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California Native Plant Society

Santa Clara Valley Chapter

Castle Rock October 25, 2014

By Dee Wong, Chapter Treasurer at the time, now (Feb 2015) our Field Trip Chair

Our last field trip for the year took us to Castle Rock State Park.

There were 14 in attendance including the co-leaders, Ken Himes and Dee Wong, and with Toni Gregorio-Bunch as our sweep. Thank you Toni! Of the 14 people, there were one new member who joined before the field trip and three that are not members and were enthusiastic to become members of our Chapter. While on the trail, Dee also encountered a young couple from Marin, who were curious about what we were doing, and was handed a membership form and a plant list for this hike. They were so thrilled! We hope this will capture their interest in joining CNPS!

On the morning of the hike, the weather was overcast with light drizzle on and off but cleared to occasional blue skies in the afternoon. The view was quite dramatic with Ken and Dee vocalizing their view of the scenery to be that of the Oregon mountain ranges with mist rising from the forest, rain curtains drifting by in the background, and misty sun rays shining through the clouds.

Ken Himes and CNPS hike audience at Castle Rock viewing platform.  Includes Alf Fengler with the hiking poleWith the little rains we have had so far, which averaged about one inch, the forest floor along Kings Creek, which had small pools of water, were surprisingly densely covered with native wild ginger, Asarum caudatum, and healthy looking colonies of giant chain ferns, Woodwardi frimbriata. There was sufficient moisture to resuscitate the lichens and mosses on the tree trunks making them soft and the mosses vibrant green, and dripping with water - a definitely good sign.

Ken led the group through a loop via Saratoga Gap Trail stopping at Falls Overlook, Trail Campsite, Ridge Trail passing Russell Rock, Goat Rock, and back to Kings Creek, Saratoga Gap Trailhead. We took a lunch break at the black oak grove at the junction of an interconnecting trail. Three people left early after lunch taking the interconnecting trail back to the parking lot. The rest of the group continued the loop finishing at about 3:30pm.

The trails we were on went through black oak forests, mixed woodlands of coast live oaks, tanbark oaks, interior live oaks, scrub oaks, madrones, knobcone pines, California hazelnut, California bay laurels, with rare colonies of coast redwood deep in the canyons, chaparral, and some small patches of grassland.

Along the trail were remnants of faded summer flowers of the Indian paintbrush, redwood penstemons, goldenrod, and pitcher sage to name a few. The California fuchsia have started to bloom sporadically here and there. There were some naked buckwheat and goldenrod still in bloom, although on their tail end. The toyons, Heteromeles arbutifolia and the madrones, Arbutus menziesii were setting fruit.  We observed plant rejuvenations such as the brittleleaf manzanita, Arctostaphylos crustacea spp. crustacea; chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum that were clear cut for the trail.

All in all, the hike was very educational in seeing the varied possibilities in different plant communities in a short span of time and distance.

Photo by Dee Wong

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