Category Archives: Spring 2015

Presidio Trails with Michael – 8 June 2015

The Spanish established many presidios around the world in their quest for empire. The Presidio of San Francisco, one of these, came to life on the sand dunes of the San Francisco Bay. Started along with this military presence was Mission Dolores founded by Father Francisco Palou, a companion of Father Junipero Serra, and Lt. Jose Joaquin Moraga both members of the de Anza Expedition. The Presidio was put in place to protect the entrance to Yerba Buena (San Francisco Bay) and the Mission was “charged with bringing Spanish settlers to Alta (Upper) California and evangelizing the local natives, the Ohlone.”ís

We came across some special murals in a chapel next to the National Cemetery which reminded us of the ones we’d seen at Coit Tower. Rod checks out one of the art works celebrating the original Ohlone and Costanoan people who lived here at least as early as A.D. 740 along with the arriving Spanish military and a missionary padre of the 1770s.

Were are walking by some of the oldest wood-frame buildings on the Presidio refurbished and some, like this one, ready for occupancy. The Presidio is a unique National Park not to be ultimately supported by any tax dollars but rather must according to the Congressional mandate become a self-supporting enterprise. Directed by the Presidio Trust “In 2013, it reached a crucial milestone by becoming financially self-sufficient.”

Restoration of an “ancient stream ecosystem” at “YMCA Reach of the Presidio’s Tennessee Hollow watershed” with ”planting of native San Francisco grassland, bushes and riparian habitat.”

Michael plucks a poison hemlock stalk – an exotic, member of the carrot family growing in profusion in our hiking areas. It was brought to the United States as a garden plant sometime in the 1800s and has spread throughout the western hemisphere and beyond.
Most famous, perhaps, for ending Socrates life it poses a major danger to many foraging animals as well as humans. Michael mentioned that he’d read a fascinating book on Socrates and pointed out that Socrates had chosen to take the hemlock rather than go into exile, a fate worse than death?

Michael walks the line, that is Andy Goldsworthy’s “Wood Line” with maybe just a dash of Johnny Cash. Andy Goldsworthy has a special and continuing relationship with the Presidio returning year after year to create other unique sculptures.

El Polin Spring area has been the focus of much rehabilitation work by many volunteers. This is a well researched article from BAY NATURE in 2007, much work has been done on the area since.

Larry mentioned that this was where a remarkable feminist pioneer San Franciscan, Juana Briones, lived and worked. The section later on in this piece entitled, “A Woman Ahead of Her Time” tells her amazing story.

A number of summer camps were going on as we passed by on these trails, here pre-schoolers are enjoying some nature-made play equipment. Note the sand of the original dunes still underpinning the area.

Michael ponders a question – “And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came!”

Nancy checks out some narrow leaf plantain. While Michael talked about this ubiquitous plant, he showed us how to make the tops into missiles for a small aerial bombardments. This just for your back pocket since I haven’t tried it and can’t vouch for it:

Rare Presidio Clarkia (Clarkia franciscana) as the following description relates, “found on serpentine bluffs and serpentine grasslands in open sunlit areas” – exactly where Michael spotted these. He mentioned that they are popularly called “Farewell to Spring” or for those more sanguine “Summer’s Darling”.

We’re approaching another of Andy Goldsworthy’s sculptures, this one is SPIRE.
The video of the construction process is a lot more involved than I had thought – fascinating.

Taking a break on the logs not needed

Michael mentioned that the identification of the Alcatraz (Island of the Pelicans) had not always been attached to this island in the Bay. Juan Manuel de Ayala named one of three islands “La Isla de lose Alcatraces”. Armando mentioned on an earlier hike that originally it had been Yerba Buena Island further in the Bay. Perhaps mapmakers made the move but now and probably forever, THE ROCK in the middle of San Francisco will always be Alcatraz.

Hoping this is the MARTHA which will be taking part in the famous Transpacific Race from Long Beach to Hawaii – built just 108 years ago on San Francisco Bay.


Lunch amid the Eucalyptus, a quiet spot overlooking the San Francisco National Cemetery.

Fog begins to tongue into the Gate.

As the fog rolls in, the fog horns on the Golden Gate Bridge add their music to the scene. I included these links in an earlier hike-log but they continue to be part of our soundscape and added some especially timely “music” to our view on Monday.

The back of the soldier’s gravestones honors their wives.

Archibald MacLeish poem, “The Young Dead Soldiers” inscribed on the stones of a memorial walk. It is also used in the new memorial sculpture downtown in the garden between the Opera House and the Veteran’s Building. “After WW 2, MacLeish became the first American member of the governing body of UNESCO, and chaired the first UNESCO conference in Paris.”

Incoming shipping with Angel Island as the backdrop to a crowd of witnesses – that it would be Isle of the Angels across the way seems full circle.

Some people enjoy following the “shipping news”: Here’s a site rich with information and great vintage photos collected at the time of the re-opening last October.

On the wall in Moraga Hall, a “freeze-frame” from the 40s or 50s. I need to check on the uniforms. It forms a succinct contrast to the guys in cowboy hats at the bar during a celebration of Frontier Night – one of the photos in the previous link.

Approaching the Officer’s Club across a lawn that is doing its part during the drought. This is a new, commencing dig at the top of the parade ground near the Officer’s Club.

Even though the Officer’s Club is closed on Monday, we’re able to enter a patio area of the new Arguello Restaurant. And there we find the latest sculpture by our frequent “companion”, Andy Goldsworthy.

Earth Wall was completed in 2014.
Last year on a Presidio hike with Michael we visited Goldsworthy’s “Tree Fall”:

Rolling out the red carpet at one of the many organizations that call the Presidio home, “Futures Without Violence”: This includes the Ted Talk by the founder, Esta Soler.
We may be familiar with Lucas Film at the Presidio or The Disney Family Museum but there are many more organizations and businesses that call the Presidio home.{7349EE11-5810-4D96-AA86-AF72F5318E9F}&FilterClear=1

Wrapping up on the veranda of the Inn at the Presidio, Harriet and Kit rock on.

P.S. Many thanks to Carol and Harriet who worked hard on the logistics of this hike, what a team!

San Bruno Mountain with Michael — 1 June 2015

San Bruno Mountain has a remarkable support group in SAN BRUNO MOUNTAIN WATCH: With the vision of David Schooley and many others this group developed starting in 1969. It is dedicated to the preservation of this unique and irreplaceable open space. It’s a mountain but also very much an island of natural life going back to the Ohlone Indians and beyond – in the midst of ongoing and surrounding urban development. By attendance at San Mateo County Supervisors’ Meetings, distributing leaflets, bulletins, press releases and more they rallied the people who lived on the mountain’s edges to the cause. With the discovery of the rare and endangered Mission Blue Butterfly on one area of the mountain by Dick Arnold from UC Berkeley and Larry Orzak residential development was halted. But developers found a “compromise” workaround to the Endangered Species Act with the benignly named Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Schooley writes, “It is not surprising, but a bitter irony that across the valley on the Northeast Ridge, where rare and endangered habitat on the Mountain has been destroyed, streets within the new subdivision carved out of the mountain’s flanks now bear names like, “Mission Blue Drive” and “Silverspot Lane.” Like the road, the fight goes ever on. This is Schooley’s account of the history behind San Bruno Mountain Watch Their active website has a number of enjoyable videos as well as blogs, posts, poetry and art.

Saving San Bruno Mountain might have been a different story. Fortune shone on the mountain in the form of some strange bedfellows. Perhaps if not for the San Francisco Dump in Brisbane and the cemeteries of Colma both at the base of San Bruno Mountain, the “little boxes made of ticky-tacky” might have powered on and covered the mountain. Odd sentinels but sometimes the nemesis can become the gate keeper. Colma has been there since the 1880’s as an accessible final destination with trains of the time stopping at most of the cemeteries. Then in 1914 with land becoming too valuable for the living, eviction notices were sent out to San Francisco cemeteries and many of their occupants found themselves on a second final trip this time to Colma. In response to these evictions, cemetery operators in 1924 founded Colma as a necropolis to protect it from “capricious acts of government”. Dedicated to the memory of those passed on, it remains a solid bastion for its “residents” and a protective barrier for the living on the ocean side of the mountain.

