San Bruno Mountain State Park and San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve (3/8/2022)

Today I went back to San Bruno Mountain. Yes, yes, I was JUST THERE. But, I had really wanted to see Checker Lilies there. And, since I didn’t on Sunday, I still had that ITCH. Then, Brian tells me this morning that he actually saw one when he went to the summit on Sunday without me.

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He tells me this NOW. Two days after the fact.

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So, I decided to scratch that itch today. ALSO, I’d seen an iNat observation of one on the mountain but over near the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve. SO.

I started at San Bruno Mountain State Park to see if any Checker Lilies were still where they were last spotted, on the Saddle Trail Loop – Southeast corner. It was nice to take that part of the trail in the opposite direction. Sun was at my back. Little wind. And, after enjoying sights of Red-berried Elder, California Bee Plant, and Blue Dicks, I was thinking about how strange it seemed that endangered butterflies were on this mountain when it’s so dang windy all the time. Just after that thought, I spotted a fluttering butterfly fly out of shrubs and onto the tip of a California Bee Plant! Took some time and angling and the butterfly to move to another spot, but I got good looks AND good photos. Variable Checkerspot!

Newtome butterfly, and it was GORGEOUS in the sunshine. ALSO, incredibly satisfying to see it in butterfly form the day after first seeing its caterpillar form at Phoenix Lake. Like it was MEANT TO BE, FOLKS.

Moving on, with a newbutterflyhigh keeping a smile on my face, California Hedge Nettle and Common Fumitory brought the pink onto the hillside. And, I took a moment to look across the road to the other side of San Bruno Mountain. It’s always puzzled us about that canyon (Guadalupe Canyon?) that divides San Bruno Mountain. Need to look that up.

Spotted a Say’s Phoebe that quickly came out of nowhere, landed into a bare tree, then jumped up in an amazing acrobatic display to catch a flying meal. And, it soon left. Exciting to see that!

Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Coast Goldenrod, and newtome Johnnytuck popped up on my way to the Checker Lily spot. I approached the East edge of the loop and was soon greeted by California Golden Violets. Love those flowers! So happy they’re still here. Lovely Silver Lupine was just after it.

Rounded the corner with the Bench with the View, and there were the Checker Lilies! Still there, still blooming, and despite it being a pretty small patch of where they were, they were a number of them! I felt satisfied. So, I took the shortcut back and saw more California Golden Violets and Dwarf Checkermallow. Nice!

My second target today was a different colored Checker Lily near the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve. Now, I’d never heard of the place until I saw the iNat observation near it. Turns out, it’s a small preserved area of habitat that endangered butterflies like. Yay!

Read up a little about the place in advance, and the Ohlone people lived at the Eastward base of San Bruno Mountain. The bay used to come up a lot closer to the mountain back then. There’s even a shell mound somewhere on the Reserve. If I’d had more time, I would’ve tried to find it. Next time.

Got to the map point for the SBMER, and there’s just a simple sign saying that’s where you are. Make sure you don’t drag in seeds and whatnot in from other places, said the sign. I had just come from San Bruno Mountain State Park, so I figured I was ok.

Instead of heading up the trail, I veered to the left to walk up what looked like a PG&E two track road of rocks. STRAIGHT UP THE MOUNTAIN. Now, I am not normally a “I’m going to climb that mountain!” kind of person. Even now that I’m a Naturalist. But, I really wanted to see that Checker Lily if it was still there! So, I figured I’d walk up and see how far I got.

I got far! It absolutely helped that the hillside on my right the entire time was perhaps the most beautiful hillside of wildflowers I’ve seen to date. Everything I’d just seen over on Saddle Trail Loop was here, but there was about 150% MORE of it here!! There was also Sweet Scabious (in a variety of colors) and Fernald’s Lilies and Miniature Lupine and Sun Cups. It was honestly DAZZLING. And, of course, none of my photos do it justice.

I started to worry that I’d have to turn around and walk back down this dang mountain, but I was getting close to the Checker Lily spot. So, I kept going. And, I was surprisingly not tired? Helped that I got a quick view of an American Kestrel that flew up and onto a transmission tower. Sadly, it took off before I could get a good look. But, always awesome to see a kestrel!

AND, right after that, I found the Checker Lily spot! And, once again, it was a small patch where they were, but there were a number of them! While I found what I was looking for, I couldn’t resist to head up to the first leveling of the road/trail. I thought MAYBE there’d be a connector trail to the one at the official Reserve site. So I could walk a different way down. But, nope. It’s much further up.

I turned around to see my way down, and I couldn’t see my car anymore! Wish I knew how high I went up. But, I was a bit nervous heading back down. After I watched three Red-tailed Hawks enjoying the thermals above me, I trekked downward. And, as I’d feared a bit, I rolled a couple times on those rocks. I managed to get back down without actually falling (thanks, pilates!), so all’s well that ends well. But, given the precariousness of that walk down, I don’t think I’ll intend to do it again.

HOWEVER, there appear to be other ways up and down. So, I DO intend to return! From what I can tell just from my brief visit this time, looks like it’s worth it.

One thought on “San Bruno Mountain State Park and San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve (3/8/2022)

  1. I love the newbutterflyhigh! And the story of the ascent with pic. Fun adventure for just a two hour tour!


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