Mt. Tam West Peak with Armando – 1 May 2017

This week’s hike high on Mt. Tamalpais couldn’t have been more different from last week’s at Green Gulch Farm. Bright sunshine and fair winds greeted us at Rock Spring parking area. Instead of rain parkas and umbrellas, it was time for sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats. It was almost shorts weather. The undulating hills of Marin County spread out before us as we looked south – just the distant profile of San Francisco etched in the morning fog. The pathway to the top of this view point was lined with cheering Bicolored Lupine and California Poppies bobbing and blowing in the breezes. Their enthusiasm was hard to miss and happily contagious.

Adding to the excitement, we were able to see our friend and one of our esteemed hike leaders, Armando Quintero, after a hiatus of . . . was the last time 13 May 2013? Mando was in fine feather as he shared some of the moments of his life since we last walked and talked together.
Maybe we recall that chilly moment at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse with the Gray whale skull that Mando had reclaimed from a beach at Vandenberg Air Base while he was a naturalist at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
Perhaps it was the hike at Port Costa when he pointed out the tiny mouse bones in some owl scat.
You’ll recall his story of sleeping in John Muir’s bed a bit restlessly when he was working at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez.
Or maybe it’s the hike along the shore of Briones Reservoir when he brought along his then teenagers, Lily and Bella. Now Lily is an obstetric nurse in Seattle and Bella is about to graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Many other happy memories crowd in as we gather for our hike today.

Our hike into history was focused on the West Peak of Mt. Tam which was the highest point on the mountain until it was bulldozed for a national defense installation at the start of the cold war. Now it barely holds that altitude record. Gary Yost whose creative work we’ve appreciated in previous hike-logs has a superb film on the West Peak called THE INVISIBLE PEAK.

Armando emphasized that the mission to restore the West Peak is a remarkable collaborative effort joining a variety of government entities each sharing in the process and contributing to this goal. ONE TAM through the Tamalpais Land Cooperative (TLC) not only seeks to fulfill this goal but to evaluate and meet the challenges of maintaining the health and vigor of the entire Mt. Tamalpais ecosystem. The mission is not only to have government commitment but also to welcome NGOs coordinating wide community support and volunteers. “ . . . Mt. Tam has been protected for 100 years. And it’s through ONE TAM that we can protect it for 100 more.”

Originally the West Peak was over 2.600 feet (792 m) before being “flattened for radar dome construction”. Today after these alterations it is 2,576 feet (785 m).

The East Peak is the mountain’s second highest peak at 2,572 feet (784 m) though it appears the taller of the two from many directions. It was from this peak that another of Gary Yost’s splendid films was shot – “A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout”.

Rock Spring parking area is a favorite destination with a number of trail directions all around the compass. We come in for a landing on a Monday morning.

Mando keeps bees as well as chickens. He is describing how he got stung by some angry female worker bees during an unplanned moment.

Ed and Armando (wearing the hat) – Mando wears a number of hats. He’s the Executive Director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced and a California Water Commissioner. Should you google Armando Quintero, he’s the water one.

Another way of going up the mountain and – – – – coming down. Roadie biking – and then there’s Mountain Biking.

Exchange on the trail, Armando is talking about a mosquito swarm he encountered that wasn’t attacking. It responded moving up and down to his low vocal sounds as if he was conducting their flight.

Then he went on to talk about what the baby in the womb hears and why babies seem to initially resemble their fathers. This could be a protective adaptation in the animal kingdom but with humankind it is under discussion.


Some of the 50s archaeology on the West Peak. Here is an excellent aerial photo of the newly constructed Mill Valley Air Force Station, there were various iterations so I’m not sure if this was at the activation of the 666th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron on January 1, 1951. The map at the end of this link shows the expanded site in 1979 with various buildings identified. This link describes some of the changes with the various electronic improvements and it freely uses a variety of CAPITAL/NUMBER combinations – “acronyms” of military design. Knowing “militarese” would help in understanding.

The West Peak area was marked with a cairn and plaque dedicated to its members “who gave their services to our country during the Great War A.D. 1919” by the California Alpine Club Sadly, the cairn was bulldozed in 1950 to build the Mt. Tamalpais Air Force Station. Read about the California Alpine Club’s history on their fascinating website entry by Verna Steele West.

By the way, Armand (not Armando) seems to be carrying a large metal object but that piping is attached to the site, not Armand.

Looking down on some housing pads for married officers and perhaps, airmen. Here is a lovely and fascinating recollection by Lisa and Madelyn Byrne who lived at the Air Force Station from 1957 – 1959. This is a rare time capsule. The furthest pad next to the red rock hill was the site of their home – of Lt. Col and Mrs. John Byrne and their six daughters. (A little over half an hour but well worth the time)
The film was done by the venerable Gary Yost in 2015. Note to Michael in Bhutan, this film contains HULA HOOPING!

On a previous West Peak hike with Mando on 13 May 2013, he showed us some the USAF facility buildings from the time.

Serpentine underpinnings for part of the Mill Valley Air Force Station. “…the California Legislature specified that serpentine was ’the official State Rock and lithologic emblem’.”

We always love to find a picnic spot with a view and today we weren’t disappointed.

The classic Rambler’s Guide to the Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and Marin Headlands and some new ink, a Redwood Tree that Mando shared after lunch. He has long had a special bond with Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks starting with working there on one of his park ranger assignments. You’ll recall his story of meeting Janet Yellen on the trail in that area. Soon all of our hike leaders will need ink, Don next? Jim?

Jeannie who does such a fabulous job organizing and updating the hike information each series for us, iPhone in hand keeping in touch with us and the world.

