Stern Grove Foray with Michael and Harriet – December 12, 2016

It was a beautiful day in the midst of a series of storms, the rain was much welcomed and admired but the pause was a delight. It was like that moment of silence in a piece of music that can make all the difference. We met at the entrance to Stern Grove – corner of 19th Avenue and Sloat Blvd. This was our final hike of the fall season 2016 so you know what that means – POTLUCK. Harriet’s home is nearby the Grove, most conveniently located for whetted appetites.
The Stern Grove Festival website notes that it was established in 1938 and is the “oldest admission-free summer performing arts festival of its kind in America”. Rosalie M. Stern bought this land at the suggestion of John McLaren then Supt. of San Francisco Parks to be used as a memorial for her husband Sigmund who had been a great civic leader and she gave it to the City of San Francisco in 1931. She stipulated that it was to be used solely for recreation including “music, dramatics and pageantry” and under the jurisdiction and control of the Playground Commission of San Francisco of which she was president.

Many in the group said that they hadn’t been to the Grove recently or even at all after many years living in the area. It was a day of discovery for some and for others who’ve gone to the grove for the summer concerts, a chance to see it in a December mood. During the 19th Century the areas of Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach and Stern Grove were called “Outside Lands” because “the area was covered with sand dunes and was considered inaccessible and uninhabitable.”

Because Michael was slowed down with a flat tire, Harriet led our walk down the hill into a very different world on a roadway with WPA origins lined with stately eucalyptus trees and the occasional Redwood. Harriet loves red!

Our first stop was near the Trocadero – the area was once called the Trocadero Ranch. It’s a grand Victorian cottage from the turn of the 19th Century built by George Green, Jr. in 1892. The Trocadero was a famous Victorian-style road house in what was originally this remote part of San Francisco. It became a a destination for socializing, dancing, gambling at roulette tables and in a doff of the hat to the sportsmen, fishing. At the Trocadero we looked about for a for a view of the Eiffel Tower but for that had to rely on our memories. Whether we’re hearing echoes of the swirling music of the Can Can or the Ragtime music of Scott Joplin, the word “Trocadero” transports us to another time.
But along with those echoing memories we were enjoying the calm and quiet of the Grove. Harriet filled us in on some of the history of this destination.,_San_Francisco

All the world’s a stage 1-7 with variations in the cast: Great introduction to the Festival From Rick Prelinger’s Internet Archive, yes it’s without music but also a chance to see the sunlight of 1948 at the Grove. I kept turning up the sound which isn’t there. Quite sprightly and fun once you get into it. The Archive is well worth exploring and has plenty of sound as well in other visuals. And I became quite restless for the music after a few minutes. What about a world without sound? Even the “silent” movies had that musical backdrop. Then there’s color as well not only in films but in our everyday lives. Sound and color, are we lucky or what. Remembering the Mazurka of Coppelia by Leo Delibes done by the Bolshoi Ballet in another venue – music at last! – Covers the high points well and you have to love them for the title “From a Cow Pasture to Cantatas” The Romantic Story of San Francisco’s Sigmund Stern Grove.

Our audience seems to have gone home, oh well, we were just rehearsing! Off to Pine Lake Park which I hadn’t discovered previously even after going to Stern Grove for a number of years.

Moon noticed this remarkable eucalyptus log which seems to contain the waves of the sea.

Construction as we walked toward Pine Lake: a workman locating a large water pipe – improving the infrastructure below.

Coyotes were mentioned in 1847 records and now they’re back. Some think they returned to San Francisco by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

We came by a great meadow filled with dogs . . . and their owners. This area is a place where the dogs can run freely unlike some of the other Federal areas that are now minimizing off-leash prospects. There is a remarkable dog owning community here with a long history.

There was a special bulletin board for the dog owners with some memorials as well as some practical suggestions for taking care of your dog.

Eucalyptus reflections in Pine Lake which was also known as Laguna Puerca or Pig Lake in the 19th Century. It is one of three fresh water lakes in San Francisco along with Mountain Lake in the Presidio and Lake Merced. Some special history in this one after the bus directions: “Established:1931” includes how “A homesteader, a widow, a tenor and a park superintendent became the unlikely mix that produced Stern Grove and Pine Lake Park.”

Michael asks us about this one called poly got, smart weed or Polygonum amphibium (alternately Persicaria amphibia). In the knotweed family it takes a variety of forms so having more than one name may relate to various types or just be synonymous. It is native to North America. “Plants that occur in wetland habitats typically specialize in either growing on waterlogged but not flooded muddy soils , or in the water itself (either submerged or floating on the surface). Relatively few plants are able to grow under both conditions.” Water Smartweed is one of these as the Polygonum amphibium name implies.

Jeanne Alexander writing for the Neighborhood Parks Council in San Francisco mentions another invader, the Pine Lake was “covered with a smothering blanket of aquatic primrose in 1997 which was removed with an aquatic harvester . . . but the plant has come back in full force and again needs mass removal.”
A Ludwigia water primrose has been a huge challenge in the freshwater wetland of Santa Rosa (CA.) Laguna.