If you were driving to SFO in the 1960s you may have driven down the Bayshore Freeway and on the way gone through distinctive smells, plumes of smoke and blowing debris across your path. You were passing Brisbane, a town that a company called Sanitary Fill helped to incorporate in 1961. The dump had its origins in 1932 as a “fill-and-cover” dumping ground for San Francisco. But it was not to be a company town and the residents formed Brisbane Citizens for Civic Progress (BCCP) and won an election on the dump when the people of Brisbane voted to stop the influx of garbage immediately. But there was the contract with Sanitary Fill like some kind of noxious necklace still round the town’s neck. Happily Brisbane hired a lawyer, Caspar Weinberger, and won the contest and was able to as Marijke Rijsberman writes in her fascinating blog, “to turn the garbage tide.” Who thought that landfill could be so interesting? This site is a treasure trove of San Francisco history.

Parking area interpretive shelter near the trailheads.

Arrival under some foggy skies

Michael talks about his first times here on San Bruno Mountain in the 1970s after his arrival in California and still on his motorcycle.

He shared David Schooley’s remarkable dedication to saving this Mountain, a man so dedicated to preserving nature that he did not own or drive a car.

We took the Summit Loop Trail.

Getting into the chaparral with the Bay below and the East Bay almost imagination Always amazing to find specialist blogs on exotic subjects.

Gaining some altitude, we begin to feast on the views which were remarkable. Here the San Francisco skyline with the Bay bridge leading to the Yerba Buena Island anchorage. That’s Mt. Tamalpais’ profile on the left horizon where we hiked last Monday.

A bouquet of Indian or Wight’s Paintbrush (Castilleja wightii) which has a long blooming season to be enjoyed through spring and summer. It was moved like some of the San Francisco “residents” not to Colma but to the Figwort family.

More of the San Francisco skyline away from downtown

Native bunch grasses and SF skyline. The ID was?

Getting swallowed in the landscape

Higher vantage point showing more of the surrounding developments, ships perhaps waiting on the tide.

We passed a number of mounds of the Mound Harvester Ant with great activity going on in each. In looking for more information, there were a lot of references to pest removal (Orkin etc.) but not too much about the ants’ natural history.

Moving smartly beyond the ant mound, Michael finds a lunch spot with a view.

Looking down on Colma

Serpentine of another sort as we look toward (towards in Britain) the Pacific, shopping available.

And with Lake Merced in the next quadrant looking almost like an indentation of the Pacific Ocean. There is a cool map in this link showing San Francisco as an island 125,000 years ago separated from the Peninsula by the Colma Strait.

At least Armand is paying attention. We noted some maintenance going on in one of the towers as well. The narrator seems unusually calm. These workers aren’t quite at the 1768 foot level, today anyway.

Look up, look down, look all around. A lovely stand of Dudleyas. We found some Dudleya cymosa on our Deer Park hike and D. farinosa on the Ring Mt. expedition.

Harriet wore her Baltimore Ravens Cap and it was an amazing draw. At lunch we were treated to a large flock of soaring ravens in what seemed to be a spring meet-up doing some lyrical acrobatics, maybe teenagers on the dating scene.

Red Elderberry was along the trail, think “Red Pyramids”. We saw the Blue Ederberries on our Mt. Diablo, Mitchell Canyon hike.

The Mt. Sutro Tower constructed in 1973 helped eliminate the line-of-sight television signal problems in an area with many hills and many of the TV towers used on Mt. San Bruno.

On the downhill loop

We’ve worked back around to the City skyline.

The popcorn flower, Western Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea.

The return continues across a small bridge. It would work even better if there was a stream flowing beneath.

Also crossing the bridge – it’s the little things, where are you going and with what wings will you fly?

San Bruno Mountain with fog moving in.

P.S. Larry spotted some Salvia spathacea, hummingbird sage, which I missed along the way. But it is not to be missed.–salvia-spathacea

Rock Springs with Michael – 25 May 2015

Last week we got to see Mt. Tamalpais from Ring Mountain and this week it was the other way round. As we drove up Mount Tam Monday morning, the fog played tag with us. Ah, we’re out of it and into the sunshine. Whoops, we’re back in the fog. Keep the lights on, I think we’re almost there. Ah, there it is, Rock Springs. There was a special freshness in the air as we stretched into the day.

Sunlight begins to share the air with the receding fog. As we began our hike, Michael observed an area beneath a fir tree showing very wet footprint. “Fog Drip”, he said. This fog moisture collection by trees provides a substantial amount of water for their growth and health. Coastal Redwoods are able to capture significant amounts of water from the fog with their needles (like catcher’s mitts) and remarkably, move it both up and down their majestic lengths.

Looking out from Bolinas Ridge toward the Pacific. On some Saturday evenings this parking lot comes alive and turns into a cool observatory when the fog is quite willing. Scott in our group is a member of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers. He comes up here to share the stars with all comers.

Gorgeous rock bearing gifts, Michael spots a resident. Can you see him? Left side on the edge of the lower part just before El Cap but maybe a closer view.

A Blue Belly with a soft blue lichen surround is warming up for the day.

Meditative moment for this runner who had just come up by us on a nearby trail, love that posture.

Graceful Pacific Madrones (Arbutus menziesii) marching up a hill by the trail to the Mountain Theater.

Huge Serpentine blocks quarried on the mountain were wrestled into place in 1936 by CCC workers to make an amphitheater reminiscent of Greece and Rome.

This year’s production is PETER PAN, you can see there’s plenty of space for flying.

Poison Oak variations along the trail, Michael pointed out that the Latin name is Toxicodendron diversilobum, diverse indeed. Perhaps we’re clear that the bottom photo shows our nemesis but the top, just an oak tree sprouting? Nope, that’s poison oak as well. We’ve seen it recently diminutive in the ground hugging chaparral out on Chimney Rock and earlier at Annadel Park in Santa Rosa winding up Douglas Fir trees with massive vines.

Coming out of a forest we’re now in chaparral, these edges are rich with plants and animals, an “ecotone” as Michael pointed out. Things quiet down as you go into the forest or out into the grassland but it’s these edges where you find the action.

Not much growing on this serpentine outcrop. Michael relates that it is composed of potentially toxic materials: magnesium, chromium and nickel – low in the plant nutrients, potassium and calcium. But surprisingly many plants have adapted to this unusual environment.

Manzanita berries (Arctostaphylos hookeri ssp. montana) which the Miwok crushed for a sweet, unfermented cider. McHoul in “Wildflowers of Marin” identifies an Arctostaphylos cushingiana named for Sidney B. Cushing, builder of the Mt. Tamalpais railroad. There are many identified in the Arctostaphylos group and apparently the Miwok used at least four varieties in their ciders, you can imagine tastings under the Redwoods. , An Indian Paintbrush ablaze in a dry patch of coyote bush, Michael mentioned the third one was a Calochortus bloom, not the one we sought at Ring Mountain (Calochortus tiburonensis), maybe Calochortus minimum, just flying by tsomp here. and finally the fourth, perhaps Goldwire (Hypericum concinnum) in the St. John’s Wort Family,

Michael spotted an Ash-throated flycatcher at the top of the middle tree and an Acorn woodpecker along for company in the skeletal tree on the left. Just scroll down in this link:

We stop to enjoy some Elk Clover along the trail, the nearest elk are over at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. It is in the Araliaceae – Ginseng family.

Lunch at the picnic tables of the West Point Inn and Barb takes a photo of three passing Memorial Day hikers.

The after dinner conversation was partly about the new California Common Core State Content Standards with a number of our teacher-hikers.

Passing plane reflecting bright white in the sunshine.

Going back on the same trail is always different.

Michael stops to share this California “Rhodi” with us, our one and only, Rhododendron occidentale. In the past, he has sent us remarkable photos of the gorgeous plethora of Rhododendrons blooming in Bhutan.

Michael points out a flower from the Rhodi’s bloom

Returning to our starting point, we are welcomed by this faithful hound, a quite dignified tri-color beagle – the fog remains on the horizon.

You may recall the remarkable Gary Yost, his superb films. His videos of the fire lookout on Mt. Tamalpais and restoration of the West Peak of Mt. Tam in “The Invisible Peak” were beautifully done. Here is one devoted just to the ocean of the Bay fog from the vantage of the mountain, “Full Moon Pacific Blanket.”