Heading back down the Mountain with one “Radar Dome” (FAA-owned radar antenna protected by a “golf ball” radome) still at work on the horizon.

Barb and Scott as we return back to Rock Spring parking area. Barb is a retired nurse practitioner and Scott is a retired engineer. He is a board member and webmaster for San Francisco Amateur Astronomers. If you scroll down you’ll see a West Peak Hike with the SFAA on Saturday, 13 May from 10 AM-1:30 PM with film maker Gary Yost and Marin Municipal Water District ranger Matt Cerkel. They will lead a hike from the Mountain Theater overflow parking lot.

A shady catching our breath and it’s a wrap. Next time we meet with Don McLaurin, a San Francisco City Guide, on a Haight-Ashbury/Buena Vista Park tour.

P.S. There is a remarkable amount of additional material but it can be enjoyed at your leisure, I know, what’s that?

1. Doug McConnell and Armando discuss the Mt. Tam West Peak Restoration Project:

2. “Song of the Last Place” by Gary Yost – Music based on J.S. Bach’s 5th Cello Suite

3. The hike-log for 13 May 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great way to begin your gardening day.

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

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

Heading to the top of the Zen Center

Large temple bell in its superb belfry

Fairfield Osborn Preserve with Claudia and Michael

The ever narrowing road gave us an early taste of this “mountain eyrie” situated between 1350 and 2300 feet (411-701 meters) on Sonoma Mountain. Fairfield Osborn Preserve is located on 450 acres of dramatic countryside that could easily qualify as “the land that time forgot.” In fact, as we walked along next to a burbling brook with a lovely overlay of birdsongs it seemed to be setting the scene for a kind of Jurassic or better, Late Cretaceous experience. (Jurassic does seems to have more zing.) It was an idyllic moment along the trail in a verdant riparian woodland that seemed to be waiting for the crash of trees as a T. Rex approaches or even more disarming the soft movement of leaves ahead that might presage the presence of stalking velociraptors. Imagine seeing the avian image below, there’s an obscuring fog as night sets in. Maybe you can just spot this foot in the gathering darkness, it’s slippery on the path and hard to get a purchase in all this mud.

Claudia Luke met us as we arrived and described the mission of Fairfield Osborn Preserve. Dr. Luke is the director of Sonoma State University’s Center for Environmental Inquiry and oversees activities at SSU’s three nature preserves: Fairfield Osborn, Los Guillicos and Galbreath Wildlands. She emphasized that we are facing enormous and intense environmental challenges. To approach these we need to develop ongoing conversations mingling various areas: education, the arts, economic, business, medical, governmental and others. In setting up the new program at Sonoma State they found that students were spending 65 hours a week with digital media at the expense of actual time in nature. The goal is to have students involved in real world projects and to have lots of outdoor, hands-on experience to combat this “Nature Deficit Disorder”. It is not only brain storming with various parts of society but also the most basic – communication with the natural world for ourselves. Here’s a Vimeo video of Dr. Luke’s talk to us last Monday. This video briefly describes the program and its possibilities for prospective students.

Later on we came across this plaque along the trail, it was so much better placed out here along our pathway than adjacent to some buildings or as part of a parking lot. The Nature Conservancy is a great facilitator for preservation of natural areas, we found them to be pivotal on another hike we took – Ring Mountain in Tiburon. The Roths, Joan and William H. bought this property on Sonoma Mountain “around 1950” and gave it to the Nature Conservancy in 1969. The Nature Conservancy in turn donated it to Sonoma State University “maintaining a conservation easement over the property for educational , research and conservation.” An additional 190 acre donation by the Roths is managed under an easement with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space district. “TNC recognized several natural resources of conservation value on Preserve lands, including the protection of Copeland Creek, one of the few fishless perennial creeks in California.” Remarkable biography An interview with Joan Roth on April 5, 2013 – very fresh and forthright. In one response she describes going to the then one restaurant in Glen Ellen for an early dinner (in the 50s?) riding on horseback over Sonoma Mountain to get there and then riding back. “She briefly mentioned how appalled she was at the information about him (her father Fairfield Osborn) in Wikipedia, especially the claim that he was interested in eugenics. Joan mentioned his time as Captain in an all black group during World War 1 and his desire to separate himself from his father, Henry Fairfield Osborn. According to Joan, her father dropped the name ‘Henry’ and went by Fairfield Osborn. Lovely account of the Roth’s marriage in 1946. Brief biography of Fairfield Osborn – In her Oral history interview Joan Roth said, “Fairfield Osborn was really influential in going around Africa and setting up preserves, conservatories and establishing the importance of the animal wildlife there.”
In reading about Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr. (b. 1857) and Henry Fairfield Osborn Jr. (b. 1887) it seemed all too easy to superimpose the one biography on the other. I can see why Fairfield Osborn wanted to separate himself from his father’s history and use Fairfield Osborn as his name. John Muir was introduced to Osborn Sr. in an East Coast visit in 1893 at Osborn’s Castle Rock home along the Hudson. Muir continued his contacts in 1896, 1898 and took the Osborn family to Yosemite in 1910. In 1911 he spent time at Osborn’s editing the final proofs of “the Yosemite”. It would be intriguing to learn what Fairfield Osborn’s experience was in meeting him during some of these visits starting when he was 6 years old . In this arresting article now more appropriate than at the time of its August 2015 publication, Jedediah Purdy describes a mixed bag in environmentalist history. It might be easy to dismiss this early extremism in the conservation movement with cliche rationalizations, “that was then, this is now” or “don’t throw out the baby with the bath” but with our current great political leap backward, it is sadly and powerfully timely.

