Sunday, June 19, 2011

Banana slugs in Napa

Napa County banana slug

On Saturday morning members of our Rotary Club were invited by one of our members to hike in the Moore Creek Preserve in Napa County.  This is a piece of property that will be part of the Napa County Open Space District.  The creek drains into Lake Hennessey, the largest water supply reservoir for the City of Napa.  The lake is located in the eastern hills of the valley near Conn Creek Rd. and the Silverado Trail, off of highway 128.
Very unexpectedly, we came across banana slugs.  In 2009 we had a delightful hike in the redwood forest of Santa Cruz County - but Napa County is not a "coastal" county in California.  And our remnant redwood forest is predominantly on the west side of the valley, with a stand of redwoods near Angwin that are reputedly the easternmost redwoods in California.  Banana slugs seem to live in conifer forests.  While there are some second growth fir trees in the Moore Creek Preserve, this is not a redwood habitat.

It is beautiful country, with a still running creek in the bottom of the canyon, heavy oak/madrone/maple and fir forest - surrounded by steep hills covered with oak savannah.
The trail is rough and not quite finished.  The park will open next year - we hope in the spring.  The trail we took is partly an old logging road which crosses the creek a half-dozen times.  My feet were damp after the second crossing.

 Some of the banana slugs we saw were spotted like old, overripe bananas.  Their color was muted, not the pure electric yellow of the ones we saw in Santa Cruz at Big Basin Redwood Park.  Still, they are a sight I never expected to see on this little hike.

I also did not expect to see wildflowers, but a few clung to the edges of the trail and to the rocks of the hill.  Ferns filled the low areas next to the creek. 

There seemed to be some seams of serpentine rock, and a wild mix of trees that included gray pines - which like serpentine soil.  We missed the presence of Craig and Millie, birders who could identify all the birds we heard.
We had a jolly crew on the hike.  I had a weird realization today as I sat down to write.  I think I was the eldest member of the group. 

I'm sure this earns me no special distinction, but I was winded on the steep sections of the trail and obviously need more conditioning before setting out on a major hike.
John kept me company as I gradually started to fall back in the group.  I could always use "taking photographs" as an excuse for slowing down, but actually started to feel pain in my repaired hip.  

Thanks to John our host and guide for homemade oatmeal cookies when we got back to our vehicles.

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