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Hiking the Headwaters of Sausal Creek
A guided tour of the Fern Ravine restoration site with Bay Nature and Friends of Sausal Creek
We made a hasty left turn into the dusky Redwood Bowl Staging Area just a hair after 4pm. Immediately we spotted our group, circled in the center of the lot, standing over what we would soon learn is the headwaters of Sausal Creek. We jumped out of the truck and were swept up by the group, already moving collectively down stream and carefully following the underground flow of the water table. Dr. Robert Leidy (someone who clearly knows how to convey affection for a watershed) shared a lucid account of the history and restoration efforts of the wetlands, which were tucked into the redwoods behind him, making note of the cattails — a telltale signal of groundwater. He has led the restoration of Fern Ravine for over a decade, pouring energy, effort, and care into this headwater ecosystem, where a convergence of oak woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, and redwood forests interwork. Time seemed to be on the minds of some, as people queried the age of the Monterey Cypress towering in front of us, and others seemed sensitive to the soon to set sun.
We continued to descend a path that closely followed the course of the seasonally dry creek bed, and with the gradual loss of elevation came an equal loss of daylight. As we more formally entered the redwoods, Dr. Leidy stopped again, this time at a small bridge to make note of the sensitivity of the redwood's shallow roots to compacted soil. The trail built to access and view the creek is a careful choreography of movement, threading a very delicate ecological needle. Joaquin Miller, the Oakland City park through which the tributary runs, is a buzzing hub for outdoor recreation in the area. They’ve been advocating to establish a Resource Conservation Area (RCA) designation for the site that would help reinforce the restoration efforts and positive impacts it has had in the watershed.
Continuing our dark descent into the ravine, the group stretched out along the trail as it steepend, and FOSC (Friends of Sausal Creek) members interspersed, generously shared answers to questions and observations. There was mention of Sausal Creek's resident Trout (rainbow trout), and someone quickly asked to ensure they did not infact mean there was a single, resident trout in the creek. Many too were very excited about the Dusky-footed woodrats who build their distinct (and iconic?) domed dens from sticks at the periphery of the creekbed.
The trail deposited the group into a dark clearing amidst dispersed picnic tables and public restrooms. There was talk and hope of getting to tour the FOSC nursery nearby, where they cultivate native species to be planted in restoration sites, but it felt humorously clear that we were simply out of daylight and that a pitch black tour of a nursery wouldn't have the intended impact. Organizers kindly shuttled the group back up the hill in cars to the headwaters, and we switched on our headlamps in the opposite direction, to work against gravity, and make our way back up stream.
All images and illustrations by Companion-Platform ©2023
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