Claudia pointed out early signatures of people who had lived on this land. Above the familiar rock wall boundary markers now softened by mosses & lichens and below the remains of a cabin underneath an old Monterey Cypress.

Michael wanting to interject a comment makes himself just a little taller on tip toes.

Some False Solomon’s Seal along the trail I always think that the “false” designation
some how communicates that we shouldn’t take the plant seriously, how about Solomon’s Other Seal!
Some turkey egg shells looking more destroyed than pecked out – All About Birds has some surprising history
Soap Root plants were prolific along our way. Here’s an excellent article in Bay Nature:
And calling on Bay Nature once again as we pass some grayish white lichens on a rock:

Here Rowena who has been a hospice nurse is making a short video for one of her patients who is unable to get out into nature.

Copeland Creek starts “slightly above Fairfield Osborn Preserve on the lower slopes of Sonoma Mountain. Upon reaching the valley floor Copeland Creek bisects the campus of Sonoma State University on its journey into the Laguna de Santa Rosa.” It becomes part of the Russian River basin and in turn part of the Pacific Ocean.

We looped an area called “Turtle Pond” covered with duckweed and continued down the muddiest trail that we’ve had the pleasure to hike. Trousers are tucked into socks to disadvantage any ticks along the way.

Michael spies an American Bullfrog and captures him bare handed with a low, stealthy approach. They are a ferocious predator and Claudia mentioned that they eat small turtles among other things. Michael seems to be in the midst an interspecies conversation.

Since this was our first fauna closeup on the hike there was a lot of interest and excitement.

Adding to the magic of the day, the fog descended on us for a time transforming the landscape with a gauzy blur.

We learned about “slumps” – the geological kind. While ours is less dramatic perhaps than some, it is a slump nonetheless.
Passing a pond on the right, Claudia talked about the kind of decisions that needed to be made as the pond silts in . . . do you let this happen? do you bull doze it out to maintain the life for rails and other water birds? How much “management” is needed to maintain the “preserve”?
Here’s a project to minimize erosion around the creek near the parking lot. And the array of solar panels powers Fairfield Osborn Preserve. This is only a small part of solarization at Sonoma State University. “The Solar Power Monitoring System project for SSU’s Fairfield Osborn Preserve . . was collaborative between SSU field Stations & Nature Preserves and senior thesis students in the Department of Engineering.”
The fourth photo also shows the weather station above the solar array.

Time for an indoor picnic this time as we return to the facility buildings

Harriet shows us what the stylishly dressed muddy person might wear for lunch.

Michael has just returned from an epochal family trip to Oakridge, TN. to be with his mother at the time of her death. He generously shared some of this experience including discovery of family members previously unknown and many family mysteries beginning to be revealed. There was rapt attention and I think it was Rowena who said, “This is better than HILLBILLY ELEGY!

Chimney Rock with Jim – 10 April 2017

Chimney Rock at the end of the Pt. Reyes Peninsula was a timely destination for us last Monday with the spring wildflowers and the beach of Elephant Seals providing equal opportunity viewing. It’s been a destination for our hikes for many years each year providing new adventures like spotting the badger on the hill above Elephant Seal overlook with Michael in 2015. On an earlier hike with Armando we saw a lonely sea otter swimming by himself around Chimney Rock. After reconnoitering a small beach, he finally swam in and flopped down with some sleeping Elephant Seals on the beach for a little warm company. The views are always spectacular with the crashing waves on the rocky shore, the view practically to Japan well at least to the Farralone Islands. For those attentive to the waves there may be a female Gray whale with her baby swimming north. Sharp eyes and patience can win the day. Often we’ve been in the midst of a gale of fog and ocean winds thankful that we can layer up to keep warm. This past Monday by contrast was sunshine mild with only light winds to freshen the views.

Who would have known that geologists could wax eloquent but in the introduction to Pt. Reyes National Seashore in the helpful “Roadside Geology of Northern California” (Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, 2016) the authors write: “Pt. Reyes Peninsula is an afterthought of tectonics, a scrap of granite dabbed at the last moment onto the coast of northern California. According to most geologists, it lurched at least 270 miles north along the San Andreas and San Gregorio faults. It is still moving. . . . the granite lies beneath sedimentary rocks. The oldest are sandstone and conglomerates of the Point Reyes Formation that cover the granite tip of the peninsula. They were laid down during the Paleocene time, about 60 million years ago, probably in deep water. Most of the others were deposited in shallow water between 5 and 20 million years ago, during the Miocene and the Pliocene time. They make up the long line of pale sea cliffs that face south across the sheltered waters of Drakes Bay.” P.155

In Geologic Trips San Francisco and the Bay Area, Ted Konigsmark adds this with a nice flourish as well: “The Pt. Reyes Peninsula is a piece of southern California that has been carried north by the San Andreas fault several hundred miles during the last 25 million years. As it moved north, the peninsula accumulated rocks from several different places in south and central California and carried these rocks with it, like a tramp steamer adding cargo to its deck.” P. 145
“The Point Reyes Headlands jut out southward into the Pacific from the Point Reyes Peninsula and intercept the full fury of the large Pacific waves. The headlands have survived this onslaught because they are made up of very hard granite and conglomerate. The granite is from the backbone of the headlands and the conglomerate caps the east and west tips of the headlands.” P. 152

