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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Adventure: Seeking Banana Slugs In These Neck-of-the-Woods

For our very first adventure of the new year and non-food centric outing we chased banana slugs.
This month we ventured as close to my home as you can possibly get to satisfy Stacie's quest for photographing these fascincating little yellow creatures. Rain was imminent so we grabbed our wet weather gear and some cleaver handmade raincoats for our cameras. Here Stacie and I posed while her husband, John, snapped this shot of us ready to weather the weather with our new camera protectors. To read Stacie's tutorial on how to make a DIY rain cover click here and for her whole story about our day in the redwoods click here.

Can Banana Slugs say "Cheese?"

I say close to home because we chose Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park because it is known to be a favorite hangout for banana slugs and is a short walk from my house right off of Graham Hill Road. This park full of trails is a favorite year round attraction for hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and nature lovers of all kinds.

Props are in order to Stacie's husband, John, who was quick to find the very first banana slug of the day just a few steps into the forest. Both Stacie and John poured over this little guy like paparazzi at the Academy Awards. Note that they were very careful to neither disrupt his habitat nor disturb him at all.

Zooming in on a very slow moving subject

When I got close enough to the slug I was on the side of his Pheumostome. This one opening actually serves several purposes including breathing, reproduction and excretion.

His tail end looked a bit strange and we suspect it was an injury of some sorts

The redwoods at Henry Cowell are old, huge and create a spectacular forest that is extremely dense. It is full of shadows and light as the sun tries to pierce the dense overgrowth.

Many fallen trees make for obstacles and interesting structures along the paths

Speaking of obstacles we had not just one but two hiking boot failures at the same time! I guess it had been too long since either Stacie or I had been out hiking and the rubber material in our boots had rotted. Almost simultaneously we noticed our boots had cracks including the significant failure of my sole completely separating from the rest of the boot. We each had to put our worst foot forward for a photo. :-)

This once standing giant redwood tree makes for a cool bridge to cross over the creek below.  However, with my boot in jeopardy I opted not to cross the rather slippery tree bridge on this trip.

In the very damp climate of January wild mushrooms and other fungi grow rampant. As much as I love to eat them I won't pick wild ones because my knowledge of their safety is limited and poisonous versions can look harmless to the uneducated eye.

A lone mushroom on a decomposed log is a common scene in these woods

My parting shot is just straight up at the sky at all of the towering redwood tree tops. This forest is enchanting and worth at least a hike or picnic anytime of year. After living here for six years I can't believe this trip was my first venture into these beautiful woods. You get both the essence of a high mountain forest but also the strong coastal sensation of being close to the Pacific Ocean.

Mother Nature's Light Show in the trees

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