Early in January, B. and I went on a spontaneous hike to the Marin Headlands, up from Fort Cronkhite and Rodeo Beach. This winter has been mostly dry since November, and while I welcome rain, the weather was spectacularly clear and sunny. Tantalizing waves tumbled toward the beach huge after a long fetch, spray cascading shoreward. We climbed along the spectacular Coastal Trail, which stretches from Oregon south into Mexico, weaving through the old WWII military bunkers and batteries where I and my derelict friends frolicked when I was a teenager. Any abandoned area was fair game, the darker and more desolate the better. Music and drink were all that was required. Spectacular setting was a bonus. After all, at the time we thought we had all the time in the world, and were invincible.
Stopping at Battery Townsley, which was just freshly scrubbed and reopened to the public, B. and I crept uphill to another of its gun turrets. There, in what looked to be an old opening to an underground chamber, was a pool that looked as if it was formed by rainwater (and fog and dew) over the last few months. Peering in more closely, we discovered a copious array of living marsh plants growing in the water. What first appeared to be the tails of fish swimming below the surface turned out to be a bevy of California newts! Up to now, we’d only seen the delightful amphibians on land, creeping slowly and gingerly. But in the water, they dove like champions, below for smaller fry, or above the surface to snap up insects. They were mesmerizing. We sat for long minutes just watching them, our own private fishbowl. The little salamanders swam or floated just below the surface, where it grew murky more than a few inches below. Eerie they looked just floating there, as if in some mad scientist’s laboratory in suspended animation.
We then climbed to the top of Wolf Ridge, to enjoy its fantastic near-360-degree views. So fortunate, to have such a day to begin the year!