Allens Hummingbird and Twinberry, Photo by Don Moseman

Un-Discovering SF Bay: Hiking Sweeney Ridge from Sneath Lane

From Park E-ventures, April 2013

I want to tell you about one of the last great places to see the Bay Area landscape as it might have looked a few months prior to European discovery in the fall of 1769: shortgrass prairies and coastal scrub, native habitats with very little disturbance.

Ironically, the ridge now known as Sweeney Ridge was also the place where the Gaspar de Portola and his men scaled the grassy hills from the west and became the first Europeans to look out over one of the great bays of the planet. This hike, secreted in a quiet corner of the Golden Gate National Parks, is on the east side of Sweeney Ridge, starting at the Sneath Lane trailhead.

I like to do what I call the “Un-discover San Francisco Bay Hike.” Starting at the Sneath Lane gate, it is a mere 1.5 miles and some 600 feet to the top of this eastern face. As you walk, imagine rolling back the carpet of time, and focus your attention on the plants to start. There are big shrubs everywhere: coyote brush, bush lupine, coffeeberry, coastal sage, and twinberry.  These are the outer face of coastal scrub habitat, the woody scaffolding that creates supports for vines, like wild cucumber and Dutchman’s pipevine.

When I was young, I squirmed my way under some Sweeney Ridge coyote brushes just to see if I could, and to see what was there in the mysterious coastal scrub understory. What I found were some gorgeous plants—trilliums, irises, shooting stars, paintbrush, and the fragrant ground-running mint vine known as yerba buena. There was also a lot of poison oak, so let’s just say I didn’t try that again.

Coastal scrub’s modest dimensions provide cover for many animals, including striped skunks, gray foxes, and bobcats. Deeper in, it hosts a rich diversity of birds, though many are versed in the fine art of camouflage. Your best counter-maneuver is to learn and listen carefully for their songs.

The unquestionable mayor of Coastal Scrub in the Bay Area must be the Wrentit, a small gray bird with tons of character. Wrentits are unique to the California-Oregon coastal belt, and one of its most insistent singers. Males and females both sing the “bouncing ball” call, a one-note series of whistles that can be mastered quickly by most humans.

Other scrub birds to watch for are Bewick’s Wrens, Western Scrub-Jays, Allen’s and Anna’s Hummingbirds, and my personal favorite, the California Thrashers.

California Thrashers are cousins of the Mockingbird, told by their similarly chattering songs that include double phrases, but I like them for their ground-racing style. The California Thrasher has also an impressive sickle-shaped bill, an effective probe for freeing larval bugs from their burrows.

As you reach the top, turn your attention to the sky. Sweeney Ridge is the last northern bit of the Santa Cruz Mountain range, a 100-mile, longitudinal ridge that assists the northbound flights of migrating raptors in the spring. If you put in some time, you might even detect the flow of Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, and other hawks above the ridgetop’s eastern flank.

As your eyes follow these ancient migrants out over Daly City and San Bruno Mountain, how can you not take in this stunning expanse of inland water, however impacted, and marvel at its resilience and beauty?

By Allen Fish
Director, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory

Banner: Allen's Hummingbird and Twinberry, photo by Don Moseman

Return to Park E-ventures archive or read more articles about related:

Topics: Birds, History




* * *
I would likewise persuade pretty much every individual to spare this site page for any most loved help to support posted the appearance. michigan waterproofing 
Submitted by jannat1 on November 23, 2014 
* * *
Phoenix Tile Cleaning You have raised a paramount issue..thanks for sharing..i might want to peruse more present issues from this blog..keep posting.. Surprise Tile Cleaning 
Submitted by jannat1 on November 23, 2014 
* * *
The internet is bogged down with bogus blogs with no real message but the post was fantastic and well worth the read.Thank you for sharing this with me. Sony MDRZ7  
Submitted by jannat1 on November 22, 2014 
* * *
I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing. Sonoma Private Wine Tours 
Submitted by jannat1 on November 18, 2014 
* * *
flower shop le13 I would love to stop by. But, I think it might have to wait until this summer. I did not know that Serlkay had ever expanded its size. I must say that a succesful family owned business in this day and age is a very refreshing sight! As well as this is a very refreshing site 
Submitted by jackdon on November 18, 2014 
* * *
Any Time Trading System Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing! 
Submitted by jackdon on November 18, 2014 
* * *
New Jersey Prom Limos Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained 
Submitted by jackdon on November 18, 2014 
* * *
I also benefit from learning the assessments, but learn that alot of people ought to stay on essay to try and add worth in the direction of the authentic weblog release. titan empires hacked apk  
Submitted by jannat1 on November 17, 2014 
* * *
The internet is bogged down with bogus blogs with no real message but the post was fantastic and well worth the read.Thank you for sharing this with me. Best HTML5 Software 
Submitted by jannat1 on November 17, 2014 
* * *
I likewise profit from taking in the appraisals, however discover that alot of individuals should stay on article to attempt and include worth toward the real weblog discharge. lis pendens foreclosure  
Submitted by jannat1 on November 16, 2014 
* * *
stunning, incredible, I was wondering how to cure skin inflammation regularly. furthermore discovered your site by google, took in a ton, now i'm a bit clear. I've bookmark your site furthermore include rss. keep us overhauled... 
Submitted by jannat1 on November 15, 2014 


Leave a comment

Enter this word:

Browse Park E-ventures by Topic


Browse Park E-ventures by Date