San Bruno Mountain (1/25/2023)

Today I went to go see about my favorite side of San Bruno Mountain. It is so hard to describe since the Mountain is oddly shaped with a couple of ridges. But my favorite side is the muchlesstravelled side. This includes the San Bruno Mountain Ecological Preserve (in Buckeye Canyon) and from Firth Park up along the Brisbane Ravine. It’s essentially the North side of the Southeast Ridge.

I’ve been ohsocurious about the two creeks in each of these spots. I’ve never seen water in either, and it might be the best time to go and see about that NOW!

First stop was the Reserve. I was also thinking maybe I’d see a Butterfly or two in that lovely meadow before you start heading up. Arrived at the trailhead, and OMG. I believe an actual MUDSLIDE occurred right there in the recent storms. The entire place is NO MORE. You can’t access the trailhead. The meadow is gone. There is bulldozed mud a handful of feet above where the ground was. IT’S INSANE!

My heart was broken, not just because I wasn’t able to visit this special secret place today, but also because I’m not sure what it will look like when they’re done. And, given the lack of interest in that spot, and lack of money that goes to it, what will happen?

Water flowed in the man-made waterway between Quarry Road and the edge of the Reserve. That was new! Up ahead at the other “trailhead” (where the skate park essentially is), water was flowing in the skate park! Water was still visibly coming down from the mountain. It was coming right down the very steep trail there. Nice reminder how trails are so conveniently made with water runoff!

I walked around, because at least I could over there, and surveyed how things were. Some California Poppies and Silver Bush Lupine (my first true Lupine blooms this year!) and a couple of still-blooming Pacific Pea were all happy in the sun and on the rocky hillside. Away from the storm damage below.

A Black Phoebe (which I think I’ve never seen over there?) was busy at work. Some Yellow-rumped Warblers were bopping around the few Willows there. American Robins were at the tops of those trees. A Western Fence Lizard kept an eye on me. And then, A RIBBIT!

Somewhere further out in the now-marshy meadow were some RIBBITS! Sounded like the Sierran Tree Frog we all know and love. My recording of it was crap, as I was too far away. But they are THERE!

I had seen all I could there, so I headed over to Firth Park to see about THAT spot.

Now this spot is literally at the base of the Brisbane Ravine and at the end of what would be a creek with lots of rain. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. Maybe it wouldn’t be open at all?

A big sign at the entrance said, “Do Not Enter During Rain Events.” So, I was able to explore! Two people were there picking up trash (absolute SAINTS) and on their way out. No water at the base, so maybe not much to be concerned about?

OH, NO. I started my walk up and could quickly see that THINGS HAD HAPPENED THERE. There were changes to the rock bed. The shape even looked different. And MORE CHANGE was to come…

But I did manage to spot one tiny and almost luminous white mushroom amongst the leaf litter. Even under California Bay trees! It was clearly young, since its parasol cap hadn’t quite opened up entirely yet, so I couldn’t bring myself to pluck it. Gorgeous little thing, though. If I had more time (or less things on my calendar), I’d return to see it in its mature form. Then PLUCK AWAY.

Managed to get to the earth staircase across the creek bed that leads to the road that leads to the first part of the actual trail up. That short stretch of trail provided some treats, like my first-spotted Milkmaids of the year and a small group of good-size Blewits.

And then I arrived at the spot where you previously took one step to cross a small bottleneck of the creek bed. And ALL THE TREES AND SHRUBS WERE GONE. There was just a plateau left, overlooking the not-dry creek bed and showing that the trees and shrubs formerly there had been WASHED DOWN THE CREEK and ended up ALMOST ENTIRELY UP AGAINST SOMEONE’S HOUSE!

It was a shocking sight. After taking it all in, I managed to cross the now-unrecognizable creek ravine to get to the trail leading to the secret Checker Lily meadow. No Lilies yet, but LOTS of new leaves are out of the ground. Can’t wait to return!! And, I somehow spotted a couple small fungi along the rocky and ferny hillside there. Definitely newtome, but not sure what it is yet. Lactarius, perhaps?

I had seen all I could see there, so I headed back down. CAREFULLY. On my way back, I stopped at a side trail. I’ve never taken it before because I thought it led to someone’s house, which is the case on the other side nearby. But the one other person I saw there had taken it while I made my way up the main trail.

I had time, so I took it! Newtome trail!

Turns out, IT GOES PLACES! It winds its way through Coast Live Oaks, where I spotted a Deceiver mushroom (?), Oak-loving Elfin Saddles, a couple different spots with Russula cerolens (?), maybe Gumtree Deceivers, a number of American Fly Agarics (I am seeing them EVERYWHERE!), a couple Brown Roll-Rims (?), a baby Amanita (that I now know NOT to pull yet), and one Townsend’s Warbler.

It’s making me wonder, seeing all these Fly Agarics recently, why I haven’t seen them in GGPark. Not close enough to the ocean air? Not the right soil? Need to look into that more.

And then I was out of that small forest and in the open and looking at an impressive view of the city and the bay and Brisbane below.

And the trail CONTINUED! It went up then split and appears to go up all the way to the ridge, I’m guessing? Amazing. I went up the seemingly main trail til I decided I wasn’t interested in trying to get to the ridge. Other than a couple more Milkmaids spots, no other blooming flowers. Aside from some Coyote Brush. And there was no more forest to see. So I was done.

What was so odd was how flippin’ BALMY it felt right there in the open. NUTSO given how much cooler it felt near the ravine. While at that elevation, I saw TWO raptors that were either Cooper’s Hawks or Sharp-shinned Hawks flying high and away from me. And I heard a Northern Flicker somewhere far below.

But ohsoawesome to see that part of San Bruno Mountain! And knowing yet another way up.

Not much else of note on my walk down, but I did happen to notice a small parasol-looking mushroom just before reaching the entrance. Unusual cap, with black lines veering out from the center dot. Coprinellus impatiens?

Oh, but when I got to the dry creek bed again, there was a deliciously cool breeze come down from the mountain. Like a refreshingly cold drink of water. I wanted to stand there breathing it in forever.

In the end, I’m very glad I went when I did. And now know what has happened to these favorite spots of mine. It’s good to know that water is flowing in these places. It’s good to see some flora blooming. It’s good to hear A FROG over there! It’s good that I know I can still reach the secret Checker Lily meadow. It’s good to know I can safely get to the Southeast bit with a newtome trail. It’s good to see a nice number and variety of fungi there.

And now I have a new challenge. To find out to get to back to the trail up Buckeye Canyon. There’s one spot, near another patch of Checker Lilies, where another side trail joins. I’ve never gone that way before. But that might be another way in… I have some intel. I’m hoping to use it next week…

But, yeah. Even with all the changes, it’s still my favorite side of San Bruno Mountain. Yep.

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