What’s in a name or what is the name? The Coast Miwok Indians lived on Pt. Reyes for thousands of years. An annual celebration near Pt. Reyes Headquarters is held each year to remember these centuries of habitation at the site called “Kule Loklo – Valley of the Bear”. In 1542 Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo sailed in the area and named it “Cabo de Pinos”. Later in 1579 Sir Francis Drake sailed into what became Drake’s Bay with his ship Golden Hinde and called it “Portus Novae Albionis” or Nova Albion, or Port of the New White Land or some say New England. In 1595, Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno entered the horseshoe shaped bay and called it “Bahia Grande” and later “Bahia de San Francisco” (with the real San Francisco Bay fogged in and still to be discovered almost two centuries later by Gaspar de Portola in 1769). On January 6th 1603 Sebastian Vizcaino anchored his ship Capitan in what would become Drakes Bay on the Day of the Three Kings, Epiphany at the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and named it “Punta de los Reyes”. In 1836 the eastern and southern part of Pt. Reyes Seashore was a land grant for Mexican Army Colonel, Rafael Garcia, named “Rancho Tomales y Baulines”. Later in 1843, after the secularization of the Spanish Mission lands, the area came to be regarded as mostly unsuitable for cattle ranching and was known as “Punta del los Reyes Sobrante” with sobrante meaning left over. Its agricultural identity waxed at the hands of some enterprising lawyers from Vermont, the Shafter brothers, who established a “butter empire” there with 33 ranches on the peninsula in 1866. After that, the history of the area can be seen with the establishment of post offices in Olema 1859-1860, Bolinas 1863, Pt. Reyes (later becoming Pt. Reyes Station) in 1882 and Inverness in 1897. With another leap we arrive at September 13, 1962 when President John F. Kennedy signed the bill to authorize the acquisition of Point Reyes National Seashore.

Here’s a short Vimeo VIDEO of our hike with some fun music provided by Apple and a small post script ending at the old RCA Marine Receiving Station
with its parade of handsome, overarching Monterey Cypresses. New places and faces, I know, but got a dog in at last.


Jim talks to us about the virtues of cows walking over the land breaking up the hard surfaces and fertilizing, allowing plants to root and grow with a pat on the back or the bottom. Compost on rangelands by running cattle and in more organized scattering of finished compost materials on rangelands “could lock up gigatons of atmospheric carbon, preventing it from heating up the planet and contributing to such unpleasantness as prolonged drought, polar ice cap loss, seal level ride and ocean acidification.” The site for these studies was the Nicasio Native Grass Ranch.

A large Monterey Cypress branch fell over the trail requiring a work around walk around.

Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) – from the remarkable study that Jim was involved with at Sonoma State University: “. . . a densely clumped native bunchgrass with narrow leaf blades that can reach 3 feet in height. Can be dominant or co-dominant in coastal bluff and terrace prairies and a single plant can live 30 years or more and produce over 500,000 seeds in one season . . . Tufted Hairgrass is one of two coastal grasses that are host
for the umber skipper (Poanes melane)” caterpillar and butterfly. ( It “is one of the most important range forage species in the western United States.” This is remarkable site with clear organization, rich detail without being overly burdened with high-end scientific language – a very approachable and fascinating array of information, great photo illustrations and even “Fun Facts” sections.

Cow Parsnip’s (Heracleum maximum) is a reference to their tall size “reaching to heights of over 2 meters (7ft). The genus name Heracleum (from “Hercules”) refers to the very large size of all parts of these plants. Cow Parsnip has the characteristic flower umbels of the carrot family. . .”
The Pt. Reyes “Cliffs of Dover” in the distance are quite different in origin. The Drakes Beach exposures are composed of siltstones and mudstones whereas those of England are composed of chalk with streaks of black flint.

Jim talking about grass communities and their vital importance in sequestration. – carbon storage in deep rooted grasses.

Tasting some Peppergrass

Blooms along the way: INDIAN PAINTBRUSH (Castilleja Wightii or perhaps Castilleja franciscana?) in the Figwort Family. LilianMcHoul in her book “Wildflowers of Marin” writes: “Named in honor of Juan Castilleja, a Spanish Botanist. The specific name refers to an American Botanist.” I wonder how often two botanists get to ride together? “The plant is shrubby, sticky and hairy, one to two feet high.” Except out in the weather of Chimney Rock plants tend to more hunker down. “Like all Castillejas, the most colorful parts of the plant are the bracts, which are three-lobed and tipped with yellow.” P. 23 HAIRY PUSSY-EARS (Calochortus Tolmiei) in the Lily Family. “From the Greek words halos, beautiful and charts, grass . . . The specific name is in honor of W.T. Tolmie, surgeon of Fort Vancouver. The plant is four to sixteen inches high. The white or cream-colored flowers are very hairy on the inner surface, the lower petals with purple hairs and the upper with white. . . . It has on basal leaf that is longer than the stem.” P. 36 Reny Parker adds that the “flowers do indeed look like the ears of sleeping kittens.” P. 138 GOLD FIELDS (Lasthenia californica) in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). Parker writes in her “Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country . .” .. extensive blankets of gold covering many coastal bluffs and open fields from March to May. Upon closer inspection the covering is constructed of thousands of tiny yellow rayed flowers.” P. 87 and COW PARSNIP (Heracleum maximum) in the Parsley Family. “The white flowers are in flattish compound umbels.” P. 56 McHoul

Making our way to “land’s end” Chimney Rock style

Arriving at the cliff edge we are looking down on a seamount (or maybe better rocky outcrop unless seamounts come in many sizes) (or is it bird poop rock?) just off the coast that some identify as Chimney Rock but perhaps there are other candidates – for sure we’re on the Chimney Rock Peninsula! There was more nesting activity last visit but maybe we’re just earlier on the scene.

Some adjacent rocks along the shore provide a brief VIDEO meditation complete with the sound of wind and waves:

Not quite “Picnic at Hanging Rock” but picnic none-the-less feasting on the food and the view.

We join a young family at their picnic with their hikers of the future “in training”.

