley is a great collector of costumes including a special love for hats which started when she was living in Nevada. John Jr. related that growing up in straightened circumstances there, she shopped in thrift shops for clothing and used the hat collecting as an explanation to her friends. Now she has returned to this real love with her hat shop in Santa Rosa, Portobello Hats.

The garden tour? Maybe next year.
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For our third adventure we caravanned to Michael’s new place, 2360 Grahn Drive, which was quite nearby the McDonald addresses. Maybe not quite caravan since that means “merchants or pilgrims journeying together through deserts, hostile territory etc.” but we did play follow the leader and got there in short order. Michael has landed on his feet with a neat ranch house with flowing floor plan and a great backyard, we all relaxed and enjoyed seeing him and his stuff in the new location. There was the skeleton, there was the crocodile, there was his skull collection and there were some more and some more as well. Michael is the only one we know who decorates with skulls – a neat fit with his love of Halloween. Many beautiful skulls but no skulking for our eclectic leader.

Do you recall the terrific skull exhibit at the old Academy of Sciences where a large, auditorium size display area was filled with many of the skulls of the animal kingdom? There was a beauty, power and poignance to the exhibition – a great ringing memory. The Academy continues to have these insights:

In that link to the Academy they ask Nina Jablonski, Curator and Department Chair of Anthropology, “Are skulls specialized to help an animal chew? NJ: “The skull provides a framework for the face and neck muscles – animals that need stronger chewing muscles will develop larger bony attachment ridges for these muscles, such as the sagittal crest along the top of the skull and zygomatic arches on the sides.” Here we round the wonderful potluck table ready for our picnic lunch, enjoying some delicious food and exercising our strong chewing muscles, sagittal crests and zygomatic arches.

We gather in the backyard with a GREAT addition as Armando arrives to join our circle. The crocodile looks on and the bicycle lock will probably not provide us very much protection.

Margie, Louise and Sharon enjoying talking with Michael and he with them.

Everyone’s engaged in the conversation. Nice storage shed too!

Clockwise from the bottom right: Michael talks to us outside of his former place, 925 McDonald, shares in the next photo to the left some of his experiences – he’s recently returned from his Turkey Trip. After an extensive tour of many areas in Turkey toward the end of his visit, he went to Taksim Square in Istanbul during the protests with the smell of teargas in the air. He said that any free country should have the right to peaceful protest and hopes that soon perhaps an economic downturn will bring the leadership back to the former balance of many years between secular and Islamic interests. In the photos above he recalls having a shave from his favorite Istanbul barber and realizing that he was stretching his neck back to a muslim, that these were troubled times in the middle east and . . . fortunately, that he and the barber were friends.

The circle gets a little cavalier with the crocodile. I like that . . . “Cavalier the Crocodile”. Rod is close to the business end and Harriet must mind the tail.

Having made his escape, we are all relieved.

Next time we need the story on this.

We’ll leave it all up to Ganesh now, thanking Michael, Armando, Jim and Don for a super Spring 2013 Footloose Hiking Series with so many vistas discovered, adventures enjoyed and memories shared. Happy Summer, Lew

P.S. Thanks Rowena for your email on this – we greatly enjoyed REBELS WITH A CAUSE at the Smith San Rafael Film Center last Saturday. Pat and I recommend it highly. Because of the unusually good response last week it has returned for a second week there starting yesterday, June 21st until June 27th. The film makers and some of the REBELS will be at the performance tonight at 6:30 and tomorrow, Sunday, 23 June, at 2 PM. Here’s the link:

Ring Mountain with Jim – 10 June 2013 2nd Edition

Thanks so much for your swell responses to this hike-log and the slide show video. I found that I was missing photos in the text of the one I sent Tuesday, it seemed stark. It was bugging me so I added a few photos for curb appeal . . . you can now kick the tires! I’ve also added photos from the archive of an earlier Ring Mt. Hike in a P.S. It’s the same log other than that. Lew

Our last hike here was just after a rain with slippery going underfoot and water flowing in the streams. This visit things were dry – our path filled with cracks & fractures, the grasses gone fully golden. Native Americans had visited this area for thousands of years leaving evidence of their lives with grinding stones a beautiful example of which we discovered at the beginning of our hike. The mound laced with tiny bits of sea shells indicated they harvested all kinds of shell fish at this site as well from the bay below. But perhaps the most dramatic messages from the past are the remarkable petroglyphs going back perhaps 8,000 years.

Ring Mountain from Sausalito’s Bay Model with the faithful Raccoon (US Army Corps of Engineers ship on the left).

