Sunset and Mushrooms: Mount Sutro Forest Hike, December 2012

Winter weather seems to have set in, with some major storms coming through. Last night, we had a major rain-storm. This evening, we grabbed the chance to go up into the forest.

The setting sun gilded the trees.

gilded by the setting sun

forest at sunset

From the summit:
sunset in Sutro Forest

If you look up into the tops of these tall trees, it’s awe-inspiring.

tall eucalyptus in Sutro Forestlooking up a tree


All the trails were wet, as might be expected, with some puddles randomly distributed in dips along the trails. The winter wetness is quite different from the pattern of summer in the Cloud Forest, when it can be really slushy along some or all of the trails, depending on the moisture harvested from the fog. Now it’s equally wet everywhere, with some mud, but less so than in summer.

[If you want to hike in the forest, there’s a map and pointers HERE.]

Trail in Mt Sutro Forest

There weren’t many people around, though it was a Sunday evening. In an hour and a half, we saw:

  • Five riders on bicycles.  (We were pleased to see two girls among the riders – this is only the second time we’ve seen women on mountain bikes in the forest. It’s usually young guys.)
  • Two dogs and their people.
  • One student heading back to the campus through the woods.
  • No joggers.


Even though we’ve had some major storms and strong winds, we didn’t notice many trees down. A few do fall each winter, part of the life-cycle of the forest. The downed trees have their own value in the ecosystem – like hosting this elegant fungus.

fungus on a log

We saw more toadstools (or mushrooms, we’re not sure which) than usual in the forest.

toadstools 1

Some of them were pretty big – compare the size to the ivy leaves among which they’re nestled. [Edited to Add: Please note, not all – or even most – mushrooms are edible. Some taste good but are lethal when eaten. We don’t know which ones these are.]
toadstools 2

In the Native Garden on the summit, the re-planted meadow has greened out, we suspect with non-native grasses. There’s still a lot of dry brown sticks and no flowers, though a few forget-me-nots are blooming along the Nike Road on the way up despite the efforts of the Sutro Stewards to suppress them with mulch. (The little white things here are plastic flags.)

meadow replanting on mt sutro

Plastic flags were also blooming along the top end of the Gash in the forest made by the SF Water Department five years ago when it laid pipe. The neighbors were waiting for it to fill in, but for years, “volunteers” kept destroying any trees or bushes that grew back.

the gash sprouts plastic flags

Eventually, the neighbors protested, and the bottom end (near Christopher Drive in the Forest Knolls neighborhood) was allowed to re-vegetate naturally. The top end is presumably being planted with native plants. It’s right next to the Native Plant nursery that’s been set up by the Sutro Stewards in the space that was supposed to be replanted to blend in with the forest (which is what UCSF had promised neighbors, in writing, back in the year 2000). This chain-link-fenced nursery isn’t exactly blending in.

the chain link nursery

tree tunnel to the Fairy Gates trailSadly, the understory has been mowed down everywhere in the forest, with ivy replacing the tall blackberry thickets that make such an excellent habitat for birds and small animals.

We made our way back via the Fairy Gates trail, which has one of the most romantic entrances in the forest: A tunnel of trees. (This is next to the Chancellor’s house.)

It was a beautiful evening, and the lights of the city were visible through the trees as we climbed back up along the Historic Trail. The picture below doesn’t do it justice, this camera doesn’t like low-light conditions. The California Academy of Sciences shone like a bright white dome, and the lights of Golden Gate Bridge sparkled in the distance.

lights through the trees

This entry was posted in Mt Sutro Cloud Forest and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sunset and Mushrooms: Mount Sutro Forest Hike, December 2012

  1. Thanks for this beautiful photo essay that makes its points in a subtle but moving way.

  2. Jacquie says:

    Lovely and meaningful observation of nature and how people interact with it.

  3. Pingback: Mount Sutro: Fungi in the Forest | Save Mount Sutro Forest

Comments are closed.