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Bay trees and blackberry thorns

California Bay Laurel trees along Dipsea Trail near Stinson Beach

Note: I’ve included points about edibility because I’m interested in foraging generally, but foraging is not allowed the area I describe.

We went to Stinson Beach again recently, have got in to a good routine of leaving early enough to just barely beat the crowds and get a decent parking spot, but not so early that it’s a slog to get out of the apartment.

This time, we walked up Dipsea Trail to a lookout point with a large, lone eucalyptus tree with a tree swing. It was a little over two miles round trip with about a 500ft elevation change, nearly all uphill out and all downhill back. The first section follows a little stream from Panoramic Highway through a grove of California Bay Laurel trees which bent over the path. It was quite damp and cool even though it was getting pretty warm elsewhere, smelled amazing.

A note about California Bay Laurel: The leaves are edible, but they tend to be much stronger than the stuff you buy in shops. Proceed with caution if using for stock or something similar.

The rest of the way was more open, with terrain that reminded us a little of the moors in Yorkshire. A lot sunnier though!

Flowers we saw (native plants are linked to the Calscape website for further info):

And a few more I just have not been able to identify…

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Anemones and rock slides

Photo of Agate Beach near Bolinas during the Golden Hour with clouds in the sky

A tide pool at Agate Beach with an anemone

Haven’t been feeling great recently so a lot of weekends have been pretty quiet, but we finally got out a bit this past Saturday. Went to Agate Beach near Bolinas, low tide was around 3:30pm so we had lovely light. It had rained hard earlier so we kept hearing mini rockslides from the cliffs. A little ominous.

It was hard to see much since most of the pools were a bit murky, but we did see chiton, anemones, snails, crabs, and one hefty brown starfish. There was pink coralline algae encrusting most of the rock pools. I didn’t know what it was when we were there, thought it was so prevalent that it might be invasive. But it seems native from what I’ve read since. There was also one tiny creature that squirted water a foot in to the air, still no idea what that was…

Related: One of the rental properties at Sea Ranch has some really good tips about being a good tide pool steward.

Also related: Didn’t collect anything since foraging isn’t permitted on most public land in California. I’d love to get to Salt Point at some point though since it’s allowed there. Would probably mainly look for purple laver and nori. Samphire (pickleweed) should be prevalent in April/May, so maybe that would be a good time to go. Also hopefully this pandemic will be on the wane by then with the vaccine…

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Just what I needed

A photo of the North Fork of the American River near Clark’s Hole

I haven’t been posting much recently. There’s not a lot about this year that I’d like to remember. Of course there’s a ton that must be remembered, just not much that I’ll look back on fondly.

But we went swimming in the North Fork of the American River last Friday, that’s something to smile about. The heat radiated up off the path on our walk there and back. There was a big family enjoying the sun and water, and two girls chatting, standing in the shallows and drinking from a wine bottle. They warned us about the territorial crawdad near our toes.

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First swim in the Pacific in… 10? 15 years?

A distant woman standing in the surf at Baker Beach

My first swim in the Pacific in probably 10–15 years, photo by Sam.

On the Fourth of July, we walked 10 miles from the Sutro Heights Stairs on Balboa Street through Land’s End, past the enormous houses near China Beach, paused at Baker Beach, dipped down to Marshall’s Beach, walked under the Golden Gate, along Crissy Field and through the park at Fort Mason, then took a rest at the Maritime Museum ampitheater before heading back.

I thought I did so well with sunscreen but oh my, the backs of my knees…