Author: inthegooey

We are an archivist, interior designer and mixed Yorkshire terrier, husband, wife and chien team who like to be in the outdoors.

Spring Flowers in a Mountain Forest, May 2019

Skyline Trail in May is a dreamscape. Despite the absence of patched medieval castles, squat thatched-roof villages and stolid Norman churches that I acquaint with fairytales and fantasy, the trail was magical. What wonderful stories the Native Americans of this region must have told of the flowers that bloom in these tall, moist, canopied forests in the springtime!

Taking our cue from blogger David Baselt, who describes patches of old-growth redwoods along Skyline Trail in his blog, Redwood Hikes, we explored the southern section of the trail, having already explored the northern section. The southern section is tricky to find because the trail head is not marked. We had a few false starts as we drove along Skyline Blvd (State Route 35).

In the 1920s, the road’s chief engineer described Skyline Blvd as a highway that “combines the beauties of the mountains, the sunsets of the desert, the fogs of the ocean, and the panorama of the bay.” For about half an hour, we looked for openings in the wire fence that blocks access to the trail from the road, until we found an entrance near Swett Road.

There wasn’t another soul on the trail, although we did wonder if the little fellow who dug these ⬆️ mole-sized holes wasn’t nearby. The holes connected to a ridge that followed the trail for miles, a service road for four-footed friends.

We think Hairy woodpeckers (Dryobates villosus) made these holes. The National Audubon Society says that, “In its feeding Hairy woodpeckers do more pounding and excavating in trees than most smaller woodpeckers, consuming large numbers of wood-boring insects.”

Some industrious, winged blokes occasionally broke the silence.

But otherwise the forest was quiet.

Seeing this new-growth redwood growing beside a second-growth redwood caused us to recall that trees are 95 percent carbon dioxide.

Time slowed down. Instead of minutes, we measured its passing in the moments between discovery and contemplation.

Pastel-colored baby redwood needles.

Victorian author George Eliot wrote that “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart-beat, and we should all die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

California wild rose (Rosa californica)

On the other hand, biologist T.H. Huxley said that “To a person uninstructed in Natural History, his country or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall.” Skyline Trail is a gallery well worth studying.

California wild rose (Rosa californica)

California wild rose (Rosa californica). They were everywhere!

Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) learning to crawl

Et voila, Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) has found its feet!

Mature California blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

California blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

Margined white (Pieris marginalis)? I wish I knew the name of the flower it was sipping on.

Fork-toothed ookow (Dichelostemma congestum)?

Crimson columbine (Aquilegia formosa)

Starflower (Trientalis latifolia)

Broadleaved forget-me-nots (Myosotis latifolia)

Resources Consulted:
Douglas Iris, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Hairy Woodpecker, Audubon Guide to North American Birds
Margined White Pieris marginalis Scudder 1861, Butterflies and Moths of North America
Rubus Ursinus California Blackberry, The American Southwest
Second-Growth Forests and Restoration Thinning, Redwood, National and State Parks California
The Making of Skyline Boulevard, Mobile Ranger
Where Do Trees Get Their Mass?, Veritasium (March 2012)
Wild Plants of Redwood Regional Park Common Name Version A Photographic Guide, East Bay Regional Park District – this pdf is an awesome resource

La Gloria Road and the Bold Cow, Apr 2019

Cycling La Gloria Road to the summit of Gabilan Mountain Range (it’s highest peak is 3,455’/1,053 m), in San Benito County, is one of my favorite California adventures to date. On the way, we stopped at CalFire Bear Valley Station (famous for its helicopter), near the turn off to La Gloria Road, to ask for advice regarding where to park.

The friendly firefighters said we’re welcome to park at the fire station when they know they won’t need to leave the station, which requires them to lock the gate to the parking lot and helipad. But they did have to leave the station that day, and so recommended finding a place to park on the side of La Gloria Road. I was glad we did, because the initial ascent up La Gloria Road is pretty steep.

The 1 1/2 lane, graded dirt road has been in use for over a hundred years. It had recently been graded, but there was already some washboarding, as well as tree roots, rocks and snakes to avoid – all of which added some fun, technical challenges to the ride.

Gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer)? It was about 4′ (1.2 m) long.

