Quiet times on the mountain

January fog on blue oaks

I was fortunate to get invited (ahem, I invited myself I guess) to a hike with two of the most notable, contemporary botanical explorers of the East Bay.  We headed out to Mt. Diablo State Park in Contra Costa County for which Barbara Ertter, and Diablo champion Mary Bowerman, have published a unique and informative flora.  Beyond just plant identification and simple cataloging, this book relates ecological studies, talks plant associations and offers tidbits of history and nuance.  Truly a classic, get it here.  I have a signed one with a personal note from Barbara, so I’m considering this means we’re friends 🙂

David Gowen is the other half of the botanical equation.  Inner circles of botanists would probably agree that if David hasn’t been there, then the inventory is not complete.  David is credited with finding new species in the East Bay that have been overlooked for decades.

Barbara and David on Wall Ridge Trail

So we set out in the quiet time from the Rock City trailhead.  This is a time when fog rests in canyons and sways back and forth with prevailing winds. It’s a time when birds sleep in, color is muted, and hikers are a rare occurrence. A perfect time to invite nature into your daily meditation.  Go get your shoes muddy. Here are a few photos from our hike. I can’t wait to get out there again.

Hiking the Trail Through Time


Mt. Diablo manzanita (Arctostaphylos auriculata) a narrow endemic known from only the Diablo area

The all too human look of the manzanita trunk

From Sentinel Rock into the fog

Foothill pines (Pinus sabiniana) emerging through the fog

The early season is THE time for manzanitas.  Branchlets, fruits, styles, ovaries and all are needed for proper identification.  They’re a tricky bunch being one of the most recent groups to speciate here – that’s why we’re so lucky to have so many taxa including narrow endemics and odd-ball crosses that evade classification.

"labeling my photos" in case ID was difficult afterwards

Contra Costa manzanita (Arctostaphylos laevigata) another narrow endemic in flower

how babies are made: California buckeye (Aesculus californica)

Mt. Diablo manzanita enjoying some afternoon sun

A landscape in transition - south facing slope of Mt. Diablo

Buckeye stand waiting for spring

An early spring annual in flower, California milkmaids (Cardamine californica)

Licorice fern (Polypodium californicum) enjoying a wet early winter

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