February Week 2: Sunday

Our first fully sunny day in . . . decades. We spent it on a seven-mile ramble through the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). At the end of the day as we walked up Tennessee Valley, the late light was beginning to flee up the ridges; in the dense willows along the creek, a pair of great horned owls who couldn’t bear to wait till flight time to be reunited called hauntingly to one other, filling the valley with their longing. For a flowerblogger, going to the coast to find spring is, of course, cheating: the ocean-milded winters here bring forth flowers weeks earlier than the land just a hop and a skip inland.

2-7-10 The spectacular thin-bedded cherts in the Marin Headlands attract gawking geologists from all over the world. These are the compacted, metamorphosed silica skeletons of radiolarians from ancient seas

2-7-10 Milkmaids in Tennessee Valley. In the mild, often-foggy coastal zone, many plants evolve large pale flowers. These milkmaids are lusher than their inland sisters and often suffused with lavender or the palest of pinks. They're not the first of the season, of course; milkmaids throughout Marin, even inland, come into bloom before the New Year

2-7-10 Franciscan (Indian) Paintbrush high on Coyote Ridge. Like its cousin Indian Warriors, it's a hemiparasite. Its red 'petals' are actually leaves that embrace and advertise the tubular yellow flowers half-hidden inside

2-7-10 The lovely petaled symmetry of California Blackberry, our native blackberry, in a tangle of briar on Coyote Ridge

2-7-10 Giant Horsetail on the floor of Tennessee Valley. An ancient, vascular, spore-bearing plant; its relatives were the trees of the Carboniferous Period, some 300 million years ago

2-7-10 Star Lily, or Death Camas, on Coyote Ridge. Death camas because its bulb was almost impossible to distinguish from the edible, nutritious blue camas

2-7-10 The intricate mandala of Footsteps of Spring, another sanicle, in the Tennessee Headlands

2-7-10 Shooting Stars in Tennessee Valley, just because they deserve a better picture than the one I posted in January

2-7-10 Checkerbloom, a relative of garden hollyhocks and mallows, in full bloom on Coyote Ridge

2-7-10 Tennessee Beach. San Francisco and the peninsula's coast range are in the far distance. On the ocean, you can see a huge comber rolling across the Potato Patch, a shoal just north of the entrance to the Golden Gate



  1. Irene Brady said,

    February 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I can almost smell that spicy coastal air, Bill. I’m not sorry you “cheated” on your sunny-day flowerblog walk at the beach — it was nice to visit the beach by proxy, at least. Loved hearing about the GHO’s. Last night near midnight the screech owls were courting here.

    Just curious — when you say “we,” do you have a hiking companion, or is that the royal We? I used to have a cat with whom I went on glorious woods walks…

  2. billnoble said,

    February 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    “We.” Hardly royal. Most often it’s Tina and me. Whenever it’s possible in all our fully committed lives, “we” may include any or all of our kids, Sarah, Martha, Jenny or Brendan, my dearest friend Desiree (who can almost never go hiking), or on the rarest of occasions, some of my Men. Ya shoulda seen Tina scrambling on the tiniest thread of a trail at the edge of a huge cliff yesterday, surf crashing at its feet. She’s still an indefatigable hiker.

  3. Sara said,

    February 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Can’t believe I see so many of those plants and have such an abyss of ignorance about their names, never mind origins and relatives. Those Giant Horsetail are a bit chilling, no? And the Indian Paintbrush description is half a poem already. Stuck at my desk editing computer training courses, I almost feel like I got a tiny time-warp hike at Tennessee Valley just now. Thanks Bill and Tina!

  4. Florence said,

    March 3, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Absolutely gorgeous photos.

    • billnoble said,

      March 4, 2010 at 6:17 am

      Florence, thank you for the kind words.

      Please come by again! 🙂

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