Monday, January 2, 2017

Leisure Time

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With a new year under way and a new work week about to begin, it was great to take a leisurely stroll around Mt. Tam to contemplate the beauty to be found in even unexpected places around this great mountain park so close to home.

There were three cars already waiting at the gate when I arrived at about 7 a.m., just as the ranger was getting out of his truck to unlock the gate.

The sunrise was mellow, hardly a breath of wind.

I found several bits of vertebrae from a former alligator lizard along the edge of the woods. A little later I saw a kestrel on his usual perch near the Rock Spring water tank and wondered if he'd been the one to dine on the lizard.

I wandered down the Cataract Trail for a while, looking for a likely detour. I found what I was looking for near a big meadow. I crossed the gently running creek to check out this mossy area, and as I was admiring the oak I noticed something unusual in the distance.

I've seen a couple other stick structures around lately, but this was the biggest by far.

I continued up the hill past the stick tipi to check out another mossy area. It rained off and on, but I had an umbrella with me and stayed dry. Right after taking this shot I checked the thermometer I keep attached to my camera backpack. It was 39 degrees. I soon stumbled onto a small unmaintained trail that I'd never found before, and just as it emptied into a small meadow, the rain began to fall quite heavily. Not lots of rain, just very big drops. Some of the drops were landing with a thud, like tiny pieces of wet cloth. Then lots of them were falling, and they were white -- it was snowing!

The snow lasted no more than a minute or two, but what a treat. I followed the thin trail up into some sargent cypress which is where I found these Agaricus mushrooms pushing up a mound of dirt and moss. 

One of the trails sort of petered out in this little gnome forest of sargent cypress so I doubled back to check out a different route. That route began to head downhill, so I backtracked to loop back toward Rock Spring.

It took a while to realize exactly where I was, but I soon recognized familiar terrain near the throne rocks. Several of these little witch's hat mushrooms were sprouting under the sargent cypress, but they were all just barely getting their caps above ground. This little red-orange specimen was the only one that wasn't yellow.

The sargent cypress were in bloom, with their small yellow male cones ready to fill the air with pollen.

I finally remembered to make a note of whether these trees were bays or oaks. They are oaks. I'd like to know if they are even truly "they" as opposed to "it." Could all these trunks be connected to a primordial rootstock under the ground? Or did a bunch of individual acorns produce this little grove? Either way, you gotta love their trousers of green winter moss.

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