Jim spies a Peregrine Falcon perching on the cliffside and in no hurry to swoop away. David Allen Sibley writes “This sleek, powerful falcon has long been considered the embodiment of speed and power. Found in open areas, it hunts mainly medium sized birds from high above in spectacular swoops.” P.133

David Lukas (with whom we’ve hiked) writes in his BAY AREA BIRDS: “Thanks in large part to stringent legal protection and herculean efforts to breed these birds in captivity and release them back in the wild, Peregrine Falcones have made a stunning comeback from the perilous lows they reached in the 1960s due to DDT contamination. . . . These beautiful and powerful birds are among the world’s most impressive avian predators. Much has been made of their ability to dive at more than 200 mph, but just as impressive and far more easily observed is their ability to take off after fast-flying birds in an all-out pursuit that is thrilling to watch. These falcons are master aerialists, and they seem to hunt and play for the sheer pleasure of the chase . . .”
P. 80 + +

Looking out for whales passing by we come up with a passing container ship and wish for the times of tall ships on the bounding main. and if you are an aficionado

Returning we come by the the Point Reyes Lifeboat Station with a storied history. A few smaller Elephant seals have found a quiet haven on the small beach.

And sometimes the “surfmen” themselves drowned on their mission to save “those in peril on the sea”. The Historic Live-Saving Service Cemetery writes large that we are a nation of immigrants.

Jim saved the Elephant Seal Overlook until last at a more approachable time with so many other hikers on the trail with us on Monday.
We looked up on the hill to see if the badgers which we saw with Michael in 2015 might be about but the lush grasses covered their turf and no one spotted them this year. But the Elephant seals were there in abundance, they had recolonized Point Reyes in 1981 after an absence of 150 years.

What is their sleep number?

Here’s a VIDEO of a young male Elephant Seal that I took a couple of years ago, it was included in a previous hike-log.

Elephant seals and wildflowers

Edgewood Park and Nature Preserve with Michael – 27 March 2017

It all began with a walk in the woods. The hike led by Mable Crittendon in April 1975 of the then recently formed Santa Clara Valley California Native Plant Society “foreshadowed involvement in a conservation effort that has continued to this day . . .” Fremontia, October 1990. The area had been acquired by the State of California in 1967 as a potential state college site. Later in 1975, the San Francisco PUC proposed the land for recreational use including a golf course. Then in 1979 San Mateo County purchased the land for about two million dollars. County supervisors approved a master plan for an 18-hole golf course and certified an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in 1982. The California Native Plant Society filed a lawsuit challenging the EIR in 1983 which was settled out-of-court affirming that “sensitive habitats would be given protection”. In 1992, two-thirds of Edgewood Park were set aside for a natural preserve with one-third to be considered for the golf course.” Finally, in the summer of 1993 the county supervisors concluded that “the parts of the park flat enough to support a golf course were also the same parts that contained the protected species. The Natural Preserve declaration in 1993 protected the entire park from future development.” This 2008 issue of Fremontia, the magazine of the California Native Plant Society details the remarkable serpentine habitats with a focus on Edgewood and its history in articles by Carolyn Curtis and Donald Mayall. It’s a treasure trove of information about this area: the fight to save it, the “special status” plants at Edgewood, the efforts to reintroduce the Bay Checkerspot butterfly to Edgewood after its loss in that area, the Save Edgewood Park Coalition of friends, Committee for the Green Foothill and local chapters of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society working together saved this area. Superb writing by Carolyn Curtis in the Edgewood article. She outlines an approach to find another area for development which ultimately was viewed as an unacceptable compromise in the fight for Edgewood. Always good to have a “Plan B” – Brief overview of the park’s unique ecology and history – Bay Nature article from April 2004 by Carolyn J. Strange that is written with a fine, accessible style – is fun to read and thorough in content. 2003 PG & E threat with a new transmission line successfully protested and after a year the California State PUC required the under grounding of the lines. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.


Gathering in the morning at our 10 AM rendezvous time on a day that originally had some rain in the forecast but happily showed us a sunnier side.

Inge and her husband, Don, come down to Edgewood more frequently than the rest of us so Michael asked her to point out some highlights along our way.

Mission Bells or Checker Lily along the trail (Fritillaria affinis) – Remy Parker comments that it is well camouflaged with the brown of this plant blending into its background, that you need to look carefully to find it. The bell shape tends to be challenging to photograph and here Kit helps me to get a view that works. Parker writes, “Color varies greatly and can be yellowish or greenish brown with yellow mottling to purplish black with little mottling, or yellow green mottled with purple. A plant that makes life interesting for botanists.” She captions her photo poetically, “Mission Bells, the sound in the forest no one’s around to hear.”

There are 10 basic trails on the 467 acre park footprint that are clear and well maintained with regular trail markers. Initially, we were walking on the Edgewood Trail through a shaded oak woodland.

We went by a couple of dusky-footed woodrat “fortress style stick houses”. “In 2014, one Friends of Edgewood docent counted 345 woodrat houses visible from the Exercise Loop. (Sylvan Trail, Franciscan Trail, Baywood Glen Trail)!”

How eek, a dusky-footed wood rat, came into the life of the author of this blog.

Out of the woods in open grassland we stop to appreciate some Narrow-leaved Mule Ears in bloom (Wyethia angustifolia) in the Sunflower family and Michael talks about the plant’s anatomy. Other Mule Ear variations are Coast Mule Ears (Wyethis glabra) and Gray Mule Ears (Wyethia helenioides). The Santa Cruz Mountains are on the horizon and below is a slice Interstate 280. Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth’s name is a part of this genus and he is best known in botany for his discovery of the Mule Ears plants. Living in America in 1833 would have given him ample opportunity to compare the flora with some passing fauna. Wyeth came to the West coast with the idea of setting up a fur trapping business but at the same time collected plant specimens. He sent them to Thomas Nuttall who was an Englishman lecturing in natural history at Harvard. Nuttall must have been impressed because he resigned his post in 1834 and joined Wyeth’s party in the West. “It was Nuttall who wrote up the botanical description of Wyethia, naming the plant in honor of its first collector.” Edgewood Explorer, June 2001, P.2

We remember him for the Mule Ears but he was many other life accomplishments as well being the great-great-great-great-grandfather of the famous painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009).

