Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Beckwith Violet in the Huffaker Hills

This violet (Viola beckwithii, Violaceae Family) was seen in the Huffaker Hills in the middle of March this year, just after the snow was gone. Beckwith violets grow on dry, sandy soil. The picture shows the typical color pattern of the flower: the upper two petals are darker colored (here deep purple) than the lower (here blue-purple) ones. The fan-shaped leaves and some dry soil can be seen in the back.

Further Information:
Other species of the Violet Family can be found in the Lake Tahoe Area and the Great Basin. To find out when and where, see, for example, the FALCON GUIDE Tahoe Wildflowers by Laird R. Blackwell (2007).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cliffs, Sea Caves, Stacks, and Natural Bridges

Coastal hikes are always a pleasure. The configuration of coastlines and shorelines are changing from day to day. Hiking along beaches or on cliff trails brings you in touch with the sculptural power of wind and waves. One of my favorite descriptions of this scenery and how it forms is by Rachel Carson [1]:

... we owe some of the most beautiful and interesting shoreline scenery to the sculpturing effect of moving water. Sea caves are almost literally blasted out of the cliffs by waves, which pour into crevices in the rocks and force them apart by hydraulic pressure. Over the years the widening of fissures and the steady removal of fine rock particles in infinite number result in the excavation
of a cave. Within such a cavern the weight of incoming water and the strange suctions and pressures caused by the movements of water in an enclosed space may continue the excavation upward. The roofs of such caves (and of overhanging cliffs) are subjected to blows like those from a battering ram as the water from a breaking wave is hurled upward, most of the energy of the wave passing into this smaller mass of water. Eventually a hole is torn through the roof of the cave, to form a spouting horn. Or, on a narrow promontory, what began as a cave may be cut through from side to side, so that a natural bridge is formed. Later, after years of erosion, the arch may fall, leaving the seaward mass of rock to stand alone—one of the strange, chimneylike formations known as a stack.

[1] Rachel L. Carson: The Sea Around Us. Special Edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 1989; page 124. The Sea Around Us was originally written in 1951, bringing together, in flowing style, the state of the knowledge of the ocean world at that time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Exploring San Mateo Coast Beaches

Little Lukas is exploring barnacles on a rock at the harbor beach just south of Princeton-by-the-Sea. Outside the harbor is where the annual surfing competition Mavericks takes place. From Princeton you can start southwards for a Half Moon Bay beach hike or a bike tour along the trail next to the beaches. Just 20 miles south of San Francisco, this area gets busy on week-ends. Other visitors of the area include pelagic birds. My favorite viewing point for birds and sea life is the beach west of Princeton and Pillar Point Harbor, where various rocks break the waves. And big they can get on stormy days. Mavericks surfers may enjoy them, but the beach can turn into a dangerous place. Barnacles will survive, but humans (little and big) may not.

On the Sculpture Trail: Saffron Tower Reflection

Next to the building of the de Young Museum just off the
Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park stands the Saffron Tower. You can't climb it. The tower consists of blown glass and neon, on an island protected by a sculptured mountain lion and at least one video monitor. Goethe and Schiller, standing across the Music Concourse, also are constantly watching. You will immediately recognize this glass sculpture as a Dale Chihuly design, if you have seen his other glass art. The picture shows the mirror image of the Saffron Tower in the surrounding pond. What a place to experience the merger of illusion and reality!

Explore the Chihulyverse: SlideShow - Galleries - Videos