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Spring wildflowers strut their stuff on Marin County's Ring Mountain

California poppies at peaceful Ring Mountain Nature Preserve, Corte Madera, CA
California poppies at peaceful Ring Mountain Nature Preserve, Corte Madera, CA
copyright, 2014 Lee Daley

By Lee Daley

Wildflower in bloom
copyright Lee Daley

An easy drive north over the Golden Gate Bridge takes hikers and walkers to the gentle slopes of Corte Madera’s Ring Mountain where California poppies, Douglas irises and Mariposa lilies are among the many colorful species that dot the landscape and put on a show that enhances the panoramic vistas afforded from hillside trails.

Now a preserve that was saved from development by local resident Phyllis Ellman in concert with the Nature Conservancy, the unusual geology of the preserve with its serpentine rock supports plants that grow only here, including the “found nowhere else on the planet” Tiburon Mariposa lily which springs forth each May. Trails climb upward across tiny creeks as they wind through wildflower-fringed hillsides dotted with large boulders. Multicolored lichens established on the boulders give the stone a painterly look. Should you find yourself ambitious enough to climb almost to the peak, your trek will be rewarded with a sighting of Petroglyph Rock ( named for the carvings created by Native Americans many moons past. Along the way, you’ll find flat areas to enjoy a picnic, photograph the views or just relax.

The downhill slope seems shorter and this is where you will more likely notice the melody of the streams you cross, hear the birds chattering in the California bay trees while scrub jays noisily defend their turf, red winged blackbirds rise in unison while hawks soar over the ridge tops. All of this abundance resides just a few miles north of San Francisco. You might be tempted to pick a buttercup or two but resist the urge and leave its bounty for others. Phyllis Ellman is no longer with us but her legacy lives on. Don’t forget to thank Phyllis by donating to the Nature Conservancy whenever you can.

While Ring Mountain is a year-round destination, February through May is when wildflowers put on their flashiest show. The boulders, the views, the winding trails and the native flora and fauna are there to be enjoyed all year.

No admission fee. Park along Paradise Drive which is just off Highway 101 in Corte Madera taking it east about one mile past the exit of the same name. (the trailhead is just past Westward Drive on your right with parking along the side of the road.) Check with Golden Gate Transit ferry bus-shuttle stops for possible public transportation.

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