Hike at Mt. Tam -- A Photographic Interlude

Mr. Mouse and I spent last weekend away from home. We'd been ready for a break, feeling a bit worn out between work and things to do around the house and garden.

We started the weekend with a Saturday hike at Mount Tamalpaias in Marin County. Mount Tamalpaias is a state park, with many beautiful hikes. It actually took us only about 90 minutes to drive there. When we arrived at the East Peak parking lot, starting point for our hike, the views were amazing. It had rained recently in the North Bay, and the weather was cool and clear.

The most amazing thing, though, were the plants. I usually hike in areas that have been logged or grazed or otherwise used by humans. The vegetation in those areas is very much a mix of natives and exotics. The area where we hiked, however, looked as if it hadn't had much to offer for humans. It was too steep for cows and no large trees beckoned to be felled. More importantly, the soil is serpentine. Many European and other invasive plants don't do well in serpentine soil and many natives, including native grasses, do well.

Above, a very happy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos), though I'm not sure which one.

I was especially impressed by the size of some of the Manzanitas, the one above is easily 30 feet. Not a surprising size for a Madrone, but quite unusual for a Manzanita. There were also Ceanothus, Toyon (photo below), and other chapparal plants near East Peak, and our hike went through a mixed woodland with ferns, moss, and lichen.

I could have stopped every 10 minutes to take another photo, like this one of the Richmond Bridge (did I mention the views were amazing?)

But we weren't quite sure whether we were on the right path, and the gates closed at sunset. Thanks to a good guidebook and Mr. Mouse's excellent navigation skills, we made it back to the car with time to spare, ready to continue our adventure.


Gail said…
The views are wonderful! Thanks for the link to serpentine soil~~Now I have another good reason to visit California...I must see this park and the special plants that grow there. Have a good Thanksgiving! gail
Country Mouse said…
Wow, I can't wait till we get up there for a botanical hike, Tmouse! That's some incredible manzanita for sure. We'll have to load Jepson in the trunk and see if we can key it out - that would be fun! It's Thanksgiving morning - I'm thankful you and Mr Mouse are joining us, and I'm thankful you came up with the idea for this blog and invited me to be your co-blogger. It's been a lot of fun so far and promises to continue being fun, joining in with this wonderful community of garrulous gardeners.
Christine said…
I know what you mean about stopping every 10 minutes to take a picture- hiking with me usually elicits long sighs from my companions as I try to get the best shot! Thanks for sharing and Happy Thanksgiving!
Brad B said…
Mt. Tam is one of my favorite places to hike here in the Bay Area. When the weather is cool or foggy the East Side is often sunny. When it's hot the west side is cool. Wonderful views and all sorts of habitats. You should definitely come back in the spring for some wildflowers, including some native orchids.
I finally made time for a brief outing last Friday. Our toyons were coloring up nicely as well as the one you showed. I'd be curious in knowing which manzanita you for CMouse decide you found. I'm impressed whenever I find one just half that size locally. But then maybe water has something to do with it.
ryan said…
Nice Tam and Pt. Reyes photos. I didn't make it out there once this year. Shame on me. Great manzanita trunk.