Betty Goerke in her book Chief Marin, Leader, Rebel and Legend writes “Perhaps the best know sacred site in the Huimen tribal area is Ring Mountain, on the Tiburon peninsula. In more than twenty-five locations on the mountain, carved designs known as petroglyphs are visible on the rock surfaces of chlorite schist. They appear as engraved circles with raised centers, some in groups of up to three circles.
Many of the petroglyphs are difficult to see unless light chances to illuminate them at the right angle, which is how a geologist, Salem Rice, first noticed them in the 1970’s.”

Perhaps it was this remarkable rocky promontory with its sculptured boulders that the early inhabitants discovered and recognized as unique and powerfully symbolic. “California is known among geologists as a type locality for subduction. In everyday language this means a place that exposes textbook-quality examples of subduction related rocks and tectonic features. The rarest and most scientifically precious of these is in Tiburon, and part of it is on pristine display at Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve.”

Turtle Rock is a superb example of this dramatic geological history of Ring Mountain

In 1976 this land had been purchased by a real estate developer, Robert Goetz, for suburban homes. Fortunately, the idea shocked leaders in Marin. Led by Phyllis Ellman, a conservationist who opposed the development and led the opposition. The negotiations finally led to its acquisition by the Nature Conservancy in 1982. In addition to its rare geology, Ring Mountain had many special plants that are found only on its serpentine soil. In 1995 Ring Mountain became a part of Marin Open Space District.
We were finally able to spot some Tiburon Mariposa Lilies toward the end of their bloom thanks to a ranger’s suggestion, Tiburon buckwheat in a number of locations, and diminutive Clarkia amoena (Farewell to Spring) in many places along our trail still blooming brightly.

Imagine this entire hill filled with luxury homes, a view location par excellence – the Bay, the Golden Gate, San Francisco . . phew!

Place Names of Marin by Louise Teather writes that Ring Mountain is named for George E. Ring who was a dairyman from New Hampshire and a Marin County Supervisor 1895-1903. He “owned the California City Tract below the mountain from 1879 until his death in 1913.”
That Tract is now called Paradise Cay and the point was called Ring Point “and the 602 foot-high mountain acquired its name.” A high school senior, Catie Hall, in a remarkable senior project in 2009 writes, “There are conflicting histories of how Ring Mountain got its name. One says that it was named after George E. Ring .. The much cooler version: Ring Mountain is named after the ancient Miwok Native American petroglyph rings etched on the rocks scattered around the mountain.”

Here’s a slide show/video of our hike set to some of the music in the Concerto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo. (Allegro con spirito with John Williams playing the guitar)

Finally, a couple of terrific links about Ring Mountain for after dinner feasting and a map to get us back.

P.S. A couple of photos from a hike with Armando on Ring Mountain in April of 2011 approaching from Old St. Hilary’s Church –

Bull Point with Jim – 3 June 2013

Chilly winds greeted us in the parking area along with an overarch of sweet, gray fog. But Jim assured us that on our return “the wind would be at our backs” so challenged and comforted we set out and into the grasslands. This is the only hike we’ve taken that seems to be without trees to mark our way and to shade our stops. Just as we began, we could look over to the abandoned ranch across from the old RCA maritime receiving station to a stand of Monterey Cypress huddled in memory of ranchers past. That was the last of the trees for quite sometime until we found some scrubby kin hanging onto the cliffs above Drakes Estero. Jim was a perfect guide through this “sea of grass” with his amazing knowledge of the grasses, rushes and sedges. We’ve gotten used to trying to identify wildflowers, trees, ferns, mosses, lichens, rocks and minerals but have tended to overlook the grasses so this hike provided a happy contrast.

We could see how pioneers coming across the western prairies in the 19th century could have gotten lost and disoriented with the grasses blowing in every direction. One account talks of losing cattle in the high grass and the pioneers having to stand on horseback to find them again. On Monday we tasted just a bit of the California coastal prairie, or the northern coastal grassland and nobody got lost.

Here’s an import from an earlier Bull Point hike seen and heard along our path – memorable for his powerful beauty and his wonderful name. I spotted him down the road toward the lighthouse in another pasture while returning from our earlier 2013 Chimney Rock Hike with Michael. Was he or his comrades the source of the Bull Point name? Another possibility might be in honor of the first Pt. Reyes Lighthouse keeper, John C. Bull, who did a fine job out there from 1870-1875. Just as an aside, I wonder if there is any relationship with another more modern Admiral John C. Bull?

The Estero beckons on the right side of the sign and a variety of images present themselves with a part called Creamery Bay. We had discovered the extensive butter production at the Pierce Point Ranch by the Vermonter Solomon Pierce in the 1850’s, a friend of the Shafters, lawyers and land speculators who also hailed from Vermont. It was the Shafters law firm and their family who divided up the rest of Pt. Reyes into a “tenant dairy enterprise in 1866” marketing large quantities of butter and some cheese. Perhaps this is where our Creamery Bay came from?