When I first came to Sonoma, California in 1962, I was introduced to the then huge Eucalyptus trees leading up to the Buena Vista Winery and was amazed coming from the east coast that this tree kept its leaves but shed its bark. The frequent shedding may prevent fungi, parasites and epiphytes (mosses and lichens) from persisting on their trunk and stems. It also reduces the risk of sheltering insects that could damage the trees.

The Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globus) trees of Stern Grove have great majesty and define the area of the dell with their striking size and presentation. But there has been a long running discussion in California about invasive vs. native because of this imported exotic. George M. Green settled the area and stabilized the sand dunes by “planting thousands of cypress, pine and eucalyptus trees” in 1871. (The trees had been introduced to California by Australians at the time of the Gold Rush in 1849-1850.) He also “further developed their land by planting “Holland Grass” on the sand dunes to prevent them shifting with the wind.” The venerable John McLaren planted them in Golden Gate Park (along with beach grass) and by 1879 there were more than 155,000 trees there, mostly Eucalyptus globulus, Monterey pine and Monterey cypress according to one source.
They were planted for fast growing windbreaks in treeless areas, what oak growth might take 200 years the eucalyptus could achieve in 20. Initially, they were thought to be useful for lumber but the young trees though large had irregular grains and bent and shrank when dried. It was discovered that good eucalyptus timber required decades or centuries of growth and the young wood wouldn’t even make good fence posts or railroad ties.
As the role of beach grass and eucalyptus in California’s landscape is discussed, it is good to remember that the pioneers were faced with galloping sand dunes in these “Outside Lands” of what would become Stern Grove and Golden Gate Park (along withthe adjoining districts). In 1853 a map designated this area as the “Great Sand Bank” for the sparsely settled and treeless landscape, some have said it was “Sand Francisco”. Area just south of San Francisco and further down the coast in Santa Barbara

Michael pointed out the beauty of this eucalyptus stump. (algal or fungal etching?)

Courtesy along the trail. The dog owners also showed courtesy by what they didn’t leave as well.

The return trail – the outgoing trail was just like the incoming trail, curious symmetry.

Harriet tells us about the new tiers (that’s tiers) for concert goers. It was always a “tradition” to have to dig in your heels on the hill in order not to end up in someone else’s picnic. There are also some poles laid sideways further up that ought to help too but these stone walls are really functional and beautiful.

Paul and Larry point out some amenities of today’s Trocadero

Thinking Iditarod thoughts

Harriet gives us instructions about getting to her place.

In her kitchen she describes the lay of the land with deserts lurking in the background

Harriet’s family also gave us a warm welcome – Mitchell, Janet and Harriet.

My fork was on the way so I just happened to finish my Peet’s.

All around me were vegetables, Harriet’s colorful kitchen theme at last gives them front & center rather than as an afterthought or an also ran.

We traded in our usual rocks for this delicious indoor picnic.

Barb and Inge are finishing a bowl of Scott’s homemade ice cream this time flavored for the holiday with candy canes. They’re good neighbors and serious ice cream aficionados.

Quiet conversations and view of the incoming fog from Mt. Tamalpais?

Fond Farewells

Footloose Forays Farewell – 2016 (with a few unable to make it, sigh) Wishing you a most remarkable holiday and a sweet Solstice on December 21st @ 2:44 AM (in San Francisco) but don’t set your alarm in alarm – the days will be getting longer. Looking forward to the Spring Hiking Series in March 2017.

Many thanks to Harriet for making this great shot available, here we’re rehearsing our footloose.

Michael writes in his new Footloose Forays brochure for 2017-2018, “I started this Footloose series in 1984 and some folks have been hiking with me since nearly the beginning! Monday morning hikes are a great way to start the week. We identify the abundant flora and diverse fauna in our backyard and learn about the geologic and human history of the Bay Area. Our endlessly fascinating and entertaining fellow hikers are yet another bonus!”

My previous hike-logs can be found at They are a small record of this wonderful group and its remarkable leaders just since 2011 and perhaps a bit earlier. My WordPress site continues the process of construction like the worker exposing the pipes in Stern Grove. Friends in the group and beyond are helping with this step back into our history together and forward into the future. I’ve always thought about Footloose Forays as something rare and special, definitely to be shared, savored and remembered. Lew

From that bulletin board in Stern Grove and, of course from the magical and whimsical writing of Dr. Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel.

Rush Ranch with Michael – 5 December 2016

We continued our edgy San Francisco Bay adventure last Monday at Rush Ranch near Suisun City in Solano County. Unlike our hikes at the former Hamilton Air Base in Novato and the Baylands hike near the Petaluma River, the area around Rush Ranch appears to have no history of “ditching and diking”. It is considered one of the best examples of brackish tidal marsh in the United States. This makes it a perfect location to study the original interface between the Bay and its surrounding wetlands. Rush Ranch along with China Camp State park are both part of the San Francisco National Estuarine Research Reserve. Being able to look back at these historic interfaces of land and water can provide invaluable information for future decisions in Bay reclamation and the management this unique ecotone. My favorite article about Rush Ranch Reserve comes from the remarkable BAY NATURE magazine which always provides great writing with verve & vitality and, of course, of a piece is Michael’s “Ask the Naturalist” column.