Ring Mt. rings with Jim – 11 May 2015

We’ve made a few pilgrimages to Ring Mountain on the Tiburon Peninsula with our hike leaders Michael Ellis, Armando Quintero and most recently Jim Coleman. Each time has opened new vistas, some familiar views and a sense of privilege to be able to hike in this place remarkable both for its natural treasures and human history. Thoughts swirl about – the “precious” ring from Tolkein’s writings, maybe Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen, perhaps even the brass ring on some almost forgotten amusement park ride. Though as you’ll recall, the mountain was named for George E. Ring, Marin County Supervisor from 1895 to 1903. But be undaunted, there is much to see and feel in this magical landscape carved & heaved by thundering geology and visited by native Americans for thousands of years.

Ring Mountain has many descriptions in books and on the web, this is one of the richest and most poetic I’ve read. The author is Geoffrey Coffey, a San Francisco landscape architect who wrote this in another May, 22 May 2004. He relates at the end how Dr. Robert West in June of 1970 discovered a most unusual flower on Ring Mountain, a “previously unknown species of the mariposa lily, and named Calochortus tiburonensis in 1973. It has not been found to occur anywhere else in the world.” And later muses, “The more we learn, the more we realize how much more there is to learn. Despite all our vast advances of science and technology in recent centuries, we never noticed Calochortus tiburonensis until a few years ago . . . What other clues have we missed?”

Treking toward Turtle Rock and on the horizon the profile Mt. Tamalpais with the glint of the radar bubble on the West Peak. Mt. Tam has its own dark magic in the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan who in ‘90s taught middle school in San Francisco.

Arriving at Turtle Rock I’m reminded of the “selfie” photos the moon explorers took standing in front of the black obelisk in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, minus space suits.

Detail from Turtle Rock with lichens, perhaps a messenger from Middle Earth?

Ancient Coast Miwok (or forbears) grinding bowl (mortar) with an added pestle, the mortar being the bowl which is adjacent to a seasonal stream and the glittering remains of a shell midden. “Mortar holes and other artifacts found (on Ring Mountain) have been dated at nearly 2,400 years old.” and for context One of the “events” of 400 BC: “London has its origins on a rise above marshy waters at the point where the Walbrook joins the River Thames.” Is that a newt on the upper left edge?

Who is that man in the dark hat? Jim shares some moments on the grasses growing on this serpentine soil and what attracted our attention was a nice yellow bloom of Coastal Tarweed (Deinandra corumbosa) or is it Coast Tarweed (Media sativa)?

Some class room: a view of the Corte Madera Channel in northern San Francisco Bay, Point San Quentin at the west end of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge – the large building is San Quentin Prison, California’s oldest from 1852, beyond are the Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Point San Pedro.

Going clockwise starting with the purple Ithuriel’s Spear (Brodiaea laxa) much deeper color than the ones we saw on Mt. Diablo, Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) named for G.T. Lay a botanist who visited California in 1827 sailing on the “Blossom”, Hairy Cat’s Ear (Hypochaeris radicata) – the generic name means “little pig” and pigs are said to like the roots (Lilian McHoul in Wild Flowers of Marin p.32) and False Lupine (Thermopsis macrophyllia – the Pea Family) not seen so often on our hikes. For a nice sequence of California Coastal Prairie Wildflowers a site from Sonoma State University is most helpful:

Jeannie illustrates the stickiness of Serpentine, a tradition that Armando started on one of our Mt. Tam hikes.

View of the east side of the Tiburon peninsula with lots of green cover and the straight line of the Golden Gate Ferry to or from Larkspur Landing. You can imagine these hillsides “developed” and covered with houses and say a silent thank you to Phyllis Ellman and the many others who saved Ring Mountain. Phyllis Ellman moved to Glen Ellen in 1980 and was a dedicated supporter of The Bouverie Preserve and Audubon Canyon Ranch. This appreciation has a last interview with her before her death in in 2009.

A boulder with curious sculpted marking as we walk down to Turtle Rock

Another of those picnic spots to remember with the hill (or was it the 602 ft. mountain) sweeping down to Richardson Bay. Belvedere Island is at the center and beyond the gray outline of San Francisco or more poetically by George Sterling in 1920, “The Cool, Grey City of Love”. To realize how fortunate we are that many fought to save and conserve this land and . . . water, you may recall that the Reber Plan in the late 1940s designed to fill in great swaths of San Francisco Bay including part of Richardson Bay.

A mushroom cloud in a good way – part of our picnic antipasto.

The Turtle welcomes some climbing explorers on its back after all in other incarnations it’s holding up the world.

Jim talked about grasses after lunch, here he’s comparing the skinny one a native meadow barley, Hordeum brachyantherum, with the larger one, Hordeum murinum, false barley.

The green grass lecture table – Jim shared a wealth of information about a number of grasses that he collected on the hike. Excellent site from Sonoma State University’s Center for Environmental Inquiry on California’s Coastal Prairies Jim has some photo credits in these articles including some frolicking Sonoma County cattle in a prairie pasture.

Rattlesnake Grass mini (Briza minima) and maxi (Briza maxima), invasive non-natives and very familiar on our trails. Sonoma State University continues to cover the invasives that concludes with one of our favorite non-natives, the Red-Stem Filaree with its corkscrew seeds.

And so we leave Turtle Rock until our next visit – the blue-green Serpentine rocks glowing in the sunshine.
Great commentary about the 2010 effort to de-list Serpentine as the California state rock:

Barb heads down the hill with a pole and a smile.

The Petroglyph Boulder now fenced and somewhat protected. You need to be on a special hike to observe it these days. We were able in the past to see it up close.
The carvings date back 5000 to 8000 years and were made by the Hokan or Penutian speaking peoples. cf.

From our hike with Armando on 19 May 2008, we get an idea of the sculpting from pre-history.

Marin dwarf flax, Hesperolinon congestum: “Occurrence limited to one or a few highly restricted populations or present in such small numbers that it is seldom reported, endemic to California and endangered throughout its range.”

Tiburon buckwheat, Erigonum luteolum var. caninum which was in a number of places during our hike i.e. mostly the Phyllis Ellman Trail.

A Seep Monkey flower, Mimulus gutatus, blooming happily in a small remnant stream,–mimulus-guttatus, a Royal Larkspur, Delphinium variegated, surprises in the dry grasses, a wheel of Sky (?) Lupine reminds of a great spinning galaxy, the foreground grass Jim describes as a “special” one, our native Melica californica.

Like the tops of some Bavarian churches these await identification, a beetle proves that California poppies are not just for looking, succulent Dudleya farinosa enjoying the Serpentine locations,
and a Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia

The Tiburon Mariposa Lily, Calochortus tiburonensis, enjoying its only location on earth amid the Serpentine on Ring Mountain.
Because we didn’t spot them on our hike, I returned yesterday (22 May 2015) and was able to locate them next to an upper trail. CNPS indicates a brief window from mid-May into the beginning of June.

A California native Bumble Bee (Bombus californicus) enjoys brunch in a recently opened Tiburon Mariposa Lily.

And a P. S. – a photo from our 2008 Ring Mountain hike with Armando

Deer Park Hike – 4 May 2015

Our hike started at the end of Porteous Street near the Fairfax – San Anselmo Children’s Center. The Center has been here since the school district moved from the buildings in the 1970’s and at times has been threatened with sale and closure. But it has grown and thrived since its founding by Ethel Seidermann in 1973 serving the low income community working with the children and their families. “In order for a child to thrive, the family needs to thrive.” The infant-toddler, preschool and after school programs provide a safe and welcoming environment for 140 children from the community from 3 months to 10 years of age. Our hike begins and ends with a walk right by the Center.

Kids at play under the Redwoods and a beautiful tribute to Hokusai’s “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” with an added blazing sun.

Harriet checks out the hike, she’s a most reliable navigator and keeper of the maps. John has his poles at the ready.