Jim shares a Salmonberry discovery along the way, later we enjoyed watching some White-crowned sparrows lingering in a Salmonberry bush near the estero.;jsessionid=80A138801A36558942972AD930B48042?sequence=3

Looking over to Creamery Bay with the hills above called on the map, “Pastoral Lands” and lots of excavations at our feet.

The coyote bush, Baccharis pilularis, perhaps six inches high, growing close to the ground due to the windy, challenging conditions. The bees will tailor their flight path to fly just an inch or so above the ground as well to keep out of the wind and weather.

Change of emphasis

There were many badger holes along the trail. Jim pointed out the the badger doesn’t dig like a coyote or a dog but with a sideways swimming motion. Here you can see nice evidence of her/his claws at work.

As they say in Australia, we’re on a “track” (cf. for an exotic example from Papua, New Guinea) Is this the origin of our trekking? When does it become a rut as in “getting stuck in”? A classic example from the Oregon Trail:,_Wyoming,_Wyoming)
Those pioneers might not have gotten lost in that “sea of grass” if they “stayed on the track” but they might have gotten stuck in some of the ruts. Which trail or track do we take to California . . . Oregon – to the dream, they wondered then as do we now. Robert Frost added some more thoughts you’ll recall:

Creamery Bay looming larger with some appropriately called Milk thistles in the foreground

Watching our trek with interest was this Charolais mom about to be, just a guess on the breed but isn’t she beautiful?

Jim pointed out this great example of native bunch grass, formidable, what you go around rather than over and with a sense of style, the Douglas iris at Jeannie’s foot.

Jim started to recall reed instruments from a blade of grass when . . .

Scott put the music together with such a natural élan that we all had to listen, in fact, couldn’t miss it!

Some Indian Paintbrush, grasses and Coyote bush above the beach where we found a lunch niche out of the wind.

We soon realized that we were in those “Pastoral Lands” to which the map had alluded when this visitor in basic black trumped up from the beach. She was unimpressed with our attempts at direction.

Native bunch grass beauty (Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens (?) subject to Jim’s counsel) –

After lunch, Jim mentioned a talk he’d heard from a naturalist’s naturalist, John Muir Laws. Some who read Bay Nature will recall his fascinating back page, “Naturalist’s Notebook”. Jim said that he talked of a three step approach to appreciating the natural world: Seeing first of all, then being amazed, and finally making associations with what we already know. Jim spoke of all those interconnections in our brains as we learn and associate ideas and feelings – not just of the name or names but also the detail and essence of the life we are discovering.

We’ve seen Michael and Armando dive to pick up a passing creature and now Jim joins that panoply of nature divers with a great catch (and release, of course) of a Northern Alligator Lizard.

The other lizards that we’ve seen have either had intact tails or regenerated tails, this was the first one found on our recent hikes already without a tail. This lizard seemed very comfortable on Jim’s hand and liked hiking up his jacket sleeve perhaps enjoying the camouflage.

Larry demanded a quiz, please identify these blooms and galls, wups, from our hike. Jim will correct your papers, no due date or maybe next time?

During our picnic looking down the cliff to the beach below we see Sticky Monkey flowers and Purple Bush Lupine with Salmonberry vines on the move et al.
The lupine id should be tempered and taken under advisement by the following page: The wolf strikes again.

We were treated with a number of bird sightings at lunch with a flock of Brant paddling out in the water and then taking flight, some White Pelicans making a stately pass, an Osprey doing a number of turns overhead, a Harrier flying low and straight above the the fields, the White-crowns mentioned feasting in the Salmon berries, a pair of Killdeer on the path by the parking lot and in the distance from our picnic spot a swirl of birds in a murmuration on the horizon.

Oh, yes, there was some talk about the origin of the name for Canada goose:

As more cows emerge from the beach, we say so long to Drakes Estero and wonder quizzically about that “old dock” extending into the water.

Jim reconnoiters the way back.

And calves do what calves do best.

Top of Mt. Tamalpais with Armando – 13 May 2013

It was the Mountain Top Trail this Monday as we hiked up from Rock Spring past the Mountain Theater. Armando explained that the West Peak was the historic top of Mt. Tamalpais at 2604 feet that is before it was bulldozed by the US Army during WW 2 to 2560 feet (2574 on the Tom Harrison Map) to make a radar site. The project at the time was described by the Army as a “weather observation station” which rang with some truth since there had been a weather station on the East Peak since 1898. This made the West Peak second to the East Peak with its Fire Lookout at 2571 feet. Mando went on to describe the plan to restore the West Peak to its former height and glory as the process of reclamation proceeds. It is a joint venture of a number of government agencies so the details are being negotiated, as he said, “Who will get their picture on the cover.” The West Peak area is the property of the Marin Municipal Water District and is part of a series of restorations that now are entering their fourth year.

