Muir Woods.... Welcomes All!
By Mia Monroe
Of particular delight to us rangers is the welcome we offer so many who are new to national parks, seeing their first redwood or learning the value of time in nature...look! New features have been added to ensure a unique experience for all! Starting with the plaza, one is immediately drawn to the new tactile model of Redwood Creek Watershed. Cast in bronze, accurate and has a fun secret: pour a bit of water (or let Mother Nature add it with a foggy day or a bit of rain!) and watch how the water flows just as it does via Redwood Creek! Similar models are in other key locations in the watershed such as the summit of Mt Tam and down at Muir Beach (soon: trailhead kiosks with orienting map panels in our new collaborative NPS-State Park design!) And, having observed how effective the boardwalks are for all to easily navigate the trails AND have a more intimate experience with the forest thanks to "no rails", we have realized our long-held dream of making the path accessible right to the core of the park and our historic heart: Founders Grove!
But back to the beginning: the tactile model is the first piece in the next phase of plaza design. In the months ahead look for a trailhead kiosk to complement the model AND the orienting role of the Visitor Center. We also will be resurfacing the plaza to minimize the dust and tweak some design features. Interpretive planning will also give a fresh eye to how we tell the story, share what we're learning through efforts such as BioBlitz, help communicate safety messages more effectively, set the tone for a respectful visit, and seek out ways to engage more effectively with youth...we hope you'll be involved!
Boardwalk Extension Gives More Forest Floor Back to the Woods
By Lucy Scott
The boardwalk extension project is a labor of love for the Park Service trail crew. I spoke with Trail Crew Worker Adrian Villalba about the work he and his fellow crew members have been doing these last few months and it’s clear that they enjoy what they do and are proud of their craftsmanship. One great benefit of this project is that the removal of almost 20 yards of asphalt allows rainwater to actually penetrate the earth (if it ever rains). By creating a more level path, the boardwalk is more accessible for all visitors, and the elevated platform gives more room for all of the living things on the forest floor. The wood is from two sources – the main circled area is all FSC 2nd growth redwood. The extension path from the circle to the curly bark redwood is from an old water tank! Adrian showed me the marks in the 5” boards from the metal pieces holding the tank together. All of those marks will be smoothed out and the side of the boards that were in contact with the water will be facing the ground. To see just how rot resistant redwood really is, sneak a look underneath that part of the boardwalk to see very minimal effects of water rot in the boards.
Adrian’s favorite part of working on this project is the finite craftsmanship – ensuring that the joints have “laser tight” connections and creating the perfectly equal amount of space between each board. His least favorite part of this project has been the time crunch! The government shutdown pushed them back a lot, and they worked overtime to finish the work before the quiet owl-nesting season starts. The most common question the crew receives from visitors stopping by is “Is that redwood?” and the follow-up question is usually “Is it from here?”
We are grateful to the very dedicated trail crew for their hard work on our beautiful boardwalk!
By Bridget Peregrino
Tired of walking on the same old Main Trail? Well you’re in luck because all the extended trails are finally open! Yes, that includes Bootjack, which has been closed since early summer.
You can now walk up the Hillside Trail and get a closer view at those redwood tops and maybe get away from some of that main trail chatter.
If you are looking for something longer and a tad strenuous, you can now hop on the Ocean View Trail. The newly done steps at the beginning of the trail add that extra leg workout you just don’t get on the main trail. As you make your way towards the top, you might notice the lack of invasive forget-me-nots which have been removed.
The Bootjack Trail, which feels like has been closed forever, is finally open and has a new bridge. Take a long walk up this re-vamped trail and take a break at the Van Wyck Meadow.
However, don’t get used to walking the Ocean View Trail or the Main Trail as they will be disappearing soon – no, not disappearing completely, but their names will be changing! The Ocean View Trail will become the more appropriately named Canopy View Trail, and the Main Trail will take on two new names. The east side of the trail will be known as Redwood Creek Trail and the west side will be known as Bohemian Grove Trail.
Special thanks go to all the wonderful trail crew members and volunteers who made this possible. Without their hard work, we wouldn't have the lovely trails you see today!
I Spy…Something New…at Muir Beach!
By Aimee Snider
Muir Beach is now opened! After the July 2013 closure of Muir Beach for restoration, the beach reopened December 28th, 2013, with some continuing work with planting and installation. Hopefully all the changes that have happened at Muir Beach for this restoration project and beyond will continue to restore the floodplain, reestablish habitat, and create a place that can be enjoyed by all. Some things that are new to check out include:
- A new, improved, and much larger bridge to get from the parking lot to the beach! It is accessible and multi-use, so it will serve as a great way for everyone to make their way to the beach, and also expand the floodplain and vegetation.
