November Visit (11/29/2019)

First pages in a new sketchbook are always exciting. This is my third sketchbook for Stebbins drawings; so far that’s a rate of 2 years per sketchbook. I was looking forward to some cooler fall weather on this visit and wanted to get to the Reserve before the onslaught of rain we were expecting. Thanks to a little rain a few days earlier, the mosses and lichens were activated and colorful.

SketchbookPage1_2019Nov29 sm

I hiked up the trail toward Blue Ridge and stopped to draw a diagram (across a full spread, here in the pages above ∧ and below ∨) showing the zones of grassland (south-facing slopes) and chaparral (north-facing slopes) on Pleasants Ridge. I also noted seed pods of bush monkeyflower, reminding me a bit of corn still wrapped in dried husks. Hummingbirds caught my attention repeatedly, several times perching in trees near enough that I could watch their movements.

SketchbookPage2_2019Nov29 sm

Chaparral currant was blooming in its beautiful bright pinks, always a nice contrast to the rest of the fall/winter vegetation. Chamise was luxurious on the hillside, with sandstone boulders scattered in between.

SketchbookPage3_2019Nov29 sm

The vivid colors of the scene below with burnt blue oak, striking blue sky, and red and green toyon were crying out to be painted.

SketchbookPage4_2019Nov29 sm

I stopped to try to capture the warm light on the Blue Ridge crest and was then drawn in completely by the lichens. The first were on boulders about half way down from the ridge:

SketchbookPage5_2019Nov29 sm

I made a diagram of the spatial complexity of different species on a rock:

SketchbookPage6_2019Nov29 sm

I got lost in a world of lichens on some fallen blue oak branches:

SketchbookPage7_2019Nov29 sm

And then stopped for a last painting at a boulder in the creek at the crossing back to the trail to the parking lot.

SketchbookPage8_2019Nov29 sm

November Visit (11/30/2016)

In November, on a cool but not cold day, I hiked to the top of Blue Ridge.  Looking out at Lake Berryessa, it was easy to see part of the area burned by the Cold Fire last summer.

berryessaview_2016nov30_sm

On the way up the trail, I looked for mushrooms enjoying the damp left by rains earlier in the month, and observed regrowth of mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides), blue oaks (Quercus douglasii), and chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum).  The leaves of yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) along the trail were losing their waxy coating.  The waxy coating, presumably beneficial in retaining water during dry months, is resinous and highly flammable.  Yerba santa seeds may require fire to germinate and can also resprout from rhizomes following fire.

hikingup_2016nov30_sm

Hillsides stripped of their erosion-controlling vegetation by the fire have been shored up with erosion matting installed by Tuleyome and Friends of Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve.

restoration_2016nov30_sm

Looking across Cold Canyon I was struck by the “rivers” of dead tree branches running down the canyons of Pleasants Ridge.  They made a ghostly grey against the greens of new growth and the hills still mostly yellow from the summer.

pleasantsridge_2016nov30_sm

 

blueridge_2016nov30_sm

A few mid-action photos:

September Visit (9/29/2016) 1 of 3

At the end of September, summer was officially over, but summer weather here lasts well into fall.  Chamise regrowth was strong and healthy, and the buckeye leaves were brown and ready to fall, revealing the fruits:

chamiseandbuckeye_2016sep29_sm

The yellow hills allowed the new sprouts of the chaparral shrubs to stand out sharply:

chaparralhillside_2016sep29_sm

Two wildflowers: western goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis) along the trail, and annual willow-herb (Epilobium canum) in the dry creek bed.  Three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata) was growing happily along the trail; it is a close relative of poison oak, and like that relative, grows back vigorously after fires.

wildflowers_2016sep29_sm

Until this visit, I had only seen western fence lizards in the reserve, so I was excited to spot a speedy western skink:

westernskink_2016sep29_sm

I saw far more spider webs along the sides of the trail on this visit, especially funnel webs as below:

funnelweb_2016sep29_sm