We reconnoiter by some huge, blooming eucalyptus trees that marked the ranch for us as we arrived. Rush Ranch is a busy place for nature education, has visits from various organizations & schools and is a destination for special events.

We were delighted by some “Dalmatian” horses in the corral and learned that they are a special breed developed by Michael Muir, the great-grandson of our naturalist icon, John Muir.

Observing a visiting raptor

We see that solar energy can also pack a punch, get some cautionary equine information and here’s the very gate through which we began our hike on the Marsh Trail.

Michael answers a bird identification question coming out of the gate. and talks about the English words coming to us from the Quechua language of the Andes. And finally a discussion of another huge bird that flew over – Paul finally sets us straight on the right id – a C 17 Globemaster. Mari and some of the rest of us with our backpacks look a bit like we’ve just parachuted down to arrive on the scene.

a binocular kind of day

Or if you’ve been really good, a view through the scope. Perhaps Semipalmated or Western Sandpipers in a reflective mode but check with Michael, Inge, Karen or Sibley!

Looking out on Suisun Slough

Through the high Jubata grass, Cortaderia jubata, with plumes, the grass that is.

Bristly ox-tongue, Picris echioides, in the aster family like the similar bloom of the Cat’s-ear. ‎ – Fine job by the Marin Audubon Society!

Poison Hemlock beginnings, Conium maculatum: The guide above has this description. “Noxious robust annual weed of levees, disturbed soils with late-spring moisture; often in extensive stands. Purple-blotched stems, fetid scented dissected fern-like foliage. Highly toxic if ingested; toxins may be absorbed through skin.” Michael recalled the classical use of Poison Hemlock in the death of Socrates. – Michael hears a clapper rail and tries to start a conversation with some responses but the larger sound came from another kind of rail – Amtrak!’s_rail

Heading up a hillock for lunch with a view

A picnic by the Slough (part of the slough food movement), Sheri shows off her true colors, Larry does a reprise, we actually have seating with the view and . . . there’s that quartet again.

You might recall that the New York Central Railroad prided itself with a “water level route” following the Hudson River north, the Mohawk River west and bordering the Great Lakes to Chicago. Here we head down the hillock back to our own water level route. Not quite the glories of steam in this video but you get to see that “water level” and hear some haunting whistles.

Some birds along our path starting with the distinctive Kildeer , Great Egret,
Say’s Phoebe and Great Blue Heron and the bird Michael mentioned earlier, Snowy Egret

Brewer’s Blackbirds adding some life to a walnut tree gone quiet at the end of its season.

Peaceable Kingdom: Two Stonewall Sporthorses have a recline in the pasture with a Brewer’s Blackbird doing a flyby and a trio of California Ground Squirrels making a busy backdrop.
Any relationship to unicorns is purely coincidental.

Framed by Eucalyptus trees and the supple hills of Solano County a KV-10A fades into the distance en route to Travis Air Force Base.

The Bay Trail at Sear’s Point with Michael – 21 November 2016

It all began not as a dark and stormy night but a bright and foggy morning as we found our way to the edge of San Pablo Bay in southern Sonoma County. Perhaps the freshest trail that we’ve hiked, it was dedicated in October of 2015 after extensive restoration by the Sonoma Land Trust. Opened to the public in 2016, it was exciting to see the new project’s beginnings next to a smaller, earlier one completed in 1996. We could observe them side by side both the fresh beginnings and the remarkable progress in these tidal wetlands after just 20 years back-to-nature. – How a diametrically opposite “solution” became popular in 1949 along with its fortunate eventual demise.

This 1990s project restored 289 acres and involved a variety of supporting organizations. “Congress blessed it with money and Vice President Al Gore came out for its dedication.” Looking ahead and projecting what the Bay will be like 100 years from now.

The day’s foggy beginnings were mysterious, softening edges and images – an opportunity to let your imagination romp and roam. Then all of a sudden color is all around us.
As we were looking at the fog dissipating with an entire field of whipping and whispering tendrils, Karen was recalling a poem by the Spanish poet which matched the scene beautifully. Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, (1836-1870) is considered the most read Spanish writer after Cervantes.écquer

“Los suspires son are y van al are” “Sighs are air and go to the air”

Los suspiros son aire y van al aire! Sighs are air and go to the air!
Las lågrimas son aqua y van al mar! Tears are water and go to the sea!
Dime, mujer, cuando el amor se olvida Tell me, woman, when love’s forgotten
¿Sabes tu adonde va? Do you know whither it goes?

Note the “no drones” clause.

Looking across the rich farmland toward Cougar Mountain to an area otherwise known as Sears Point or on its other side something completely different, Infineon Raceway.

