[Russell Towle's journal]
( Boschniakia strobilacea)
From: Russell Towle
Subject: California Groundcone
I ventured out today to the head of the Pickering Bar Trail in search of the California Groundcone. It is in bloom. [Also] a species of paintbrush; the Chaparrall Virgin's Bower; and the Harlequin Lupine.
This "Groundcone" is an interesting plant, and quite easy to miss. It looks like a little Douglas Fir cone sticking up out of the ground, always under manzanita bushes. Why manzanita, you say? Because it is parasitic, and attaches itself to the manzanita roots. It has no chlorophyll, and is in the Broomrape family. It is reddish brown. A type specimen for the Jepson Herbarium was collected at Gold Run in 1931; I have only seen it there, and near Secret Ravine, a few miles west, but, not only is it widespread, it has been found from near sea level up to 10,000 feet! Amazing in itself.
|Groundcone in bloom|
The weather is not looking good for the Native Plant hike this Saturday. If it rains we'll probably not do it.
Peregrines in Giant Gap
[North Fork Trails blogpost, April 5, 2007:This afternoon I ventured out to Lovers Leap in search of raptures, I mean, raptors, and found two men spellbound, gazing into the depths. All day it had been cloudy, the canyon dull and flat, shadowless, but as the afternoon waned the sun broke through. Thus the Pinnacles were sharply lit, and shadows deepened, offering more and more contrast, and many of the Sierran snowfields far to the east were luminous, etched whiter than white against the softer pastels of the clouds.
The men had hiked and climbed in the Sierra together since childhood. They contemplated a trip down to Green Valley. I began to expound upon the theme of Green Valley, and unleashed a torrent of words, while the North Fork's own dwindling torrent roared two thousand feet below us. I also told them of the Peregrine Falcons and Golden Eagles, but we saw none, though one of them remarked he had seen a Peregrine, while visiting Lovers Leap recently.
I had never ever seen one, anywhere.
After a time the men left, and I heard their voices as they ascended the steep trail; which way, one asked, go left, the other replied. Then their voices seemed to get louder, and again it was which way, but, go right was the reply. Then some excited nonsense about having a magical birthday, on the very equinox, and in olden times the Druids would have felt such a birthday must count for a lot, and so on and so forth, and lo! three teenagers shouldered through the blooming brush.
They were from Auburn, I found, and soon enough I was expounding upon the landscape, and it was not enough to say, "over here is Little Bald Mountain, and away over there, the Coast Ranges north of San Francisco," but, no, I must tell these young men of equinoctial birth about townships, sections, ranges, and Mt. Diablo, and how, since we were in fact within Township 15 East, Range 10 North, this meant we were "something like" six times fifteen miles east, and six times ten miles north, of the Diablo summit.
Which made perfect sense to me, and might have made more sense to them if we had been able to actually see the Diablo summit; but there was too much haze and moisture in the air.
I also explained to them about the falcons and eagles, and soon their sharp teenage eyes picked out a Peregrine, a mere dot of light against some vast canyon shadow, and I whipped my binoculars to my eyes, and, sure enough, there it was, my first Peregrine Falcon.
My overall impression was of a soaring bird, with much blue-grey, but with flashes of white, and not as big as a Red-Tailed Hawk.
It, or its mate, soared by several times, often a thousand feet below us, often seeming to move slowly, but in fact moving very quickly. This is also the case with the Golden Eagles; one sees them soaring so calmly, so effortlessly, yet in less than a minute they have moved a mile.
It was a very nice visit to Lovers Leap.
I was sad to see, however, that the whole area looks beaten up by OHVs, that many trees have been cut using chainsaws, that even the historic Incense Cedar logs lying athwart the trail down to the cliff have been sawn through, and the very sculptural root masses hauled away. I have suggested to the Bureau of Land Management, for quite a few years now, that a vehicle closure on the last couple hundred yards of road would be a good thing. All parking could be held to the north, before that last rise to the current parking area. Further depredations with chainsaws would be much less likely.
Finally, I now hear there is a Golden eaglet in the nest, down in the Gap, across from the Leap.