In my final post on the 2017 Sonoma Firestorm, (Part 3) come along as we hike through Arrowhead Mountain, the southernmost flank of the Mayacamas Mountains that splits Napa and Sonoma Counties.
The hike started at the base of Arrowhead mountain and climbed up to +/-750 feet elevation near the Sonoma/Napa County line, just above local wineries Gundlach Bundschu, Scribe, and Nicholson Ranch. Along the way, we discovered proof of nature’s power as plants and animals of all varieties are making a comeback.
Above is the ‘normal’ view, pre-October 2017 firestorm, looking south into San Pablo Bay.
And this would be the typical view of native oaks, shrubs, grasses and deer trails.
And this is what we found on January 16th, 2018, at about 700 feet of elevation, also looking south to San Pablo Bay.
And close up view of burned oak and manzanita.
We were lead by the Sonoma Ecology Center ‘Restoration Program Manager’ Mark Newhouser
And Sonoma Ecology Center “Biologist and Research Program Director” Caitlin Cornwall
And Bilingual Educator and ‘master of gate locks’ Alana Fichman
It’s alive! This little fella was crossing the road. It is a California Newt (Taricha Torosa). Glands in the skin release a neurotoxin hundreds of times more potent than cyanide (by volume) which in the case of a newt is minute (mynewt, get it?) Free bottle of red wine to the first reader to alert me that you read this joke, reply to this post please…
Pieces of rock chunked away by the roaring heat of the firestorm.
…with bits exploded off the surface of the Rhyolitic outcroppings.
Now let’s explore the plants enjoying a recovery.
This is Chemise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) first burned in the fire, and then cut by firefighters along the roadway, now making a fast recovery.
And this is what Chemise should look like in a few short months.
Here is a young Madrone pushing new growth before the burned leaves have even fallen away, very unusual for January.
Same for this live oak, rapidly pushing new growth high up on the tree. This is why everyone is cautioned not to be too quick about cutting down seemingly dead trees. Many of our native species are built to absorb some fire and push new growth.
This is Fremont Lily (Zigadenus fremontii) making a fast comeback.
And what it will look like come April!
This is ‘bear grass’ (Xerophyllum tenax) coming back in a location that must have burned very hot given the absolute torching of the manzanita and rocks.
We should find it in this gorgeous flowering stage in just a few short months.
That fried manzanita from a different view.
And what to expect after recovery.
And last, the absolute dreaded and very invasive Broom – Scotch, Portuguese, and French (V. Cytisus), they quickly crowd out the natives, live only 7 to 8 years, and then present a huge hazard, burning very fast and hot.
And despite its ability to spread quickly drowning out all the natives, it is pretty on roadsides and hills, and are therefore presumed by some to be OK.
Want to learn more:
Link to topo map of Arrowhead Mountain, Sonoma
The author, Ken Wornick, of Hydeout Sonoma Consulting