Today I climbed San Bruno Mountain.
Yes, yes, I’ve climbed it before. I’ve been to the summit before, after starting more than halfway up via the parking lot. I’ve climbed up to close to the summit three times. But today, I climbed up that dang mountain from the base of the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Reserve to the DANG SUMMIT.
Ok, so this is not actually impressive or anything. I’m not a Summit Person. But I have been curious about what it looks like at the top of the Southeast end, which is easily my favorite part of the mountain. I’ve gotten close three times, but twice I couldn’t handle the steepness, and once I didn’t have the time. Today I MADE TIME. And I GOT THERE.
So, views = ok. They’re fine and all, but I was mostly curious exactly how much further it went and if there was any change to the flora/fauna up there. But let’s start from the beginning.
Parked at the base of the SBMER, and I was first greeted by still-blooming Sweet Scabious. All was pretty quiet in the meadow. Saw a couple Common Ringlets among the grasses. Heard a Wrentit. Saw a Dragonfly patrolling. Didn’t stay long since not A WHOLE LOT was going on, so I started up the mountain.
California Buckeye there is fruiting like crazy. After noting it, a Wrentit flew into a shrub about five feet in front of me, paused, and continued on its way out of sight. Hillside Gooseberry (?) was the most amazing Fall red color I’ve ever seen. And flutterings occurred here and there, but I didn’t see much.
Crossed the creekbed and began The Ascent. The start of the Oak Woodlands right there is flippin’ MAGICAL. I noticed a face in the side of an oak I hadn’t noticed before. The whole area was so colorful from all the Pacific Poison Oak. And, a Hairy Woodpecker could not care less that I was walking underneath and then next to it as it worked on making more and more holes.
I got to the spot where I’d eversobriefly seen a small blue butterfly before, and it HAPPENED AGAIN. While waiting in vain for it to reappear, I spotted a small feather on the ground that looked like a Great Horned Owl’s! Didn’t see or hear any like the last time I was there, but THEY ARE CLOSE.
The familiar views of the city and the bay started peeping out from the Coast Live Oaks and Toyon. Two California Scrub-Jays and what sounded like an American Robin were all I saw on the way up. Then I arrived at that wood bench I’d passed the last time. It was perfectly available for me when I was needing a break. No view other than shrubs, and the wood plank is not secured so be sure to know that if and when you sit on it.
Kept going up, noticed that I was past the point I’d been to before, and I got to A SIGN! Shellmound to the bottom left. Acres to the upper left. Wow! So that crazy hillside edge trail goes to the shellmound! No idea what “Acres” meant, but I continued up and up. More of what Seek thinks is Hollyleaf Cherry kept lining the trail. Got to ANOTHER SIGN. Acres to the bottom left. Summit ahead.
I stopped to document one of the many ferns along the trail. Newtome Coastal Woodfern! I don’t pay ferns much mind, but I’m glad I made the effort this time. I was also noticing that not a whole lot was changing, flora-wise. Except there seemed to be more lichen or moss on the Coast Live Oaks.
About then, the trail started to get a bit less easy. There were some rocky bits. Some steeper bits. But nothing that scared me to stop. The wind really started to blow around this part. I stopped to enjoy it and feel its force and saw a Western Fence Lizard at the edge of a large rock. Just still and watching me, as I moved with the wind while it chilled on the rock and out of the wind’s path.
Here was when I was definitely out of tree cover and starting to see more and more of the canyons below me. And then, I was in a clearing and very close to THE TOP. Some Buckwheat and Lupine were all that seemed to hang on up there. And a small blue butterfly whizzed by with the wind across the trail in front of me. Stuck around for a little bit, but it never returned.
Ok, so the wind was BLOWING LIKE CRAZY. But I kept going up and up and leaned into it, holding onto my hat much of the time. And as I approached the absolute top, I could see a raptor riding those crazy winds on the West side of the mountain. And allofasudden, I was AT THE TOP. And the ridge trails were on my left and right. And South San Francisco and beyond were below me.
Now, I’m not one for views, but I was kind of amazed right then. Mostly because I made it to the top without a ton of effort, but it’s kind of amazing to arrive on a mountain top the way I came! It was SO DANG WINDY that I couldn’t try getting a panoramic shot or take photos of that raptor hovering nearby. All I could do was hang onto my hat and laugh at how strong those winds were. Pretty fantastic feeling, I must say.
I turned around and took a quick break on the one cluster of large rocks up there, facing downtown SF. I soon noticed someone coming up from the trail. He passed me and kept going onto the ridge trail. Then, I could see two couples also coming up. Huh! For a trail I’ve seen maybe only one person on ever before (maybe?), this was ODD.
Passed both couples on my way down. And I soon passed another duo, also heading up. BIZARRE. I thought I was like one of a very few people who used this trail!
I later realized what was going on. It was A WEEKEND DAY. That explains actually seeing people on San Bruno Mountain in relatively unknown parts of it. MYSTERY SOLVED.
On my way back, I noticed some fruiting Coffeeberry, the beauty of the Oak Woodlands at that time in the afternoon, and that same Hairy Woodpecker, who was hard at work on a different tree. Other than that, pretty quiet.
I crossed back over the creekbed, and all was still calm on the flatlands. But I did see some bizarre scat, if you can call it that? It looked like a creature (Coyote?) ate A TON of berries and threw a bunch of it up. On the trail. And it was certainly not there on my way up! Wacky!
Got to the meadow and heard a couple Wrentits, saw a Hummingbird, and that was about it. And it was a perfect day for diurnal creatures. Sunny, warmish, all that. I can’t explain it. But, another Western Fence Lizard scurried to the edge of the trail ahead of me, just before I had reached the end. And it stopped to do some push-ups for me. Turns out, a lizard doing push-ups for you is kind of a cool way to end your day after climbing a mountain. True story.