Mt. Sutro (3/30/2022)

Today I needed something BIG since I wasn’t able to go Naturing yesterday. And, I’ve had in mind to do a particular route on Mt. Sutro, so I did that.

The route was to park at the Edgewood Trailhead, walk down to Parnassus then up Stanyan, start at the Historic Trailhead, head up somehow to the Summit, then back down somehow to end at the Edgewood Trailhead. I liked the idea of beginning and ending on different residential streets. And, I’ve never ended at the Edgewood entrance, which is on a new and enchanting street for me.

So, Edgewood Avenue is so intriguing since my first and last visit to check it out. Got to look up close at some of the entrances of these huge and old houses this time. A handful have impressive stone staircases or decorative arches. There’s something “old worldy” about the street. And, I realize how odd that is to say for a place as new as San Francisco. But, it’s got that feel. It was nice to get outside and walk down it.

I wasn’t able to easily find out what the deal is with the unique brick in the center of the street. Might take more searching to find out who started building the Craftsman homes up there. How that got started. Who were they. Those things. I did find an old photo of the street from 1922, and the street was dirt then. No bricks. It’ll take a bit more digging to learn more. I’ll do that.

On my way to Parnassus, I stopped to enjoy watching Western Honey Bees enjoying Rock Crane’s-bill flowers in someone’s luscious front garden. Got to the end and wanted to peek out over the edge where the street appears to just drop off. It does just that! But, there’s a staircase at the end!! Farnsworth Steps, they call it. And, it looks like there’s even one house address on that staircase. I love those. I had no idea there were actually so many in SF until I started exploring staircases during the pandemic. They are adorable.

The stairs went down to Willard, where some gorgeous hot pink roses were (and smelled divine!). And, I made my way to the Historic Trailhead. Right in front was a lovely blossoming tree. The SF Street Tree Map says it’s an Ornamental Cherry (Prunus serrulata), which I’ve been waiting to see flower and document. The convenience of this moment was so great! One more to add to my Blossoms database.

A TON of what looked like Spanish Bluebells were having a party at the base of the tree. Have I never seen them outside a park before? Seems like it.

Headed up the Historic Trail, which I haven’t done in some time. And, the first thing to greet me was Pacific Pea. It’d turn out that it was easily the most abundant flower during my Naturing up there. So, if you’re into Pacific Peas, you now know where to go. Orange Abutilon were blooming and were the last gardeny flower before entering the wilds of the Interior Greenbelt.

Have I complained about this name before? I’m not the biggest fan of naming green spaces after wealthy men (like, Mt. Sutro), but COME ON. I believe a better name is out there…

I didn’t get far up before I heard a Red-shouldered Hawk screeching. I looked up and saw it flying fast with another raptor following it! The other raptor DOVE ONTO IT and chased it off!! It was a flippin’ Cooper’s Hawk. It landed high up in a euc in front of me, which is how I know it was a Cooper’s Hawk. My photos were terrible, as the whole area was in shade. But, that tail. Orangeish blouse. And, it moved to another euc where I got a better look and photo. That RED EYE. I could even see it in the shade and so far away. Awesome! Never would’ve guessed it’d chase off a larger raptor, neat!!

So, yeah. Very exciting start. Nearby, Black-tailed Bumblebees (which would also be abundant up there today) were buzzing over the blackberry bushes. And, a Pacific Wren was calling like there was no tomorrow. They’d also be plentiful the rest of my visit!

I’m currently reading the Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula in preparation for my CalNat class starting soon (!), and I just finished the Geology chapter, so that stuff is on my mind right now. And, the Interior Greenbelt/Mt. Sutro is a great place to admire ROCK. I love the chert you can see in all its layered glory throughout the place. And, I saw a bit of exposed rock where a different-looking rock was inside it. Need to re-read the type(s) of rock in SF. All I remember is chert. Gotta do that later.

Miner’s Lettuce, Red-berried Elder, and Fringe Cups were along my way. It was around then that I realized how much flora I recognized. Re-visiting places I’ve been and seeing things I’ve seen before doesn’t make it a less exciting experience. Recognizing flora now is like seeing old friends. And, I have SO MANY FAVORITES that I still get excited often enough, trust me.

I noticed a small spider (Pityohyphantes?) just below me. Got one photo, then a bicyclist whizzed past. Turned back to the spider, and it was gone. Have I mentioned I’m not a fan of shared trails with mountain bikers? Yeah. I’m not.

Some cherry/cherry-plum trees had fruit on them. A number of them! Can’t imagine that is anywhere close to normal, no?