- Lots of new vegetation! There were over 10,000 plants planted that you will see as you’re walking on the new bridge. These were planted in “jute,” a fabric that biodegrades back into the soil. It is helping to stabilize the new plants in the soil, and serving as erosion control (which eventually the plants will do on their own!).
- The new parking lot that has been configured to reconnect the creek to the floodplain, and also has new restrooms!
- New tactile model that was installed on January 10th that shows the entire watershed. Be sure to check out the new waysides as well!
- A realigned Coastal Trail to inhibit erosion and two acres of invasive grass by the Middle Green Gulch Trail that was managed.
- A new Muir Beach Quest booklet that is in the works right now!
And much more! MANY thanks are due to the numerous staff and volunteers who have spent so much time on this project. If you haven’t made your way out to Muir Beach be sure to do so! The grand opening will be March 1st. For more information about this project check out:
The new pedestrian bridge extends over restored floodplain
Picnic area near the parking lot over looks the floodplain and the beach
Redwood Creek flows to the beach without interruption
Muir Woods Thirsts for More Rain While Drought Continues
By Marissa Reis
As we all know, the lack of rain this winter season has moved California into a drought year, which brings about concerns for many people throughout the state. Muir Woods has been no exception to the dry weather patterns that have been occurring this season. According to data that has been collected from July of one year to June of the next for the past 65 years, the average yearly rainfall for Muir Woods over has been about 37.5 inches, with the lowest amount of rainfall gauged at 17.8 inches during the 1976/77 period. This year, however, we have only gotten 6.7 inches of rain to-date; a pattern so far from the observed norm that it brings to question what this may mean for the many species that dwell here and rely on copious amounts of winter rain.
Most immediately influenced by the amount of rainfall here in the Woods is the endangered Coho Salmon that traditionally swim up Redwood Creek to spawn. With the lack of rain, the creek has not been able to consistently break the sand bar and create a clear path for salmon to reach their spawning areas from the ocean. Later rainfalls in this month may be able to provide opportunities for Salmon to swim up the creek and spawn, but the impacts of late winter rains on salmon spawning is unclear. The best we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope that if and when we get rain, it won’t be too late for the salmon.
Of course, the forest as a whole will suffer as well from this extended dry spell. Redwoods themselves can typically consume between 100-500 gallons of water in a day, and while they gain a lot of their moisture through fog, they typically rely on winter rains to maximize their water intake. Because of the large amounts of moisture that redwoods tend to retain, other plants in the forest benefit from their hydration, and the shade produced by the tall trees greatly reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation. But without rain to replenish the watershed, the creek and the forest will continue to get drier. Unfortunately there isn't much that we can do to increase rainfall but we'll be keeping a close watch on the impacts we see in the coming months and hope for the best.
Shortest Day, Longest Night
By Tim Jordan
On December 21st, 2014 hundreds of people flocked to Muir Woods to celebrate the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. Since time immemorial, people have marked the changing of the seasons with song, food, and fun. For over 30 years, Muir Woods has hosted a special event featuring a variety of activities aimed at connecting people with this special place at a very auspicious time of the year.
This year was a Muir Woods solstice unlike those in the past. This was the first year the park was able to offer shuttle service to the Mill Valley park and ride as a way to increase safety and offset the personal vehicle traffic coming to the park. This year's schedule of activities was streamlined to provide all of the favorite activities of years past, while keeping the workload manageable for the supporting ranger and volunteer staff.
This year's Winter Solstice event began with medieval Morris Dancing lessons in the Muir Woods plaza. Later in the day, rangers and volunteers helped visitors to make redwood solstice wreaths and Solstice crowns from plants invasive to the forest. Other activities included making Coho Salmon hats and redwood Sumi Art. In the visitor center, the Loosely Knits, a musical group specializing in renaissance era sounds played until darkness fell. Inside the park, volunteer Dan Dugan set up a listening station for visitors to hear the forest up close. A John Muir impersonator told stories about the iconic naturalist's favorite woods wanderings. The Muir Woods Trading Company served up a special Solstice Menu, with cider and other treats.