Judy had gone on a wildflower hike with Bob Stewart here recently and made the great suggestion of doing our previous trail loop in reverse giving the hike a freshness and new focus. It was a cool choice as well because we were able to hike up the hill on the more open part of the trail in the morning overcast and enjoy the shade on Six Points Trail returning after the sun had come out.
We went up the Deer Park Trail, took a right on the Worn Springs Fire Road, another right on the Yolanda Trail, a sharp right down the Six Points Trail and then right again on the Deer Park Fire Road back to the school – a perfect circle.

Rock lettuce, (Dudleya cymosa) Many lovely entries in this blog that seems on a break at the moment. Doreen Smith comments on this entry adding that they are called Dudleya farinosa on the Tiburon Peninsula.

Flowers about to burst forth – wonderful yellow lichens adorn the serpentine rocks framing this beautiful “Liveforever”.–dudleya-cymosa

A number of runners and local dog owners were on the trail as well, “woman, man and beast”.

Kit spotted these miniatures growing on the rocky hill side, looks kind of orchidy, what are they, hmm? They do match her sleeves quite nicely.

Armand points to a serpentine rock with a distinct band in trail step stone, our state rock. Hurrah! Note the governor as well just for a bit of time travel.

Our path takes us by a blooming California buckeye, the sweet perfume from the blooms was just beginning to permeate the air.

Looking west with the morning fog hanging in on Bolinas Ridge, this natural amphitheater echoed with bird songs & calls – intermingled came the calls of the kids drifting up from the playgrounds at Deer Park School.

An oak that hung a left awhile ago while going on a wild cantilever journey. Is there a proportionate root system in the hillside? Some native bunch grasses are in the foreground.

Western Morning Glory (Calystegia occidentalis): The Morning-glory Family is Convolvulaceae which means “to entwine” in Latin. Lilian McHoul writes in her book
‘Wild Flowers of Marin’, “The stems are several feet long, twining over other plants; herbage smooth. Stalked leaves, variably shaped but often triangular, and cordate at the base. There are two to three large pinkish-to-white flowers to a stem.” P. 119

Topping the Deer Park Trail with a spray of Sticky Monkey Flowers to greet us.

Water break and then up the hill followed by a reconnoiter and it’s . . . right on the Yolanda Trail

We revisit the “tiny teacup” hole in the oak” (Holyoke?) that we enjoyed on our previous hike. Now the tea cup is gone but there’s a new, odd collection with a turquoise pot, a miniature plastic cupcake, a plastic bag with what looked like fortune cookie fortunes and some kind of a leather pouch overhead. Someone suggested that this may be a point for Geocaching. Previously, I thought it might be a family destination with mementoes that intrigue the kids. Probably not part of a wood rat midden . . . but then again?

Lunch at Bistro de Jim with Mt. Tamalpais just coming out of fog.

Margie invited a friend, Beth Prentice, visiting from Ithaca, N.Y. to join us on our hike today. Beth is a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Nepal in the 1960’s who has continued her commitment to the Nepalese working with EDUCATE THE CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL, an NGO founded in 1990 by Pamela Carson and several close friends. Beth gave us a brief idea of their remarkable work in Nepal which focuses on Children’s Education,
Women’s Empowerment and Agricultural Development. ETC has a sustained commitment in their areas of service lasting six years or more teaching women basic literacy, community development programs, working with the public schools and providing women farmers with skills and resources.

The fog has burned off after lunch and we’ve clear views.

Bolinas Ridge and (Now for a bit of free association: Marin Bikes has a Bolinas Ridge Line and a video that seems quite timely:

the East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais are coming clear. I’ve linked Gary Yost’s “A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout” before but wanted to add it again because it’s so memorable.

Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans, Lily Family, Liliaceae. Similar to Ithuriel’s Spear which we saw in Mitchell Canyon but Harvest Brodiaea has shiny petals and a shorter stem.
Reny Parker writes in her “Wildflowers of Northern Calfornia’s Wine Country and North Coast Ranges, “Dressed in royal purple petals, this is truly a most elegant, though common Brodiaea. Six shiny lavender petals form a funnel shaped flower. Each petal has prominent mid-rib and shades from pale green at the base to white to deep purple at the tip. . . . California Indians baked the bulbs in fire pits and ate them as a vegetable.” P. 166 The plant was named after J.J. Brodie, a Scottish botanist, 1744 – 1824.

Lots of trail choices here at “6 Points”, luckily we have our navigators.

Western Fence Lizard with his original tail “hiding” in plain sight.

Matt makes way for a mountain biker who joined us on the Deer Park Fire Road, “On your right!

On the far edge of the old Deer Park playing fields is a California Bay Tree that reminds of a Dr. Seuss illustration. A year ago when we did the trail the other way we spotted a sitting Turkey Vulture who didn’t move in spite of our interest. Jim suggested that she might be in a nesting mode.

Almost one year ago, certainly the lichens must be soft and comfortable.

No need for a finale as we pass by Hokusai’s wave.

And then again?

P.S. Engaging video showing a horse and rider in the Deer Park area that had slipped off the trail into a ravine.

Lyric Chimney Rock with Michael – 27 April 2015

Many of our visits to Chimney Rock at Pt. Reyes National Seashore have been chilly to down right freezing. But last Monday was a Goldilocks kind of day with that cerulean sky overhead, fog laved green grasses, vivid colors of a host of wildflowers and an afternoon fog kissing the hills. Michael rose to the occasion by first describing the process of pollination and fertilization in the angiosperms using his now famous magically deconstructing flower for a visual aid. It was also amazing to see how many Northern Elephant Seal pups were still on the beaches along with many returning female seals back for their annual molt. Michael commented that he’d never seen these numbers of seals so late in the year and felt is might be an indicator of climate change. The huge male seals were feeding well off in the mid-Pacific at this time as he mentioned, “ . . . halfway to Korea.” The day was wonderfully bookended with a rare sighting of a busy badger on the hillside above the favorite Northern Elephant Seal beach and finaled by spotting a couple of handsome great horned owls in the Monterey Cypress trees that shelter a park service housing area.

Diana had a splendid Facebook entry that captured the day with her wonderful enthusiasm:

I had a pretty extraordinary day today. We saw a pair of enormous and perfectly camouflaged great horned owls, a badger peeking out of his den, a beautiful grey whale and her calf leisurely meandering up the coast, a magnificent caspian tern diving for its lunch alongside a loon and two western grebes and a whole beach packed with elephant seals and their pups. Plus sun, wind, fog and a host of wild flowers. Have I forgotten anything? oh yes – a canada goose, of course, sitting on a large rock in the middle of the ocean. Very well written, beautiful descriptions. A few dated bits – i. e. no oyster farm now. Many intriguing subjects by this remarkable editor-writer who is a retired librarian. A blog that beckons. Engaging brief video with a New Zealand twist.

Where all good Pt. Reyes hikes begin

We get together at the Chimney Rock parking area with the long view of the ‘white cliffs’ of Drake’s Beach which some have said attracted Francis Drake, the pirate.

Sharing the day with us, taking the high ground

Michael describes the Elephant Seal life cycles and is about to discover a rare badger walking about and peeking from her burrow on the hill just above the beach. With patience you can find a number of actual badger sites on the web along with the “dominant” badgers of the University of Wisconsin. But first to the Elephant Seals: This remarkable group monitors the badger populations in Sonoma and Marin Counties. Just scroll down for some terrific badger pictures (as well as many fellow or sister travelers).

A flight of Brown Pelicans with some background cloud language across Drake’s Bay

Location, location. After some earlier resettlement attempts on the outer beaches of Chimney Rock (and other areas) in the 1970’s, the N. Elephant Seals found this sheltered location in Drake’s Bay that was just perfect and they’ve been returning ever since.

Here is a video from earlier in the calendar year that I shot in January of 2014. It shows the mixed beach with massive males, females and pups which are born black and molt to silver gray in about a month. The enormous young male later in the video was quite a performer and seemed to be scouting for a pull out area, some beach front property, a place to call his own.

Elephants in Marin?.m4v

Scouting an oceanside beach shows a mix of molting females and pups enjoying less crowding and in April, not the dangers of winter storms. The pups just born and for the first month are called weeners. Early attempts to use this beach and others facing the ocean waves ended disastrously with the young swept out to sea.

