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Natural Perspective


(Last modified: 4 May 2015)
[oak grassland]

Here are two short essays written after hiking on Sunday, January 28, 1996.

The Hills are Awakening: Part 1, East Bay Hills

Today I took a long and meandering walk up and around the hills of Sobrante Ridge. I am sad to say that the builders have begun "landscaping" around the new house at the trailhead. Where there were once ... (but why reiterate) there is now concrete, piping, and newly turned earth.

Once past this testimony to civilization, however, the hills were beginning to glow with the cool green radiance of emergent Spring. I trudged (really that is the word) up an exceedingly long but fragrant hill, and was once again rewarded and inspired by the vista. Bay and hills basking in the clear, cold air. Walking along the ridge I could see only green grasses emerging, but I know that within a month we will find Blue Dick and Mariposa Lily and California Poppy. I looked carefully at the main path, but still no sign of Pineapple Weed! There were many Blewits but no Chanterelle.

Coming back to the first loop of the trail - Manzanita Loop - I was enchanted by this island ecology and the blooms on these very unique shrubs. They are full of delicate white pink urns, swinging gently in the breeze. I saw a silktassel in full tassel, draped with long moss-green catkins, easily four inches long. [blue bolete]

Other than some lovely, wavy, brilliantly colored Blewits, my mushroom finds were Boletus pulcherrimus, or perhaps B. haematinus or B. satanas. I saw three specimens and I am not sure that they are all the same. They are fat little red and yellow things that turn blue/black quicker than you can say Boo. (Right: Boletus erythropus.)

The Yerba Santa is starting to grow, showing plenty of spriglets and promising energetic growth. The monkey flowers are beginning to bush up, and the poison oak decorates the woods in impressive but terrifying profusion.

Best were all the birds. The trees seemed alive with them, and I heard at least two different types of warblers. Even the jays seemed mellowed by this fine day, and generally let me pass with only a small clucking sound. Sparrows and wrens simply hopped out of my way and never even took flight. A turkey vulture flew so close to me that I noticed a chevron pattern in its secondary feathers.


The Hills are Awakening: Part 2, Peninsula Hills

Today I hiked a local San Carlos park, Big Canyon (which isn't really big). Its oak grassland/chaparral habitat provides a welcome change from the typical Coastal Redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountain range.

The weather was beautiful and sunny after a few days of rain, and although it is the middle of January the hills are already showing signs of Spring. Right at the entrance to the park the grass is growing thick and green around the Coastal Live Oak; Soap Plants are showing their young petals, which appear to have been trimmed by the local deer; and the Poison Oak is starting to leaf. Some of the young leaves are already turning their characteristic shiny red -- seeming to skip a green phase altogether.

[bay laurel] Continuing up the trail, I found the chaparral plants showing signs of rebirth as well. Lupine bushes are sporting wonderful felty gray leaves; California Sagebrush and Sticky Monkey Flower shrubs are also reviving from their short winter nap, as are the Yerba Santa bushes (to my great delight).

The winter rivulets are lined with ferns such as California Maidenhair, California Polypody, growing together with ornately leafed Meadowrue.

Still further along the trail Chamise, wild gooseberry, and wild rose bushes are all responding to whatever Spring they sense in the brisk air of January. I was particularly pleased to find the Bay trees starting to bloom, showing off beautiful clusters of delicate, six-petaled (technically, sepaled) flowers (left). In all my years of hiking, I had never noticed these blossoms.

The California Buckeye seemed to be the only plant not fooled by the weather, its branches still bare in the seemly economy of winter.

Finally, as a special treat, a few Toothed Coral Fungi (Hericium coralloides) stood post at the end of the trail, revealing their simple beauty to any who would take a moment to look.

I took this walk at a very slow pace, but felt as invigorated and inspired as if it had been a much more ambitious hike. My nature walks have become much more intimate since I began learning to identify the plants and fungi. Each trail relates to me in a personal way as its plants and habitats evoke memories of past encounters, experiences, and adventures. Nature's annual rebirth seems much more a part of me this year.

Taking time to learn the names of these Earthly cohabitants has helped me see them in a fresh light, much as taking the time to learn another person's name helps turn a stranger into a friend.


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This site produced and maintained by Ari Kornfeld
Copyright © 1996-2015 All rights reserved.

Collaboration and inspiration thanks to Susan Kornfeld
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Special thanks to Claire Doyle Ragin for scanning some early photos
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