Field Trip with Larry Ballard and Susy Bartz
Excerpt from Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society website.
“This driving trip will feature stops with short walks along Zaca Ridge, via Catway Road. We will pass through coniferous forest and chaparral, and visit some small stands of California Black Oak (Quercus kelloggii), a tree that is widespread in California but uncommon in Santa Barbara County. It is just one of seven species of oaks found along the road. One of the special geologic features is the hardened volcanic ash of the Obispo Formation. We’ll enjoy dramatic geologic views throughout, including the spectacular overthrust of the Little Pine Fault and the huge folds that comprise the backbone of Zaca Ridge. At the end of the eight mile road, past the Zaca Lake overlook, we’ll scramble a short distance to the Jurassic summit of Wildhorse Peak.”
Our first stop was at the four-oak area, where Susy gave an approximately 10 minute talk on the geology of the area. I recorded it, but do not have time now to listen in detail and digest it – hopefully I can do that later after this post. The good turnout of knowledgeable and enthusiastic people car-pooled along the road and a big thanks to those in whose cars this nervous nellie rode. I think it was easier being a passenger than driving; my nerves are not strong enough for the narrow single lane space often with steep drops on one side. Due to this apprehension, I once walked from the four-oak area to the trailhead (when I photographed Bitter Cherry in 2009), and had to scramble into the vegetation on the side of the road when a couple cars flew past.
Despite a dry year, there were still a good number of species to see – such that my hoped for concentration on the seven oaks did not happen. New species for me on this road were Zigzag Larkspur, White-flowered Currant (past flowering), Wolf Lichen (first lichen), Slender Sunflower, Smith’s Yerba Santa, Dwarf Flax and Mountain Clarkia whose id swift-planthunter Laura found before anyone else. One of the best finds was Cristina Sandoval’s discovery, Timema cristinae, which is detailed in this web page, which I think was created by Callie. There were a good number of butterflies, but I managed to photograph only three species.
The geology of the area is magnificent thanks to the compression, upwelling, stretching and movement caused by plate tectonics, the result of which are lots of nooks and crannies of different habitat types that many plants call home. The coolth of the area where the Black Oaks are growing is appreciated by both humans and plants, where three different types of Clarkia (Forest, Mountain, Winecup) were found within a small radius. The Monterey Folds near Zaca Lake are impressive, and are best appreciated from afar as we did. A photo from the Obispo tuff area to the west shows ridge after ridge of compression fading into the distance, where creases and folds of all sizes can be seen.
Afterwards I drove up to the Ranger Peak gate (photos starting from California Buttercup) after stopping off at a favorite seep area, where I rediscovered Palmer’s Calochortus that has not been recorded on Figueroa Mountain Road area. No Dwarf Brodiaea were seen, but Indian Breadroot in its usual spot looked healthy. Further down Figueroa Mountain Road after the Ranger Station, there were quite a few Club-haired Mariposa Lily, and many places where Cylindrical Clarkia were waving a dark pink farewell to spring.
My next batch of photos is about two weeks away, and after that a three week gap – I have a pile of work to do in the meantime, but I have to take the occasional Vitamin-D break. (Corrections are always welcomed.)