As we began, we looked out at the Pacific fog pouring in through the Golden Gate. San Francisco was completely obscured, only the masts of the 977 ft (297.8m) Sutro TV Tower (rising on a hill between Twin Peaks) were visible above the fog – not quite in this picture. This is the same fog that kept San Francisco Bay a “secret” from so many early explorers for centuries.

Mt. Tamalpais became a California State Park in 1927-1929 with Muir Woods on the south & the water district to the north and rapidly expanded to the south and west. Here Mondo is talking about the new director of the State Parks, Major General Anthony Jackson, who brings the experience of a long and distinguished career of leadership in the Marines and a dedication to nature to his new appointment. He is looking for innovation in the State Park system but: “We are not looking at turning our parks over to private enterprises or in any way disrupting the natural beauty of a beach or a forest or a waterway or anything like that.”

Heading out on the Rock Springs Trail and casting our shadows in the sunlight.

Lisa and Margie spotted this beautiful Swallowtail enjoying an “artichoke” breakfast on California Native Cobweb Thistle.

We stop at the Cushing Memorial Amphitheater (in the Greek style) preparing for the Centenary year of the Mountain Play. “In the first two decades the performances were accessed by hiking or riding the winding Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway which was led by businessman Stephen B. Cushing. In 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of a 4,000 seat stone amphitheater named in Cushing’s honor constructed of massive serpentine rocks. And here in 1967 a two day Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival was the opening event for the “Summer of Love”. Cf.

This year’s Mountain Play is The Sound of Music running from May 19 – June 16th.

And this will be the first year since 1967 when the Music Festival returns to Mount Tam, June 22nd.
Here’s a recollection of some the 1967 show along with a video at the end which captures the mood.

Inge spotted this rare Mariposa Lily (Calochortus clavatus) as we entered the Mountain Top Trail.

Last week we enjoyed Yerba Buena and this week it’s Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum.

Normally we see the Douglas fir cones in beautiful browns but here a cascade of green cones was under the tree. Armando said that they were being harvested by the squirrels for future reference.

Armand passes some Yerba Santa and the old barbed wire perimeter of the Mill Valley Air Force Station.

The hills of the East Bay and Mt. Diablo’s distinctive double summit across a river of fog over the Bay.

Angel Island is partially covered upper left, Belvedere Island is next closest and clearing as is the Strawberry Peninsula. The bridge is Route 101 crossing the Richardson Bay and Sausalito is to the upper right communing with the Bay all the way.

Having a gather with the FAA Radome on Middle Peak in the background.

Where have all the life guards gone? We explore the old swimming pool area now replete with thistles and Coyote bushes.

Armando shows us some of the amenities of the Mt. Tam Radar Base and yes, there was a bowling alley too – one lane.

Low growing Mimulus, Monkey flowers, adorned the roadsides of the derelict swimming pool area. Here one adds a new dimension to some serpentine.
They continued to blaze beautifully along the road as we walked up to the old helipad for lunch with a view. Let’s see, serpentine, low growing mimulus, hmm.

Definitely an affinity group. Here’s a view of largely Marin Municipal Water District Watershed lands with the cool blue water of Bon Tempe Lake prominent and just a snatch of Lake Lagunitas right middle. Mt. St. Helena is high right on the horizon. Lunch tasted so much better with the view.

Reaching out

To touch someone

Perhaps Armando here wearing his Marin Municipal Director hat with Bon Tempe below and next week’s destination at Tamarancho – the lower peak to the left, right?

P.S. Here’s a video by Gary Yost, a Mill Valley photographer, whom we met at the beginning of this hike-log. It’s called A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout and it captures the magic that we all felt as we looked out along our trail: the Trail of the Stunning Views.
Oh yes, it’s the East Peak but you won’t mind.

Thanks Mando! Lew et al.

Chilly Chimney Rock/Shell Beach Combo (hold the mayo) – 15 April 2013

We rallied at Chimney Rock on Monday recalling again that it’s . . . a really different microclimate. Most of you sensible hikers had packed for the wintry experience. Even Michael wore his down and a wooly hat along with signature shorts. Ok, it’s not Fargo, North Dakota but it’s our “winter” and we’re hanging on to it. Actually, the nearby Pt. Reyes Lighthouse area has some remarkable weather. It’s called “the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent” in the NPS description. Forty mile an hour winds are common and gusts have been reported at 133 mph. It’s not unusual to have 2,100 hours of fog annually. It was not an envied light house keeper assignment. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1887, “When the storms are their worst, spray dashes up two hundred feet . . (the keeper’s) only safety is in crawling on hands and knees up and down . . . the stairs.” Perhaps we could talk to Armando about this since he lived out at the Lighthouse housing for a time. John Carpenter shot a lot of footage for the 1980 film The Fog at Pt. Reyes Lighthouse and Bolinas.

