Monday, November 1, 2010

Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh!!!!!!!

The title of this post is the soundtrack anyone within a mile radius was treated to as I experienced my first tarantula sighting on Mt. Olympia in Mt. Diablo State Park yesterday!!!!!  We walked along the North Peak Trail/Road, hoping for spectacular views on a clear day and maybe, just maybe a chance meeting with a fuzzy-legged spider.  How perfect that we encountered both!
After a warm Autumn rain, male tarantulas emerge from their underground burrows to look for a mate.  I should note that the hand in the photo above is not mine- the fascination/fear of spiders keeps me close, yet at a safe distance.  I have a hunch that getting over my fear would lessen the fascination factor that I feel.

He crawled along robotically on the side of the trail in a mix of dried grasses, rocks and discarded Bay Laurel leaves on a sunny North-facing slope.  I wonder if the fact that we couldn't see his eyes lent to the idea that he was more machine than arachnid.  Perhaps there's too many insect-meets-post-apocalyptic movies out there! 

While the spider-sighting took center stage, the remainder of the hike provided plenty of opportunities for breathless exclamations and happy discoveries.  A few examples:

The muted color palette bowled me over- golds, grays and greens mixed among dark silhouettes of pines and oaks.

The Bay Laurels had produced their pear-shaped nuts, which I just read can be roasted and are relished for their unsweetened chocolate-like flavor.  As the sun fell upon the leaves, the aromatic scent surrounded the trail.   

The golden skeletons of Spring remained all across the hills- dried bulb stalks and seedpods.  This Clematis vine decided to dress as "Cousin It" for Halloween- flufferifous!

Not sure how we're going to top this hike, but I'm determined to try!


  1. Nice tarantula! That looks bigger than the last one we found here! Although I'm not afraid of them, I'm still fascinated with them. We did notice a lot of tarantula hawks here this summer for the first time, so I hope our tarantulas remember to look up when they exit their burrows!

    I never realized the Bay Laurels produced edible seeds, interesting!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Poor little guys- becoming a crunchy treat to the tarantula hawks! Can you tell I'm obsessed and in total awe?!

  4. We saw loads of them this time last year at Pinnacles National Monument! My mother was visiting from Ireland and was horrified. I assured her they weren't found any further north than that....(I know, but a little white lie does no one any harm.) She's back visiting again. I won't let her read your post or she might head for home early!

  5. Yikes, Byddi! You might even have a few lurking in the hills behind your house!! Don't let your mom wander too far! I'd probably tell her the same thing, though.

  6. I too have heard about the bay laurel fruits or nuts or whatever they are, I might have to go for a hike this week and try them.

    Funny their were clematis doing the same thing on Mt. Diablo in the spring.

  7. Christine,

    Wow so exciting! I think they come out at night most of the time. Good thing the spider didn't find you first!

  8. Hey, what happened to my comment? I didn't intend to delete it. Nice post, Christine! I recently saw a tarantula, too. I'll have to look for California bays (different species than bay laurels). I liked this video: Sounds intriguing!

  9. I did think of you and your recent adventures, Brad when I learned of the Bay nuts. Please report back!

    Thanks for stopping by, Randy! I've heard they come out on moonlit nights, but I rarely think to wake up at 2am and go hunting for them!

    I'm so glad the delete wasn't intentional, Katie! Especially since that link is totally inspiring me to go try roasting a few myself! Where did you find your spider?

  10. I really like the demonstration video on roasting the nuts. Kevin's blog was referenced in the Wikipedia article you embedded. We found the tarantula on a country road in Corral de Tierra (aka Steinbeck's Pastures of Heaven):