As darkness fell, volunteer Peter Bergin lit a ceremonial in the plaza using the traditional method of rubbing sticks together. Muir Woods rangers and volunteers took to the stage to sing songs, dance for the safe return of the salmon, and to put on a shadow puppet play to capture the imagination of the young. The stage show wrapped up with a wonderful story by artist Ane Carla Rovetta, who told about the origins of fog. As the stage show ended and the longest night began, visitors were guided out of the park with twinkling luminaria from the crosscut all the way to the second parking lot. Some long time attendees to the event said this solstice was 'one of the best ever.'
Special thanks to all those that helped to make the Muir Woods 2013 Winter Solstice a memorable experience for so many people! If you would like to learn more about helping at the upcoming Summer Solstice please contact the Muir Woods ranger office at 415-388-2596.
Park Ranger Roxi Farwell plays with the Loosely Knits
Peter Bergin lights the ceremonial fire
Muir Woods interpretive team perform the Shadow Puppet Play
Muir Woods Earth Day 2014
On January 25, Muir Woods hosted another successful Earth Day event filled with positive energy and project productivity. About 250 volunteers and 50 staff members and interns joined in teams to tackle several restoration and clean up efforts at Muir Woods and Muir Beach.
The event started with gathering in the Muir Woods Plaza and getting to know each other, then hearing words of encouragement from Mia Monroe before getting to work. Participants split into several different groups that worked on weeding invasive plants, beach cleanup, planting native species, deck flossing, and trail maintenance.
Here's what we accomplished:
- Planting at Muir woods entrance: 114 plants
- Planting in Muir Woods: 386 plants
- Weeding in Muir Woods-small weeds: 13 Large bags
- Weeding in Muir Woods and State Parks: big weeds: 400+ lbs. of broom (12+ bags of broom & 1 big pile)
- Boardwalk maintenance: 300ft. of boardwalk maintained
- Hillside Trail maintenance: 22 social trails covered with 30 trash bags of duff & 40 giant branches
- Muir Beach (brownie troops): 3 bags of micro-trash
- Muir Beach planting/watering: 109 plants planted, 9,000 plants watered, 20 deer exclosures built, 12 bags of invasive grass removed, planted Native Dune Grass (5 flats) & Native Rumex!
At the end of all their hard work, participants enjoyed lunch provided by the Muir Woods Trading Company and celebrated a job well done. Thanks to all those who helped care for the park!
BioBlitz: Come Discover All the Living Things in Your Park
By Bridget Peregrino
Come be a citizen scientist for a day! The GGNRA and National Geographic are hosting a park wide inventory of the plants, animals, and all species that reside in the area.
Here at Muir Woods, we are very excited to welcome Steve Sillett and his team of researchers. They will be climbing a pre-selected pair of Redwoods and a Douglas fir. From their climb, we expect to determine not only how tall our tallest redwood is, but more importantly how healthy the trees are and what types of species they may be supporting in the canopy.
In addition, Allison, a dendrochronologist, has taken core samples from the Solstice tree and the Vortex tree in order to find their ages, possible fire years, drought years, and come up with a history of the land. During the Bioblitz event she will be taking more samples and the citizen scientists will be allowed to assist in the process.
All the Bioblitz fun will occur not only in the trees, but there will also be surveys of the flora and fauna of Redwood Creek and Muir Beach. There will be a 24 hour sound recording session and mist netting sites near Muir Beach. This is a 24 hour survey that will take place the last weekend of March on the 28th and 29th. On Saturday, there will be a festival at East Beach near the Crissy Field Center. The festival will host booths, opening and closing ceremonies, televised interviews, and demonstrations.
For more information on how you can join the fun please visit:
Steve Sillet inspects the trees he'll be climbing
Muir Woods maintenance staff slices rounds from a fallen tree for dendro-chronology
Allison and her partner take cores from the fallen Solstice Tree
Parks Conservancy News
By Alison Campbell
Katherine Taylor began working with us last fall. We are currently recruiting for several summer seasonal positions.
Fee Free Days
The following will be fee free days in 2014:
- Monday January 20 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
- Saturday February 15-Monday February 17 (Presidents’ Day Weekend)
- Saturday April 19-Sunday April 20 (First Weekend of National Parks Week)
- Monday August 25 (National Park Service Birthday)
- Saturday September 27 (National Public Lands Day)
- Tuesday November 11 (Veterans Day)
New natural history titles include Ancient Trees and What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World as well as field guides to bees, spiders, and scat, and pocket guides about butterflies, waterfowl, hummingbirds, and wildflowers.
