The Long and Short of it

by S. Schlosser, C. Longstreth, and W. Elliot

Along the Estero and Drake’s Head trails, we walked through coastal scrub, coastal prairie, salt marsh, mudflats, freshwater stock ponds, and a planted pine forest. We could see Bishop pine forest, coastal riparian forest, and Douglas fir forest. Adding to the beauty of these trails, there was always a view of water—Drakes Estero, Limantour Estero, or the Pacific Ocean.

We identified over 40 species of plants. Fourteen species were blooming: Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum, Taraxia ovata, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. thyrsiflorus, Rubus parviflorus, Rubus ursinus, Lathyrus vestitus ssp. vestitus, Vaccinium ovatum, Mimulus (Diplacus) aurantiacus ssp. aurantiacus, Helenium puberulum, Fragaria chiloensis, Castilleja affinis ssp. affinis, Sidalcea malviflora ssp. malviflora, Romulea rosea var. australis, and Iris douglasiana.

Viewing the western slopes, crinkly ridges, and gullies of Inverness Ridge, we learned how to recognize former cultivation and other land uses by straight ines amongst the habitats. The coastal prairie we saw had been grazed and/or cultivated; among the former agricultural crops were grain and artichokes. The creeks were relatively short and looked choked with willow and alders. The coastal scrub was interspersed with grassy patches and the coastal prairie with patches of Iris douglasiana. Both habitats were treeless and windswept. The many bays of Drake’s Estero reached into the low, rolling hills, producing a complex and beautiful shoreline.

Everyone spotted new plants and helped with identification. Wildlife included shore birds, ducks, white pelicans, cormorants, red-tailed hawks, deer, wood rat nests, and two snakes! This 8.5-mile field trip was completed in 6.5 hours.

 Photos by Woody Elliott

Click on the small images to see larger versions.

{igallery id=3614|cid=167|pid=1|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0}