The views are amazing on this high rocky ridge, and so are the plants. Dense stands of chaparral suddenly open onto stony serpentine outcrops supporting those hardy plants that can survive on such nutrient-poor soils. Right now ceanothus and manzanita are in bloom, and there are scattered meadows filled with wildflowers – goldfields, poppies, lupine, falselupine, and many more.
Get to Pine Mountain by driving up Bolinas-Fairfax road. The ridge runs northwest from a big turnout – you can walk all the way in to the San Geronimo Valley from here, on a wonderful network of trails and through a lovely rare forest of dwarfed Sargent cypress. There are no roads or houses in this area, and so as you walk often all you see is a tangle of forested ridges and valleys. And when you turn around and head home, you get sweeping views of the bay, the Richmond bridge, and Mt. Tam!
If you’re an outdoorsy type who somehow has not been up on the Marin Municipal Water District lands yet, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’ve been to Phoenix Lake or the back side of Mt. Tam, you’ve been on part of their 18,000 acres of watershed land without realizing it. I like to go in the Sky Oaks entrance, where you have the choice of walking by one of the many reservoir lakes, heading down a sociable fire road, or cutting off onto one of the many small trails to be (mostly) alone with some spectacular nature. There are 130 miles of trails and fire roads on MMWD land, so you can spend a LOT of time there. Today I went out the Pumpkin Ridge Trail, which passes in and out of live oak forest that is interspersed with meadows. The forest is in sad shape these days because of Sudden Oak Death, so dead branches litter the
ground. But the understory was still vibrant, with lots of iris and houndstongue. And the meadows are lovely – filled with wildflowers at this time of year. Along the way I embarrassed myself by not being able to remember the Latin names of miniature lupine, blue-eyed grass, or California poppy (which I even wrote about yesterday!). Those are Lupinus bicolor, Sisyrinchium bellum, and Eschscholtzia californica, by the way.
I took my dogsitting charges and headed out into the hottest day of the year so far, out onto the Cascade Canyon Open Space preserve in Fairfax. There were lots of flowers in bloom, most of them very common. My list that I came home with had 34 plants on it, and I could only provide full Latin names for three – three! Pepperwood (Umbellularia californica), madrone (Arbutus mensiezii) and Douglas iris (Iris douglasii). It’s true that for many others I could at least come up with the genus name – but still, this is worse than I thought it would be.
There was one plant that I couldn’t identify at all until I keyed it out, and so that is my plant of the day. It turned out to be Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla). Read all about it in the next post.