I’m conveniently slurring Chimney Rock with the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse micro climates here and realize that Chimney Rock has big wildflower credibility which probably means more sunshine and some wind protection. Still, for most of our hiking visits to Chimney Rock the winds have rolled out and over us most impressively.

Has everyone shown up from Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station?

Sir Francis Drake’s Déjà vu, “By Jove, it looks like Dover!”

Mule Ears – always a robust presence. Lilian McHoul in Wildflowers of Marin calls them Wyethia glabra (Sunflower Family) and relates that they are named for Capt. Nathaniel Wyeth who discovered the species in 1833. There are a number of other Wyethias.

At the Northern Elephant Seal overlook Michael has spotted some deer (who will not be named) on the hillside.

Michael talked at length about the the Northern Elephant Seals almost exterminated for their blubber in the 1880’s surviving as a small colony on Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja California. There were a number of excellent websites that discuss these remarkable mammals. Michael’s description is best reprised on the MarineBio Conservation Society site: There with a number of other exceptionally good sites:

The beach from the overlook was still remarkably busy and convivial.

Moving on toward lunch with due recollections of Maureen’s 11:30 “line on the trail”, Michael pulled out “out of the wind Plan B” for Shell Beach on Tomales Bay. And so we left Chimney Rock to the other hearty souls. Here he is just coming into a pastoral view approaching a Caltrans cautionary road sign of a cow with real cows as visual aides.

Parking at the end of Camino Del Mar we took the short trail to Shell Beach. As if there was a call to central casting, Michael turned over a log as he talked about the California Slender Salamander and there he was waiting in the wings. He’s proudly Batrachoseps attenuatus and he breathes through his skin requiring him to live in damp environments. As he was eager to return to his home beneath the log, Michael accommodated with alacrity.

Scott checks out a Pacific Starflower (Trientalis latifola) further down the trail. Michael said that there is irregularity in the leaf presentation.

A shady grove with Sword ferns.

Belladonna or Purple Nightshade as we approached the beach.

Lunch out of the wind, the sol of sol n sombra.

Every seat contoured for comfort we wrap the day looking out on Tomales Bay with whitecaps adding excitement.

P.S. Oh yes, the Lupine: &
and only for Harry Potter fans:

Thanks much Michael, Lew etc.

A Walk in the Park with Don – 8 April 2013

64.2 F, Clear with winds 8.0 from the North

Golden Gate Park never looked fresher Monday morning as we gathered at the base of the stairway leading up to the Conservatory of Flowers. Don is a volunteer with San Francisco City Guides and our hikes with him have always been memorable – filled with a wealth of fascinating detail. This one was definitely of a piece. A walk with Don McLaurin is social history at its best. You might say that we’ve been forming a “happy habit” on our previous hikes with him along Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and Coit Tower & the earlier one walking the Panhandle and the Haight Ashbury district. Makes sense that we did the Panhandle first since that is the earliest part of Golden Gate Park. Monday we were ready for our next installment of, hopefully, a series that will continue all the way to Ocean Beach! So many pools to jump into. We’ve got a cornucopia to feast on. Additions, corrections por favor>

The Conservatory of Flowers is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park. It was originally intended for the palatial estate of James Lick on the Peninsula but when he died in 1876, it was bequeathed to The Society of California Pioneers. They sold it to a group of San Francisco business men who gave it to the City of San Francisco. The state legislature allocated construction funds of $40,000 and joint public & private financing continue today.

Scott shared that the proposed Beach Chalet Athletic Fields Project is a major threat to the Park’s natural environment: destroying trees, putting in acres of plastic grass and tire waste, and destroying the night with 150,000 watts on 60 foot-tall stadium lights. He gave us an opportunity to fill out cards protesting these destructive ideas.

Don took us around the compass as we stood before the Conservatory. To the northwest was the Casino notable for gambling and other more comforting endeavors. Beyond the park was a horse racing track, to the west he pointed out a Sierra Redwood (Sequoia gigantea) called The Liberty Tree planted by the Sequoia Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on April 19, 1894. In this general vicinity was the first of three music bandstands in the park: Continuing around was a tunnel under the road championed by the Park’s remarkable designer, William Hammond Hall, to facilitate foot traffic and to separate carriage / car traffic from the pedestrians. Further around the circle was the statue of the assassinated President James A. Garfield in 1881 – close to the time of the Conservatory’s construction in 1876 and finally almost full circle to the substantial Dahlia garden cared for by just a half dozen volunteers. – Fascinating article on William Hammond Hall

Of course, another hero of Golden Gate Park is more well known, the remarkable John McLaren who was superintendent of the park for 53 years. In the frescoes at the Beach Chalet there is a rendering of McLaren receiving the gift of a root-balled Redwood tree on his 90th birthday. The frescoes are highly recommended. Don pointed out that McLaren hated the statues that were appearing in the park and did his best to put plantings all around them.

