Today I took some friends, visiting from out-of-town, to see banana slugs. Everything was in our favor, the weather was only slightly cool and recent rains have the left the Bay Area sufficiently damp.
A year ago (for the first time ever) I saw banana slugs galore when I went out looking for them in Santa Cruz. But my friends were staying in San Francisco so I thought visiting Muir Woods National Monument might be the answer. It's a redwood forest and banana slugs love redwood forests.
Sadly, this was as good as it got today. We walked for two hours looking for banana slugs and never saw one. I was so bummed. But, I'd planned ahead and brought a prop just in case to create a pseudo-slug sighting experience. Then we ate it because we'd skipped breakfast and we were pretty hungry. Or course we packed the peel out to a garbage can because it's wrong to litter in the wilderness.
Muir Woods is a National Park located just over the Golden Gate bridge in Mill Valley, CA. When you arrive there's a visitor's center where you pay a fee to visit the park. Current rates are $7 for adults (16 years and older). Children (15 years old and under) are free. There are also season passes available if you plan to visit the park on a frequent basis and there are several free days to visit in 2013. They are:
January 21 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
April 22-26 National Park Week
June 8 Get Outdoors Day
August 25 National Park Service Birthday
September 28 National Public Lands Day
November 9-11 Veterans Day weekend
The loop trail just past the visitor's center is nice and level making it appropriate for people of all walking abilities. Some of the trail is a wooden boardwalk, but most of it is a simple dirt path. There's also several wooden bridges that span Redwood Creek.
Coho salmon spawn in the creek. We didn't see any but there were signs asking visitors to be quiet and not to scare the fish if you could see them.
There were mushrooms. Lots of them. Turns out winter is mushroom season. I'd love to go back and spend the time it would take to take some really great mushroom portraits.
Lighting is tricky because they grow low to the ground in very dimly lit areas. These bracket mushrooms are one of my favorite varieties.
There were also plenty of ferns everywhere! This fiddlehead was begging for its portrait to be taken.
I love visiting redwood forests. They're beautiful, lush, and peaceful. The silence makes me want to sit beneath the canopy and just be. No phone, no laptop, unplugged. In the past year I've visited Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz, Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve in Sonoma, and now Muir Woods in Mill Valley.
Around the Bay Area there are many left to visit and explore. Eventually I hope to make it to all of them. If you've never visited one you should. It's a very enjoyable experience and one I highly recommend. To learn more about Muir Woods National Monument just Click Here.