More Fringe Cups and Pacific Pea and Pacific Sanicle lined the trail. Then I spotted a leaf design that seemed familiar but new to me. And, it was a newtome plant! Star-flowered Lily-of-the-Valley. Not blooming yet. Need to find out when to come back and see that! Also, got home to look it up more. And, it makes sense why it was familiar but different to me. I’ve seen the very similar-looking False Solomon’s Seal up there before. Neato.

After admiring some California Hedge Nettle, I spotted Pacific Bleeding Heart in bloom! One good sized patch of it, with about six or so clusters of flowers. Love them! Maybe Mt. Sutro was the first place I ever saw them?

Soon after that, I saw two newtome shrines. Very ornate. One even looked like it had a genuine $1000 bill in it. But, yeah. No way, right? Or, is it A TEST THAT I PASSED? Or, more likely, FAILED?? My mixed feelings about the shrines are still quite mixed. After initial delight at seeing them, my inner Debbie Downer thinks that it’s not cool some of that stuff ends up randomly on the ground as garbage. But, I noticed today that other shrines I’ve seen in the past are entirely gone. Maybe every so often they are cleaned up? Maybe I can find the Facebook group that manages that to find out…

That pretty orange fungal plant pathogen, Gymnoconia peckiana, was on display. After taking its photo, I heard Red-tailed Hawks crying, then saw two overhead. Circling each other. With Common Ravens soon following them, of course! After watching that, I caught sight of white funnely mushrooms hidden under branches so well that I couldn’t get to them. White Cheese Polypore?

Got to the four corners juncture, and I took a look back at the Interior Greenbelt when I spotted a small and blue butterfly flitting about! Ok, so I really am just going to freak out every time I see a small and blue butterfly now. Even with my super slim chance of actually seeing a Mission Blue Butterfly, it will always be my first thought at seeing a small and blue butterfly. And, that’s OK.

It actually LANDED, so I took a quick look in my binocs. Definitely BLUE. Looked an awful lot like that Echo Azure on San Bruno Mountain. Grabbed my digital camera, and my photos were total crap. But, at least I have a crap photo to prove I saw it. Likely an Echo Azure or Acmon Blue, according to what’s been spotted in the area before. Really can’t wait for my birthday and new camera present to myself. Maybe I can just celebrate early this year so I can just get it NOW?

Realized that if I just walked a couple feet to the right that I’d get a much better angle. But, the butterfly was gone when I got into position. Ah, well. Saw a small and blue butterfly today. So, I’m winning.

I headed up to see if the Historic Trail was still closed off ahead. It wasn’t!! So, I finally made it to the last stretch of trail on Mt. Sutro that I’ve never seen. SO EXCITING.

Saw newtome rock formations. And, a new rock creature, like the ones on the Fairy Gate Trail. This one had a eucalyptus thing in its mouth that looked like its tongue. Awesome.

That North side of the Historic Trail is so weird. Below is UCSF buildings. And, it was crazy sunny over there. Also, the trail must’ve been closed off for storm damage, as the hillside below was a total mess.

After passing Twinberry Honeysuckle in bloom, I got to a spot where a road sized path started. Are they making a new trail or road right there? Wacky, either way.

Turned that corner onto the West side of the trail, and a couple of Pacific Wrens were shouting their heads off. I even SAW ONE, which is such a rare occurence! It soon hopped out of sight, like they do.

I reached the Summit, and all was quiet and sunny and peaceful up there. As usual. Until I saw some Red Admirals duking it out. Two other similar-sized and colored butterflies were doing the same battle behind them. Was wondering if I’d see butterflies at the top, and there they were! I wonder if it’s simply amazing in the mornings there.

California Poppies and Dwarf Checkermallow and Silver Lupine (I think) were colorful spots here and there in the meadows. After my usual snack break up there, I headed down the East Ridge Trail to the Mystery Trail to the North Ridge Trail to the Fairy Gates Trail.

On the way, I stopped to watch some Chestnut-backed Chickadees and one Townsend’s Warbler going to town on a cherry/cherry-plum tree full of fruit. So, the fruit’s getting eaten! Also, some lovely Pacific False Bindweed and a couple Shaggy Parasol mushrooms were fun to see before I crossed the road.

At the entrance to the Fairy Gates Trail, I saw a bunch of Douglas Irises. Never seen them there before! One was such an enchanting purple that I had to stop, appreciate, and snap its photo. I’m not even a fan of purple, but this was special. A much fainter version was close-by. Still a Douglas Iris?

Made my way along the Edgewood Trail to the entrance and end of my route for the day. Orange Abutilon once again was there, greeting me out of the forest. I left thinking how fantastic it is to live so close to a forest. Even an unnatural one. Because it’s still chock-full of natural wonder.

And, I learned today that there’s no real bad route to take on Mt. Sutro. Not really. But, this one might be one of my favorites.

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