Friday, March 31, 2023

Mountain High


Above the Fray

There was a surprising amount of traffic as I biked up Mt. Tam yesterday. Maybe folks were on spring break or just looking for a mountain high. Or an ocean high. I think most of the cars continued down toward Stinson Beach.

I'd left home under a virtually cloudless sky at 9 a.m., but two big ice cream scoops of clouds had formed over both ends of Mt. Tam by the time I'd reached the northwest corner of the Presidio, and clouds were all over by the time I reached the mountain itself. The patch of calypso orchids was still going strong at Bootjack, but the sky lupines are still just leafing out. It might just be wishful thinking, but the critter action around my trail cams seems to be on a springtime upswing, and a bobcat was kind enough to pass by twice. 

The old Douglas fir whose sculpted top branches made it often mistaken for a Monterey pine has been considerably whittled down this year.

James Bond, looking for a mountain high, detours from his flight path to make this unusual pass parallel to the length of Mt. Tamalpais.

Band-Tailed Pigeon at the Top of a Doug Fir

I was surprised the pigeons didn't all fly away as I hiked past them.

Tam Cam Video Clips

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A Trio of Triptychs


Click to view larger.

On Monday I walked to the beach along Noriega Street and was struck by how different Ocean Beach looked since last Wednesday, so I snapped a photo. On my way back home I spotted some lovely California poppies at Noriega and Sunset, so I texted a photo to my wife. Up at 24th Avenue, as I was about to walk past the 76 service station, I noticed that someone had placed an apparently brand new syringe on a ledge of bark on this sidewalk tree, at about kid height. This is a couple of blocks from where an alleged drug house recently exploded. (I dropped the syringe in a trash can.) Anyway, I thought the juxtaposition of found objects would make a fun triptych of my Noriega Street walk.

Although I was glad to just hang out indoors all day yesterday and read a new library ebook (The Undertow, by Jeff Sharlet), I was determined to get out for a walk today, and I thought I'd try another triptych of my "other" walk, which goes down Noriega, then along Sunset and back via Irving and 16th Avenue. With the syringe triptych on my mind, I thought I would call it "Two Cities & a Gritty". But I ended up cheating a little by using only two shots from today's walk, plus a cat-shot I snapped on Sunday as my wife and I were walking to the 9th & Irving area to get some Easy Breezy frozen yogurt.

The coast looked clear when I checked the weather radar before heading out on my walk, but I still had to take cover beneath a garage door overhang to escape a downpour the radar missed. The radar looked good again when I got home, so I packed the FZ80 and headed out for a bike ride, ending up at the Cliff House where I was dazzled by the wildly tossing ocean and a line of incoming storm clouds. I had good cover and figured I wouldn't be trapped for very long, but I was wearing shorts and became a bit chilled by the time the rain let up. There was another even larger and darker mass of clouds on its way from the south not far behind it, so I high-tailed it out of there and got home just ahead of the drenching rain.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Shell Creek Road


We're heading out for my wife's spring break soon and plan to check out Shell Creek Road on our way to and through Carrizo Plain National Monument. Our destination is farther south, so we're hoping check them both out again on the way back. Work obligations kept me from going down for Carrizo's amazing bloom of 2017, so I'm eager to see the plain and its surrounding mountains in at least some of its potential glory this year. I'm also feeling some excitement building for this year's wildflower season all over the state, especially after so many years of drought. These photos were taken along Shell Creek Road in early April of 2008.

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Friday, March 24, 2023

Easing Into Spring


Colors of Spring on Bolinas Ridge

It was so windy when I set out for Mt. Tam yesterday that I considered turning back early -- for about a microsecond. The beauty of an ebike is that you can always crank up the power if the headwinds get too crazy. Also, other than the wind, it was a superbly beautiful day. 

Richardson Bay was full of scaups with their heads ducked into the water much like the proverbial ostriches with their sand. The avocets and black-necked stilts seem to have moved on for the most part, perhaps heading for their nesting grounds. (On my recent trip to Duxbury Reef I saw more American avocets than I'd ever seen in one place on Bolinas Lagoon.)

My first stop on Mt. Tam was one of the portable toilets at the uphill end of the Bootjack parking lot, where I was amazed to see a flock of calypso orchids. These are probably the most accessible calypsos I've ever seen: you wouldn't even have to get out of your car to view them. I'd planned to check for more along West Ridgecrest Road, but a CHP officer was guarding the gate for a film crew which he said had basically bought the road for the day. Even bicyclists were prohibited. If I'd been hiking I'd have been tempted to check it out and see what kind of car commercial it was (since it's usually car commercials going on up there).