Following the pattern of the sunflower, “Ray florets are flowers with long, traplike petals along the outside of the sunflower. Each petal on the outside of a sunflower is a flower. Disc florets are the flowers tightly clustered together inside the ray florets. The ray florets are unable to reproduce by themselves because they are missing one or more sex organs. The disc florets possess both male and female reproductive organs.”

We discover another rare bloom in this area just off the trail, the Balding Tennis Ball Plant (Et capillus calvescere). Actually, I think it must be a serious marker for a plant easily lost track of in the surrounding grasses. Any other ideas?

The pineapple weed was the plant of the day in the “Flowers of Marin” blog (May 3, 2014) that, sadly, is currently on hiatus. “Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) is an unobtrusive plant; it grows up through cracks in the sidewalk, or along hard-packed roadsides. … The composite flower heads look like small yellow-green pincushions, earning the name. This is a native to both northwestern North America and northeastern Asia.”
The blog’s author, Jacoba Charles, describes her inspiration to “Write about one new plant every day for a year. Common name, scientific name, plus whatever fun facts I stumbled across.”
I’ve found the site most accessible and quite addictive. She has a wealth of information well organized and a great backpack full of helpful links.
She co-authored THE LIGHT ON THE COAST with David Mitchell published in 2013.

Purple Owl’s Clover (Castilleja exserta) thrives in the serpentine soil of Edgewood and is a “crucial host plant for the Bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis), endemic to the San Francisco Bay region in California, and a threatened species in the state.”

Michael pointed out a vole trail in the grass. There are pages of references on the net about controlling and “getting rid” of voles but few about appreciating them. Here’s an interesting one that at least talks about natural predation and the tell tale trail voles lead that shows up in ultra violet light – Michael has mentioned this a number of times.

Royal Larkspur (Delphinium variegatum ssp. variegatum) Buttercup family. Reny Parker writes, “Commonly found on grassy hillsides or open woods, this beautiful Royal Larkspur has very large flowers. The flowers consist of five sepals, the upper one with a prominent spur resembling a dolphin or the spur of a bird. The flower is usually a deep royal purple, but there are rare variations of white or lavender.” p.170 “Wildflowers of Northern California…”
The Marin County town of Larkspur was founded in 1908. “The English-born wife of an early developer mistook lupine for larkspur and named the town accordingly”.
But I haven’t heard of any efforts to rename it Lupine. How about catching the Golden Gate Ferry to San Francisco from Lupine Landing?

An Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) next greeted us atop the shubbery and gave us time to appreciate his emerald green against cerulean blue. We fastened our eyes hoping to see his red head flash in the sunshine. When he finally burst into flight, there was a chorus of ahhs from the group.

Here’s that picnic with a view that we missed on 3/20/17 with that incoming storm at Crockett. We’re looking down on Redwood City and south San Francisco Bay.

We were occasionally aware of the flight path leading to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). View from the cockpit of a KLM 747 from August 17, 2008 approaching and landing at SFO. Another view.

Heading back to the barn we started descending on the Sylvan Trail and found some Kellogg’s Yampah (Perideridia kelloggii) along the way. I think this plant was just about to flower into its white color. Carolyn Curtis in her NPS 2008 article describes it as “a showy, long-lived perennial that favors seasonally moist habitat.” These areas are frequently overrun with invasive exotic plants and in this place Ox Tongue (Picris echioides), a non-native plant with those warty leaves (not Ox Tongue Lily [Haemanthus coccineus] an exotic from South Africa). Kellogg’s Yampah is a favorite of the Bay checkerspot.

Walking down the trail Harriet and the rest of us spotted a phenomenal rock, a sandstone monolith on a hilltop in the midst of suburbia – the Emerald Hills subdivision in Redwood City. She loves to read maps and gave a name to what we’d been wondering about. It’s called Handley Rock Park and is a privately owned park that is open to the public and seeming on the edge of Edgewood Park. Harriet found this link about rock climbing there.

We spotted some poison oak plants that were ready to bloom or are these the already forming poison oak berries? Their vigor was daunting. I’d never seen this flowering part in the poison oak’s life but apparently it is the female plant after 3 years producing blooms that become berries. The whitish-green berries can be seen late in the summer. I’d always put poison oak in an isolated mental (and physical) category – the exotic invader, so I was amazed to realize at last that it’s a native plant! – great photos of poison oak’s variety with helpful commentary

A refreshing stream along our way came just at the right time cooling us down toward the end of the hike.

This is the only park we’ve hiked in that provided a mud-cleaner for your shoes. In looking it up I found it’s called a Scrusher boot and shoe brush. Here Lisa enjoys this unique opportunity.

The Edgewood Sign notes the Bill and Jean Lane Education Center where staff and volunteers provide directions, information and flower identification from there website. Bill and Jean Lane were noted for their quiet philanthropy throughout this area and beyond.
The Edgewood interpretive signs are numerous and provide an introduction to the area highlighting special features. In the third photo Inge talks with the docent about a flower identification. And last, it seems the next generation has arrived for the afternoon shift.

