Today I tried out one of the places bookmarked on my AllTrails list. I was going to be in the South Bay for lunch, so I decided to spend my monthly day trip down there, too.
I thought maybe somewhere with a creek (to hopefully enjoy while full/ish) and with a forest (to hopefully enjoy fungi) would be good, so I picked the Los Trancos Loop Trail curated route.
After enjoying birdspotting of a California Scrub-Jay and a Spotted Towhee and two Wren-looking things that never quite came out far enough for me to ID, I started noticing that most of the trees around me were California Bay trees. See, yesterday I learned in my Mushroom ID class that ectomycorrhizal fungi (which produce large fruiting bodies) are not commonly found in Bay tree forests.
MAYBE the trail would take me to other trees, and thus more fungi?
Spotted my first fungi soon after, and that was a relief. Golden Ear? On a fallen tree log, along with Trametes or Stereum. Turns out I’d continue to see that above all other fungi throughout my journey. They win the Fungi Award today!
Got to a sunnyish spot, and an orange and black large Butterfly jumped up from the trail ahead of me and fluttered out of view. While waiting for it to return, which it never did, I was rewarded with many birds all in that same spot. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Brown Creeper and Dark-eyed Juncos and a Townsend’s Warbler all popped in and out at one point or another while I stood waiting.
Realized the Butterfly was not going to return, so I continued on. Finding a random old mushroom here and there. Guess they all peaked a while ago? One of them had such a gnarled cap that it looked like some period French hat like a Musketeer would’ve worn.
Two Hermit Thrushes made a quick appearance for me. Noticed one single bud of a Baldhip Rose that wanted to bloom soon. And, little streams and small waterfalls all eventually made their way into Los Trancos Creek. I must say it is so delightful to be out Naturing when water is doing its thing. I need to prioritize that in my near future outings. It sadly won’t last.
At one point, when Coast Live Oaks started increasing in numbers, I came upon a single Manzanita tree that was close to blooming. Such a treat but also so sad that I only saw one. Nearby, I spotted a plucking from a Fungi Fairy. Some bizarre totem Bolete, perhaps?? A handful of Blewits were close-by, ready to take it on if necessary…
Acorn Woodpeckers and more Dark-eyed Juncos made themselves known. A couple Western Gray Squirrels ensured I continued on my way past THEIR TREE. And, I surprised even myself by spotting the smallest and cutest white mushroom nestled below a damp earth overhang. Miyazaki spirit, for sure. Inocybe insinuata, maybe?
Got to the point where there’s an Earthquake Trail Loop and took it. It has an old fence made diagonal with the 1906 earthquake, just like the one in Pt. Reyes. Neared the end, and I heard a couple peeps behind me. I slowly turned around, and there was a Dark-eyed Junco. Standing on a large tree branch. Six feet away from me. About hip height. Frozen. In profile to me. Able to see me.
It was ON. I didn’t move. Just watched it watching me. This went on for what felt like HOURS but was likely thirty seconds or so. And then something wonderful happened. It moved its head a tiny bit toward me. I breathed. And smiled. It moved its head a tiny bit more toward me so that its head was facing me.
I breathed again and slowly reached for my digital camera. And, it let me take its photo. And I SWEAR TO GAWD it looks like it’s SMILING AT ME. I finished taking a couple photos, and I put my camera away. Smiling back at this sweet Dark-eyed Junco in front of me. Giving me a knowing look. We had a moment. It was awesome.
I slowly turned back and headed on my way. In the end, not the most amazing spot, but perhaps I missed the peak fungi bits? And perhaps Spring is lovely there, which was hinted at by all the Pink Honeysuckle I saw. However, there was NO ONE else there the entire time I was there. So I literally had that whole forest to myself. And that is always an incredible experience.
Had a little time left, so I went to the other side of the street, where Monte Bello Preserve is. Also on my list. Took a short walk to get a sense of it. From the outset, it looks quite picturesque. Someone even set a handful of Deer here and there to complete the look. Someday I’ll go and see what it’s all about.
Til then, I’ve got a Junco Friend somewhere in Los Trancos should I ever need him.