I did find a nice patch of Indian warrior (Pedicuaris densiflora) growing on a mossy slope beneath Douglas firs and madrones. After I took a picture I stood up without looking behind me and cleverly placed my back foot on a slim, wet branch. Time slowed down as my foot slid down the branch, allowing me to savor the absurdity of my predicament, and to realize that I was, in fact, going to end the slide by crashing down on my butt. I got right up and thought no more about it until I got home and felt the painful reminder when plopped myself down in a chair.

A flock of band-tailed pigeons flew away as I approached the trail cams, but a red-shafted flicker stuck around to call out to the forest below from the top of a snag. The little seasonal creek was running strong in the aftermath of the week's rain, and the hills were green. The equinox was less than a week ago, and it definitely feels like spring.

Although I didn't see any ships on my ride north over the bridge, I saw two on my way home. The first one was a pusher tug called the Gulf Reliance. lists it as being Alaska flagged, but it's pushing barges here in San Francisco now. What I'd assumed was a single vessel was actually the tug pushing the barge. Close on its heels was a huge container ship, the Singapore-flagged Wan Hai A08, heading to Oakland after its 2,600-mile voyage across the Pacific Ocean from Taipei, Taiwan, and the ports of Hongqiao and Ningbo, China.

Indian Warrior Wildflowers

Madrone Couture No. 1

Madrone Couture No. 2

Red-shafted Flicker

Calypsos in the Duff

Trade Goods Arriving From China

The black spot off the ship's starboard bow is a wing foiler.

Winging it on San Francisco Bay

Tam Cam Video Clips

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Weather Walk


Downed Trees Blocking Northbound Sunset Boulevard

Yesterday was a good day to be indoors. I thought the wind might entice me to go out there, but it never got more intense than other storms, at least where I live, so I didn't venture out at all. After the rain passed this morning (for the most part), I took a walk to the beach, then switched to my bike when I got back. 

During my walk I found what I believe to be a Northern Mockingbird egg that had fallen on the ground and busted open. It had been pecked open a bit more by the time I returned, and I noted a scrub jay in the immediate area. Thinking the egg might have blown out of a nest, I looked around but couldn't find one. 

Crossing Sunset Boulevard I noticed some traffic cones forcing a detour at Noriega Street and was surprised to see that a couple of large trees had fallen across the pedestrian path and both northbound lanes. 

The southern part of Ocean Beach looked very wild and uncivilized. It reminded me of Gold Bluffs Beach up in Humboldt County. 

The sun started coming out once I got on my bike, but even with the sun warming my back in Golden Gate Park, a bit of rain blew in from the south and gave me a nice sprinkle. I stopped to check out an especially gorgeous cherry tree across from the bison paddock and was soon joined by a small crowd. 

Even though Ocean Beach has been going back to nature south of Lincoln Way, it looked basically normal along the Esplanade. The waves were huge, and the wind was blowing offshore, but it was all too unruly to entice any surfers.

The yolk spot at the bottom might be where the egg first landed.

Windfall for a Scrub Jay 

Southbound Upper Great Highway at Noriega Street

The Wild Side

Cherry Blossoms

Snow Trees

Protection for the Battered Giant Camera

Still Raining Down That Way

Still Wild Down This Way

Screenshot With Eye of Cyclone Over San Francisco, 3/21/2023

Brief Weather Video

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Calypso in the Woods


After spending some time photographing a beautiful old madrone I wandered into the woods to look for calypso orchids. The first ones I found were just buds, then a few more that had just barely opened. A little more searching finally brought me to an exuberant purple perianth. Its beautiful shape and coloration must seem very inviting to a newly awakened bumblebee, but it's all a trick. Apparently, there is no nectar reward. Yet the calypso orchid manages to carry on because enough bees will try their luck, and spread the flowers' pollen, before giving up on this tempting but mocking beauty.

From seeing the world through a macro lens I wandered back across a meadow and through a forest until the scene opened up to the landscape my wife was painting along Bolinas Ridge. I relaxed and took in the view which stretched from groups of hikers winding their way along the Coast Trail below, out to Chimney Rock and the Farallon Islands. Right across a nearby ravine I saw a Douglas fir with numerous cones at the tips of its branches. I was tempted to hike over there, despite the steep descent, to photograph some cones that hadn't yet fallen to the forest floor and were still relatively intact. And then I looked right behind me, where of course there were many cones within easy reach.

Duet in the Duff

The calypso is powered by its perennial underground corm and a single photosynthesizing leaf.

Painting on the Edge

Coast Trail Hikers

Two Cones

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