Cascade Falls, Fairfax, CA – Easy Family Walk



Cascade Falls is a moderate two miles roundtrip with little change in elevation. There’s no parking lot at the trail head but there are a few pull out parking spots. I went several times this Spring and each time there were three to ten cars parked on the street. If you hike here in Summer the waterfall will be dry or mostly dry.

To get there, drive west from Hwy. 101 on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard about 5 miles to the town of Fairfax. Turn left on a street called Pastori where there is a traffic light, and then make an immediate left and go one block down to Broadway and turn right. Drive up Broadway and as you are leaving the center of Fairfax turn left onto Bolinas Road. From Bolinas Road make a soft right on Cascade Drive and follow it until you get to the end. Trail starts at the gate at the end of the road.

Few more notes about Cascade Trail at this link and below.




Distance: This is a great hike for young kids because it’s only 2 miles roundtrip and it’s quite level. As far as I can see the trail doesn’t continue after you get to the Falls. However, there are other trails that crisscross the main trail so you can take one of those to make this a longer hike.

Parking: No parking lot. A few pullout spots. Be careful not to block a driveway. I went 3 times in Spring and had no difficulty parking.

Dogs Allowed: This is the Marin Municipal Water District which allows dogs.

Bathrooms: None

Coffee, icecream, beer, lunch, dinner: Fairfax is a scenic small town and you have to go through it to get to the trail. I stopped each time for a coffee or ice-cream and that made it an especially relaxed and wonderful day.


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Cataract Falls, Fairfax, CA – October 2015


Cascade Falls, Marin, CA


[Road to the Cataract Falls Trail on the Fairfax side has been closed in 2016 and so far in 2017. Check road status before heading there. 2/14/17.]

El Niño is on it’s way in. We know that. Whether we’ll get more water —more rain—we don’t know. I’m thinking, be careful what you wish for. I think I speak for all Californians when I say we want the rain. But the possibility of mudslides and flooding is real too. Can we have the rain without destruction, please?

In the meantime, I’ve been checking out new trails. I’ve hiked the Dipsea Trail dozens of times now. From the article, 7 Best Waterfall Hikes Near San Francisco, I found Cataract Falls near Fairfax, CA.

Pluses are that it’s easy to drive to and there will be tons of moss here in Spring. Minuses are the trail is steep with lots of switch backs and there is scarcely any parking. Just 10 parking spaces at the trail head. So stay away on weekends.


Cataract Falls, Marin, CA


On our hike in October 2015 we hiked up to the top and found thick fog and mossy trees!! Delightful as I was suffering from rain and moss withdrawal. It’s been dry here since Dec. 2014..about 10 months. On the way there was a little water in the creek bed which must come from a natural spring. Below is the dry version of Cataract Falls. I promise you a picture this Winter / Spring.

Cataract Falls, Marin, CA


This is the reservoir you see as you drive in on Cascade Dr. It’s part of the Marin Water District. Low water line!





Cataract Falls, Fairfax, CA


Photos by Karen Nierlich. Love Moss and Lichen, please see Karen’s book available on or buy one directly from her.




Beautiful Moss Photos – Fern Canyon – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park


Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks

If you love Yosemite, you’ll love this picturesque but less visited redwood park. I consider it a well kept secret that I’m sharing with you, but don’t tell your friends. Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is at the far north border of California; just north of Eureka & Arcata and south of the Cali-Oregon border.

Fern Canyon is the main attraction here. The mouth of the canyon is right at the beach and stretches back far inland. It stays wet year around with moisture that rolls in from the ocean, but the best time to visit Fern Canyon is Spring when the walls are typically super lush with moss and ferns. These photos were taken a little before Spring; in February of a drought year. The rangers confirmed it was drier than usual in February 2015.








This area definitely has primordial forest written all over it. I found some sources that said the Jurassic park movies were filmed here in and around Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Fern Canyon. However, websites that cover movie locations say all the forest scenes in Jurassic Park were filmed in Hawaii for all the movies.

Let’s just leave it with Jurassic Park COULD have been filmed here.

Moss, How I Love You…Let Me Count the Ways

Moss Photos

Mossy Photos


Five-sided green fuzzy cube, how I love thee! I love your sides. I love the grass and clover at your feet. I love the one small twig balanced on your edge.



Moss Photos


Some moss grows like small dots as you see above. When the dots (acrocarps) are close together, they make a luscious carpet. Other moss grows flatter (pleurocarps) and extend like rivulets of water or tiny clingy vines.

I’ve been pondering whether or not to “clean up moss”. After seeing others’ moss photos I’m going to bring a paint brush and tweezers to remove pine needles and grasses from future shots. Also, time for a macro lens!


Moss Photos

Moss Photos


Ever heard of a parking bollard? Neither had I. It’s a wood or cement block that marks the boundary of a parking space.