P.S. 6 March 2017 – Roy’s Redwoods – 4.6 miles, 10,842 steps and 32 floors
13 March 2017 – Closed Highway 1 – 5.6 miles, 12,182 steps and 8 floors
20 March 2017 – Crocket Hills Regional Park – 4.6 miles, 10,387 steps and 41 floors
27 March 2017 – Edgewood Park and Preserve – 6.3 miles, 13,730 steps and 28 floors

Armando’s Sweet 54 Chevy

Armando, one of our hike leaders visited Michael in Santa Rosa recently. Michael shared this photo of Mando’s classic pick-up in front his house. Mando in responding to our fellow hiker Larry gave him and us some background on his new, old wheels.


It’s a 54 Chevy. I looked for about 3 years for a Chevy in the early 50’s. My criteria was:
all original components, no modifications, very little rust. It was surprisingly difficult to locate one. I looked at several in the greater Bay Area and the Central Valley. I found this one on EBay. It was in a barn in the Mohave Desert. It had been a ranch vehicle somewhere in that area. The guy I bought it from restores military vehicles and he’d purchased it thinking he’d restore it and decided to just resell it.
I replaced all the glass, all of the rubber in the cab and redid much of the wiring. I pulled the engine out last June and had it rebuilt at a machine shop in Petaluma. The engine had never been opened up and the head, block and crankshaft were all in great shape. All of the internal components on the engine are new (and all stainless steel) and it can run on unleaded fuel now. I rebuilt all of the components on the engine (carburetor, etc) and took my time putting it all back together.
This was a project that involved a few hours a weekend with a few full days of mechanical wrestling.
It was a fun project and I got to use my Dad’s shop tools for much of the work, so this was a wonderful meditation of sorts reflecting on a lot of the things my father taught me.

Fun, fun.


Crockett Hills Regional Park with Michael – 20 March 2017

Hi Everyone,

Here’s the hike-log for last Monday’s hike in Crockett which you can read at If you would prefer that I send the hike in the email form or prefer not to receive these at all, happy to do oblige.

Thanks much, Lew


Crockett is a California river town along the confluence of the mighty Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Here they flow from Suisun Bay into San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of great Bay of San Francisco. Crockett was also a company town and in the 1920s “some 95 % of Crockett residents worked for the California and Hawaiian Sugar Refining Company toiling away in its huge brick building along the waterfront. . . In addition to being the town’s economic lifeblood, the plant gave workers and town residents access to a virtual fairyland of public amenities.” Today only a small percentage of Crockett’s citizens work there. After over a century of close working relations with Hawaiian sugar producers, the last shipment of “pure cane sugar from Hawaii” was made by the Moku Pahu as it docked at the C & H Refinery in Crockett on January 17, 2017. Cane sugar will continue to be the source of their production but sourcing will be more from Brazil, Viet Nam and places other than Hawaii. (March 5, 2004) The information sounds good but the last photo looks like Bodie, the famous ghost town.

Crockett is on the Carquinez Strait. The name comes from the Ohlone Indian word Karkin – Native Americans who lived on both sides of this tidal strait. Karkin was the name for their language and by extension of the group. The name became los Carquines in Spanish and then Carquinez when anglicized.

The Crockett name comes from a famous lawyer, Joseph B. Crockett, who came to California in 1850 after successful careers in law and government in Kentucky and Missouri. Before he left for California he became editor of the Daily St. Louis Intelligencer. He is described as a likable and engaging man and a family man with 12 children “that blessed his home”. He’d left her and the children in Hopkinsville close to St. Louis during this time of transition but he made several trips back to visit them. Arriving in California in 1852 by himself he became a respected lawyer in San Francisco and “his practice was one of the most lucrative on the Pacific Coast”. He wrote to his wife from San Francisco in 1854 where he was establishing his law practice before bringing his family out to California. “That Crocket got in on the lucrative Spanish-Mexican grants title settlements is apparent from the fact that he received as a fee 1800 acres of land in Contra Costa County where the community of Crockett which was named after him, is now located.” He was named Judge of the California Supreme Court in December of 1867 retaining the office until 1881. “Judge Crockett called and presided over the first public meeting held for the purpose of establishing the public library of San Francisco.” “When the founding of Hastings College of Law was announced at the commencement exercises of the University of California in June, 1878, Crockett shared speaking honors with Hastings, the founder and other distinguished men.” We’ll skip over his then Democratic Party affiliation supporting McClellan for President in 1864 since he referred to Lincoln as “the flagrant violator of the Constitution.” Still, he got along well with the abolitionist he replaced on the California Supreme Court. He retired from the Court in 1881at 73 when failing eyesight made his “labors especially arduous”. He said, “Justice is said to be blind, but I have found out that it is a very bad thing for a justice to be blind.” written in 1917


We need to find a park somewhere in all this history and the East Bay Regional Parks has added for our hiking pleasure Crockett Hills Regional Park on 1300 acres of land that was formerly the Crockett Ranch. This newer park is near the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park where we went in part of our hike to Port Costa with Armando on 27th September 2010. If you don’t do many links and only want one, this is the one you want. (Oct-Dec 2006)

Crocket Hills Regional Park which opened in 2006 is just down the Carquinez Strait in Crockett on land that was part of Rancho Canada del Hambre y las Bolsas.
“In 1843, the governor of Mexico granted the entire southern shore of the strait, including the Crockett Hills, to one Teodora de Soto.” This property “encompassed the area from modern-day Crockett to Martinez. Señora de Soto, like neighbors Ygnacio Martinez and General Mariano Vallejo, ran Spanish longhorn cattle on the steep, dry hills. Each year, the ranchos shipped thousands of pounds of hides and tallow by schooner to New England to be manufactured into shoes, soap and candles.” In the transition from these great ranchos becoming property of the United States, “California’s Mexican citizens were compelled to defend their property rights in U.S.Court. Land-rich but cash-poori many paid their attorneys in property. Among them was de Soto, who settled her debts with lawyer Joseph Crockett with 1,800 acres near the western edge of the strait.” California on its entry into the Union by the Compromise of 1850 became a non-slavery state and the 31st on September 9, 1850. California schools used to celebrate this history with a day off but this faded later on perhaps because of its proximity to the opening of schools in the beginning of September. California Admission Day remains a legal holiday.