A third hero or heroine of Golden Gate Park that Don talked about is Alice Eastwood. She as a leader in the field of Western US Botany was an astounding collector of botanical specimens, over 340,000 for the Academy of Sciences in her lifetime. Becoming a curator of botany at the Academy when it was even more of a male world was a remarkable accomplishment. She saved 1497 irreplaceable “type” specimens from the then downtown Academy just before fire consumed the building going up to the 6th floor after severe earthquake damage. The famous picture of her in full Victorian regalia looking the damage at Olema was taken by G.K. Gilbert who was a star at the US Geological Service. They knew each other from Sierra Club outings and Gilbert said, “Alice and I have been lovers for years.” They had planned to marry but he died of a heart ailment on May 1, 1918. She continued her love of botany until her death in 1953 at the age of 94.

One of the many statues in Golden Gate Park, Don asked us who it was for and finally with no takers told us that it was Jim Fogarty, a professional baseball player born in San Francisco in 1864 who played as an outfielder in the Major Leagues from 1884 – 1890, Philadelphia Quakers and Philadelphia Athletics. Sadly, he died in Philadelphia of tuberculosis at the age of 27. The sculptor was the famous Douglas Tilden who became deaf at the age of four after a severe bout with scarlet fever.

Don shows us some historical photos of Sharon Meadow where Funston’s troop bivouacked after the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco. To the left is another historical monument, Hippie Hill.

Sharon Art Studio stained glass: Lovely display of the creatures of fancy on the Herschell-Spillman Carousel behind the Sharon Art Studio. If you go to Archives/Music on this site, you can find carousel music to play as you look at them.

Spotting the manager of the SF Lawn Bowling Club, Don got us an invitation to come inside. Don said that he tries to ask knowledgeable people along the way to supplement his walks whenever he can. We got a chance to handle the biased balls and they are heavy and challenging to keep in balance. It is played on a pitch which may be flat or convex or uneven. It was the favorite sport of John McClaren (and perhaps Jane McClaren?) Lawn bowling is related to bocce and petanque. No cell phones and no smoking on the green!

One head gardener is in charge of the Aids Memorial Grove. Roy told us about the extensive volunteer support program for the garden, multi-age and coming sometimes from a distance. He relayed how he was able to bring water flow back to the garden by exploring with a hose, the sound of water, the sound of life.

Circle of Friends

After lunch at the Music Concourse, Don took us on a tour of the Japanese Tea Garden (Thank you Michael for the admission!) and continued to add to the remarkable day but . . . I ran out of battery and whipping out my spare found that it hadn’t been charged! So, much imagination is welcomed for the walk about the Tea Garden. The Tea Garden grew out of the Japanese Village in the 1894 California Midwinter Exposition in Golden Gate Park. George Turner Marsh designed and administered the Japanese Village in the exhibition and landscape gardener Makato Hagiwara “lovingly transformed it into today’s Japanese Tea Garden.”

Thanks again Don for a super hike! Lew et al.

Extra Credit:

What’s a statue for Henry W. Halleck, “Old Brains”, Lincoln’s General-In-Chief doing in Golden Gate Park?

Halleck “built the Montgomery Block, San Francisco’s first fireproof building, home to lawyers,businessmen, and later, the City’s Bohemian writers and newspapers.” Among other things, he owned the 30,000 acre Rancho Nicasio in Marin County.

Here is a choice Sunset article from the post earthquake period that describes the “Bohemians” partying in the “Monkey Block” after the quake.;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames& Track near

Golden Gate Park

LAST but not least an opportunity to drive around San Francisco (including Golden Gate Park) in vintage 50’s cars, after all it’s 1955. Nicely done travel film that claims to be in Cinemascope and is done by a guy named Tullio Pellagrini. Think of it as a trip to Cuba. Lew

Devil’s Gulch with Armando – 1 April 2013

Twas super to see Armando again after too long. Was the last time on the Miwok Trail Hike on May 7, 2012? Much water under the bridge or over the dam and some even up the creek where we hiked. At last, Armand got to meet Armando, a sprightly and convivial moment – could be nothing less. Mando led off with his latest life lesson, “embracing ambiguity”. He relayed he’d been observing how one group of people has “answers”, another group has “questions” and that it was important to get these groups talking, sharing and interacting together. Later as we walked up Devil’s Gulch, he added that we talk about “restoration” of an ecosystem though we have a very imperfect understanding of all that is involved. We can never really restore a natural system to its original pristine moment in time and what is that moment? He mentioned as an example the remarkable survival of the ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees in the high altitudes of the White Mountains of Inyo County. How much do we know about their survival strategies? How many times have they faced climate changes, draught and fire in the last 5,000 years? Mando said that the Bristlecones have developed two distinctive types of nitrogen-fixing organisms some that are active during dry times and others for the wet. How much we don’t know, how much to learn and how do we learn?

