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Practicing “seeing” on the barefoot trail

October 7, 2012

Yesterday’s morning hike with fellow-Orange-County-nature-poet Chuck Wright revealed some of the many hidden treasures of the James Dilley Preserve (part of OC Park’s Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, LCWP).

Site of many a ’60’s hippie peace-pot-and-music happenings, the hills are still teeming with wild life: wildlife like Behr’s metalmark butterflies and green lynx spiders. Native bees, flies and wasps. Coyotes, deer, rabbits, hawks. You have to slow way down and set your eyes to “open” in order to catch glimpses of some of the smaller critters; Chuck is an expert bug-spotter, and it was fun to explore Dilley with someone who has spent countless hours there.

Well, maybe not “countless” — he actually submits reports to OC Parks of his time spent there, because he is Dilley’s hero when it comes to non-native invasive plant removal. Arundo, pampas grass, artichoke thistle, watch out: Chuck is after you, and your days are numbered. Chuck and his mattock will get you yet.

But while he’s on the lookout for plants that don’t belong (even such wildland oddities as cistus and oleander), Chuck is also noticing the smallest details of who’s is bloom and who’s looking for flowers in all the right places.

A few photos of things I might have missed, if Chuck hadn’t pointed them out:

A green lynx spider guards her egg sack on a stalk of goldenbush.

So many spiders make their homes here, and Chuck knows all their names. He introduced me to this one, suspended in some prickly pear, but I’m not good with names and already have forgotten who this is . . .

I’d never seen a “ladder” woven into a spider web before . . .

Twiggy wreath, one of those amazing plants that blooms at summer’s end, even though there’s been no rain for 4-5 months.

The twiggy wreath flowers are just as striking from behind.

An artifact from the days when hippies roamed these hills just down the road from Laguna Beach.

Coyote was here! No rabbit at all in this scat, just berries (toyon?): times are getting tough out in the dry hills.

Deer, coyote, or rabbit trail? Or do they share? After a summer of stomping and tromping, the secret animals routes are pretty apparent where they intersect the people trails.

I wear no shoes and carry a camera the size of half a sandwich (that sometimes takes pictures about as good as a sandwich would). Chuck hikes in serious boots with a seriously good camera. There’s room on the trail for everyone.

Oops . .. there’s room on the trail for everyone EXCEPT bicyclists and dogs at the James Dilley Preserve. The LCWP has miles of multi-use trails, too, as Chuck politely explains to these equally polite mountain bikers who agreed to go around the Dilley.

It’s not easy getting a shot of a butterfly with my little camera, but this Behr’s metalmark was busy with the blossom just long enough for me to snap a photo. If Chuck hadn’t pointed him out, though, I would have missed it. The key in fall,  I learned, is to hang out where the scarce blooms are–that’s where the bug/bee/butterfly action will be.

I’m looking forward to reading some poetry and showing some photos with Chuck next April at the LCWP’s Nix Nature Center.  We’re going to try to have all the poems be about/from Orange County’s South Coast Wilderness–a local treasure.

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