Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Monument Burn at Coe Park; Two Weeks Later

On November 19, Henry W. Coe Park staff along with professionals from the State Park Monterey District, CalFire and other state & local agencies conducted a prescribed burn in a 630 acre area close to Park Headquarters and bordered by Manzanita Point Road, Hobbes Road and the Little Fork of Coyote Creek.  These photos were taken on December 5.  
[Manny Pita, 2015]

Prescribed burns are used to revitalize natural landscape processes and reduce fuel load.  Fire has always been a normal change agent in  California ecosystems and we use prescribed burning to control the extent of fire and amount of change within a desirable range. Manzanita Pt. Rd NW of Grand Junction.  Burn on right; unburned on left.

Fire naturally occurs in cycles, perhaps every 10-20 years in the Coe area. Here, the Old Corral was within the prescribed burn section but was deliberately left unburned because it is an important cultural feature in the park.  

Regeneration after a burn can happen quickly.  We aim to manage the burn's heat and intensity so plant roots and seeds in the soil are not damaged even if their leaves are burned.

Specialized firestarter tools allow for safety and efficiency.

Walking the Forest Trail gives a up-close and personal view of immediate fire effects.  Here, you can see that the burn was patchy, not affecting the entire landscape.  Already fallen leaves are adding new organic material to the forest floor.

Little bits of greenery show the power of plants to persevere.

When a stump smolders, fire can burn the roots and create what a fanciful imagination might see as magical passageways into the earth itself.  There are  two or three instances like this on the Forest Trail.  

Many plants in fire-adapted habitat have special protective structures and processes that allow them to spring back after a burn. Madrones often have a thick storage area at their base that protects nutritional materials and promotes post-fire growth.   

Prescribed burns are done when environmental conditions are exactly right, including wind speed & direction, temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric conditions.  Thank you Mason and Chris for leading this Coe MeetUp walk through the burn area!

A tip of the hat to Mother Nature; hug a tree this week! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Organic & Inorganic

Just a walk on the Burra Burra trail to check out what's cooking with the geology.  Happily surprised by three species of white and pink wildflowers, plus bluecurls, a white tarweed, and some small California poppies.  Also an admiral  and numerous woodland skippers in the bluecurls (too flighty to photograph this time.)  Click on a photo to enlarge.

Arrangement in Orange and White.

The Grey and the Green

Delicate white and pink

White crystals not quartz

Naked-stemmed buckwheat

Light green and flakey, serpentinite?

Who am I to have so many petals?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve: A July 17 Hike

This new preserve in Morgan Hill has been open for about a month and, like much of the Coyote Valley, it has a history of ranching activities.  My favorite aspects of this hike were the wonderful views to the North and East, the variety of tree species, serpentine outcrop, and the signs of animal inhabitants.  There were even some July flowers in bloom.

Leaving the busy world behind.  Preserve entrance and surroundings on Palm Drive.  Map, preserve info, and driving directions.

There is only one official trail here and, from the parking lot, you climb and then descend for four miles through switchbacks with about 400' elevation gain.  Patches of shade provide scattered resting places all along the way, although there are hot stretches in full sun.  We went counterclockwise along the loop trail.

We were greeted by a juvenile Western bluebird in the lower preserve-entrance side of the Arrowhead Trail where there are remnants of ranching history.

Someone in the canine family has been on the trail and, since dogs are not allowed in Open Space Preserves, it was probably a coyote.  The size was right.  We also saw deer and their tracks.

Valley oak and buckeye are prominent trees.  Bay grows around the now-dry draws.

This hollyleaf cherry was at the first picnic table overlook and  a new species for me.  

Mount Hamilton is visible through valley haze to the northeast... is the Metcalf Energy Center to the north.

Hikers below, leaving the preserve.

Serpentine outcrop (?), agriculture, east valley hills; a scene from the hike's descent.  

You may have noticed that, except for the Valley itself, the Preserve and surrounding area is very dry.  What flowers could possibly grow here in this droughty July?  Consider the annual white tarweed which seems to be finding water and sustenance in a shaded spot along the trail.  It may have edible seeds and, who knows, might be your new lawn and snack in a few years.  (Do not harvest tarweed here!  This is a Preserve. Do not eat wildflowers without consulting a certified expert!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Lush and the Sharp: A June 30th Hike at Almaden Quicksilver

It's dry and hot at AQS but summer wildflowers and even some farewell-to-spring are out.  Many are not in my immediate repertoire so I'm hoping to get ID assistance.  This one reminds me of buckwheat.

This seems to be a teasel of some kind and it is blooming from the bottom up.  Lovely anthers and we can call this specimen both sharp and lush.  

Elderberry, at the height of lush abundance.  

Very lush but very sparse and in only one spot on the hike.  Composite of some sort.  Anyone know?

Going to seed in the softest and downiest way.  A thistle 
or close relative, perhaps.

The least-focused but the sharpest of all and now we know why artichoke is a thistle.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rock Me Like a Rock: Pinnacles West Side

Well, I have a hiking friend who likes to hug trees, particularly fragrant pines, and I discovered on Wednesday that I now like to hug rocks.  There's just something about geology....
This is the rock...let's see what we can find out about it.

And, the setting, the lovely west side of The Pinnacles National Park.
Now, usually, I focus on wildflowers and they were blooming in proliferation on the west side of Pinnacles NP in mid-March 2015.  So, maybe one shot....

Some variety of Sedum aka "stonecrop".....likes to grow directly on rocks.  
OK, back to "The Rock"....
What do you notice first?
Well, first off, this rock is on the floor of the west side on Juniper Canyon Trail, not up in the Pinnacles proper.  So, probably an important question is whether it is part of the Pacific Plate which was wrenched off of SoCal and, through plate tectonics, moved the Pinnacles formation north 195 miles from its volcanic origin.
Then you might notice that this rock is mighty white and covered with plants like lichen and moss.

Irregular cracks and fissures.  

Small crystals show in the hand lens and macro mode photo.

 Here's mention of volcanic tuff from the Geology Cafe Pinnacles fieldtrip; perhaps my rock is tuff????   Can I find out about it's composition?

Mosses and vascular plants find homes on this rock and speed the breakdown started by lichens.  

On to the Balconies

Here's more about Pinnacles National Park.

And the GeoCafe Pinnacles FieldTrip.

From My Balcony

It's fascinating to people-watch from my balcony.  Today I am trying out different white balances, on advice from a friend.  Everything's blurry.  Also very red-saturated.  Don't know what fstop to use, so everything's on 22.  My point&shoot only went up to 8 and now I want to learn more about fstops and what they do.  

We had some rain today.