Armando shared that this last trip to Baja (his third with Michael) had been particularly remarkable, so much so that it had moved his orientations and was creating new parameters. At night, they slept with the door of their deck cabin open to the breezes. He said he could hear the great breathings of whales and other creatures as they came by next to the boat – sleeping and dreaming with the whales.

Ambiguity, you can’t just slide the questions or the answers off the shelf. New ways of sensing, feeling, thinking, organizing, disorganizing, approaching, retiring, straight lining (bee lining!), convoluting, engaging, disengaging, new languages and maybe “paradigm shifting” though that seems pretty worn by now – too much a finale or summary of what’s gone before rather than the beginning of a/the quest, of what’s to come.

Armando read us some of the poetry and haiku of the remarkable Kenneth Rexroth who wrote many of his most beautiful works “while living in a little abandoned cabin that he discovered in the woods of Marin County, California (in what is now Samuel P. Taylor State Park).”

“”By 1950 Rexroth had established himself – through hard work and sheer ambition – at the center of San Francisco literary life. He not only published national journals but also conducted a weekly book-review show on Berkeley’s newly established KPFA, the nation’s first listener sponsored radio station. A public spokesman for modernist literature, political dissent, and alternate lifestyles, Rexroth become the elder statesman of the new Beat movement emerging in San Francisco.”
(California Poetry from the Gold Rush to the Present, ed. Dana Gioia et al, Heyday Books, 2004, p. 75)

Umbrellas sprout along with mushrooms in Devil’s Gulch

Perhaps some older “librarian” salmon that would do the shushing

ANOTHER SPRING by Kenneth Rexroth


On the Spring stream bed about to spot some fry: Includes neat video of some Steelhead in Lagunitas Creek on March 9. 2013

Heading up among the teasel with a fruit tree from the old farm beginning to bloom. Armando talked about our lack of information about water. How much do you and I use each day? How much does it cost? What percentage of the pure, clean water we use goes to drinking? (Hint: 6 %) What are the costs of water for growers in the Central Valley who use thousands of gallons at a time? What strategies do we have for conservation? Do you know how much of your water bill is for electricity – pumping the water? Mando is writing an article about water for the IJ. He’s a Director at the Marin Municipal Water District. Armand pointed out that an enormous amount of water must be lost by evaporation at it moves down the aqueduct. Armando related his experience showing Hetch Hetchy to a group of visiting international park directors. He was pointing out this magnificent water that needed no filtering before it was used in San Francisco and then related how it was used for almost everything but drinking. One of the directors from a water poor country was shocked, saddened and outraged at our wanton water attitudes. “How could you do this?” How do we use gray water? How do we recycle it? Can we finally develop two sets of pipes in housing? What happens if we don’t develop an effective strategy and we get into a series of drought years. We are looking at a very dry year. Armando said that our current supply at present usage could last for two years, what happens after that?

Samuel Penfield Taylor was a remarkable entrepreneur who came to California during the gold rush arriving late in 1849 after a ten month voyage from Boston Harbor.
Had he arrived at the start of Silicon Valley, he would have been right at home. His wife was likewise full partner in his progress as well as hewing out a remarkable life of her own. Here’s are some terrific write-ups of their lives with many fascinating details, they were remarkable people. Her ashes were placed in the grave next to his remains only after MUCH red tape almost a hundred years later!

At the grave site Armando talks about their remarkable lives and shares some thoughts about future developments in the California State Park System. He’s been working at the table with the group making recommendations for the future.

HOJOKI by Kenneth Rexroth

A thing unknown for years,
Rain falls heavily in June,
On the ripe cherries, and on
the half cut hay.
Above the glittering
Grey water of the inlet,
In the driving, light filled mist
A blue heron
Catches mice in the green
And copper and citron swathes.
I walk on the rainy hills.
It is enough.

P.S. Here’s a superb video, OVERVIEW, that speaks to that ambiguity: Best thoughts, Lew

Canal Memories with Michael – 25 March 2013

Monday fish wrap?

The Pickleweed Park area proved to provide a terrific new hike! We followed a water level route along the San Rafael Creek enjoying a visual feast of waterbird and shorebird sightings all along the way. This was one of our dog-friendly walks and three four-footed visitors added a great deal to the group ambience. In one sense, we were all getting a view of Maureen Valentine’s world – our friend who passed away last October 17th. Anne Caple pointed out her house to us and her “window” as we walked past on Monday.