Molting females of April

Molting and many other E. Elephant Seal questions answered:

The loneliness of leadership

The fog begins to soften the landscape bringing some cooling breezes.
Additional at no extra cost: The blog of which this video is a part has many fascinating entries done by interns at the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center at Point Reyes National Seashore, a place we pass just before going south past Dogtown on the way to Bolinas.

Clockwise around starting with the prickly wild cucumber which we seem to be seeing on all of our hikes:,
Narrow-leaf Mule-ears, Wyethis angustifolia,, Sky lupine, Lupinus nanus, or maybe polyphyllus (that purple color?), and Seaside daisy, Erigeron glaucus,–erigeron-glaucus

Looking south toward San Francisco, “The mesa-like top of Chimney Rock Point is capped by a marine terrace. Granitic cobbles from the Point Reyes Conglomerate are reworked into the marine terrace deposits. The terrace gravel is locally overlain by sand with a thin organic-rich soil horizon on top . . . The cliffs and sea stacks along the coast consist of granitic rocks. Chimney Rock is a prominent sea stack at the south end of the point.” This is from a clearly written and well-done geology tour of Point Reyes by the U.S. Geological Survey, Stop 4: Substantial and informative, maybe want a copy for future reference?

Often traveling in bonded pairs, ravens are frequent in the skies over our hikes – Corvid companions. This one was having a walk about perusing the ground perhaps for lunch. The incandescent Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) were much in evidence along our way. But the Hairy Pussy-Ears (Calochortus Tolmiei) of the Lily Family is a less common sighting. The Indian Paintbrush, Sastilleja Wightii, was just ablaze.

Lunch with a view, as Armando suggested one time, there’s nothing like sitting down and letting nature pass you by. We weren’t disappointed because we got to see a mother Gray Whale and her calf chugging along to the point.

Michael said that he hadn’t seen a Canada goose out here before but this one was to muse about. It reminded me of the rare sighting of a male sea otter which we spotted on an earlier hike here with Armando. You’ll recall that he looked lonely and tired out there in Drake’s Bay until he finally joined some elephant seals on a beach for some companionship and relaxation in the sun. Projecting right?


The beginnings of California’s only native thistle, the cobweb ,
Owl’s Clover presages our coming sightings of two Great Horned Owls. The familiar, ubiquitous, exotic and under the radar Scarlet pimpernel which makes the weed gallery at UC Davis: but not so fast: ,
and an old favorite, Cow Parsnips,

Great Horned Owl spotting in the Monterey Cypress surround of this park building.

Checking out the owl scat for the many tiny bones of lunches past.

This hike is a feather in your cap, Michael! (Since you’re off to Turkey, maybe the Turkey Vulture feather is just right.)

P.S. An email from Susan Kirks of the Paula Lane Action Network: Michael mentioned her as we were leaving in the parking lot on Monday. “Susan Kirks is the naturalist with American Badger expertise with our organization, dedicating a significant portion of her life to living among badgers, observing badger behavior, and working to educate and protect the American Badger.” From their 2014 Annual Report info

Hi Lew,
Thanks so much for your message and the photo. As natural harmonies would coincide, I’m just now beginning to devote more time out at Pt. Reyes National Seashore in badger habitat observation, etc., so the timing for your message and the sighting by Michael and you all is most helpful.

I also liked that you described the badger as “she.” During this time of year, female adult badgers are often out during daytime hours hunting, so they can stay with their young at night. This usually occurs April through June before the young disperse. Could have been an adult male badger, though. The sightings out at Pt. Reyes have been more frequent during daytime in the last year and a half.

Again, thanks so much. I was not aware of this location out at Pt. Reyes. I’m especially grateful for the clear deference and respect of the badger shown by your group – I respect Michael immensely.

Please let us know if you ever are graced with any other sightings and the location.

Susan for Paula Lane Action Network

On Friday, May 1, 2015 4:21 PM, Lew Z <l.zuelow> wrote:


I hike with Michael Ellis’ Footloose Forays group on Mondays. On last Monday’s hike (April 27), he spotted a badger moving about on a hillside above the main Elephant Seal beach and a number in the group were thrilled to share his sighting. Perhaps you know about this location already. We spotted her walking about and then peeking out of her den hole.

Thanks for your dedication to this remarkable creature in our midst.

Best thoughts, Lew Zuelow

Mt. Diablo’s Mitchell Canyon with Michael – 4/20/15

Last Monday’s Footloose hike was a bit further afield and in the Mt. Diablo water shed – just like a weekend in the country. Michael mentioned that the group had hiked in this area in earlier years at the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Some of us also recall a foggy morning toward the summit of the mountain with David Lukas in October of 2009 when we retreated to the Rock City area. In addition to getting into the sunshine, we got into the underworld with David’s remarkable description of the mycology beneath our feet, Orpheus be warned and be amazed.

Native Americans believed Mt. Diablo to be sacred. The Bay Miwok Indians believed that Coyote, “the trickster god, created their people on that mountain.” Initially the Ohlone called it Tuyshtak meaning “at the dawn of time.”. and in 1811 it went by the name of Cerro Alto de los Bolbones after the Bay Miwok Bolbon Tribe. Spanish soldiers chasing natives who disappeared overnight gave the name “Monte del Diablo” or thicket of the devil and English speakers made the association with the mountain itself. At times locals wanted to change the name feeling the it was either tempting fate or bad for business but none of these efforts prevailed. There was an effort to name the entire area Mt. Diablo in 1850 but the California Legislature decided on a less profane name, Contra Costa. After the discovery of coal on the north side of the mountain in 1859, extensive mining operations there fueled the entire Bay area for about 25 years. In 1865-1866 some wanted to rename the mountain “Coal Hill” but the nearby town of Clayton did not go along. Recently in 2009, an individual from Oakley, CA petitioned the federal government to change the name to Mt. Jahweh and later to Mt. Reagan. But the U.S. Board of Geographic names found no compelling reason to do so The railroads’ rivalries at the time coal was king on the mountain. Well written and whimsical visit. This is an extensive and interesting timeline.

Mt. Diablo early on became the “Initial Point” from which all of the land measurements in much of California and Nevada were made.
Because of the stellar views in every direction from the summit it became the primal spot from which all these measurements began. The Miwok “center of the world quality” came to be written again in the surveys that began in 1851 and 1852. Clearly written history and an account of personal discovery.

10/19/09, 9:39:59 AM – Lower Summit Parking Lot

4/20/15, 10:09:27 AM But today it was sunshine from the start as we started circling up at the Mitchell Canyon Parking area.

“Isaac Mitchell (1829-1921) was a native of Kentucky. He came to Contra costa County in 1849 with the gold rush and engaged in farming in the San Ramon Valley. He later purchased a large tract of land in the canyon where he lived until his death. He and his wife had six children. According to the authoritative History of Contra Costa County, published in 1926, ‘Mitchell Canyon’, at the base of Mt. Diablo, is named for him.” From the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association which has many rich entries on its website. (MDIA)

At the trailhead Michael stops to share some history of the “Lighthouse on the Mountain”. Diablo Beacon photos restoration.htm

A perfect view for some cutaway geology, the MDIA entry gives a nice thumbnail of the mining history in this area of Mt. Diablo.
The Clayton Quarry has been in production for over 50 years. “Located on Mt. Zion the material mined is diabase, a hard, durable rock used in the construction of roads, buildings, rail lines, dams and levees . . . typically 72% goes to the public sector projects.” Mentioned are Interstate 580 and 680, B.A.R.T., the new Giants Stadium, Concord Naval Weapons Station, Los Vaqueros Dam and many others.

Walnut Creek, CA would be a clue about the identity of this tree. This is the original and not the usual pattern for orchards with English walnut trees grafted on Black Walnut rootstock.

We’ve seen Michael “dive” many times to find a creature to carefully share with us, a living and often lively visual aid. Here he’s successfully invited a Southern Alligator lizard to join us just for a moment. You can admire his beautiful long and in tact original tail. Often we see alligator or fence lizards that have had to jettison their tails in order to escape a predator. Some are still with short stumpy tails and others have regrown the missing tail but with distinct markings at the replacement.

His light or yellow eye is definitive of his southern heritage i.e. a Southern Alligator Lizard rather than the Northern Alligator Lizard’s eyes which are darker.

You can see his curving, prehensile tail which he used to hang happily from Michael’s finger.