The road was perfectly quiet. Over the course of five hours, we saw a handful of trucks – the inhabitants all smiled and waved, and gave us plenty of clearance – and an SUV with fishing rods poking out of the back.

Flame skimmer (Libellula saturata)?

The ride to the summit was easy and the ascent gradual, but the ride back required some skill. The biggest challenge was remaining in control on the bends, where it was easy to skid out of control in the loose dirt.

We had carefully selected a sunny, spring day for the ride. It was 20°C (70°F) with a gentle breeze, and as we approached the summit, the cooling effect of Monterey Bay added a freshness to the air that we could feel in our lungs.

Golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica), California’s state flower.

The landscape was breathtaking – pristine, unusual, diverse. At the summit, a meadow stretched across the horizon. And it. smelled. heavenly! Every so often a breeze would waft a fragrance resembling Old Spice cologne across our noses!

It was past peak wildflower season in California, and yet sections of this meadow were blanketed with flowers.

But perhaps the most memorable part of the ride was an encounter with a cow. As a kid, my brothers and I would fall over laughing at my dad’s animal noises. His cow-noise was the best. Far from sounding like the consonant+vowel phoneme pair kids growing up in Australia in the 1980s were introduced to in their first few days of school – i.e., “moo” – my dad’s cow vocalization tapped into a phoneme rarely used in the English language. His cow-noise is a very French-sounding “mœ.”

Gauthier had just left to scope out some more of the road, when a little, black cow head appeared above the grassy trench where we were picnicking. Naturally I greeted it with my most charming “mœ.” “Hello cute, cow fellow,” I hoped to communicate, “You have the most lovely pasture. I hope you don’t mind us sharing it with you.”

The cow came closer, and we talked some more. I should say, I talked some more; the cow was silent. I’m not usually so gregarious, but it made constant eye contact, which I took to be a sign of encouragement. Then all of a sudden hoof beats, like the sound of powerfully undulating helicopter blades, approached from the distance.

The herd slowed to an amble as they neared the fence separating Oliver (who was far more interested in where Gauthier had gone than the cows), and I, and our new cow friends from them. Their vocalizations possessed a tone of authority. “What’s going on here?” they seemed to demand. “Mœ,” I said to them – and barely attracted their attention. So I opened up my diaphragm and let out a long, deep “mœ.” To see their heads whip around in unison and stare, you’d think they’d never heard a human say “mœ” before. I let out a couple more assertive “mœs,” intended to communicate that “we are all friends here,” and the herd collectively decided to depart, and trotted away.

The wire fence offered new insight into the character of our new friend. “Now why was the herd on one side of the fence, and this cow and her companions on the other?” I wondered to myself. I looked around. The fence was definitely intended to restrict the cows’ movement to a fenced-off enclosure. “A bold and artful escapee and her nervous followers,” I reasoned.

What the cow was musing – or mœsing – I cannot say, but apparently her thoughts led her to the conclusion that it would be safe to advance farther. As she rounded the top of the trench, her shiny black coat came into focus, as well as an alarming quantity of offal attached to her rear end, and a host of flies.

When we were finally face-to-face, she paused for a moment, then broke eye contact and looked over my shoulder towards the road. Then with a swish of her tail, as if to say, “See ya later,” she continued walking. After pausing again to give her companions – who had avoided me by taking a long, arced route across the trench – time to catch up, she turned left towards Soledad and sauntered down the road.

Resources Consulted:
AA Roads Forum, Topic: La Gloria Road
Commonly Encountered California Snakes, CaliforniaHerps.com
Flame Skimmer, International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species
Gabilan Range, Revolvy
Santa Cruz County Amphibians and Reptile

March Rains in San Mateo – Newts on Gazos Creek Fire Road, 2019

I really do love the rain. Know who else loves the rain?

Newts! We went looking for them on Gazos Creek fire road twice in March.

Gazos Creek emptying energetically into the Pacific ocean.

We stopped by Gazos Creek Beach on the way.

Gazos Creek Beach

Behind a green gate that demarcates the end of Gazos Creek Road and the beginning of Gazos Creek fire road stretched about a mile of puddles (aka vernal ponds)…

On the right you can see the green gate where Gazos Creek fire road starts.

…and we found groups of frolicking California newts (Taricha torosa) in almost every puddle!