Here’s a 1959 top map showing the area of the hike. It refers to the off shore islands at West and East Marin Islands. Just to the north off Pt. San Pedro it notes some other islands as “The Sisters”. Across San Pablo Bay, “The Brothers” are just off Pt. San Pablo. Curiously it refers to Mt. Tamalpais Game Refuge, the State Park was designated in 1963 just a year after Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

On an earlier walk we talked about the West and East Marin Islands. Peter Fimrite who writes so well in the SF Chronicle had an article in 2004 that detailed some history of the Marin Islands:

Pickleweed Park is a tribute to the efforts of the Canal Alliance whose advocacy for the community has provided opportunities for the people of this area of San Rafael to shine and succeed.

Scott was asking about the history of the area. Here is a lovely interactive map of Marin County Ranchos from the Anne T. Kent Room of the Marin County Library at Civic Center.

Our hike area is entitled somewhat discouragingly designated as “Swamp Lands” but this was before it was appreciated as tidal marshes. The original “Grantee” was Timothy Murphy (Timoteo Murphy) on February 14, 1844. Here is a brief but really colorful history of Alcalde Murphy:

More recently the area was the scene of a variety of companies owned by George Lucas (among others), originally Kerner Optical described as a ghost name for what is Industrial Light and Magic before he moved to the Presidio in 2006. Less recently, I recall the derelict remains of a drive-in theater on Bellam at Kerner now a small shopping center. Still more to discover.

Michael speaking Pickleweed

Getting to know you

Bird watching

Dog watching

Enjoying a tour of Karen and Armand’s BAMBI, they were off to the Pinnacles National Park. Michael also has a beautiful BAMBI. If you look up Bambi Trailer, what do you think you’ll find? Probably not this link:

Yes, many gorgeous birds on the hike. I think this is a California Coast Song Sparrow but I defer to Michael and my better birder friends . . White Throated Sparrow, Fox Sparrow mystery sparrow?

So many lovely moments: Black Oyster Catchers, Double Crested Cormorants, Gadwalls (remember Wall Street), Canada Geese (so common and so amazing), Canvasbacks, Scaups (Greater or Lesser?) Clark’s Grebe also with that technicolor RED eye, American Avocet, Anna’s Hummingbird, Northern Mocking Bird, and a remarkably large Toucan. Please add to this partial list, thanks

Ceanothus frames the trail and a hiker as it and he head toward the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Cat walking, ah, dog walking off the Bay

Best thoughts and memories, Lew

P.S. Slide show to come separately, thanks.

Palomarin with Jim – 11 March 2013

Palomarin hiking provides quiet moments in a Eucalyptus forest, high promontories with broad views of the Pacific, shady walking on paths overarched with branches and vines, openrocky stretches in a fractured landscape and often, the sound of running water to accompany our footfalls. This background of water music became a roar as we approached Bass Lake.
We enjoyed this hike with Jim about a year ago in May. Walking the trail yesterday earlier in the year provided comparisons and contrasts. Alders still to leaf out, Buckeyes pre-bloom, cow parsnips still low before their stretch for dominance and many bushes & vines still skeletal. Wildflowers were beginning along the way but not yet in profusion, some gorgeous solos with choruses still to come.

11/3/13 Tree pollens were etching Bass Lake.

14/5/12 Two months difference

Overarching Alder with Buffleheads in the distance either real or imaginary

Heidi showing some true Dolphin Club spirit

Terrace seating overlooking the lake with a variety of entrees

Not on the menu, sharing our path with a Stink Beetle, Jim described the remarkable form of chemical warfare it has evolved.

Another fellow traveller, a California Newt (Taricha torosa) crossed our path in a shady rill, Jim shares some warmth before returning him to his grassy path. You can just see a bit of his orange underside. “If the predator attacks, the California Newt excretes a neurotoxin through its warty skin and can cause paralysis and or death to its attacker.”

Earlier on our way Jim spotted the raised hatch of the Turret Spider explaining that it was related to the tarantula and trapdoor spiders. The turret spiders are an ancient spider form called mygalomorphs, “which swing their fangs down like pickaxes rather than pinching in from the sides like most modern spiders.” The scene is perhaps something like the more vivid moments in Alien.

Jim talking about the Western Wild Cucumber or Coastal Manroot (Marah oreganus) which is winding its way into a Douglas Fir. Successful in a variety of locales it grows well by streams but also in the dry conditions of the Mojave Desert – throughout much of California. Larry told of a remarkable 400 pound Manroot that was under a parking lot in San Mateo County. Here’s a photo of one from Cucamonga from 1977: Additionally, while we were moving on Jim mentioned that the young needles of the Douglas Fir make a terrific tea:

The fog bank held on just off shore as we were returning (here, we’re outward bound). As the waves hit the beach, fog surged up our promontory overlook making everything remarkably mysterious and alive.