I had an unexpected chance to go on a walk on Mt. Tamalpais today, guided by David Lukas, who describes himself as a “freelance naturalist.” His guide, Sierra Nevada Birds is worth owning. I know of him from the walks he leads at the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop. On those walks, it seems to me we went about 100 yards in an hour, with David describing the mircorhizal web, demonstrating how an ant lion captures an ant, defining angle of ripose, noting the continuous, complex cycle of life that surrounds us everywhere, and patiently spelling all the strange words for the avid poets with our notebooks.
This was more of a hike–s a few miles through grassland and forest, with David explicating what we saw, but not stopping every few feet. David talked about spiders, how the forest floor is covered with them. We saw their webs glint in the sun. He showed us where bay trees sprouted from uprooted logs, or fused together with other trees they fell against. When we came out to the grasslands that overlook the ocean, he told us that Bolinas (which you can see here) and Pt. Reyes, hidden in the fog behind it are part of the a separate tectonic plate, not connected to the rest of the continental US, and that they are slipping slowly northward.
The best new word I learned was “ecotone,” which is the transition zone between two different ecosystems–in this case grassland and forest. The best thing i saw was a praying mantis glutted with eggs.
You can see the field out of which David spied the mantis, then a close-up of the mantis in the field, and then the mantis on David’s hand, looking very much like an extra terrestrial:
All in all it was a terrific outing, which I got to participate in because this was a field trip for Bob Hass’ class at UC, Introduction to Environmental Studies, and he needed drivers. Almost makes me want to go back and finish my education.