California Parks #4 – Mount Tam

This week we explored the serpentine soils of Mt. Tam located north of the bay in Marin County. We hiked up to the serpentine area from one of the higher parking lots and learned a bunch of new plants. IMG_9091

The serpentine soil had a shiny blue-green color due to the extra heavy metals that were inside of it. It limits what plants can grow and causes these patches of shrubs amongst the douglas firs.

The native manzanita
The native manzanita

This beautiful manzanita is native to only this area of serpentine soil and found nowhere else! It pretty much dominated most of the serpentine areas.

View of the Golden Gate (sort of)
View of the Golden Gate (sort of)

Near the parking lot was this awesome view of the hills behind the Golden Gate Bridge that is kind of hidden in this picture. Highway 1 is to the right, the city is straight forward, and the bay is to the left of this area. So pretty!

California Parks #3 – Sequoia National Park

My hiking and camping saga continues with a visit to Sequoia National Park. We spent the weekend there learning about trees and the different plant communities that make up this enormous park.

The lake at Potwisha
The lake at Potwisha

We set up camp at Potwisha which is one of the first campsites near the park entrance. It was surprisingly warm for being near the Sierra Mountains. We took a quick hike and went swimming in the river. The water was absolutely lovely except for the weird bugs that lived on the waterfall.

GIANT Sequoia
GIANT Sequoia

The next morning we headed up to visit the Giant Forest which contained so many giant sequoia trees. These things were huge and they looked like they were out of some cartoon or something. Later on we stopped by General Sherman, which is considered the largest single living organism on Earth!

Panther Gap
Panther Gap

After leaving the forest, we hiked up to Panther Gap and checked out the different trees along the way. At the top of the ridge there were boulders of granite that overlooked the valley below.

Bear!
Bear!

The last surprise on this trip was a black bear that happened to be rummaging around for food near the trail. It didn’t seem bothered by us at all and kind of just went along its business poking at the ground for something to eat. It got around 30 ft from us at times but didn’t get scared or anything at all. There were some people stopped by the side of the road on the way down looking at bears climbing trees. However, we were too late when we pulled over, and only saw them running away.

California Parks #2: Sunol Regional Wilderness

This week we went to a park that was part of the East Bay Regional Parks District located about 40 minutes from Berkeley. It was a drastically different landscape than what i was used to and most of the area looked like it hadn’t seen any moisture in years. There was no running water anywhere at the parking lot since all the pipes had been shut down because of the drought. There were a few giant water jugs for drinking water thankfully.

A bird!
A bird!

We saw a bunch of really neat birds including a golden eagle, turkey vultures, and a few woodpeckers hard at work. This one was chilling out on an oak tree covered in mistletoe.

A long way down
A long way down

Everywhere that was away from the creek was pretty parched. There was a green band running throughout a sea full of yellow grass.

Fire Hazard
Fire Hazard

The hiking trail was very different from what the website pictures showed because it’s the end of the dry season. The landscape was primarily covered in yellow grass and dotted with a few oak trees. Hopefully the rain comes back soon

California Parks #1: Van Damme State Park

I’m currently taking a class that takes me on a bunch of cool field trips around the state to some amazing natural areas. Last weekend we went up to Van Damme State Park on the Mendocino Coast.

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We learned a bunch of trees while hiking around the woods. Here’s an Abies grandis… I think…

The beach!
The beach!

I went swimming in the ocean for the first time in my four years here. It was so cold I basically went numb after a minute. I only lasted about 5 min in the water but some people swam all the way out to sea. The water was pretty sketchy as well and there was a dead seal washed up on the beach about 100 meters away. At least I can say that I got to go to the beach!

Banana slug moustache
Banana slug moustache

I saw these guys coming down from our hike up to the pygmy forest. Aren’t they so cute!