I am continuing to teach myself to work with inks. This is just a doodle from my 2015 sketchbook. The paper, though of good quality, doesn’t allow me to completely capture the quiet energy of the piece. Still, it comes close, considering that this is just a doodle. Later on I will expand and expound on the subject matter on cold press paper (from either Strathmore or Arches). As of now the work is untitled but the three elements are a rosebud, an owl and several destroying angels (mushrooms) that I came across on a hike up on Russian Ridge, over by Skyline Boulevard and Alpine Road.
I was thinking that maybe I could do the owl in charcoal, but am not sure yet. I may stick to using inks only for this piece. Still, if you want to learn about the latest innovations in charcoal, watch this five-minute video about the charcoal sachet. I had no idea this thing existed, or that there were innovations in charcoal use! Thank you Rosemary & Company for introducing EdgePro and its products in your last newsletter.
From bay to landfill to garbage dump, to boatworks and now, back to bay.
Efforts are afoot to restore the area in front of Cooley Landing in East Palo Alto. Cooley Landing was once a wharf in the now defunct town of Ravenswood. The entire landing is made of landfill and is owned by the City of East Palo Alto. It was opened/reopened in 2012.
The area directly in front of Cooley Landing, was held for quite some time by POST (the Peninsula Open Space Trust); it has now been entrusted to the MROSD (Mid-Peninsula Open Space District). Only recently opened, this section of Ravenswood Preserve is also a part of the Bay Trail. Restoration continues on this area and will continue for years to come. In the meanwhile, the Bay slowly heals itself: marshes, tidal flats and wildlife are returning to the area.
To enter this section of Ravenswood Preserve and Cooley Landing, take Bay Road in East Palo Alto. Drive past an industrialized zone. The road here becomes riddled with potholes but once you enter the preserve, the roads are paved and in excellent condition suitable even for wheelchair access.
These open spaces, Ravenswood and Cooley Landing, include portions of the Bay Trail. The view here is incredible. Signs of wildlife, especially birds, are evident. So too, are remnants of garbage, including discarded tires. Still, revitalization of the space continues. This is not just a boon for flora and fauna. It also provides more open space for the residents of East Palo Alto and beyond.
I spent most of yesterday (okay, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) removing invasives by a pond at Driscoll Ranch, one of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District’s preserves. Ooooh, there were lots of red winged blackbirds darting about as we made the ascent up over the hills. (A four-wheel drive was necessary!) Numerous cows lazed about near the large drinking hole (an enormous man-made pond fed by underground springs) while deer watched our caravan of three pass by.
No Sugar Cane Here
Down by our little pond (a small man-made one, fed by a trickle from the mountain above), there were polliwogs galore! Seeing them took me back to my childhood in Jamaica, to a year spent playing by the gullies that irrigated the cane fields. These gullies were a treasure trove of tikki tikkis (baby fish) and polliwogs. A little girl and boy, could and did, lay side by side on the banks of the gullies catching tikki tikkis and tadpoles, then releasing them back into the water. When we got tired we’d watch clouds drift overhead as we chewed on freshly broken cane.
There is no cane growing at Driscoll Ranch but just as on the plains in Jamaica, the mountain heat here is unforgiving. One of the nearby ponds had completely dried up leaving behind a landscape scarred by fissures. Any polliwogs remaining in that environment are all dead by now. Hopefully, the adult frogs were able to make it to a pond filled with water like this one.
Saving the California Red-Legged Frog
Most of the tadpoles here are the babies of the rare California red-legged frog. They are the reason my fellow volunteers and I were breaking our backs under an exceedingly hot sun, to remove invasive plants and restore this riparian habitat. How did the slaves do it? How did they work from sun up to sun down, seven days a week? Some of us were on the brink of heat stroke yesterday, and we didn’t even put in a full day’s work! With my volunteer work done at around 2:30 p.m., I headed down to the beach to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
(Note: Driscoll Ranch – near the town of La Honda – is not yet open to the public.)
Pomponio State Beach
Where: On the San Mateo Coast (a few miles from the towns of San Gregorio and Pescadero)
Notes about Pomponio
Pomponio State Park is a refuge for the: barn swallow, blue heron and kite; and deer, fox, racoon, skunk and weasel.
The park is named after Jose Pomponio Lupugeym, a Coast Miwok who fought against Mexican rule and the Mission system. He was captain of a group of outlaws called Los Insurgentes. Pomponio died before a firing squad in 1824. (California was under Mexican rule then and Pomponio, along with many other First Peoples, was forced into the Mission system.)
You can connect to Pescadero State Beach on the south and San Gregorio State Beach on the north from Pomponio. Only do so during low-tide; it is extremely dangerous at other times.