Observing the earlier 1990s project we can see the richness and colors of the restored tidal marsh. Start with the video BRINGING BACK THE BAY. The PDFs are quite exhaustive and scholarly. I especially liked the “Kids’Species Accounts” providing some very accessible and interesting information about the California Clapper Rail, Salt Harvest Mouse and Soft Bird’s-Beak. Fun FLICKER photos with ids as well

The hillocks in the marsh are an important part of the restoration design and the water birds have discovered them with pleasure. One particular joy was seeing a Forster’s Tern hovering over the water looking for food. I had flashed on a white tailed kite id since that hovering quality was definitive for me. But others hover too (in addition to drones)!

We were talking about glorious mud previously but today we got to enjoy it in spades as we hiked out to the dike opening. We all gained at least 2 inches in height and our shoes when they weren’t being sucked down in the ooze were getting strangely heavy. Mudflats took on a whole new meaning.

Mud Season on the East Coast requires special considerations, maybe the first is staying by the fireplace.

Near the dike opening with fog receding across the bay.
Michael gave us a spirited review of tidal action so basic to these salt marshes.

Michael said this was wild mustard – it wasn’t quite up to “Wordsworth in the Tropics” but still a bit jungley and adding to the mud we were beginning to feel just a little that nature isn’t always warm and fuzzy.

Observed along the way were amaranth in bright red, raccoon tracks in the mud, pickle weed and in the last, looking for some dry areas along the way but it was hard to outfox the mud., Michael explores and dances with some fauna.

Picnic lunch is the next stop as we absorb the view without the fogginess and with a spring in our step.

Lunch on the quiet side

Lunch with conversation, were we in writing class we might write a short account of what is going on here.

After lunch we took a short stroll down the path atop the new much more graduated rise from water level which facilitates survival for marsh creatures when faced with rising water and storm surges. Perhaps sometime we can return and walk all the way down to Sears Point.

The view from our path looking toward Cougar Mountain now much more clearly defined in the noontime sunshine. Fortunately, Route 37 is just far enough away to minimize any sounds of traffic.

The Bay returns

Post Script:

We enjoyed a small segment of the San Francisco Bay Trail on this hike. The SFBT is a bold plan to ring the entire San Francisco Bay with an enormous, accessible trail for hiking and
bicycling. From the Wikipedia article account: “As of 2016, 350 miles (560 km) of trail have been completed. When finished, the Bay Trail will extend over 500 miles (805 km) to link the shoreline of nine counties, passing through 47 cities and crossing seven toll bridges. It is a project of the Association of Bay area Governments (ABAG).” In 1986, State Senator Bill Lockyer of Hayward came up with this idea to develop a pedestrian and bicycle path around the entire San Francisco Bay with shoreline access. Cf. history in the Wiki article

On an earlier hike we enjoyed another Bay Trail section at the old Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato where there is a similarly breached dike allowing the return of the Bay waters to their former foot print. Here’s a delightful account from the great BAY NATURE magazine by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto discovering this trail.

Spring Lake & Lake Ralphine in Santa Rosa with Michael – 10/31/16

And what to our wondering eyes did appear but Michael with his sling at our trailhead last Monday morning. It was a happy rendezvous after the successful surgery for his shoulder injury.

We are about to follow a trail adjacent to Annadel State Park which my computer is intent on calling Annabel State Park. You can see from this map where we started at Parktrail Drive and where we are going We edged Annadel heading toward Spring Lake where we had lunch and the came around Lake Raphine in Howarth Park returning on our inbound trail. Annadel is a remarkably loved and frequented park in heart of Santa Rosa – or any other vital organ that might better describe its location. We’ve happily hiked here on a variety of trails in the past on Footloose Forays with Michael.

While he was introducing the hike, a flock of migrating Snow Geese flew very, very high overhead adding some primal excitement to the day.
Amid California Drought, Migrating Birds Enjoy Pop-Up Cuisine : NPR Food for the geese along their way in California’s Central Valley.

1. At the beginning of the trail we stopped a moment to observe the rocks where Michael returning from his regular run took the spill that resulted in his shoulder
injury. 2. Larry and I discover that we have the same haberdasher, L.L. Bean, from whence our smile – and not . . . Michael’s fall!

We stop above a spillway and Michael share’s some of the history of the adjoining Annadel State Park. “In 1871 Irish immigrant Samuel Hutchinson purchased nearly 3000 acres of the former Rancho Los Guilicos land grant.” His house was called “Annie’s Dell” or “Annie’s Dale” in honor of his oldest daughter. “Henry Bolle, owner of neighboring lands, established a winery in 1880 and named it Annadel. When the Santa Rosa and Carquinez Railway began rail service through Sonoma Valley to Santa Rosa in 1888, they adopted the name Annadel for the train station near the Hutchinson home.” P. 191

The area was sold in the 1930s to a “flamboyant entrepreneur” named Joe Coney who bought the property from Annie and proceeded to have lavish hunting parties and invited local scouting groups to camp there under the oaks. “In 1953 he dammed Spring Creek to create Lake Ilsanjo, which he named after his wife and himself: Ilsa and Joe. Coney’s far-flung empire included steamship companies, gold mines and vast tracts in the Andes, but when his finances lagged in the 1960’s, Coney put the ranch up for sale. Annabel nearly became a vast subdivision, but State Parks – – with matching funds from local financiers – – was able to scape together the money to acquire most of Coney’s estate in 1969.” Primary in that financing for the purchase of Annadel lands was the remarkable, farsighted and generous Henry Trione.

