By Liz Ponzini, Manager of Tennessee Valley Nursery
Many people visit and volunteer in different places in the Golden Gate National Parks for different reasons. If you enjoy military history, you can visit the Nike Missile Site or any number of forts and batteries. If you like watching wind surfers, you can go to Crissy Field and see them glide across the Bay. If you love gazing up through a redwood forest, you can go to Muir Woods. However, if what you really enjoy is watching wildlife, then Tennessee Valley is the perfect location.
I consider Tennessee Valley a true hidden gem in the Golden Gate National Parks. On any given day—whether it is warm and sunny or foggy and cold—you are likely to see several species of wildlife that call this valley, nestled in the hills between Marin Headlands and Muir Beach, home.
As one of the few staff members working in this area of the park, I’m lucky enough to observe the natural wonders and daily cycles of this area. There are several crepuscular animals that you would most likely see on an early morning or late afternoon hike, including owls, coyotes, deer, and bobcats.
Throughout the day, a lucky hiker may still sight any of those species or perhaps bush rabbits, newts, salamanders, or countless raptors circling the skies searching for prey. This time of year, the “cuteness factor” of many of these species is increased tenfold because, while hiking on the main trail to the beach at Tennessee Cove, you may spot not just a pair of California quail, but five, nine, or even 12 chicks frantically following their parents into the scrub!
While on the Fox Trail, breathing heavily as you reach the summit and its gorgeous views, you may notice a doe and her two fawns grazing in the grasslands. Or while volunteering with the Tennessee Valley Nursery, you may be lucky enough to spot the trio of fledgling barn owls that will have you convinced that they are stuffed animals because they are so motionless!
For your next trip in the parks, plan for a full day in this magical and wild valley. Following Tennessee Valley Road all the way to the end, park in the lot next to the Miwok Stables, lace up your hiking shoes and start your adventure down Tennessee Valley Trail.
If you can sneak away on a Tuesday, stop by the Tennessee Valley Nursery for their field (10 am–Noon) and/or nursery (1–4 pm) programs to acquaint yourself with the local ecology and learn how restoration efforts are creating a better habitat for wildlife. I hope to see you soon!
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