In the opposite direction from Half Moon Bay, off Highway One, is the Higgins/Purisima Road entrance to the Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve. Hike through this peaceful canyon with its magnificent stands of old redwoods and enjoy an unspoiled Northern California gem. By the bridge to your left, not too far from the entrance, is a stately pair of red alders standing guard by the creek. These wind pollinated beauties have both male and female parts. Red alder trees are usually found at elevations below 2,400 feet and within 125 miles of the ocean. The beautiful silvery-white patches that you see all over the trunks are lichens. The barks of these trees are actually a deep tan color but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their mottled, distinctive silvery-white lichen laced trunks.
Many natural delights reside in this canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The red alders with their attendant lichens are but a few. The redwoods for which the preserve is named are the real stars here but beauty abounds elsewhere, like for example, in the red elderberries (toxic), stinging nettle (with its heart shaped leaves) and the California bee plant (part of the Snapdragon family).
I didn’t come across any bees during my recent hike but l think I recognized the leaves of the bee plant close down to the ground. You should definitely start seeing them a little after New Year’s. For soon, very soon, after the first good rains — and we have already had a few of those — the bee plant will come alive. By March it begins to bloom and will continue doing so way into July. Hummingbirds, bees and deer love this plant with its reddish-brown stems and eye-catching red flowers. Look for it while you hike in Purisima. You can also find many of these plants in Montara Mountain just outside of Half Moon Bay.
Bugs in the Sun and Other Creatures
A little up the trail, along the creek, I encountered a burst of sunlight, a sun hole, that managed to pierce through an opening in the dense redwood canopy. Many flies, all male and of the same specie, danced about in their territory in the air. These were probably dance flies doing a lek/breeding display.Similarly, you can see this lekking behavior in the Monarch Butterfly when it over-winters further down the coast in Pacific Grove and Monterey Bay.
Down on the forest floor were two clown millipedes, easily identified by the yellow markings down each side of their otherwise all- black bodies. Millipedes don’t really have one-thousand legs. The clown millipede, for example, has about twenty body segments with two pairs of legs on each segment. That is far less than a thousand legs. Yellow lines with black is generally a warning in the insect/bug world. Think, for example, of the lines and colors of bees and wasps. Sometimes this pattern is merely a camouflage but in millipedes, it is not. Centipedes are different; they are harmless. But millipedes are poisonous. The clown millipede, for example, produces a cyanide gas when threatened. As always, do not disturb the creatures in any of the preserves. They are protected by law.
The funniest bug I encountered on my walk was a spittle bug, a baby frog hopper. Overall, it is pretty harmless. It drills a hole into the phloem of a plant and sucks out the liquid, bubbles it out of its back part and forms a bubble house around itself to protect it from birds and other bugs.
Some excellent views are to be had at Monte Bello Ridge. If like me, you start out late (around 5:15 p.m. on a mid-August evening) and want to reach Black Mountain summit, it is best to take one of the shorter routes. The preserve, like other California open spaces and parks, closes to visitors a half an hour after sunset. Sunset was at 7:00 p.m. the evening that I was there. This meant I would have to do the round-trip within two and a half hours. Doable! I would still have time to stop at the summit, take in the view and take some photographs.
I started out at the main parking lot on Page Mill Road and headed towards Bella Vista Trail. Soon I came to a sag pond, densely populated by cattails, under the shade of several oaks. (Take this route and you can make the hike from the parking lot to Black Mountain summit within an hour.) Here by the sag pond is a marker explaining the concept of ecological succession. I enjoyed the shade, knowing that soon I’d be back skirting open meadows in an unforgiving sun.
I hiked past wide open grasslands, and sections of trail shaded by trees, listening to the garbled sounds of birds and the wind rushing down the canyons. Even after 5:00 p.m. the sun was parching hot. I drank almost an entire liter of water on my push up to the summit. The faraway sound of motorcycles on Skyline Boulevard could be heard at intervals but didn’t manage to detract from the solitude and beauty of the ridge. I half expected to encounter a mountain lion or bobcat along the way as there was scat on some areas of the trail; there wasn’t a sign of either animal anywhere.
About a mile and a half into the hike I came to the Black Mountain backpack camp where visitors can stop overnight (with special permit from the Midpeninsula Regional Outdoor Space District (MROSD)), for a maximum of two nights. This is the only MROSD preserve with camp grounds. On its toilet door was a recently posted sign that warned of a rattlesnake sighting. I didn’t bother to stop!
Not too far from the backpack camp was my final destination, Black Mountain summit. Here there are strange looking outcroppings of Calera limestone boulders, quite out of character with the rest of the place; so too, was the power station over to the left, and the steady stream of overhead planes. But the views were spectacular and so I didn’t mind too much, the intrusion of the outdoor world upon this natural space. Here, at an elevation of 2,800 feet, one could look out at Skyline Ridge and Butano Ridge to the west, the Santa Cruz Mountains to the south and dense fog banks over the Pacific Ocean. Directly below the summit was an equally spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay and the surrounding cities of Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, etc.