Michael also mentioned that Lake Ralphine formed after an earthen dam was constructed in 1882 was built by Colonel Mark Lindsay McDonald was named after his wife. We’ve visited the substantial “summer house” he build for his family on historic McDonald Avenue in Santa Rosa. Here’s are some splendid links about him, his family, his mansion and his pivotal career in Santa Rosa. Col. McDonald was a trained engineer who was instrumental in many Santa Rosa improvements including the Santa Rosa Water Works Company, an early private utility as well as fruit packing yards, Santa Rosa’s first library and the first steam railroad in the area. an artful and fascinating account of the McDonald mansion and its occupants.

Michael continues the description a la Vimeo:

One of Michael’s friends and former neighbors on McDonald Avenue, Marielouise brought along her terrific, mellow poodle (?) thanks for your help, we keep up the pace on the fire road on a bit of a hill, passing along the edge of Annabel Park we see sign for one of its many trails – Rough Go, keeping up the pace and the conversation.

Michael tells us about “Hollywood” frogs and how they found their way to “Africa”: Extensive link on Pacific Chorus Frogs (Pacific Tree Frogs)

A bridge along our way dedicated in 1977 and a part of the Lions International mission to support the vision impaired.

Numerous dogs greeted us on these trails and their owners joined in the conversation. Michael describes the area in more detail.

A kayaker slides by on Lake Ralphine and Michael spots some swans across the way. Some details and swan songs too

He tells us how his son Hunter, our leader last week, got his name.

We were treated to quite a variety of passing pets as well as a greeting from a small size trail blazer.

Picnic under a Live Oak by Spring Lake while we enjoy spotting water birds and find the ground squirrels in quite abundance. The conversation went to movies and Michael said he really enjoyed “Elvis and Nixon” which he’d seen on the plane returning from one of his trips. Judy mentioned and recommended “Eight Days a Week -The Touring Years” (about the Beatles) as well.

After lunch some mallard ducks passed by along with these Canada Geese, Michael talked about the mallard’s aggressive mating behavior. Here’s a thorough explanation that I found helpful:

A sentinel ground squirrel makes sure that we continue on our way or was it just a fond farewell?

And in a lovely bit of serendipity, Michael finds his friend’s DMV license which she lost today on an earlier return. It was just lying in the grass by the path as we finished the hike. The universe was getting things back in balance.

Bear Valley with Hunter – 24 October 2016

Last Monday’s weather was restless with windy sprinkles and skittering clouds sending a message of what’s coming over the hills – a perfect day for a hike.
We take as our example Winslow Homer who used to love going out along the rocks of Prout’s Neck on the Maine coast especially on stormy days. His friends and family would urge him to come back in to home and hearth but his response was, “Come out here it’s perfectly grand!” Our hike down Bear Valley with Michael’s son Hunter was one of those exciting days you wouldn’t want to miss. Hunter was standing in for Michael who had shoulder surgery last Friday and needs recovery time. Some of us had met Hunter before and Michael has most recently shared the excitement and happiness of Hunter’s wedding last June. It was very cool to have him leading us on the trail.

As we walked down Bear Valley, a variety of sounds all about welcomed us from the flowing of Bear Creek next to the trail to the high sounds of wind blowing in the tops of the huge Douglas Firs by the hillsides of our walk. The song of their needles in the wind was curious because it sounded like pelting down rain but as we walked we were almost dry maybe experiencing some of that “sound and fury signifying nothing” or at least of no drenching rain. We have a fascination with rain here in California, it is such an event after a long dry summer that we’d like to not only run it up a flag pole, print banner headlines but also announce it with flashing lights on some grand marquee. Memories come back of rollicking thunder storms, getting wet to the bone – longing for a warm bath & some dry clothes and jumping into puddles on your way home from school. Glorious rain and yes, glorious mud. – A lovely, eclectic book about RAIN as the heroine, the hero in its many splendored forms – life giving and amazingly destructive. Describing Prout’s Neck, Maine and Winslow Homer’s studio Lovely tete-a tete between the inimitable Flanders and Swann singing the Hippopotamus Song and my origin of “glorious mud”. Rain sounds should you not have enough available.


Gathering up ourselves before the hike we get to meet with Hunter, today’s hike leader. Everyone has a different kind of pack, I think Viola gets the prize.

The Bear Valley Trail has green archways giving a sense of protection and calm – the sounds of Bear Creek along the trail provide some of the background music.

We’ve passed by Elk Clover on a number of our hikes on Mt. Tamalpais and at Pt. Reyes. “It is the only member of the ginseng family native to California and southwestern Oregon.” Here’s is some Aralia californica that we passed along the way. Not a clover but there could be actual elk browsing this plant in more remote sections of the park. One reference gave Gold Rush miners credit for the name. You’ll also recall miner’s lettuce.

