If it’s January, it must be 70+ degrees (F). Time to enjoy the sun-warmed clay trails in my local Orange County wild lands:
Heading up out of Santiago Oaks Regional Park on the Oak Trail, enjoying a warm January afternoon: no shoes, no shirt, no service required, just a nice winding uphill.
Such a fine day: seems like the tunnels of oak shadow through new green growth are a nature play magnet for not-just-me.
On a brilliant day, clouds only make the blue more intense.
I am going out on a cloudy memory limb and calling this formation over Old Saddleback “lenticular.” Many years ago I took remember a professor telling us students in his geology class that anyone who brought him a photo of lenticular clouds taken that semester would get an automatic “A.” Here you go, Prof. Unremembered Name . . .
In amongst the non-native grasses, tucked in and around the native shrubs, the wildflowers are beginning to appear:
The first wildflowers of the season at Santiago Oaks: wild hyacinth (Dichelostema capitatum).
Santiago Creek has a bit of refreshingly chilly water right now; after big winter storms this placid trickle rages dangerously, and there’s no getting across for days or weeks. That’s weather we haven’t had for years and years.
The best part about trail running barefoot at Santiago Oaks . . . crossing Santiago Creek to begin and end the adventure.
On my recent run, I discovered newly dug trail “improvements” that are not that at all if you’re a slow moving biped or quadriped.
It’s a bit disheartening to see all the trail “enhancing” going on at Santiago Oaks . . . berming the curves like this does not seem like the work of equestrians or hikers, who fear the high speeds this kind of trail work encourages in the wheeled community . . .
Meanwhile, back in the city . . .
Here’s a wild hyacinth happily ringing its blue-purple bells in my back yard. Planting native plants at home in suburbia allows me to “wander” happily even on days when I can’t make it to the trails outside town.
Howard McMinn manzanita, you are one handsome plant!
Back-yard manzanita: after killing a few of these, I have found the “secret” — plant on a mound with decomposed granite added, and sprinkle the leaves without soaking the soil every so often on a summer’s morning.
The smooth red bark and delicate branch patterns make manzanita fabulous year ’round, even after the delicate bell-blooms fade.
Lupine love! These things re-seed so readily, I’ve been pulling them out by the handfuls to make room for some of the other (smaller) wild flowers.
Can a person ever have too many blue flowers? “I think not,” says this ceanothus.
Not the highest quality photo . . . it was taken through my kitchen window this morning as a flock of smooth-yet-flashy cedar waxwings descended upon this year’s bounty crop of native toyon berries.
Just a few feet from my back door . . . having a back yard fountain does wonders for attracting both resident and migrating birds (these cedar waxwings are just passin’ through).
Here they are doing their “restless roost” thing in the unleaved desert willow . . . cedar waxwings, always on the run . . . from . . .
. . . . neighborhood cannibals like this Cooper’s hawk who zoomed over to see what all the ruckus was about. The waxwings wisely got the heck out of Dodge. It’s a bird-eat-bird world, even in the city.
Besides being a fabulous time to trail run on sunny trails through green hills and fields of wild flowers, January in Southern California is citrus season. I raise a toast of tangerine juice . . . here’s to living in this amazing place (that is unsurprisingly jam-packed with millions of others who have discovered the charms of year-round sunshine, for better or worse).
Welcome February . . . what kind of wildflowers await?