El Corte de Madera Creek OSP

Last Thursday I went on a hike at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve (OSP), sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. The preserve is named for the creek; the name means place to cut wood in Spanish. There were a lot of trees when the Spanish first settled here, but the area was clear cut in the late 19th century. We saw an 1800-year-old redwood tree, an interesting rock formation, the Pacific Ocean, and California native plants.

This coast redwood is one of the few old-growth trees that survived the clear cutting. Coast redwoods, a California native plant, are the tallest trees in the world. The top of the tree came off in a storm; the tree is 45 feet around at the base. The bark is thick and rich in tannin, discouraging insects. The growth on the right side of the tree is a burl.

18000-year-old, coast redwood tree
1800-year-old, coast redwood tree

The large, dark mass is a witch’s broom, another kind of growth related to a burl.

witch's broom
witch’s broom

We saw a sandstone rock with a network of cave-like holes called tafoni. Tafoni is more common close to the ocean or in areas with dry summers.

We ate lunch at a vista point with a view of the coast and Pacific Ocean. A DC-6 crashed nearby in 1953 as it was crossing the mountains to land at the San Francisco Airport. A plaque commemorates the victims.

Volunteer docents from the local Open Space District told us about California native plants. The tan oak is a shrub with acorns. It’s not an tree of the quercus genus like a coast live oak, but it is susceptible to Sudden Oak Death like the coast live oak. In addition to the bracken fern, we saw deer fern and sword fern. The coastal fog supplies moisture to the plants to survive our rainless summer. A docent on our hike also volunteers for the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society.

The El Corte de Madera Creek OSP is a nice place for a hike. On the ocean side of the mountains, it’s cooler than the valley. The Open Space District offers many docent-led hikes, which are more interesting because the docents can teach you about wildlife and plants and relate them to their habitat.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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