We greet a passing equestrian returning to the visitor center. We’ve had a number of Pt. Reyes hikes with Michael and Jim in the Five Brooks area where there are stables and trail riders. There we’ve enjoyed meeting equestrians on a regular basis.

Pt. Reyes National Seashore used to be a center for Morgan horses which were an integral part of the National Park system in the west.

Arriving at Divide Meadow we reconnoiter and wonder when the rain will come down in earnest. The Bear Creek Trail continues down to the coast but this is the high point of the trail. The former trail destination was an overlook in the area of Arch Rock but a deadly rockslide in March 2015 brought about a trail closure.

Looking out on a portion of Divide Meadow where a country club/hunting club was located from the 1890s until the 1934 Depression. The first club was centered at the “Howard Cottage in Bear Valley as a hunting lodge and summer resort”. “In 1890, thirty-seven members of San Francisco’s exclusive Pacific Union Club formed an equally exclusive country club for which they leased 1000 acres in Bear Valley . . . and another 76,000 – odd acres as a hunting preserve.” Seems enormous.

This is a rare and wonderful account of Marin County in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. If you scroll down you can read about the climate of Pt. Reyes as “positively intoxicating . . . . There is champagne in the very atmosphere.” When scroll down and you come to “Point Reyes in Leisure” the description begins with folks getting off the North Pacific Coast Railroad at Tocaloma.

Divide Meadow is the high spot for this trail c. 360’ above sea level.

Lots of green in these familiar plants along our way clockwise in upper left with Coast Live Oak, California Bay, grasses with rain drops and California Hazelnut.

Back at the Visitor’s Center there is just time to take the Earthquake Trail Loop. This area of Olema Valley was thought to be the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake but recent studies have found that it was just off the coast near Pacifica. Oh well, good spirits reign just prior to another kind of rain. – Well written and extensive with good photos & many links.

The rain begins, something that always takes getting used to. They used to call them slickers or dusters.’s_Oilskin_Duster

Looking up the stairs showing the displacement of the farmer’s fence by the 1906 Earthquake. Clear description of the 1906 Quake with excellent detail.

Looking down from the top of the steps

Lunch beneath a large sculpted California Bay tree

Maybe the work of a California Acorn Woodpecker or perhaps a Red-breasted Sapsucker, maybe both or others. Looks like a life’s work when you look up the trunk. Author, author. Or better recalling the Acorn Woodpecker communities, “Authors, Authors.”

A pair of ravens bid us hasta luego.

P.S. With thanks for the vision of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and many others:

Treasure Island with Michael – 10 October 2016

Coming by my other address lewiszuelow since my l.zuelow seems to be having some issues.


Thoughts of reading Treasure Island in Classic Comics while I was growing up came to the surface as we met at TI with Michael last Monday. With that title a mood is set for adventure, not only a search for buried treasure but also a mysterious and menacing cast of characters . . . most unlike our hiking group! Well, maybe, we’ll try for mysterious.

We who live in the North San Francisco Bay area recall that Robert Louis Stevenson spent the summer in 1880 on his honeymoon with his bride, Fanny Osborne, in the Napa Valley at an abandoned mining camp on Mt. Saint Helena. From this experience came his book “The Silverado Squatters”.

But I digress, Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay was constructed in 1936-37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition or World’s Fair.
It was made using quarried graywacke boulders as a surround atop Yerba Buena Shoals quarried from nearby Yerba Buena Island. The interior was then filled in by dredging up vast amounts of fill from San Francisco Bay. In a nice bit of irony, a lot of that fill came from the destructive hydraulic mining of the gold rush in the Sierra Nevada which was washed down to the bay by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Sadly this bay fill contained less treasure and more toxins from mining operations in the 19th Century containing Mercury, Arsenic and Asbestos. Fortunately and wonderfully District Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer favoring the farmers of California banned hydraulic mining on January 7, 1884 declaring that it was ”a public and private nuisance”. Yet the legacy of this mining continues today.,_San_Francisco

Since our last hike here, the island has become an enormous construction zone with large tracts behind cyclone fencing showing cautionary signs for radiation. The U.S. Navy seized the island in 1942 which along with adjoining Yerba Buena Island became a command and communications center for the Pacific Fleet. The island was also used for repair and salvage operations including the fleet of ships exposed to atomic blasts in the Pacific after WW 2. The Navy held classes in radioactive warfare in the later 1940s when sailors were trained in cleaning radioactive contamination on a “mocked-up ship perhaps appropriately called the USS Pandemonium – no doubt just a bit of Navy humor.


Morning fog obscures the San Francisco skyline with the Bay Bridge and a huge cruise ship gaining definition for the day. The views from TI are splendid and walking around the island opens up new vistas in every direction. Like Angel Island and Alcatraz the perspective changes, you are afforded an angle on things that you may have never seen before. We thought we knew how things looked but the new view says “not so fast”.

