Friday, June 4, 2010

End of May Report

With Memorial Day weekend now past, it really seems like spring is evaporating quickly. Local hillsides are slowly beginning to fade from the brilliant greens of the cooler season into the browns of summer as the sunshine gets stronger. With all the unusually cool weather and intermittent rain we’ve had here, clear through late May, the transition into sunny weather seems more abrupt. But I am expecting all this to lead into a nice mild summer. I haven’t been able to get away on any extended hiking trips since our winter trip to Yosemite last February. We had been looking forward to a road trip up north for a couple of weeks in late June, but work related circumstances have thoroughly dashed those plans for now. I’m still not completely sure exactly what my vacation plans will consist of at this point. I’m going to have to play it by ear. But at least I can always rely on having the great diversity of local venues for putting in trail miles.

We made one more visit to the southern end of Henry Coe on 5/22. This should have been a great time to get pictures of some really nice Mariposa Lilies out there, but to my surprise, almost none were to be found. I covered some trails that have had outstanding displays in past seasons, but they simply didn’t happen this year. I only found a few yellow ones all day. I was able to find plenty of other subjects to admire, but I sill couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. But we did have a fine day with clear skies and mild temps while hiking through the serpentine and scattered oak dotted grasslands on the ridge tops, and the woodland areas down at the east end of the hollow. There’s still lots of water flowing, and lots of seasonal blossoms and fragrance. And it was good to see that by the time we got back to Hunting Hollow the parking lot had a good turnout of visitors.

We went to Montara Mountain and San Pedro on 5/29 anticipating very clear skies. Sue suggested we try to find a nice view, and we hadn’t been there in quite awhile. We parked at McNee State Park along the coast and hiked up from sea level using the short steep route just to shake the legs out a little bit. Normally the winds are strong here, but this was a mild day by Montara standards. I spent the day in shirt sleeves and boonie hat with no concern about the wind or fog. There was some lingering offshore haze in the morning, but later on it cleared enough so we could see the Farallone Islands, the upper San Francisco peninsula, Mount Tam, and all around the east bay. The views from Montara Mountain are among the best coastal views available in the Bay Area. If you look hard you can even make out the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, even though they are just a blur in my photos.

On Memorial Day (Monday), we decided to look at Sierra Azul. This is also usually a prime area for Mariposa Lilies. Did I mention that Mariposa Lilies are one of my favorites? I typically find lots of white (butterfly) Mariposas out on the Bald Mountain Trail, and lots of yellow Mariposas near the grassy sections of the Woods Trail up high near Mt El Sombroso. But again, only a few were found. I took some photos of some nice butterfly Mariposas along the lower Woods Trail, but that was it. On the other hand, some other species that I don’t expect to find here were plentiful. Again, Mother Nature has proven to be a bit mysterious. But I suppose that’s how it should be. Always full of surprises, making each experience something a bit different. I think I should declare this year the year of the Iris. It seems the one common theme of all my hikes this spring has been the abundance of Iris. Even in places where I do not remember seeing any Iris before, like Sierra Azul, this year there were thriving displays of Hartwigs Iris all up and down the Woods Trail. Also a lot more Chinese Houses than any time in memory. Normally there’s only a few, but this year there are sections of hillsides covered in them, mostly all white, with some having pinkish to pale purple whorls mixed with white. I also saw three different varieties of Clarkias, Crimson Columbine, lots of Two Eyed Violets, and a host of other species. I have to say that this is the best I’ve ever seen this section of Sierra Azul, despite the fact that one of my favorites displays was really a no show. A stunning variety really. I’m still waiting someone to put the fire under the Air Force to get Mt Umunhum cleaned up so we can hike the peak. But for now the views from Mt El Sombroso will have to do. Here's some links. I will label the photos as time permits.

Click here to see photos from Henry Coe on 5/22
Click here to see photos form Montara Mountain on 5/29
Click here to see photos from Sierra Azul on 5/31