Not Counting Raindrops, Until I See Them

Pixie Cup Lichen Califonia

I’m not counting any raindrops yet, but the newspaper and meteorologist seem pretty confident we have a big storm arriving tonight and staying through the weekend. I’m keeping a day clear on my calendar so I can visit my mossy Bay Area haunts. Included here are photos I took after the rains in December 2014.

Pixie Cup Lichen Berkeley

The cuppy things are Pixie Cup Lichen. I’d never even seen this lichen before I started this project to photograph moss. One sees things that were unseen before one really starts to look intently! It a major axiom or life lesson. We determine what we see by how we look and what we look for!

Mushrooms California

Getting back to the Pixie Cups. This British Wildflower site by Roger Darlington describes them thus: “Shaped like Shreks’ Ears or miniature golf-tees (podetia), albeit somewhat battered and sand-blasted ones. The sprinkling of light-grey-green pixie dust (squamules) between them is part of the lichen.”


I’ve been hiking around all my life and never seen a pixie cup before this year! Let’s say it’s a perk of my moss project.

While moss and lichen favor a lot of the same moist places,  lichen is structurally very different. D-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t is not understating it. Lichen may be the only symbiotic organism….Like moss and liverwort it’s a non-vascular plant, meaning it doesn’t have a system of cells that carry water, which it why it remains small and close to the ground. It gets water and minerals from its surface.

The amazing, weird and different thing about lichen is that it’s made of algae on the inside and fungus on the outside. The algae have chorolphyll which help it make food for the fungus…I’ve oversimplified what is known about the alga/fungus relationship of fungus. If you want to know more about this unique relationship—consult another source:)

Pixie Cups Berkeley

Enjoy the storm!

Moss Book by Karen Nierlich
Moss and Lichen is a collection of Moss images by photographer Karen Nierlich including the streets of Berkeley, Albany, Tilden, Muir Woods and the Dipsea Trail. Available from for $19.99. Click on book cover to access reviews and purchase!

Oldest Living Things on Earth by Rachel Sussman

The Oldest Living Things on Earth is the title of a book and currently an exhibit by Photographer Rachel Sussman. Her work took her to remote destinations where she documents the oldest living fauna to put the span of life on earth in perspective. The images include moss, lichen and a unique shrub that resembles moss.

Antarctic Moss

5,500 years old; Elephant Island, Antarctica. This moss bank is also near the site of the famed Shackleton Expedition, marooned here 100 years ago.

“I spend an enormous [amount of] time getting to remote places,” said Sussman. “It takes months, sometimes years, to plan a trip to these destinations. I try to find a sweet spot in terms of timing: optimal weather and light for shooting at as many locales as possible, without overextending myself and doing too much.”

Photo by Rachel Sussman

Antarctic Moss Rachel Sussman



2,000+ years old; Atacama Desert, Chile. This shrub, a relative of parsley, can be found in the Andes across Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina.

“Shortly after 9/11, I left New York to take a cross-country road trip. It was my first time as a solo female traveler and the experience served as a kind of warm-up for the last eight years that I’ve spent working on this project. … Driving the Pan-American Highway in Chile seemed scary, but after asking people about it, I was assured it was safe.”

Photo by Rachel Sussman

Llareta, Atacama Desert, Chile

Exhibit took place Nov 2014 in Brooklyn, NY at Pioneer Works.

Six Images from the Oldest Things in the World exhibit / book here.

Learn more about the photographer Rachel Sussman and book.


Moss Book by Karen Nierlich
Photographer Karen Nierlich is author of Moss and Lichen a book of urban and wild moss photos available from

Introducing Moss’ Mate Liverwort

I swear the person who named liverwort wasn’t thinking how they’d handle themselves on the playground. I mean really, “liver” and “wort”! His mother must have hated him!

Liverwort Smoky Mountains National Park
Bow Tie Shape is Liverwort

In the photo above the liverwort is the fleshy looking bow tie with the reptilian texture! The books I’ve been reading often talk about moss and liverworts together because they reproduce in a similar way—via sperm that swim and fertilize eggs in a separate female plants.

Liverwort Smoky Mountains National Park
More Liverwort

Like moss, liverworts appear in most every ecosystem around the world. Liverwort is everywhere except the very driest environments, there are species that live in the desert and there are approx. 9,000 specimens worldwide. Scientists used to consider them Bryophyta like moss but are now placing the liverwort in a different division. The only liverworts I’ve seen so far grow on the sides of rocks in streams and rivers where they are constantly wetted by the splash of water.

Liverwort Smoky Mountains National Park
Brown Tongues are Liverwort (I think)

According to Wikipedia, liverwort means “liver plant” in Old English and was named in ancient times for it’s supposed ability to cure liver disease. However, today it is not used as food or medicine. In fact, we humans don’t use it for anything except as an aquarium plant.