Michael leads the way from the parking area to the Crockett Ranch Trail that is affectionately known as “heart attack hill” by mountain bikers. This excellent video is well GoPro-filmed and freshly narrated by Brian Kennedy covering a number of the trails we traced Monday. ( filmed on June 22, 2016)

He called our attention to a small tree and asked if we could identify it. The leaves had a distinctive “perfume” that comes from an organic chemical called juglone which occurs in it leaves, roots, fruit and husks of Juglans nigra. The juglone is toxic or growth-stunting compound to plants that try to grow too closely to the tree – its allopathic defense. Where this is raised commercially in orchards the native rootstock is used with Juglans regal grafted atop for its preferred fruit. This research paper by Susan Labiste does “soup to nuts” and everything in between – extensive, detailed and well written study of Ohlone Indian foods and their preparation. Excellent photos are included.

We crest the top of this hill and catch our breath looking out over the Carquinez Bridge (actually two bridges) extending from Crockett to Vallejo. Prior to this the crossing over the deep and treacherous Carquinez Strait was solved with ferries. The original 1927 cantilever bridge (on the right in the picture) was dedicated in 1927 and “was the first major crossing of San Francisco Bay” and hailed as “America’s Greatest Highway Bridge” at its dedication on May 21st with President Coolidge pressing the opening button in Washington. This West County Blog records this 1927 opening event with original and endearing photos from the time – this entry traces the beginnings I-80 and I-580 from the original East Shore Highway. It provides a great assemblage of photos combined with fine writing.

In the foreground is a part of the village of Crockett and across the strait is a ship which is the California Maritime Academy, a part of the California State University System. Vallejo extends into the distance.

The tunnel leads under the Cummings Skyway for the next part of our hike on the Soaring Eagle Trail – mixed grassland, chaparral and expansive views.

We reconnoiter from the rolling green hills and spot San Pablo Bay and Sonoma and Marin Counties in the distance along with some enormous electrical transmission towers on either side of the Carquinez Bridges – the Carquinez Straits Transmission Span. “In 1901 the general design “consisted of a main span of cables, 4,427 feet in length, with a deflection of 227 feet from the highest elevation. The lowest wire was 206 feet above the water at its lowest point. This distance allowed large ships with high masts to travel under the cable and continue up the river to Sacramento and Stockton.”
For a time this was the longest and highest voltage electrical transmission span in the world. It is listed as a California and National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

A harbor tug passes the C & H refinery on the way up river. With major shipping going to the ports of Sacramento and Stockton there is much demand for their services and for bar pilots in these relatively shallow depths and narrow passages for large ocean going vessels. Rare footage of the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien in the Carquinez Strait. This series of beautiful photos was taken by the author from 2006-2012, they all expand for your lap top or desk top and give a sense of tug life in the greater San Francisco Bay. The site is now devoted to his/her (Pat thinks we need new a new pronoun for this and suggests hesh.) new quest of sailing the west coast of the United States and into the South Pacific.

Gaining some more altitude we seem to be developing measured distances.

A cattle stock pond fills out our impression of rolling hills in Ireland. “May you have warm words on a cold evening. A full moon on dark night. And the road downhill all the way to your door.” An Irish Blessing (found on a box of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal)

We arrive at a picnic area with a view known as the “helipad” but are pre-empted by an incoming rain storm. Michael explained how the wind was coming from the south and the storm was coming from the north and swirling together were signs of rain incoming. While we surveyed the scene, we may have seen an eagle glide seamlessly overhead toward Carquinez Strait.

Heading back hoping to out walk the rain which is blustering on the horizon we see that California Live Oaks seem to have each selected their own personal hill.
Passing along the way Michael spied some Purple Sanicle (Sanicula bipinnatifida) and nearby some Plantain (Plantago major) which he’d talked about extensively
on an earlier hike at the Oat Hill Mine Trail in Calistoga.

We opt for the sculpted downhill of the Edward’s Loop Trail that shows the hard work of many mountain bikers. There was no restriction for hikers on this trail, we as well as mountain bikers and dog walkers were equally welcome. But because this is a single track much of the way with downhill speeds on a mountain bike it might make sense to have some restrictions at least at times of high usage. Sounds did travel well up the trail providing an early warning. This was no problem on Monday or this past Saturday for that matter.

On the way down we saw Coast Mule Ears (Wyethia glabra) in the Sunflower family. Reny Parker writes that Nathaniel Wyeth’s name is part of this genus and that he is best known for his discovery of Mule Ears. Along parts of the trail the invasive Poison Hemlock was ascendent covering extensive swaths of land. Common Trillium (Trillium chloropetalum) rather than the Western trillium because it does not seem to have a stem rising above the three large leaves. California pipevine (Aristolochia california) or Dutchman’s Pipe is where the beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly exclusively lays its eggs., That’s poison oak peeking out from underneath.

Time for that lunch postponed which gets shortened with the rain.

Hydration, hydration, hydration

This reminded me of Michael’s love for Halloween. Hasta luego!

P.S. That hike with Armando on September 27, 2010 was a warm summer’s day. We took our vantage from the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park
on our Port Costa Hike.