Growing by the Bay

Category: marin

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

I visited Muir Woods yesterday (in the company of a couple of beautiful women) via the main entrance and found it quite crowded — the only parking was a good ways down the road from the auxiliary lot. That’s one of the reasons we normally enter from the Pantoll or Bootjack trails. But the main redwood grove by the entrance really is quite spectacular, and I took a few pictures..

I’ve been taking pictures in Muir Woods for decades, but I feel it’s a difficult subject: it’s both very low (and quite green) light and also — perversely enough from the photographer’s standpoint — high contrast. Probably the best as a general rule would be a low ASA setting, a small aperture, and a very long exposure using a tripod. I didn’t have that luxury however, as I was just shooting with my trusty Canon A630. Still, these low-res samples might capture something of the feel of the day. (Expand to full screen or click through to the Flickr page for better views.)

Photo Wednesday: Muir Woods

Today’s image of shafts of sunlight cutting through tall redwoods along a Muir Woods hiking trail comes from vgm8383’s photostream. This is an HDR (high dynamic range) photo — a technique that combines multiple exposures to give a greater range of tonal detail. It worked pretty well in this instance because Muir Woods is surprisingly dark (test it with a light meter if you don’t believe me), and the light is very green.

Oil spills, volunteers, and the San Francisco Bay Area

volunteer canyon, marin county

Today beaches near the Golden Gate are closed as a noxious oil spill is washing up against the shore. A large South Korean-based Hanjin container ship struck one of the supports of the Bay Bridge and released oil into the bay from a damaged tank. According to Caltrans engineers the bridge got the better of the collision and suffered no significant damage. The cause of the crash is a mystery, since the bridge is pretty easy to spot by eye or radar, even in heavy fog. The ship even had a local pilot aboard. We are still waiting to learn the extent of the environmental damage.

The most famous oil spill on the bay occurred on January 19, 197. On that date, two oil tankers, the Arizona Standard and a sister ship, the Oregon Standard, collided in the bay. Winds and currents drove the resulting spill north toward Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County. As the Point Reyes Light recalls, “The collision ripped open six of the Oregon’s 26 fuel oil compartments, dumping 840,000 gallons of oil into the bay — more than half of which ended up on beaches around the Bay Area. The spill killed roughly 20,000 birds and some seven million marine organisms, according to Bay Area researchers.”

What was most remarkable about the event was the rallying of community support for the embattled beaches. The community of Bolinas quickly rallied. Sculptor Tom D’Onofrio shared his recollections with the Light:

Drawing on his days at a logging camp in the Adirondacks, D’Onofrio felt that stringing a boom — a row of logs — across the lagoon’s narrow mouth might provide a decent barrier, and that hay could be used to soak up oil.

“It was a crude plan, but this was instantaneous thinking,” the sculptor said.

He approached neighbor John Armstrong, a boatbuilder with many logs on his property, and persuaded him to help with the boom’s construction.

D’Onofrio then drove down to Scowley’s, the local cafe and hangout (now site of the Kaleidoscope women’s craft collective) to enlist manpower.

“I went into Scowley’s and jumped on a counter and yelled, ‘This is what’s happened: there’s oil offshore and it’s coming this way,'” D’Onofrio recalled. “‘We need every able-bodied man, woman, and big child. Can we count on you?’ And everyone there yelled, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it!'” By the time the band of volunteers reached the beach, hundreds of residents had converged at the end of Wharf Road to help.

While many birds were lost a large number were also saved, and the actions of the volunteers were inspiring. A nearby canyon was renamed Volunteer Canyon in commemoration of their efforts. It is home now to an Audubon center, and is the nesting place for egrets and blue herons. The image shows a group of birders enjoying the canyon, whose preservation is due in part to the sense of community that resulted from the mobilization of the volunteers.

On their own: In Bolinas, residents struggle to keep fragile lagoon safe.
The residents were angry that such important work was left to amateurs while an international cleanup effort is under way only a few miles away.”

Biking the San Francisco Bay

Biking the San Francisco coast is a great idea (in the dry season), and Suite101 published an article about the subject a few years ago. It’s not a bad little piece, although the title, “Cycling the Coast in San Francisco,” is not very accurate. The author, Jill Florio, doesn’t bike the coast at all, but instead travels a small distance around the San Francisco Bay, from the city to Tiburon. Someone I work with (shown below) frequently commutes by bike to and from Tiburon (arriving in the office by 7:30 am), so this is clearly not a very long trip.

Still, it’s good to be reminded that if you’re traveling to the city you don’t need to bring your own bike, as you can rent one here. In 2001, when the article was published, an Elite Hybrid with front shocks for city touring could be rented for $38/day from Blazing Saddles.

cyclistFlorio also reminds us that you can bike from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge and then return via ferry if you wish. (Ferries stop in Marin at Sausalito, Larkspur, and Tiburon. In the East Bay they go to Vallejo, Oakland, and Alameda). From Tiburon you can also take your bike on a ferry to Angel Island, where cars aren’t allowed (I want to do this!). The ferries contain racks for bikes.

Florio says that “San Fran traffic reminded me of driving in Mexico.” Which I can understand, but if you’ve traveled in Mexico you need to to be aware that the roads there are better. (Incidentally, to my ear the phrase “San Fran” grates worse than “Frisco,” which at least sounds either historic or trashy depending on your point of view.)

She also remarks, “The Golden Gate Bridge is a misnomer, to my thinking [can a bridge be a misnomer?]. It’s not golden at all.” You think? Maybe that’s because the name refers not to the bridge but to the entrance to the Bay, which was called the Golden Gate long before the bridge existed. Why is this misconception so common? You would think enough pictures of the bridge had been published by now that people would stop expecting it to be golden.

It was the photographer Dorothea Lange who convinced the powers that be to leave the bridge its reddish color (the color of the underpainting on the Bay Bridge). But that’s a story for another time.

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