Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tigers at Pescadero

After working most of the day on Saturday; (I always hate to work on weekends); I was off for a solo hike on Sunday 7/18, and I was focusing on finding more Tigers Lilies. I’ve been searching around in areas where I have seen them before for the last few weeks, but except for finding some suspected buds along Opal Creek while hiking with Dave (my brother in law), I have struck out each time. Finally, last week I did find blooms. Sue and I did a hike to Berry Creek Fall by way of McCrary Ridge. On our return route along Skyline to the Sea Trail, I was able to search off trail and spot some blooming leopards along Waddell Creek. These were what I like to call Leopard Lilies even though they are really the same species as the California Tiger Lily (Lilium pardalinum). For some reason, these blooms along Waddell Creek have a slightly different coloration than the more vivid orange shading of the ones that I like to call Tiger Lilies. They are all spotted though, not striped. This actually makes them much closer to resembling Leopards or Jaguars than Tigers. Go figure. Common names are fun like that. You can pick the one you like. These felines are typically found in areas that are very moist; normally along creeks, or in marshy meadows, and are almost always hard to get close enough to for taking good photos. They have an uncanny knack for displaying themselves if precarious locations requiring wading, or groping around on fallen logs and rocks to get close, and are rarely found along a trail. But it’s fun to discover them.

For this hike I parked my car at the Tarwater trailhead entrance to Pescadero Creek County Park (San Mateo Co). I was planning to use the Coyote Ridge Trail to get into Portola State Park, and begin searching along Pescadero Creek, working my way back toward the county park, searching out access points to the creek as much as possible. Coyote Ridge Trail is usually a nice trail, but it hasn’t been maintained very well in recent years. Lots of over-growth has begun encroaching on the trail, which includes stealthy poison oak lurking just out peripheral vision. There are some fresh tree falls, and one of them is a multiple-trunked tangled mess. I climbed over the slippery heap of tortured, broken, logs and found my way down to the switchbacks that descend to the junction with the Iverson Trail. Upon reaching the seasonal footbridge at Pescadero Creek where I expected to begin searching, I was a little surprised to find the first Tiger Lilies of the day right there along the trail. I’ve never known them to be that accessible. Actually, a casual stroll in sandals from Portola park headquarters would have revealed them. There was a small cluster between the creek and the trail right at the footbridge. Where there’s one there are potentially more, so I began making my way up the creek bed. The water level is still high though, and I was finding it hard to get very far. I went back to the trail and turned off and hiked through the forest duff until I found a way back down to the creek and onto a sandbar. I was finding my way further up the creek until I ran up against some fallen trees. Looking further still, I could spot some really nice displays of bright orange Tigers in an area where the water was deep, with a steep drop off directly above. I found my way back up to the forest to a place where a small creek ran down to the main creek, and a fallen log provided a pathway to get back down to the creek bed. As I gingerly walked down the moss covered redwood log and got close to the bottom, I discovered another cluster of Tigers that I had not even noticed before. Many of them were inaccessible in terms of getting close up photos. I used my zoom to get some shots, but that type of photo usually doesn’t look as sharp as a macro shot. I did get a few close ups though by parking my butt on a tree limb and dangling my feet over the water. I could have waded to get closer, but the water was waist deep, and I decided not to try it. I had not really prepared for that.

Please understand that I don’t usually hike off trail like this. I cherish our parks and preserves, and I generally follow all the conventional wisdom about staying on mapped trails to avoid erosion damage and protect delicate habitats. Over the years I have been an ardent advocate for preservation, and have devoted many hours of volunteer time to help maintain trails. I am always cautious, and I know how to navigate and maneuver through terrain without causing damage. I always practice leave no trace ethics. I was only doing this because otherwise, these stunning seasonal examples of nature’s handiwork would likely go undiscovered by human eyes.

I eventually got my fill of doing this, and had gotten some fairly nice photos of Lilies, so I found my way on up to Old Haul Road. I headed back over toward the county park searching out any accessible areas along the creek for any further signs of glorious orange spotted bloom-age. With the afternoon sun beaming away, it was great to have the cover of the tall canopy most of the time. I found my way back up to the trailhead using the Tarwater loop trail, and was back at my car by mid afternoon.

Click here to view the my photos

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