Do you see it?

Apparently, they have rather poor manners and are prone to staring.

A frisky thrupple.

The orange color of the tiny stream flowing along the edge of the trail is caused by iron-oxidizing bacteria.

Gorgeous Western maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum; aka Western five finger fern)

The surface of this rock wall was covered in candy cap mushrooms!

Black elfin saddle (Helvella lacunosa)?

Banana slug! They’re so big! It was above me in this picture, so picture it being 20 percent bigger than it appears!

The one thing that we really wanted to see, but didn’t see, were marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus). The National Audubon Society calls them “a strange, mysterious little seabird” because their nesting behavior was unknown until the 1970s, when it was discovered that they nest high in trees in old-growth forest several miles inland from the Northern Pacific coast. In March, murrelet parents take turns incubating the egg, changing places every 24 hours at dawn for a month. While one parent sits on the egg, the other forages at sea. We’re not giving up on seeing a marbled murrelet. Maybe we’ll see one next March!

Resources Consulted
“A New Way to Clean the Environment?” (19 June 2016) by Elizabeth Shockman in Public Radio International
Black Elfin Saddle, Wild Macro: Natural Fine Art Photography by Timothy Boomer
California’s Native Ferns, Regional Parks Foundation
Gazos Creek Road, MTB Project
Gazos Creek Road Turns to Dust, Bay Area Rides
Life Cycle of Marbled Murrelets, Black Hills Audubon Society
Marbled Murrelet, National Audubon Society
New Species of Mushroom Discovered on UC Berkeley Campus (7 December 2014), sciencespacerobots.com
Staring Down the Mysterious California Newt (6 April 2017), SoCalWild
Why is My Creek Orange? The Story of Iron-Oxidizing Bacteria, Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program

March Rains in San Mateo – Thornwood Open Space Preserve, 2019

March brought rain to San Mateo County, and the rain transformed the landscape. Colors became more vivid, new scents filled the air, quiet streams grew noisy with churning water, rivulets appeared from out of nowhere, and puddles, which are habitats for frogs and salamanders, formed everywhere. Being a shy introvert, frogs and salamanders are my favorite kind of company, so out into the rain we went!

Isn’t he beautiful!? Could it be an oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)?

Witch’s butter (Exidia glandulosa)?

An innocent-looking death cap (Amanita phalloides)?

Lipstick powder horn lichen (Cladonia macilenta)?

Can you spot the Turret spider burrow?

Lots of turret spider burrows!

Do you think it was staring back at me?

Terrible photo (the little guy wasn’t in the mood to pose for pictures), but what an interesting spider. Can you see it? It’s shiny and black with at least five white, chevron stripes on its abdomen, and was maybe the size of a quarter (about 25 mm diameter).

Xystocheir dissecta. This guy has a secret… he glows under black light!

Periwinkle (Vinca major)? It’s always dismaying to find out that a pretty flower is invasive. The California Invasive Plant Council lists the Vinca major as invasive.

Resources Consulted
California Fungi—Pleurotus ostreatus, www.mykoweb.com
Cladonia macilenta, CalPhotos photo database
“Glowing Millipedes Accidentally Found on Alcatraz,” by Douglas Main for Live Science (27 March 2013)
“Mushroom Hunting for Beginners,” powerpoint presentation by Drew Drozynski (3 March 2018)
Thornwood Preserve, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space
Vinca major, California Invasive Plant Council

A Wintry Ride on Old Haul Road, Jan 2019

It was a quiet ride along Pescadero Road (a minor road that follows the serpentine path of Pescadero Creek) to Old Haul Road. We passed working farms, cow pastures and cottages. As we passed the last farm before entering the thick, shady redwood forest surrounding Loma Mar (population 113), the temperature dropped abruptly, an interesting characteristic of this region, which is made up of hundreds of micro-climates.

After a while, we turned off Pescadero Creek Road onto Wurr Road…

and crossed Pescadero Creek.

Pescadero Creek

Wurr Road has a steel stringer bridge with a timber deck, built in 1962, around the time the State started buying back land from farmers and lumber companies.