Young Gray Pine Tree with its long needles and large cones almost too big for its britches. Gray-green in color, the needles are in bundles three. The old “Digger” Pine designation is historical and the Jepson Manual advises that the name is to not be used because it is pejorative.

Consultation about whether this is a Gray Pine or perhaps a Coulter Pine cone.

A hillside of Chamise in full bloom Chaparral/californiachaparral.html

California wild grape vine, Vitus californica, did the Native California Indians know how to make wine? Manzanita berries for sure which were made into a tea and applied as a lotion for relief from poison oak.–California_Wild_Grape/

Darkling or pinacate beetle,Eloedes, sometimes called “stink beetles”. It has a characteristic “head standing” alarm position when it may release a slightly disagreeable odor. Its lacquered appearance gives it a formal look as it crosses the trail.

Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla, in the Figwort Family is named after Zaccheus Collins who was a Philadelphia botanist, 1764-1831. “Five petals are united into a Collinsia style two lipped flower, but here the flowers grow in rings around the stem. They form what looks like tiny Chinese pagodas. They have white to lilac upper lip and rose-purple lower lip.
Cf. McHoul, Lilian “Wild Flowers of Marin” and Parker, Reny “Wild Flowers of Northern California’s Wine Country . . .”

Here the flower ring around the stem is clear.

Harriet checks out some blooming Black Sage, Salvia Mellifera.

Closer in

Nearby a Ladybird Beetle, (Lady Bug) plies her craft.

Fence lizard blending with the lichens of his fallen oak log perch.

Blue Elderberry, Sambucus Mexicana,

Note the distinctive flat blooms of the Blue Elderberry. The Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemosa, with its pyramidal flowers (think RED PYRAMIDS) is poisonous and the stems, bark, leaves and roots contain cyanide producing toxins.

Checking out a Black Cottonwood recalling that the Eastern Cottonwood is the fastest growing native American tree.

In addition to this Black Cottonwood MDIA talks of the poplar trees in this area being better called the Fremont Cottonwood.

Cotton from the Cottonwoods

A Variable Checkerspot Butterfly is on our state flower looking like a velvety stained glass window.

American Goldfinch at a distance, flash of yellow against the blue. Top of an Alder?

I heard Tiger Moth larvae . . . on the way to moth hood.

Life has its challenges

Globe Lilies, a form of them unique to Mt. Diablo

Looking back on the Globe Lily Trail and beginning to see the details of the mountain, not just two peaks after all.

Indian Paintbrush (review), Castilleja Wightii, named for a Spanish botanist Juan Castilleja. McHoul writes, “Like all Castillejas, the most colorful parts of the plant are the bracts, which are three-lobed and tipped with yellow.”


Superb Mariposa Lily, Calochortus superbus, with a visitor along the Globe Lily Trail

Mad dogs, Englishman and Calochortus out in the noon day sun

These soft leaves would make perfect nesting material

Swallowtail (Western Tiger or maybe Anise) sips from Blue Dicks with a poison oak surround.

Oak Galls called “Oak Apples” in a very Gallist oak array. Hopefully this clear explanation of Oak Gall Wasp life cycles from the southeast is accurate for our California Gall wasps as well.

Michael out of thin air recalled the salient details of the story of Ithuriel’s Spear which is the name of this lovely flower in the lily family.
Ithuriel was an angel in Milton’s “Paradise Lost” who found Satan squatting like a toad at Eve’s ear, location the Garden of Eden, and transformed him by a touch of his spear into his proper form i.e. serpent (?) hedge fund CEO (?) Still another terrific article from BAY NATURE MAGAZINE which you need to subscribe to if you haven’t already. And the piece de resistance each issue is Michael’s column called “Ask the Naturalist”. This is a great blog discovery of a UK writer on architecture and visual culture with a wide variety of interests which are available on his rich site. Here he tells the story of his quest to find a painting by the late 19th century artist, Evelyn de Morgan “The Spear of Ithuriel”. I love his writing and the enthusiasm he shares on this adventure of “Paradise pursued: A Quest”. – For growing – For reading

Back at the start, coming or going?

Extra credit: Superb article done with humor, eclectic insight and attentive history. Scenes happily similar to our hike with a special surprise at the end. Some great information in a fairly long list of various locations on Mt. Diablo – memorable people/places/history. Wonderful broad swath of possibilities with many photos and links. From Edith Hamilton’s classic “Mythology” retelling the story

of Orpheus and Eurydice

Urban and Urbane San Francisco with Don – 6 April 2015

Union Square in San Francisco became a meeting place for pro-Union supporters who gathered there before and during the American Civil War. Given and dedicated by the first American mayor of San Francisco, John White Geary (6’6” & 250 lb.), it was set aside as a public park in 1850. California like the rest of the United States was divided in its loyalties whether to be for the Union or pro-slavery. The Confederate flag had been flown over the Los Angeles main plaza on a 4th of July. Southern pro-slavery Democrats while a minority in California were a majority in Southern California and had strong support in parts of northern California as well. Into this rising atmosphere of anger and protest came a young minister, Thomas Starr King (5’ & 120 lb.), called from Massachusetts to the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco in 1860. Though unimpressive in size and stature, King spoke with commanding eloquence and was a tireless crusader for the Union cause – that California be a free state and not a slave state. “At one mass rally in San Francisco, 40,000 turned out to hear him speak.” Abraham Lincoln said he was the driving force in keeping California from becoming a separate republic.

Imagine this scene in 1848 – all towering sand dunes with Coyote bushes, bush lupines and California poppies before there was a State of California. Union Square has been a downtown hub and focus for San Francisco from this early time and has gone through many transformations since the years of the California Gold rush. The column in the middle commemorates the United States naval victory in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines in 1898. Atop the column is the 9’ statue of the Goddess of Victory holding a trident for Dewey and wreath for President William McKinley who had broken ground for the monument in May of 1901 and was assassinated in September of the same year. The model for this sculpture was the sensational 20 year old Alma de Bretteville Spreckels remarkable for her beauty and daring in the Victorian society of the day.

Don McLaurin was our leader and guide through the streets of San Francisco giving a fascinating historical framework for the hike. He reminds me of one of those college professors whose class you never wanted to miss – down to earth, always exploring new angles and filled with rich detail. We’ve enjoyed previous hikes with him in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and Golden Gate Park. Don is a San Francisco City Guide and also leads groups in the Road Scholar program. But he is most famous for us because he is Inge’s husband.

Snapdragons cheer our way

The Frank Lloyd Wright V.C. Morris Building now in a new incarnation as Xanadu Gallery. But if you are interested, it can be yours.
Union Square in the 1800’s was surrounded with church steeples and homes but just off the square was Morton Street, a thriving red-light district. Don mused that it wasn’t just happenstance that it was later called Maiden Lane.’s_Sleaziest_Street_-_Yesterday_and_Today

Our next stop was the Mechanics’ Institute, an organization that dates from Gold Rush times organized in 1854. “. . .the Mechanics’ Institute movement, grew in an atmosphere of interest by a greater proportion of the populations in scientific matters revealed in the public lectures of famous scientists such as Faraday. More precisely, as a consequence of the introduction of machinery a class of workmen emerged to build, maintain and repair the machines on which the blessings of progress depended . . .”’_Institutes “The Mechanics’ Institutes were used as libraries for the working class and provided an alternative pastime to gambling and drinking in pubs.”

The Crocker Galleria was the site of the old Crocker Bank Building. When Crocker wanted to go high rise part of the deal was to provide public space for shops, restrooms and recreation – here we are. On the Galleria’s site they note it was build by Skidmore, Owens and Merrill who also designed Sears Tower, the Burj Khalifa Tower – the world’s tallest man-made structure and the One World Trade Center Freedom Tower in New York. They also mention that the vaulted glass skylight roof was inspired by Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele 11, the world’s oldest shopping center.

We’ve climbed to the rooftop garden of the Galleria. Don is talking about the deal making that made this site possible. We seem to be standing beneath what is one on the most substantial pergola supports around.

Looking up from the other end of the roof top garden Don talked about the removal of all those 8’ finials framed in copper green atop the Hunter-Dulin building at 111 Sutter Street. They were removed for a time until they were able to figure how to resecure them solidly in our earthquake country.

