Sunday, 24 June 2007
Sarah’s mother, Diane, Sarah’s sister-in-law, Heather, and I hiked at Loma Alta OSP in Marin and found it to be a lovely little preserve (and a dog-friendly one, which Murphy, Heather’s black lab, quite appreciated!). Sarah, alas, was stuck in her jewelry-making class, practicing for an upcoming certification exam, and couldn’t join us.
Located at the end of Glen Dr. in the west end of Fairfax, this preserve has rolling hills and lovely views in a few miles. We started out at 12:05 on the Glen Fireroad, heading north. The trail was initially forested, then emerged onto grasslands as we climbed (and climbed).
Fortunately it was a lovely clear day with mild temperatures – I would not care to do this hike on a hot day, since there is very little shade on the climbs! A few late-blooming wildflowers (coyote mint, paintbrush, and pearly everlasting) were trailside, but things were mostly in full-summer mode.
We passed a pair of heavily-graffiti’d water tanks and turned left, continuing to climb, now on Smith Ridge Fire Road. I’d expected the climbing to mostly be to the water tanks, but had I looked more carefully at the map I printed out from the Marin OSP website, I would have known that most of the climbing was yet to come.
There were no signs of birds whatsoever, but we enjoyed the climb, meeting several other groups out walking their dogs (which are allowed off-leash on any fireroads in this preserve). Up up up, and we eventually came to the junction with the Gunsight Fire Road, and the top of our hike (1,150′ vs. the trailhead’s 240′).
From here we had lovely views of Mt. Tamalpais just to our south, and beyond it, on the hazy horizon, the skyline of downtown San Francisco. We stopped for a few to enjoy the views and some snacks, then headed down Gunsight Fire Road.
Turkey Vultures circled overhead, and an Anna’s Hummingbird whirred by, but we were still rather bird-less. Davy’s Centaury and California Poppies were scattered on the side of the trail, along with a few lingering Broad-leaf Filaree and various Asters that I am not going to attempt to identify 🙂
Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena)
A bright splash of color caught my eye, and there was a small patch of the aptly-named Farewell-to-spring. We continued downhill, gratefull that we hiked counter-clockwise, as this stretch of trail was pretty darned steep. Many more patches of Farewell-to-spring were blooming – a sure sign that summer is here!
Before long we came to the bottom of Gunsight Fire Road and bore left on Old Railroad Grade. This trail descended gently through the grasslands and mixed oak forest. There were still few birds to be seen or heard, probably because it was smack in the middle of the day. I’d been hoping to find Horned Larks, as they’re rumored to breed in this park, but no such luck.
Female Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria)
As we neared the trailhead, I did see a female Lesser Goldfinch flitting about, and a couple of Steller’s Jays. The trail now wound prettily through a California Bay forest along a dry creek, the sunlight dappling everything. I crushed a few bay leaves between my fingers and enjoyed their heady odor.
Before long, we rejoined the Glen Fire Road, and hiked back the last half mile or so to the trailhead, finishing at 2:10. This was a great little hike that I’d cheerfully do again (especially in mid-spring, as it looks like it should have great wildflowers then, and, I’d imagine, more birds).
Distance: 4.7 miles
Time: 2hrs 7min (including 10 minutes stopped)
Climbing: 900 feet
|Birds seen:||Wildflowers seen:|
|– Anna’s Hummingbird
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Common Raven
– Lesser Goldfinch(?)
– Steller’s Jay
– Turkey Vulture
|– Aster sp.
– Broad-leaf Filaree
– California Buckeye
– California Hedgenettle (gone to seed)
– California Poppy
– Coyote Mint
– Davy’s Centaury
– Paintbrush sp.
– Pearly Everlasting
() – non-native/introduced plant