Wurr Road Bridge

We stopped on the bridge for a little while and took in our surroundings. A cloud of smoke escaped from the chimney pipe of a nearby timber frame cabin and blew towards the coast, a fisher held his rod over the creek in search of trout and salmon as fishers must have done for centuries (pescadero means “fishing place”), and Pescadero Creek moved slowly over prehistoric river rocks, fallen trees, fish and fishermen’s feet on its journey back to the ocean.

Pescadero Creek County Park is San Mateo County’s largest park at 5,700 acres. It is one of three parks in the Pescadero Creek Park Complex, which also includes Sam McDonald County Park and Memorial County Park. Click here to be directed to a Parks Department brochure and map.

Wurr Road

Pescadero Creek County Park has miles of trails. Old Haul Road is one of them. The County website describes it as a multi-use route for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians that intersects with many of the other trails within the park.

Wurr Road

The website advises that visitors should be aware that Old Haul Road is the main access road for maintenance crews, and should expect to meet the occasional heavy truck and tractors along the way.

The website also explains that much of the road follows the route of a narrow gauge railroad line that hauled logs to the various mills that once flourished in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “Even today you can find rusty choker cables used to skid and lift logs on to flatcars,” it says.

An information board at the trail head (just past a small parking lot) offers the following information: “Pescadero Creek County Park shares its eastern border with Portola Redwoods State Park; trails also connect to Big Basin Redwoods State park. The ranger station in Memorial County Park serves as headquarters for all three parks. The park sits atop a deposit of natural gas and crude oil, which pools in Tarwater Creek and seeps into Jones Gulch Creek. Trees in the park include coast redwood, Santa Cruz cypress, tanoak, and knobcone pine. Visitors may see black-tailed deer and occasional coyote and mountain lions.”

As a beginner mountain biker, the 5.7 mile (9.2 km) trail was an absolute blast to ride. Having finally figured out how to use my gears effectively, the intermittent humps, none higher than 369 feet (112 m) and cumulatively totaling about 1350 feet (411 m), were a thrill to ride over.

The only other people we saw were a group of boys accompanied by an adult, all on mountain bikes, and a ranger in a pickup truck. One of the young mountain bikers made me laugh when he yelled at the top of his lungs, “I-can’t-ride-any-more!” I thought to myself, “If his little lungs can create sounds that are capable of reaching that decibel, he’ll be alright.”

Gliophorus psittacinus (parrot mushroom)?

Galerina Marginata (Autumn Galerina)?

A terrible photo, but an exciting find: a turret spider’s burrow! We find them easily now. When spiderlings leave their mother’s burrow, they don’t venture far (because they’re small and dehydrate easily), so it’s common to find a large turret surrounded by several smaller ones. We’ve seen up to a dozen!

The banana slug… not a relative of the banana spider. They grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) long! The hole in the side of its body (they’re hermaphrodites) is called a Pneumostome. Also called a breathing pore, it allows air to enter the animal’s single lung,

Donkeys!

Resources Consulted:
California banana slugs: Fun Facts About Our Vibrant, Terrestrial Molluscs, Golden Gates Natural Parks Conservancy
California Fungi—Gliophorus psittacinus, MykoWeb
“Five Common Mushrooms that can Poison Your Pet,” by By Dr. Tina Wismer for VetStreet
Old Haul Road, Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides
Old Haul Road, County of San Mateo Parks Department
Pescadero Creek (Wikipedia)
Turret Spider, Friends of Edgewood
“Turret Spiders Launch Surprise Attacks From Tiny Towers,” by Josh Cassidy for KQED Science
Wurr Road Bridge, Bridgehunter.com Historic and Notable Bridges of the U.S.

Cycling Monterey Wine Country, Jan 2019

In his indefatigable quest to find flat routes that my battered but trusty three-speed could handle, my husband discovered River Road, a quiet, paved road through Monterey wine country. As it turned out, the new bike was ready before we had a chance to explore River Road, so River Road became the location of my maiden voyage on the Monocog.

Early one brisk January morning, we traveled through Salinas River Valley – the “Silicon Valley” of agriculture – and found a convenient place to park on an expansive patch of dirt at the juncture of a fork in the road.

As we unloaded the bikes – flipped them upside down, attaching front wheels with the flick of a lever and screwing in pedals with a few turns of a wrench – a sudden and steady stream of vehicles in the same condition as my three-speed drove past. “An early shift getting off of work?” I wondered.