The fog continues to lift as Michael gives some background to the foreground. He talked about early soundings of San Francisco Bay using ropes with knots every six feet and the painstaking process of measuring the Bay. Since the basis for TI was Yerba Buena Shoals, an area that was hazardous to navigation and only 27 feet below the surface, you can see the value of this effort. We began to ask questions about depth knots and speed knots and how they differed? Here’s a clear explanation:

Cormorants gather on an abandoned dock with a piece of the Golden Gate Bridge at middle right “growing” out of the Presidio and mid-photo is the Raccoon a US Coast Guard ship used to clean debris from the Bay. It docks at the Bay Model in Sausalito. On Monday its mission was to assist in raising a small yacht which had sunk in the Bay during Fleet Week due to overloading.
Regarding the cormorants, I think Michael said that the white by the head is a pattern of Pelagic Cormorant Immatures. Need to up my game of Cormorant couth:

We are walking along the Riprap Greywacke boulder border for Treasure Island. Mined from nearby Yerba Buena Island the Greywacke rock is a part of the Franciscan Complex on the west coast. Seeing Franciscan Assemblage, I envision a large group of monks gathering in Assisi.

The Avenue of the Palms was the esplanade of the 1939 San Francisco Exposition and now is the scene of heavy equipment reshaping the area for a projected new city with housing complexes, hotel and even the possibility of the George Lucas Museum. The museum which has challenges in finding the right location might resurrect some of the character of the 39/40 Exposition. As the voice over concludes he says of this Western World’s Fair, “Too soon it will be too late”.

Clockwise we have a Cat that likes the water – seems to be tamping down the sand, perhaps a radiation monitor with its own portable generator, a construction zone in San Francisco as well at the top of high rises, and that radiation sign we don’t see much of these days.–235499911.html

Armand oversees a picnic at the north end of TI, lunch with a view of Richmond to the north, east bay to the right and center and just a suggestion of Marin to the left. There was stalwart fisherman at the end of riprap who did some kind of boulder ballet to get to his private fishing spot on the bay.

A Pelagic Cormorant relaxes on a slippery slope – he’d just finished his wing extend, a to be identified plant near our lunch spot, fog lifting over the Tiburon Peninsula and (where does a speedboat leave off and a yacht begin?) a yacht leaving not quite a turkey tail in the breeze – in the background left is the tower of the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley hills. Did you know that the Claremont had a slide fire escape?

“Original airport terminal building, another of the early uses planned for Treasure Island. Pam Am’s famous Clipper would circle and land in the bay, and then taxi in to the adjacent Clipper Cove.” Boeing 314 documentary with some footage of Clipper Cove. Pan American Clippers taking off from Clipper Cove This is a fascinating aural account from a very special blog that sadly has gone into hiatus.

Clipper Cove last Monday with a view of the new eastern section of the Bay Bridge. Scott reminded us that it has a functioning but incomplete bikeway.

We walked around this still in tact part of Treasure Island, nearby were two huge hangers.

In anticipation of international commercial air service, Treasure Island was originally slated to become San Francisco’s second airport,

operated simultaneously with Mills Field (now San Francisco International Airport.

A 3/30/32 rendering (courtesy of Tim Tyler) depicted the proposed Golden Gate Union Air Terminal on the north end of the island,

with 2 intersecting runways & a row of hangars on the southern side of the airfield.

An undated (circa 1930s?) artist’s conception looking northwest at the planned Treasure Island Airport.

It showed the 2 seaplane hangars & terminal which would eventually be built on the south end,

along with a never-built series of 9 runways emanating from a central point on the north end of the island.


We walked out on a wide, long pier that was once used by the navy for larger ship landings and on Monday had two enormous tugboats used for moving ships around the bay and for fire suppression.

The tugs are contracted with Standard Oil in Richmond, California and also work around the bay. They are owned by Foss Maritime which was founded in 1889 by Thea Foss (1857-1927) and her husband Andrew Foss.
Note that the tug in this video does not have the fire suppression system (in orange at the rear of the tugs that we observed). Foss lists Seattle as home port and this video is taken in Elliot Bay, Seattle, Washington A friendly crew member came out and talked to us about the tug and what it does, he is one of four on duty all the time on the tug.

Statuary in front of the Pan Am Air Terminal, to the left is Spirit of India, Female 1938, by Jacques Schnier (American, 1898-1988). this is one of twenty sculptures produced for the Court of Pacifica at the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. Another sculpture by Schnier and you guessed it, Spirit of India, Male 1938. The building was designed to be an airline terminal, but World War 2 intervened and instead the entire island became US Navy base. This has a great video from that time (with those authoritative narrators) describing the Exposition.

The catamaran ferry from Vallejo steams by the cruise ship and then a tug makes its way past with the Transamerica Pyramid providing a visual.
Michael talked of the San Francisco Bar Pilots special role in SF Bay navigation. Then a sailboat passes Angel Island with Fort McDowell (East Garrison) in the background and the Vallejo Ferry outward bound to as one person called it Valley Joe.

Michael finds a bit of naval history along the trail, Inge looks across the bay at the lifting fog, Sue and friends maybe looking at terns diving in the water for sardines or was it anchovies and thanks to Paul for taking my picture as everyone else looks seaward.

