Today D. and I went to Glen Canyon Park in San Francisco. A canyon? In San Francisco? Yes, sort of. Not something rugged and arid you'd see in the desert, but a chaparral-covered ravine with a stream running through (one of the last 2 free-flowing streams left in the City).
Glen Canyon is characterized by large areas of grasses and wildflowers on open hillsides, impressive masses of rock formations, and Islais Creek which supports a dense margin of arroyo willow trees. Unfortunately, European settlers decided it'd be great to plant a bunch of non-native trees, like eucalyptus and cypress, so most of the lower canyon has a much different character. There are groups trying to restore the native habitat, which I think is a fine idea, but they got into a bit of trouble when, among other things, they planted poison oak in the canyon. It's native, so they figured what's the problem? Well, I'm sure the dog-owners who walk their pets on the trails there can tell them exactly what the problem is with that particular native species!
We went to the top of the canyon first, via an almost hidden narrow dirt path in back of a playground in the Diamond Heights neighborhood. The path wound through the trees then suddenly opened up into a dramatic, stunning revelation of the park interior. When a real estate developer owned that property in the late 1890s, they created a mini-amusement park there and strung a high wire across the canyon for a tightrope walker to do stunts far above the creek. Such spectacles are long-gone now, thank goodness. From our high perch we had lunch and watched the skies for hawks. We saw a Cooper's hawk prowling around the groves of trees, then a red-tailed hawk soaring above the grassy hillsides.
After lunch we walked down a rough trail toward the lower parts of the canyon, stopping to rest part way on an outcropping of rock called radiolarian chert. Since the going was so steep and rough, we decided it was best to go back up and drive to the lower end of the canyon rather than hike back up the rugged hill the whole way. On the way back up we saw two red-tailed hawks circling above. One of them had a snake in its talons, the other one was hot on its heels, probably figuring out how to steal it away for its own lunch.
Then we drove to the main part of the park in the lower end of the canyon. This was an easy stroll along a creekside path. We were just about the only people there not walking their dog. As the path went farther into the canyon it grew narrower and more overgrown with trees (including a few redwoods), lots of arroyo willows on the stream banks, ferns, horsetails and grasses. There were fantastic growths of lichen on almost every branch and mosses on the boulders and tree trunks. We saw blackberry bushes still in blossom. We saw a spider in its web lunching on a bug. We saw a Wilson's warbler scolding us very agitatedly in the willows, a bright yellow blur flitting about in the branches.
On and on we walked, the creek growing wetter and the path rising and eventually twisting up above the treetops to more huge chert outcroppings. The fog was starting to blow in overhead on a chilly wind, so we stopped to rest in the lee of some boulders before going back down the canyon and coming home. There was a dead mouse lying high up on a rock nearby; now that its little mouse life is over it will likely become lunch for a turkey vulture, and be part of the cycle of life and death. It was a bit sad seeing it lying there, with the fog rolling in like a shroud. Night-night, little meadow mouse.
Here's some pics D. took.
The ever-present "Trident of Doom" broadcasting tower looms over the top of the canyon.
One of the many big chert outcrops in the canyon.
Lichens growing on a pine tree in the upper canyon.
A closeup of a lichen colony on a cherty bluff. Lichen helps to form soil by secreting chemicals that break down the rock.
The shady, woodsy path in the lower canyon, popular with hikers and dog walkers.
A blue damselfly on a rock in Islais Creek.
Lunchtime for a spider on the path.
Blackberries still bloom in the canyon.
A whole season on one branch.
The path leads away from Islais Creek and up out of the canyon (to where we found the dead mouse).
A pure white berry. A ghost berry? (No, a snowberry.)
Read the pole for evidence of the liberal nature of the City.
Sticky monkeyflower at the trailhead, a cheerful bright spot on a foggy afternoon.
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I found a poem about a meadow mouse.
The Meadow Mouse
by Theodore Roethke
In a shoe box stuffed in an old nylon stocking
Sleeps the baby mouse I found in the meadow,
Where he trembled and shook beneath a stick
Till I caught him up by the tail and brought him in,
Cradled in my hand,
A little quaker, the whole body of him trembling,
His absurd whiskers sticking out like a cartoon-mouse,
His feet like small leaves,
Whitish and spread wide when he tried to struggle away,
Wriggling like a minuscule puppy.
Now he's eaten his three kinds of cheese and drunk from his
So much he just lies in one corner,
His tail curled under him, his belly big
As his head; his bat-like ears
Twitching, tilting toward the least sound.
Do I imagine he no longer trembles
When I come close to him?
He seems no longer to tremble.
But this morning the shoe-box house on the back porch is empty.
Where has he gone, my meadow mouse,
My thumb of a child that nuzzled in my palm? --
To run under the hawk's wing,
Under the eye of the great owl watching from the elm-tree,
To live by courtesy of the shrike, the snake, the tom-cat.
I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass,
The turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway,
The paralytic stunned in the tub, and the water rising,--
All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.