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Be It Ever So Local, There’s No Trails Like These . . .

April 3, 2018


While I occasionally get a chance to escape crowded-traficky-loud Orange County (where the roar of the freeways will never be mistaken for ocean waves, although I try, and where the night is filled not with the siren call of coyotes but actual sirens, given the fact that we live by a Level III trauma hospital next to the Orange Crush, one of the craziest freeway interchanges in the US), since I’ve been wandering the trails of our local foothills for over 20 years, there’s something comforting about meandering up and down ridges where I know who blooms where and when. (And when I say “meander,” I mean it–see previous sentence for an example of my meanderthol expertise.)


Our amazing local plants and animals are OK with a lot of variables, including the idea of “rainy season.” We all hold our breath during the (perfectly normal) rainless months of April, May, June, July, August, September and October, but come November, when local shrubs have exhausted most of their many dry-climate adaptations, and us humans are beginning to question our memories regarding this thing called “rain,” sometimes it happens. Or not. This year, not so much until a few inches between January and March.

I love this quote from a page about local climate:  “Rainfall, on average, is frequently below average.”

This little bit of late rain was just enough to coax a few wildflowers into bloom . . . far fewer than a wet winter would conjure up, but . . . enough to bring a sense of hope to the recently scorched hills east of Orange (Santiago Oaks Regional Park/Barham Ridge). Here’s just a few photos from earlier this week:


Calochortus catalinae: Catalina Mariposa Lily,  a state-listed rare plant with the “threatened species” rank of 4.2.


Purple-headed dichelostemma capitatum is having a BIG YEAR in the burned areas of Santiago Oaks Regional Park; here it is enjoying life in the company of California poppies, our much-beloved California state flower (which is considered an “invasive weed” in parts of Australia).

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Last month’s Orange County Chapter/California Native Plant Society presentation by local native plant expert Ron Vanderhoff made me really appreciate the fact that we have many tiny & wonderful California native plants; here’s an itty bitty beauty I would never have noticed if I had not heard Ron’s talk and been on the lookout: Southern Gilia (Saltugilia australis).  It’s got BLUE POLLEN! What?!


While huge swaths of prickly pear habitat were decimated by the recent Canyon Fire 2 (which was allowed to grow into monster size due to multiple human errors, not-one-but-two recent reports have shown, much to the dismay of 9,200 acres of destroyed habitat) some of the less-charred carcasses are managing to sprout new pads. Here’s hoping our local cactus wrens will be able to make do . . .


Here’s another view of a sprouting cactus patch in the midst of what was once a thriving coastal sage scrub community; now all you see is a sea of green evil: mostly non-native invasive grasses and habitat-destroying plants such as black mustard and tecolote.


Poppies and dichelostemma amid the burnt skeletons of laurel sumac and/or lemonade berry. Sigh.


Poppies up here, smog and noise and traffic down there.


Stinging lupine (Lupinus hirsutissimus): stunning in its beauty and ouch-ful-ness.



And another local path lined with lupine: my back yard, where I can wander a few feet in each direction, surrounded by California native plants and the rush of traffic on nearby freeways. (Yep. Multiple freeways come together near here: the 5 and the 22 and the 57, just like the Californians told you.)


It may seem odd to treat these lovely lupine like weeds, but they are way too prolific in captivity–the rabbits of the native plant world–and need to be edited out occasionally to keep the air moving around the Dudleya (three species of this favorite native succulent appear here if you know what to look for).


The subject of a presentation I enjoy giving (complete with slideshow; book now and receive half off the normal price of free!): plant native habitat in your urban yard and the critters–including super-cool birds like this common yellowthroat–will have a home (or, in the case of this bird, an important stop on their migration path). (PS Despite the “common” in its name, it is not at all common to come across this species in such an urban yard setting.)


Another rare, recent visitor: a Townsend’s warbler, who seems to be having way too much fun in the fountain just outside our dining room window, where we have way too much fun bird watching throughout the day. Season. Year(s).


Thus ends another hike–and another blog post.  There’s so much beauty & wonder “out there”–and not only far away “out there,” but sometimes right in your back yard . . . or only a short drive away.

Happy wandering your own LOCAL trails!

PS Oops . . . I almost forgot the other half of this blog title . . . not just “wandering” . . . BAREFOOT wandering! Happy barefoot trails!


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    April 4, 2018 11:05 am

    I love that word: ouch-ful-ness! Yes to barefooting on local trails!

    Great post!
    All the best, Scott

    • April 4, 2018 12:37 pm

      Thanks, Scott–and how’s your barefoot trail adventures going this spring? 🙂

  2. April 4, 2018 7:19 am

    These are just gorgeous photos and welcome on a “spring” morning of 31 degrees here in Illinois. I’m all about local trails — I’ve done hundreds of miles of barefoot hiking over the past three years or so, all within about 100 miles of home and mostly within 25 miles. Can’t wait to get out on a regular basis again.

    • April 4, 2018 9:53 am

      Hello and thanks for the barefoot news from Illinois! It always makes me happy to hear about other barefoot hikers . . . keep up the fun, and here’s hoping that spring-for-real appears soon in your neck of the woods 🙂

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