Journal archives for April 2011

April 08, 2011

Estero Americano

A happily obscure feature of western sonoma county/ marin county: in fact providing a border between the two. I'd crossed the small bridge outside of Valley Ford dozens of times times on the way to Dillon Beach; wondering about the occasional kayaker. This simple crossing spans a 15' muddy ditch that belies the truth.... after a number of sinuous turns you are clearly in tidal waters; the banks studded with clams. Ultimately it opens up to a quite respectable 500' of fresh seawater in an emerald basin, but you are still quite a ways from the ocean.

Western sonoma county and its coast tend to be cool and windy to a fault. On many days when places like Tomales Bay would be out of the question this trip is comparatively warm and peaceful. Where you felt the wind, the next turn would take you out of its current. Ducks, egrets and swifts were plentiful; and most gratifyingly, dozens of pond turtles line the upper banks. We took off late, and never got more than a third of the way to the end; but it was progressively wonderful as it opened up.

A few years ago there was talk that it might provide an outlet to the sea for Sonoma Counties excess wastewater. I believe that this spectre was laid to rest when the Rube Goldbergian Geyserville pipeline project was realized: long may it prosper! True, pumping wastewater deep into the earth into the caverns depleted by feeding geothermal steam turbines has renedered that whole area a bit shaky; but the thought of ruining this gem is pretty hideous. This is like a number of our modern issues: we could conserve, but we'd rather splurge and hope some engineering cleverness will make it right. Mean while, citizens might make the effort to 'open' this up to visitation; as obscurity keeps it vulnerable. The land trust has acquire some sort of interest in a piece of land on the northern shore of the Estero near the sea; but I believe this is still off limits. Hence the need to "paddle to the sea". It's actually a charming way to approach the big water parts; and your trip back is wind assisted.

Posted on April 08, 2011 21:32 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 11, 2011

Our Metasequoia

Our neighbor Lillian Finley gave us her potted dawn redwood after she decamped from Monroe Street. I believe they were in residence since George's return from the great war; certainly they'd raised a family in their small bungalow and grown old there surrounded by her plants. George died that year; over the next decade her splendid garden was fated wither away. Fortunately, she'd the foresight to be generous with her plants before her move. She couldn't resist moving her tree peyonies...I hope they made the trip intact. She also took her endless supply of pies, cakes and eclairs. Monroe Street has never really recovered.

The metasequoia was in a rotting redwood planter, about 2' tall. We'd had to cut down an incense cedar put too close to our foundation, and I wanted to put the new tree near to that spot. Aside from the threat to raise that corner of our old house, the old cedar was a grand highway for the opossums nesting in the attic. I'm not sure I expected much, but it was such a nice gesture to give us this replacement; so in it went. I'm not sure, but that was probably 1986. Growth since has been very gratifying despite competition cutting off the morning sun.

Lillian told me the charming story that this is an ancient species, thought extinct, but then discovered by a botany student on walkabout. Once worldwide, it had persisted mysteriously only in a limited range in the Chinese hinderland. In years since, its been shipped here and there so may regain a place worldwide. I've seen about ten others locally, all thriving. I don't believe it is a nursery favorite; but it's said to grow easily from cuttings. For those of us who never entirely recovered from learning that there were no living specimens of our favorite dinosaurs, it's a best bet.

Posted on April 11, 2011 17:45 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 27, 2011

Costa Rico

We went south this January to NW Costa Rico; flying into Liberia, going to the coast for a week, then to a highland Volcano resort...

The coast is a tropical drylands forest; and by late January had shed virtually all it's leaves for the dry season. There is a remarkable effloriescence of their trees a bit earlier; but we missed it. Only by the coast where towns are planted up with exotics, and of course up the mangrove rivers and streams, do you find green forest. They work their year around a 'summer' when it's dry, and a wet 'winter' when we are in our high summer. When we arrived, it was the last weeks of summer vacation for the schools.

We waited our first exhausted night until 3 at a station on the coast to see the leatherback turtles... None were coming in, but we hear a dolorous lecture about their status. Ten years ago 2000 laid eggs; last year only about forty. They have instituted remarkable safeguards: that ten mile beach is protected by a berm to block lights, and rangers are stationed every 100 meters to block access except for fifteen guided visitors at a time. But it may be too late. Evidently the other sea turtles can still be seen in the coastal national parks.

We took a guided snorkle trip. The recession has hung heavy on the tourist guides; so we had a delighted and throughgoing captain for our little boat.We saw many jellyfish and several dead coral reefs. The pufferfish have persisted; so a staple of these trips is your guide catching one and inducing that curious defence. I found a sea-viper lying on the reef; we'd been told by an expatriot couple that these wash up regularly, and kill(no antivenin available) foolish tourists who pick them up. It locked like a little rattlesnake without rattle: it had the vipers blocky head.

The volcano Arenal supports a tourist industry itself. That formerly sleepy precinct was change forever in 1969 by its eruption, this in a region quiescent in western historic times. Since it's more or less constantly emitted lava, and has a classic cone and delights tourists on clear nights with and incandescent flow. It is, however, a volcano that spouts a heavy discharge of (poisonous) gasses; and thus could explode at any time. At it's foot: an earthen dam that impounds a huge lake. You can't help wondering if that's a good idea.

We stayed at lost iguana: a scotties castle in the forest. It's a labor of love by a woman whose spared no expense in creating a flower filled garden on the corpse of the original rainforest where a cattle rancher had his hacienda. She's a marvelous host and a fragrant soul, so we wish her well, The whole region was defloiated in the 60's by a populist government who gave land to every citizen to either grow coffee or raise beef. The land on the way to the capital is a quilt of small coffee farms; but north the lands were quickly bought up and amalgamated into large parcles where beeves thrived for about ten years until the soil was exhausted. Almost all of that meat was contracted by Mr Croc and served up in his McDonald restraunts that were metastasizing across america in that balmly and narcisstic decade. Thus: all of the1960-1980's americans carry a little bit of costa rico in our adiposity. The region is still green; so all the visitors wonder why the forest just doesn't grow back...

We toured with a wonderful man who was a naturalist. He's been taught enough english by a peace core volunteer, learned to take tourists on their wild rivers; and finally got recruited to do the same across western america. He'd been to more of them than me, and is a wonderful man to talk to about our forests or theirs. By 25, he'd managed to transition into university to study biology. George now leads tourists through the reminants of their primodial forest. And that's something to see: action enough for any norteamericano. Troups of howlers are abundant--they are almost omnivorous where green vegitation is concerned, so do well. The other monkeys that need fruit have done far less adapted to the new deal, but are occasionally seen. i wish I had George's full name and number; but the lost iguana staff knows him. He lives in nearby Fortuna with his young family.

Posted on April 27, 2011 16:14 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment