Muir Woods (1/24/2022)

Today I returned to Muir Woods for my monthly day trip, for perhaps my now annual visit? Last year, I went March 1st and maybe came close to missing the California Fetid Adderstongue blooming? Figured I’d be safe and go now. And, as always on my monthly day trips, I’m so grateful to get to go on Mondays when places are relatively empty.

Not sure if it’s the early rains we got or that it was January (vs. March last time I went), but all the creeks were FULL. And, RUSHING. Even random streams were happening. It was exciting. I don’t recall hearing rushing water almost all the time last time. It helped drown out what little random conversations were had here and there, it seemed. Last time, it was super quiet. This time, it was super full of running water sounds. It was fantastic to hear almost all the time I was there today.

My route was the Main Trail, the Fern Creek Trail (most of it?), and the Hillside Trail.

The first thing that greeted me was blooming Redwood Sorrel. Lovely. And, I got to watch a Pacific Wren dot in and out of ferns, right along the Main Trail. The Main Trail provided views of an orbweaver (to be IDed), Pink Waxcaps (?), Trembling Crust (?), and Pine Bracket.

Once I turned onto the Fern Creek Trail (newtome trail!), I spotted a bunch of California Fetid Adderstongue blooming. Yay! Also on that trail were Scarlet Waxy Caps and California Golden Violets (much smaller than the ones on San Bruno we saw yesterday) and Hypholoma and Veiled Oyster (?) and Candlesnuff Fungus and Pinewood Gingertail (newtome mushroom!) and Golden Waxy Caps and Evergreen Huckleberry (not blooming). And, at one point, I noticed some Redwood Sorrel clover just above my eye height. They looked like perfect little leaf umbrellas for Totoro. Yep.

I got to the point where a very scary bridge appeared ahead, right where the Lost Trail meets it. Now, there was a sign at the start that said you can cross the bridge at your own risk. And, while the bridge did look very scary, it seemed really solid. And, I wanted to complete the loop, using the Plevin Cut Trail to get back. And, I did not want to hike up. So, I learned today that apparently I’m more interested in crossing a scary bridge than I’m interested in hiking uphill.
Unfortunately, after crossing the bridge (as slow as a snail), I found the trail was closed soon after. A tree (or two trees?) fell and cut out part of the trail! Now, why didn’t the sign INDICATE the trail was closed?? I can’t tell you. But, I had to cross that very scary bridge AGAIN. Yeah. At least I got to see a small group of Dark-eyed Juncos over there.

On my way back, I spotted more Waxy Caps and Felt-ringed Agaricus and Fragrant Funnel and more Adderstongue. Turning onto the Hillside Trail to start my return, MORE WAXY CAPS were peeking from the mossy hillsides. Love those things. Also, more Redwood Sorrel blooming. And, nowhere near as much Adderstongue as my last visit.

Past the Bohemian Grove, in the same spot as last year, I heard a Pacific Wren. THE SAME SPOT! Just past it, I saw a Hermit Thrush right near the creek. And, a little further past, I got to see a Pacific Wren hopping in and out of redwood pieces. Definitely the closest I’ve ever been to one. They are so tiny! I also realized, this must have been the small brown bird I watched last time but could not ID. SUCCESS!

Before heading out, I stopped at the Cafe/Gift Shop/Restrooms, and I got to observe a Sonoma Chipmunk!! It was darting from underneath the wood platform to eat odds and ends. I had to keep so still so it would come out, and I could only use my phone camera to capture it. Wish I could’ve gotten better pics. It was frickin’ ADORABLE.

I still had daylight left, so I was able to make one more stop. I had seen that Bowltube Iris (newtome flower) was observed on iNat this month in the area. I parked at the same spot where we went to hear Barred Owls before. I got to see a group of Wild Turkeys and deer enjoying the last bits of sunshine. And, right near my car, I stood crazy still to watch a small creature burrowing under leafpiles. I hoped it’d pop out enough for me to see what it was. But, I got a quick and not great view, and that was it. MAYBE a Dusky-footed Woodrat?? I saw what looked like their houses on the hillside opposite the road. And, the dark and furry bit of head I saw for a second kind of looks like some images I found of it online. So, MAYBE?

I ventured onto the Dipsea Trail heading Northeast to see if I was able to find the iris. And, I DID! After spotting a handful of completely shriveled ones, I came across JUST ONE in full bloom. Felt pretty lucky. I kept going, and I saw some galls and a Western Gray Squirrel. I got to a bend in the trail, where an empty creekbed (or maybe a large stream at that angle?) disappeared into a cavern of trees. It was HAUNTING. I didn’t really want to come back in darkness on that already dark trail, so I headed back.

It was close to sunset, and I thought I’d stick around to hear for owls, but some strange generator sound was coming from the canyon below. BOO. Ah, well.

Another wonderful immersive visit in Muir Woods. Bonus chipmunk sighting and successful find of a specific iris. Not too shabby for a Monday.

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