Facing Gabilan Mountains

To the left were the Gabilan Mountains (Pinnacles National Park was just visible in the distance), and to the right were the Santa Lucia Mountains, the eastern boundary of Big Sur.

Pinnacles National Park viewed from River Road

We were alone except for the fog, which, having engulfed much of the Santa Lucia, seemed to have paused for a glass of pinot noir.

Salinas River Valley is Monterey County’s primary wine growing region. The following information was taken from the Arroyo Seco Winegrowers website.

Positioned north-to-south, the Salinas River Valley is a direct and unobstructed corridor from the ocean, beginning at Monterey Bay. The geography of the corridor creates a “Thermal Rainbow”: as one moves south away from Monterey Bay the temperature rises dramatically. The effect is heightened by a very deep underwater canyon similar in size and scope to the Grand Canyon. It impacts the saturation and penetration of fog as well as the strength of winds that sweep through the valley. The result of this rare geographic condition is extreme cooling and regional temperature variances, all of which contribute to the uniqueness of Monterey County as a grape growing region.

Gradually vineyards replaced farms.

And the sun rose higher in the sky and burned off all the fog.

Dirt trails skirted the paved road

The ascent was negligible, but made for a fun ride back to the car.

On the way home we drove south on Aroyo Seco Road to Greenfield before turning around and stopping at Fourth Street Tap House in Gonzales where there are 28 beers on tap and everyone loves dogs.

Resources Consulted:
Arroyo Seco Rd, Cycling California
Aroyo Seco AVA, Aroyo Seco Wine Growers
Cycling the Arroyo Seco-Indians Road, Xasáuan Today
On A Mission Recap, Huckleberry Bicycles

The Incredible Estérel Coastal Path, Jan 2019

My sister-in-law’s family recently moved to Saint-Raphaël, which means that we now have an excellent excuse to visit this spectacular part of the world!

On our first visit, belle-soeur introduced us to dozens of interesting places, including one of the coolest trails I’ve ever been on, the Estérel coastal path.

She explained that the path was created as a result of French laws that view the coast as public property. The law has been hanging in the balance for the last thirty years as developers and environmental activists fight to change it.

And global warming is causing the coastline to move inward towards private property lines, which could also impact public access.

Given these threats to the path, we felt incredibly lucky to be able to hike it when we did.

Early one morning, we followed belle-soeur’s car to Agay where we parked our car, and then belle-soeur drove us back to the trail head in Port de Santa Lucia, in downtown Saint-Raphaël.

It took us about six hours to hike the 7 or so miles (11 or so km).

The terrain was unreal. The City of Saint-Raphaël’s website offers a really helpful, concise overview of its coastal geology, and is in general a great resource.

We scrambled over volcanic organ pipes,

solidified volcanic ashes dating from the Mesozoic period 65 million years ago,

and beaches of esterellite pebbles,

the hardest rock in France! In Roman times, esterellite was extracted from mining sites around St Raphael, and used to pave roads and monuments.

The going was tough, and Oliver had to be carried at times.

We were occasionally assisted by stairs cut out of rock and repaired with concrete.

There were few trail markers, but finding the path was part of the fun!

It was remarkable to think that we were sharing a view with the owners of the beautiful mansions that line the coast.

Our path came to an abrupt halt at a damaged levee possibly caused by construction on an adjacent luxury hotel.

Does the abandoned construction in the background hearken back to the days of stricter coastal property laws? And why was the construction in the foreground abandoned… bankruptcy?

It seemed like a sure sign of the times.

The water was so clear and calm, and the weather so sunny and warm that we were tempted to jump in and swim the four or five feet to the other side.

But I was worried about Ollie, who was very nervous, so we backtracked until we found a way back to the Route de la Corniche.

Our makeshift path back to the Route de la Corniche.

We walked along the shoulder of the road for about a mile before connecting to the sentier littoral du Cap Dramont,

which took us to Agay, where we sipped chocolat chaud as we watched the sun slip behind the horizon.

Can you see the sailboat?

Next time we intend to kayak the route.

Resources Consulted:
L’Estellerite, AzureAlive
Esterel Coastal Path, Saint-Raphaël Tourism
“Managing the Coast in France,” Littoraux et Changements Côtiers