I can hear the ukuleles now. But no, the fog has lifted and . . . we are still on Treasure Island looking over to Mt. Tamalpais, our Marin touchstone.

The Great Beach of Pt. Reyes with Michael – 26 September 2016

“For it’s a long, long time from May to December, But the days grow short when you reach September. . .” from “September Song” by
Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson. What happened to our long, sunny evenings – all of a sudden it seems dark at dinner?

I recall humming this chorus when I was a newsboy delivering the Schenectady Gazette in the late 1940s and having only a little idea of its bittersweet qualities. It sounded romantic and poignant and that was enough for me. Now I read that it came from 1938’s “Knickerbocker Holiday” and was about Peter Stuyvesant, 1647 governor of what was later New York and a portrayal of a “semi-fascist government in New Amsterdam”. Bing Crosby recorded it in 1943 and Frank Sinatra in 1946. I think I’m remembering and hearing Sinatra rather than Crosby in my memory. Later it was Sinatra for sure with “Autumn Leaves”, I recall hearing it while I was driving across the Berkshires on the border of Massachusetts and New York State in 1957. And just maybe having watched the great BBC TV show “From May to December” starring
Anton Rodgers, Eve Matheson and Lesley Dunlop in the 1990s may have helped to keep those memories fresh.


Every good hike needs to start at the Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station.

Just a half hour away is our destination at South Beach, a part of the Great Beach of Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Usually called Pt. Reyes Beach but sometimes called 10 Mile Beach most accounts now credit it with 11 miles. It is an enormous strand on the north side of the Pt. Reyes Peninsula and “Great Beach” does it justice.

Michael gave a brief description of our tidal patterns with visuals courtesy of the Great Beach’s tabula rasa. This is a really complete explanation and description including equations for amplitude, you can go deep or just have fun surfing its waves.

Bullwhip kelp, Nereocystis can be sculptured, played for music, jumped with, weaponized or eaten.
Sadly, it also needs help.
This seems to be a pattern in the southern hemisphere as well.

Variations on a theme:

Watching some Semipalmated plovers in the photo and thinking as well about the Western Snowy Plover’s breeding locations further east on this beach. The struggle to save the Western snowy plovers (North Beach, Kehoe Beach and Abbott’s Lagoon) is ongoing. really captivating video with lots of valuable insights – This link begins with a description of the work being done by Carolyn Campbell, a Snowy Plover Biological Technician. If you scroll down you will find an account of our own, Michael Ellis, Field Institute Instructor as well. – a short, lovely video of plovers in fight over the nearby Limantour Beach – those “Mesmerizing Murmurations” .
How Do Starling Flocks Create Those Mesmerizing Murmurations? | All About Birds

Talking to the group about invasion and displacement of native beach grasses by European beachgrass (Ammophilia arenaria) which, despite its romantic Latin name has been a devastating invader. In the photo the beachgrass is closest to the group and before that we have a native dwarf coyote brush in bloom. Sadly it is intermixed with ice plant, another invader, in red. While the focus of this link is the restoration of native dune grasses at Lanphere Dunes in Humboldt Bay, the story is very similar on Pt. Reyes Beach, in fact, the photos are almost interchangeable. discussing the impact of Ammophilia on Tidestrom’s Lupine Excellent summary!

Around 1869 John McLaren is credited with the first introduction of European beach grass on the west coast when he used it to stabilize the sand dunes to create Golden Gate Park. It was a remarkable process turning what they thought of as “sand desert” into an amazing park for San Francisco.

And just a bit of information on “highway ice plant” in the invasive plant world. Best not to use the term Hottentot fig which is a pejorative.

and last but really first the Dwarf Coyote Brush’s poetic description from San Marcos Growers:
Baccharis pilularis ‘Pigeon Point’ at San Marcos Growers

Lunch not in the Redwoods but on a Redwood log at our hike’s apogee with the surf surround sound. The plastic bag is being used to collect plastic debris we found along the beach. Michael’s visiting friend Viola picked up the bag from the beach and then picked up plastic debris we found along the way (with a little help from her friends) keeping out at least something more going into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Nice definition of gyre in the course of the article so now you know what Lewis Carroll was referring to in his spectacular Jabberwocky.

My very favorite YouTube:

Clockwise – a mussel shell seemingly fashioned in Italian marble, the fin of a Bottlenose Dolphin (you’ll recall Flipper) from a pod that swam by us sporting & playing the water (did I try to get them in mid-air, oh yes), bull kelp with driftwood collar or is a driftwood with a mike and Ammophilia arminaria, the villain in our story.
Michael said that the dolphins are from warmer southern California waters, recent arrivals with the ocean warming. Bill Keener who is a friend of Michaels said that poignantly, one of them died along Ocean Beach in San Francisco recently washing up on shore. Its mate stayed nearby in the water for a long time – keeping company with the one lost.

The return with the dogs front and back in center, the Dachshunds traveling together.

Taking a break on our Good Ship Lollypop

Adios to those waves until next time