New cultural and local history titles include Muir Woods & Marin County Through the Life of Tony Brazil, Marin’s Mountain Play: 100 Years of Theatre on Mount Tamalpais, John Muir Spiritual Writings, Kenneth Browers’ Hetch Hetchy: Undoing a Great American Mistake, Jared Farmers’ Trees in Paradise: A California History, and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.
New poetry collections include A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds.
We have many new books and other items for children.
Park volunteers and Parks Conservancy members receive a 15% discount on all visitor center purchases. Proceeds benefit the park.
New Addition to our Family Circle!
Aeolian Plankton: The Micro-Settlers of the Woods
By Lou Salas Sian
Occasionally, a visitor will ask about the animals in the Woods. One sunny day, a visitor asked if there were any insects. They’re hard to see in the deeply shaded forest, except when rays pierce the forest canopy. It brings to mind the seasonal delight of the leafless hazel by Bridge 3, and how that certain wintry slant of light makes it fun to be in the Woods with playful people. Walk this way a few steps, and a few previously invisible galaxies of finely-spun spider webs come into view. Walk the other way, and they disappear, but others appear. How could there possibly be enough insects to sustain the metropolis of spiders that have built and rebuilt their shimmering nests in every angle imaginable to catch whatever the wind brings them?
But, there are about a gad-zillion of them. According to Edward O. Wilson, the man who coined the word “biodiversity”, there are enough of them to repopulate barren islands or a deforested patch in the Amazon jungle. Wilson refers to such wind-blown prey as Aeolian plankton. They float out of the sky, layer upon layer. It tickles me to think of plankton floating in the wind. We’ve heard of plankton in the ocean —those micro and macroscopic plants that provide most of the world’s oxygen, or the dead radiolarians of ancient oceans whose microscopic remains were layered and compressed through eons of time into that beautiful wall of rock at the top of Muir Woods Road—but, plankton drifting on the wind? Capricious, invisible, strong enough to sink ships, but gentle enough to pass through your hair. Aeolius, the Greek god and ruler of the winds; leave your fate in his hands and who knows where you might end up.
Though the winds blow here and there, it’s tempting to think the winds unruly. But, there are some real consistencies, so much so, that scientists named the once in every 10 years event, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. A huge air mass heats up over the Indian Ocean, travels across the Pacific, and pushes hot air into the atmosphere off our shores and causes the jet stream to weeble and wobble around the Arctic. As a result, we experience extended drought and wildfires in California, while the East Coast experiences freeze and cancelled flights.
Drifting along the winds that spin off of the global currents are the gadzillions of insects, seeds, spores, pollen, micro and macro plants and animals, and some not-so plant-like or animal-like living no-see-ums that make up the Aeolian plankton of the Earth. This includes the ladybugs from Sacramento Valley who are wintering at Bootjack , and that famous high-flying termite that met its demise at 5000 feet on a sticky trap slapped on the side of Charles Lindberg’s plane (Google the Billion Bug Highway). According to Wilson (not a Greek god, but a god among ecologists), an Aeolian plankton was the first to re-colonize a remnant island of a volcano that blew its top with a force equivalent to 100-150 megatons of TNT. The airwaves from the blast reverberated from Sumatra and Java to the opposite end of the world in 19 hours to Bogota, Columbia and back and forth and back seven times. The volcano was Krakatau in 1883, and the first evidence of life on the remaining island one year later was a tiny baby spider that ballooned in on the thin silk line it spun to catch a ride on the wind. It’s not a stretch to think that the coast redwoods – world’s tallest tree species, their canopy reaching 200+ feet into the air – could capture these micro settlers and create another forest layer of plants and animals. In fact, redwood canopy researchers will be climbing the trees in Muir Woods during Bioblitz to see what’s up there.
Golden Gate NRA and National Geographic 2014 Bioblitz and Festival
Work alongside scientists as they discover and document as many plants, animals, and other species as the can in Muir Woods and other sites in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Afterwards, visit the Golden Gate National Parks and National Geographic BioBlitz Festival, March 28 – 29th, 9AM-5PM at East Beach near Crissy Field. More than 50 exhibitors. Hands on activities, arts and crafts, storytelling, music, science demonstrations and more. Everyone is an explorer, discoverer and contributor to biodiversity!
For more information about the Bioblitz Festival, contact Ranger Lou Salas Sian at firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/projects/bioblitz/golden-gate-california-2014/.