Moss Smoky Mountains National Park
Moss and Violet Plant

All photos in this post are from Smoky Mountains National Park. See more moss from the Smokies in a previous post at Sweet Tennessee Moss in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Great Smoky Mountains
Jumping off Big Rock


Karen Nierlich is a photographer who is working on a fine art book about Moss. As Winter approaches she is thinking where she might travel in N. California to photograph moss. Any suggestions?

Moss Sex: New Discoveries

Well, sex is definitely overstating it a bit! When I and others use the word sex in connection to moss, it’s for fun or sensationalism and eyeballs.

When it comes to moss we are definitely talking about reproduction. I’ve been formulating an article about moss sex for a while but then the  scientific journal Nature came out with new research and new discoveries in July. Glad I waited…


Moss Spores | Tilden Botanical Garden
Moss Spores in Tilden Botanical Garden


Until recently it was believed that moss relied on water and moisture to get it’s sperm to the eggs. Most moss plants are either male or female. The eggs are contained in little pod-like structures called archegoniums and the sperm have to swim with the help of water to the eggs.

Moss grows everywhere, so I don’t see how anyone could truly be concerned that moss fertilization was impossible or seriously flawed. On the other hand, based on what scientists knew about moss reproduction, fertilization seemed like a difficult proposition. Some say the moss sperm are weak and unintelligent, they scarcely live long enough make the distance to the eggs and there is also the challenge of finding the ensconced eggs with no road signs.

The new discovery is that the moss reproductive process looks a great deal like what happens with flowers, pollen and bees. Some cute micro bugs called Springtails as well as mites, act like bees traveling around, in and through the moss and the sperm are able to hitch a ride to the female eggs. And like flowers, female moss emits a chemical or scent that helps the sperm and the Springtails to find it. (Male plants have a scent as well.)

So a couple of other cool moss sex facts:

Moss is one of most ancient plants on earth and evolved from the algae in the oceans. Moss, lichen, liverworts all have sperm. Other plants do not. Scientists consider moss to be caught in a time warp; they evolved early on and then stayed the same.

In addition to water, scents and Springtails, it may be that moss sperms are released from a little pod or case, that catapults them near and far and thus reduces the distance they travel on their own. Seems like you could test this out by videotaping a moss plant continuously. Like a reality show for moss.

Scientists say the new research raises more questions than it answers. Those questions include, what’s in it for the Springtails? What do they get out of their relationship with moss? And is this kind of pollinator relationship more common then we thought? If moss & springtails do it and flowers & bees, anyone else?

What other discoveries lie ahead:)

If you are riveted by moss sex, here are my sources:

Summary of Nature Journal Article: Sex-specific Volatile Compounds Influence Microarthropod-mediated Fertilization of Moss

Droll Article on Better Sex for Moss with an Amazing Springtail Video:
How Mosses Have Sex in Spite of Their Swimming-Challenged Sperm


Karen Nierlich Moss Enthusiast
Moss Enthusiast Karen Nierlich

Karen Nierlich is the author of I Heart Moss (Formerly Journal of a Moss Enthusiastic.) She’s looking forward to the rainy season and the opportunity to take more moss photos. She lives in Albany, CA with her husband, two kids, two cats and a dog.










Sweet Tennessee Moss in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

My father-in-law’s family and ancestors lived off the land and the forest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They lived in a small log cabin without electricity or running water. Fresh, fresh water ran in creeks and rivers nearby. His family and others were forced to accept payment from the Park Service and move off the land so that the land could be preserved as a park. Frank Abbott grew up on a farm immediately outside the park.

Moss photos Smoky Mountain National Park

We always head up to Big Rock when we visit my father-in-law. B-I-G Rock is a big rock that overhangs a busy river. There Frank and his brothers and friends played in the summers — jumping off the rock and catching crawdads in the waters below. In Spring, the waters flowing below Big Rock are fridge but it is one amazingly mossy spot. (cont. below)

Moss Great Smoky Mountains
Mossy, Flowery Outcropping in Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains
Jumping off Big Rock

Each year we go up there my husband and others jump off the rock…and…I…watch. I like to think I’m a fairly rugged girl but when it comes to cold water, I’m a total wimp.

This year I wanted to be able to show a photo of myself jumping off the rock to my Facebook friends. (I know, I know, I’m not proud of this.)  So I got up there and after 2-3 tries managed to jump off. The water felt like it’d melted off an ice pack mere seconds ago. I seriously felt like I’d get ice burn if I stayed in there. I swam and scrambled out of there as fast as I could. I think you can see how pained I was in the after photo below where you see me on the bank.



Great Smoky Mountains
Scrambling Up the Mossy Bank





Karen Nierlich is author of Journal of a Moss Enthusiast, Albany, CA. Photographic prints of some images will be available in the future and she is starting to put together a book of moss photos and text.