Looking the other way across Market Street is the Palace Hotel with its famous Palm Court described by the website as “San Francisco’s most prestigious dining room since the day it opened in 1909.” Perhaps as famous is the Mayfield Parrish painting behind the bar.

We get to see the Star Maiden (Star Girl), a sculpture by A. Stirling Calder (father of Alexander Calder) which was a symbol of the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition.

Getting a closer look

Seeking out another privately owned public space by the former Crown Zellerbach Building. It faces Bush Street rather the Market Street which was undergoing some growing pains at the time of the construction. Don said that it was a big mistake not to front on Market Street.

The Crown Z plaza has no benches for sitting and provides a very minimal welcome perhaps to keep the homeless at bay. Our canine companion (not Pogo, right?), looks in the direction of a lunch truck sporting a large chicken leg on its roof.

Next to the large, gray Shell Building is “The Little Building that Could”.
Intrigued, Don took the elevator to the top floor hoping for a view and perhaps a conversation but was met with a very cold shoulder so made a scramble for the down elevator.

Scott checks out the former Pacific Stock Exchange Building that has morphed into a Equinox Fitness Club. The sculptures on either side of the steps are by Ralph Stackpole (1885-1973).

The entry hall of the Merchant’s Exchange Building shows the whimsical faces of eight San Francisco pioneers by Marin artist Mark Jaeger.

Here’s “John W. Geary: the Mayor, who along with his pregnant wife, three-year-old son and 10 sacks of mail containing some 5,00 letters, embarked upon the treacherous voyage across the Isthmus of Panama, arriving in San Francisco in March of 1849. Only 30 years old, Geary served with distinction as San Francisco’s last ‘Alcalde’ in its old government system and as the city’s first elected mayor following California’s entrance into the Union. After Geary’s solitary term as mayor, he left as quickly as he had come, returning to Pennsylvania in 1852.” From the caption below.

Inside an office for California Bank are some splendid paintings of early San Francisco by William A. Coulter. Here in “Arrived All Well” we see both sail and steam as we look out the Golden Gate.

Julia Morgan worked the 13th floor of the Merchant’s Exchange building completing a great number of commissions there blazing her way into a man’s world. She gained respect and admiration for herself as well as a new definition for women in the work place. Here is a really well made documentary about the Exchange that includes a section on her role and her work. This former meeting place for the Commercial Club of San Francisco is now called the Julia Morgan Ballroom.

On the 13th floor in Julia Morgan territory.

We went by the San Francisco Wells Fargo Museum where there had been a smash and grab robbery in January. Don noted the heavy planters that have been added to the sidewalk decor.

Don is showing a photo of the Montgomery Block which was located on the site of the current Transamerica Pyramid.

Our picnic lunch was in a delightful pocket park at the base of the Pyramid surrounded by Redwood trees and enjoying the sounds of the fountain.

The frogs seem to be practicing some ballet moves on the lily pads.

Glenna Goodacre’s sculpture PUDDLE JUMPERS, 1989

Some San Francisco four-footed history

Hotaling Whiskey Warehouse on the left survived the earthquake while the churches didn’t .

The Sentinel Building now owned by Francis Ford Coppola and the tan building down the street the site of the old International Hotel. A sign in front of the Sentinel Building says is the home of American Zoetrope
and in addition to such films as Godfather 1 & 2, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation that other filmmakers have worked here – Werner Herzog, Carroll Ballard and George Lucas. “At this moment, on the floors above us, there are ideas being hatched, scripts being written, and films being edited.”

It seems like so many of these places are holy grails holding rich memories of San Francisco culture and history.

LANGUAGE OF BIRDS by Brian Goggin with Dorka Keehn
“Historically ’The Language of Birds’ is considered a divine language birds use to communicate with the initiated. Here a flock of books takes off from the plaza to fly the urban gullies of the city, the fluttering pages have left a gentle imprint of words beneath them. These serendipitously configured bits of local literature reveal layers of human culture, nature and consciousness”

Saints Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square:

Pre JFK and still going strong.

Historic Focaccia and a distraction across the street

Another group of hikers

Also watching with interest

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

Looking down to the bay with the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge far in the background.

Catching the bay views near Coit Tower

Cruise ship in dock, sometimes they have used these ships for conferences as well as cruising. Straight ahead is Yerba Buena Island anchorage for the Bay Bridge with the lower area of Treasure Island.

One of the WPA Murals inside Coit Tower with ticket seller for the recently opened stairway murals.

Mural showing classic orange groves of southern California

Marin’s Mt. Tamalpais from Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower

We came down many steps from Coit Tower first on the Filbert Street St. Steps and then the Greenwich Steps to Levi’s Plaza and a historic trolley ride back to our start at Union Square from the Embarcadero. What contraband dog was that? Sorry, don’t spot him.

Skaggs Island with Michael – 23 March 2015

Here are the minutes from the last “meeting”, your additions and corrections are always most welcome – keep me on the straight and narrow, thanks much. Lew

Alcatraz and Angel Island are well known for their locations in San Francisco Bay. But how does Skaggs Island fit into their universe? Found in the northern part of the greater bay known as San Pablo Bay, Skaggs at once shows just how big the Bay used to be as well as sharing a history of the start of Safeway Markets and cold war derring do.

Skaggs Island, an area below water level, was hewn from the Bay with hand-built levees. The new land was used to raise salt tolerant oat hay for the horse population of San Francisco. Eventually the property was sold to M. B. Skaggs, a hugely successful owner of a cash and carry grocery store chain that eventually formed the start of Safeway Markets. In 1941 the Navy took over the property for a US Naval Radio Station paying Skaggs $53. an acre for his 3310 acres. A smaller portion of 1092 acres was sold to William Haire. The Navy agreed to keep Haire’s purchase “dry and farmable by pumping out water and maintaining levees”. The Navy then proceeded to develop the Skaggs property making it into an enormous listening post for cold war “games”. ttp://

Now fortunately the tide is returning to these areas that had been appropriated from the Bay. The tidal mudflats, salt water marshes and the fresh water wetlands are coming back. A mosaic of governmental and private organizations have combined to make this restoration a reality.

Skaggs Island southern entrance is off Highway 37 and just past another of our hiking destinations at Boggs Island

Our reception committee of one is already checking out the mudflats. This adult American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) is decked out in his breeding plumage.

Michael is talking about “reclamation”, a word that can mean different things depending on your orientation. Was the original gold mining baron who leveed the land here reclaiming it from the Bay or are we and the various conservation organizations now the real reclaimers?

Putting a finer point on it

As we walked along, there was a sulfury smell from the wall of wild radishes.
In the background is a wooden causeway for accessing the huge power transmission poles that march across the area.

Cousin of our welcoming Avocet, a Black-Necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) finds something of interest – long red legs in the morning sun.

Along with wooden causeways, these enormous electrical towers march across this land. In the background we can see the distinctive outline of Mt. Tamalpais and a FedEx truck intent on his deliveries.
It was on a stormy night on October 25th, 1991 that Bill Graham, Melissa Gold and the pilot of the helicopter, Steve Kahn crashed into one of these transmission towers and were all killed.’s-golden-road-blog-bill-graham-20-years-gone

Note the reference to “your” wildlife.

We found a Great Egret feather and Michael was able to identify which wing and what location for us from its size and curve.

Friendly guy from Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District greeted us warmly and then walked off like a cowboy with two six guns, arms at the ready, mosquitoes be warned.

A line of Eucalyptus over towards Boggs Island and the beautiful multicolored greens of the marsh. Is that Mt. Burdell?

Not quite a bridge to nowhere but a very substantial crossing for a flooded marsh – maybe, just maybe DOD money.

Armand enjoys some tracks in the dried mud below the bridge.

How many bees can you spot in the picture? The abatement guy warned us about a nest of honey bees on the far side of the bridge. This provided an occasion for Michael, who used to raise bees, to share some amazing information about their hives and lives. You’ve seen beekeepers smoking the hive areas when they are working with the bees. This triggers a pattern with them anticipating fire and the need to flee.
In order to prepare for the journey they eat honey for energy and this “meal” mellows them out so that the keeper can work with the hive without being stung. When the keeper’s box becomes too crowded, he can always add another level to accommodate the population increase.
But when this is in the wild, it triggers an exodus of part of the hive and the swarm begins seeking a new location. It’s the “old” queen and not the new one who takes off in this quest with a large group of worker bees.

