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Relishing the Fog at Point Reyes

Sky Trail Loop

by on April 12, 2012

Refreshed by winter rains and a cloak of summer fog, Douglas firs along Inverness Ridge--abundantly clothed in mosses, lichens, and ferns--live in California's rain forest.Photograph by Jules Evens

Refreshed by winter rains and a cloak of summer fog, Douglas firs along Inverness Ridge--abundantly clothed in mosses, lichens, and ferns--live in California's rain forest.

Photograph by Jules Evens

Check out this and other hikes Jules has taken on this Google map. The most recent hike is in blue; others are in red.

Conditions: Overcast, light breeze, 55-60°F. March 29, 2012. (4.1 miles)

Trail notes: Easy loop trail beginning at the top of the Limantour Road, to Sky Camp, then looping around Mount Wittenberg, following the Z-Ranch Trail back to the Sky Trail.

Sky Trail starts along the spine of Inverness Ridge where bishop pine forest gives way to Douglas fir. From here north, the soil is well-drained, decomposed granite, a condition that favors the dry-loving (xerophilic) pine. Southward, granitic basement rock is overlain by marine shales that hold more water and favor the more water-loving (hydrophilic) firs.

Although the Mount Vision fire voraciously consumed the dry pine forest, it did not penetrate the damper fir forest.

We set out with several friends who were visiting from the Colorado front range. Their enthusiasm for the moist marine air and the lushness of the vegetation is contagious; we are all enthused by the green luxuriance of the fog zone.

Banana slug

Banana slug (Ariolimax columbianus). Photograph by Jules Evens.

After a dry winter followed by steady spring rains, banana slugs are out and about. Lacking external shells, these mollusks need to stay moist; otherwise their mucus-covered bodies dry out and shrivel up. Banana slugs occur only in damp forests along the Pacific coast from Alaska southward to Santa Cruz, a distribution that conforms to the Pacific coast rainforest. The glue-like mucus that covers the slug’s body has several apparent functions: It is very efficient at absorbing water and it contains an anesthetic that may deter some predators, though not all. Slugs are a favored food of the Pacific giant salamander, and raccoons and rodents seem to relish them as well. (The mucus is difficult to remove from clothing, so if you get some on your jeans, try rinsing with Classic Coke, which makes one wonder what this beverage does to our innards.)

shrew mole

Shrew-mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii). Photo by Jules Evens.

Near Sky Camp, we find a dead shrew-mole in the path. These tiny mammals are rather common on the coastal slope of the peninsula but seldom seen. Little is known about the breeding biology of the shrew-mole, but this individual was probably out looking for love, otherwise he’d be underground, alone in his shallow burrow.

Circling Mount Wittenberg the trail traverses a moist north-facing slope above the steep canyon that drains into Haggerty Gulch and Lagunitas Creek. Red elderberry is in full bloom, a large, shade-loving bush sporting cream-colored inflorescences. A male Allen’s hummingbird is in dramatic aerial display above the bush, and we hear the emphatic, dulcet, descending song of a Wilson’s Warbler, the first of the season. This neotropical migrant has just returned from wintering grounds in Central America, and by mid-April its song will be one of the most common melodies resonating through the conifer forests of the peninsula. Listen here.

Red elderberry

Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa). Photograph by Jules Evens.

See more articles in: Point Reyes Walkabout, Recreation

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karchitecture on April 15th, 2012 at 12:00 am

Hi Jules. Thank you for your inspiring blog. I lived in Point Reyes for a year in 2008 and am coming back to stay for the entire summer this year. I’m going to hike all of the trails as well, thanks to you. Thank you for the great idea and entertaining blog posts. 


PS I’m most jealous about your badger discovery. I have probably hiked Abbot’s 30 times at all times of year with no badgers. I did see otters once though…

Jules on April 17th, 2012 at 12:00 am

I’m pleased that you enjoy the journal, and the trails! Yes, badgers are a rare sightings (right up there with mountain lions and mountain beavers), but the open grasslands on the way to Tomales Point seem hold the best possibilities.

karchitecture on April 17th, 2012 at 12:00 am

And now it appears you have seen a burrowing owl…which is also on my bucket list. How do you do it?

cash for cars New Jersey on June 10th, 2012 at 12:00 am

These voluminous shadows are due to the same cause as crepuscular rays, which are the shadows of clouds, but in this case, they are the shadows of solid objects.

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