Mt Sutro Cloud Forest: An August 2012 Hike

The summer fog’s been hanging around the Cloud Forest, and when we went up there late last weekend, it had lightened but not lifted.

We climbed up by the Christopher entrance to the South Ridge trail. It was cool and green, trees rising into a mist-gray sky. These were the sounds of the forest: The wind in the leaves high above; the creaking of the eucalyptus as they swayed; and the insistent beat of the music from the Outside Lands concert in the Golden Gate Park to the north.

Though we spent a couple of hours on the mountain, we saw only two joggers, two dog-walkers, and a bike-rider. Maybe everyone was at the concert.

STATE OF THE TRAILS

The trails vary from wet to dry, the typical summer cloud forest pattern. It depends on how dense the fog has been in a particular area, how much the unbroken canopy has harvested the moisture, how much the undergrowth has retained, how the path has drained.

That day, the trail turned abruptly from dry to damp as we climbed into the forest. All along the South Ridge, it was damp; and where the trail was broad, and particularly where it was churned up by bike-riders, it was muddy in stretches, with puddles. The upper reaches of the Historical Trail were beautiful but wet, but dries out as it turns north.  A perfect yellow dandelion shone by the trailside.

[Click here for pointers on foggy-day hiking in Mount Sutro.]

This year, there’s been less fog on the north side of the forest than on the South.  The trails below the paved road that intersects this forest, Medical Center Way, were all dry to the point of being dusty. The Fairy Gates trail started out wet near the Chancellor’s house on the Aldea student housing area, but was quite dry beyond the narrow rock passage.

Also, this is the area where there has been a lot of clearing, and the forest has dried out. Some of the understory has returned, but all over the forest, there are bare patches where volunteers have been at work. We wish they would understand the importance of this understory to the forest’s ecology and the wildlife that live there.

A new signboard, similar to the one up in the Native Garden, has been placed near the Woods Parking lot on Medical Center Way. It has a map of the forest, and recruiting posters for the Sutro Stewards who run the volunteer program.

WILD TRAIL

We followed an unmarked wild trail into the Interior Green Belt portion of the forest. It challenging, a narrow uneven trail through dense vegetation and among tall trees, but closer to our forest experience of yesteryear. But even there, there had been clearing. On one tree, someone had cut a thick stem of ivy, destroying the plant as it climbed a tree providing greenery and habitat. (Some believe that ivy kills trees; this isn’t actually true of the eucalyptus. But we’ll go into that another time.)

Parts of the trail ran through a bare area behind the houses on Stanyan. The upside was that the additional sunlight made the blackberries fruit abundantly. No pesticides had been used here, and we snacked as we trekked.

Someone had tried to block the pathway with a huge pile of brush and debris, but it was possible to clamber around the blockage. Just as well; it was a longish way back.

The path dipped under some wonderful tree tunnels and returned into the forest.

Somewhere around here we found a feather. We think it’s probably from a Great Horned Owl. If anyone has a better ID, please comment?

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  1. Pingback: Hiking in Mount Sutro Forest – Pointers and Map | Save Mount Sutro Forest

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