Michael was remembering this moment on one of our hikes at Rush Creek Open Space Preserve, this one on 5 May 2008. The visual aid almost above his head is one of these honey bee swarms en route to a new home.

We come to an unadvertised gate but no matter, improvisation is what life is all about.

Sentinel beyond the gate

Michael talked to us about his recent trip to Baja California, Armando and Bridget were on board. He sent us some swell videos of petting Gray Whales, the amazing flying Mobulas (Manta Rays) and the distinctive flukes of diving whales.

Here he also shared some wonderful experiences – rare and remarkable moments on this trip observing Sperm Whales. They dive dramatically straight down into the total darkness of the deep ocean unlike other whales that dive diagonally. When they reach 500 to 1000 meters, they seem to be in their hunting “ground” – they are perhaps capable of even 2500 meters. Michael talked of struggles with giant squid in these dark recesses and scars on the sides of the whale’s bodies from these duels in the depths. When the Sperm Whale finds its prey by echolocation, the whale concentrates sound using its spermaceti organ for a blast towards its target, stunning it into submission.

Michael also talked about the deep ocean communication between these whales. The sounds of one pod have a unique language that members of the group recognize and the sound can be carried as if on a deep transmission line for miles, er, kilometers. He compared these deep communications to that of African Elephants which have great dexterity with remarkably deep sound thresholds that we are unable to hear but that can travel for many miles and be understood by other elephants. There’s a close “kinship” between these enormous and magnificent creatures of sea and land.

Here’s a detailed description of Sperm Whales designed for teachers by an equally whimsical and fictitious Dr. Galapagos. Then some marine recordings of the Sperm Whale and a rich link on the sounds of the African Elephant.

Off to lunch through this mix of natives and exotics.

Ladybug Beetle hard at work in the shrubbery along the way –

Picnicking in the high grass

Fixer upper with great views, native landscaping, lovely weathered look and a motivated seller.

Mud shining in the sunlight, what mudflats are all about. Sorry, I have to give a link to the glorious mud of Flanders and Swann’s delightful “The Hippopotamus Song” which I may have mentioned before:

We had a view from the bridge, now one of the bridge.

Returning footsteps which are hard to leave on macadam.

Wrapping it up or is it rapping it up?

The return, it’s all a blur.

Bounteous Burdell with Jim – 9 March 2015

Foggy beginnings as we gathered at the San Marin Trailhead but moisture in whatever form is welcome these days. We took off to the right for a “counter” clockwise loop because we wanted to quietly protest the hour we’d lost to Daylight Savings Time the day before, take that time keepers. We’ve enjoyed Mt. Burdell a number of times but this particular hike had a spring sparkle, a presence with that mix of discovery and contentment we all seek. The Marin newspaper, Marin IJ, even had Mt. Burdell up for the “Hike of the week by Tacy Dunham” and Sarah snagged a copy for Jim. You can see him sharing it with the group hot off the presses. We did a large part of her hike but due to time constraints left out the Old Quarry and Cobblestone Trail portions.

For those who’d like a quick review of Galen Burdell for whom Mt. Burdell is named some fun links follow. If you scroll down in the last link for the Jack Mason Museum you can see a picture of the lovely and determined Mary Burdell. Well, that link is having issues so you can just type in your search box: Jack Mason Museum, then put your cursor on “Under the Gables” and then “Winter 2014”. The whole site is very rich in Marin County history. the Gables 2-14 final web.pdf

We are not alone on the trail, here a sentinel of the larger herd gives us the once over. In the background are a group of Garry Oaks seemingly sculpted into the edge of the hill and the rocks which were part of an early rock wall. Originally, the cows running in pastures of wildflowers were a concern – they’re munching all the wildflowers! But actually they are breaking up the hard soil so that plants and wildflowers can come up and additionally at no extra cost, they fertilize the area with great generosity. Now in a joint venture with local farmers who are often the original owners of the land shared use is now more the norm blending agriculture with parks and people. Jim mentioned that breaking up the hard land surfaces and land manuring used to be done by wild elk herds now missing in the equation. Moving the cattle around on the land keeps it healthy and forestalls over foraging.

Checking out the Blue Dicks (Michael’s Azure Williams allays the sensibilities of teenagers.) These are a bit shorter perhaps due to serpentine soil in this area – you can just make out some nice serpentine outcroppings in the fog on the hill beyond the tree profiles on the right.

Blue Dick central with admirers. You can see from the Latin that they come by their name honestly. But the first wikipedia article conflates Blue dicks with Brodiaea which raises questions for us since they make rather different blooms and presentations.

Two enormous California Bay Trees just off our path get some ahtention. Jim mentioned that size is not necessarily a determinant of age. Sometimes the good fortune of location or weather can produce size without a great time span. Often these trees form a growth circle eventually joining together forming one communal growth. Do they retain their individual identiities or somehow meld into one tree? If you’ve tried cooking with these leaves, you’ll know that they have a sharper, more vigorous flavor than the usual bay leaves of Laurus nobilis. The nuts look like tiny avocados and the tree is in the same family. Unfortunately, as the Wikipedia article mentions, Umbellularia californica along with the tanoak are hosts to the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death.

Jim pointed out a California Woodpecker Granary tree usually made in dead tree trunks but in this instance using the wonderfully textured oak bark.

Author, author – presenting the voice, the whimsey if not quite the profile of Woody Woodpecker.

Give me an “S”, a leaf miner showing off some artistry on a Live Oak leaf.

Cattle trough ready when the herd comes this way and . . . our trail beckons. We are now out of the Oak Savanna and into forest habitat.

Lovely tiered mushroom in fallen California Bay leaves, maybe from the large Agaricus family, Agaricus crocodilinus ?? Agaricus augustus or californicus ?? ?

Gnat swarm with California Bay Laurel background. We spotted a couple of swarms after Jim pointed out the tiny, tiny swirls. Food source for birds and bats as well as tormentors for cattle and other mammals. Black flies in the Adirondacks were a good example for this mammal. Swarms have many dimensions as this challenging article develops:
I’m reminded of one of the creative and intriguing books of Michael Crichton, “Prey.”

Looking through a forest frame, the morning mist is beginning to clear

A view of the top of Mr. Burdell and the old Andesite quarry where many San Francisco cobbles were mined.

The day begins to clear with California Poppies at the fore and a lonely Buckeye staking out the territory at the bottom of the hill. The California Poppy was voted the official state flower in 1903, you wonder if there was a Blue Dick contingent?
These are two of the typical colors but there are some variations in pale yellow, bronze, rose and ivory.
The Buckeye is adapted to the dry Mediterranean California climate and is the first tree to lose its leaves usually in the summer and the first to leaf out around January or February.

Jim spotted a passing visual aid, the larval form of the Lady Bug.

Hidden Lake or Hidden Pond was at the top of our hike loop and is considered the only vernal pool in Marin County. Here a pair of Mallards enjoy the greenery.

We pause under a great oak at he edge of Hidden Lake, Pond, or Pool.

A California Buttercup with some drops of the remaining dew of the day. Ranunculus californicus likes wet meadows and moist environments, its first name means “little frog”. Its petals are shiny and almost lacquered though that’s not so clear here.

The group and the view spread out for lunch.

Heading down the Middle Burdell Fire Road and at least one dog in the hike-log (and equestrian!).

A grand Black Oak toward the bottom of our hike. The Miwok preferred the Black Oak acorns found in areas of Mt. Burdell.

Heading back to our beginnings, a long concrete retaining wall marks some of the preparations for the housing development that was to fill these hills and valleys. Thanks to the crusaders for open space and the supportive community of San Marin, it didn’t happen and today’s hike did.

Here’s a Vimeo walkabout with some added shots Pat and I took when we reprised the hike on Wednesday, 11 March 2015. The music is by Ottorino Respighi – “La Primavera” from Trittico Botticelliano.

Mt. Burdell Hike with Jim – 9 March 2015.m4v

P.S. If you’d prefer not to receive these occasional hike-logs, please let me know at either of the first addresses. Best thoughts, Lew