Monday, January 20, 2014

Of Fire & FAT

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After getting turned back on Saturday by the Bolinas Fire, I wasn't sure I'd get back up to Mt. Tam this week. I had a dentist appointment at 2 o'clock today in the Financial District (no, I did not know six months ago that my appointment was on a holiday!), and I'd made a plan last week to take in a movie before heading down there, with a little downtown shopping to follow. I even stayed in bed a little longer than usual this morning. But resistance was futile. The mountain beckoned.

I didn't know if I'd be able to find the one-acre fire area, and if I'd waited until next week I probably would have driven right past it. All I had to do today was follow the yellow-tint hose. Fire crews will probably take the hose back out in a day or two, once they're confident the fire is completely out. As I hiked up to the small stand of scorched redwoods I was surprised how close I had to get before I could smell where the fire had been.

I hadn't been out around the north side of Mt. Tam in quite a while, and I wanted to drop by Lily Lake to see how the drought was going down there. I was surprised to see the pond's still there.

In addition to checking up on the pond itself, I figured the Fetid Adder's Tongues might be in bloom. As I descended the trail toward the pond, I sniffed the air for the telltale aroma of these little blossoms. It's not a sweet smell. Although FATs are members of the lily family, their scent is rather more pugnacious than the dainty pedigree might imply. The smell is most reminiscent to me of . . . a dirty aquarium. You know that smell of walking into a pet store that sells fish? Yeah, that smell.

What they lack in olfactory delight, they make up for in visual beauty.

Still plenty of water, with an encroaching layer of duckweed.

Along with fetid adder's tongue, another early-season plant is cleavers, also known as bedstraw. Other diminutive edibles in the neighborhood included chickweed and miner's lettuce.

The main reason I wanted to check out the north side of the mountain along Fairfax-Bolinas Road was to get a closer look at Alpine Lake. I'd read that the water district is pumping water out of Phoenix Lake because of the drought and was curious to see how much the water level has dropped at Alpine Lake.

It's down quite a bit, but it didn't appear especially freaky until. . .

. . .until I saw where Cataract Creek empties into Alpine Lake. Even in summer, the lake usually disappears from view in the background. I don't have photos to back up my memory, but this has got to be about as low a lake level as I've seen here. With any luck, the next time I'm out on the north side it will be impossible to stand where I am in this frame.

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