Tag Archives: wild cucumber

Bay views and scramblers.

When the fields and playgrounds are swampy from all the rain, what better place to go than up, up to the hills of North Berkeley where all those boulders are so perfectly and naturally arranged for scrambling fun?

Pippin’s family was down for the weekend, partly as a belated birthday getaway for her, an escape from the snow and cold to a slightly warmer part of the state. She suggested going to Indian Rock, which throughout her life she had heard about from me, but never visited.

It was the last day of showers for a while – only a few drops splashed on us midday, and we were able to explore three boulder-strewn parks in a three-block radius. We also looked at the house where the children’s great-great-grandmother had lived, in yesteryear when I used to play on these rocks, and take brisk walks through the neighborhoods with my Grandma. In those days I didn’t appreciate all the flowers and trees so much!

From two of those parks you can look west and see the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at the same time. I’m only showing the Golden Gate in the photo below.

Here’s a map to help you get your bearings; Berkeley is in the “East Bay”:

In Mortar Rock Park we saw the evidence of primitive grinding — probably acorns — that gives it that name, and Ivy found the perfect tree for climbing when she plays her frequent leopard role. Not many other puddles were on the rocks, so we stayed nice and dry.

The family  had traveled most of the previous day just to get to my house, and this day we drove a lot more on our explorations. Near sunset we were passing by the uppermost link of the San Francisco Bay Trail; the Professor encouraged Pippin and me to get out while he waited in the car with the sleeping children. Scout woke up and joined us to walk at the top of San Pablo Bay. Along the bank orange flags marked a forestation project in process. We wondered what they have planted, but didn’t recognize the little seedlings. I held one as still as possible against the wind to take its picture in case I see that plant again.

The wind was fierce, and the waterfowl were mostly bedded down, but we liked getting the wide views, including a moon pretty much full round. We were pushed down the path by the wind at our backs, making it easy to walk almost too far that way. Returning against the current was more bracing, refreshing, exciting even — but invigorating is probably not the right word when you get back to the car as stiff as boards. We warmed up when we got home, and thought every part of the day had contributed to our contentment.

My weeds, massacred.

Two days ago I saw a mallow blooming along my path and I thought it was so pretty, I planned to post the picture I snapped as soon as I got home. I guess I snapped too hurriedly, because I didn’t get a good picture, and yesterday I didn’t get back there to try again.

This morning was foggy and then cloudy, which would make it easier for me to get a good image, but I as I put off my walk for one thing and another I started to worry that the sun would beat me to the spot. Eventually I set off, walking fast and looking up at the sky as I went, where indeed the sunshine was about to break through.

Soon I forgot all about the lighting, when I turned on to the path to see — decimation!

Clearly my city’s maintenance workers are confident about what is a weed: anything growing in a 3-6 foot swath along the bike paths is Unwanted and deserving of execution at any moment.

This is the spot where Common Mallow had come into its bloom:

I will post the picture I took in case I don’t get another:

malva neglecta

My eyes were peeled looking for a mallow that might have escaped the mower and I found one:

I also went down by the creek to get closer to some cow parsnip to see if it actually was that, and saw lots of lush and wild plants who are safe for now… at least, until someone decides to dredge the creek!

That mix includes a kind of horsetail reed, probably Equisetum hyemale. I have another species in my garden, which I don’t have time to tell about right now, because I need to actually go into the garden and work, and pull up some of my kind of Equisetum, which I am considering a weed in some places, and in other places, an ornamental plant. 🙂

I noticed those plants above because I had taken a short-cut home, being somewhat disheartened by the ruin of my usual fields of research, and that led me past a less familiar stretch of the creek. [Update: The vine above I’m pretty sure is a wild cucumber or Marah, which is in the gourd family.]

Mowing is the thing to do this week, it seems. My neighbor Ray died a couple of years ago but someone is still “taking care of” his house, it seems. I don’t think it looks better than it did before they mowed the weeds he left behind, but I understand: now that our rainy season is over, all of these weeds will turn into crispy dry Fuel for wildfires, and after last fall’s devastation, people are duly careful.

Many weed portraits were added to my files in the last weeks while the plants were enthusiastically obeying their calling, and which I will use to continue my botanical, etymological and philosophical studies of weeds. So never fear! Weeds will return to Gladsome Lights, and I have no doubt they will also return to the borders of my walking paths.