Mr. Mouse and I like to act locally, so part of our annual donations budget has gone to the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) for many years. Here's what they say about themselves on their website.
"The mission of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) is to give permanent protection to the beauty, character and diversity of the San Francisco Peninsula and Santa Cruz Mountain range. POST encourages the use of these lands for natural resource protection, wildlife habitat, low-intensity public recreation and agriculture for people here now and for future generations."
In practice, POST buys properties that would further those goals, and often sells them to appropriate government agencies when they have the money available. Some properties continue as ranches where large development might have sprung up. In my mind, it's an altogether essential part of keeping the Bay Area livable. But I digress. POST also invites donors on guided hikes of properties that are either not yet in the public domain, or that will never be, and in early November, I had the great pleasure of visiting Clark Canyon Ranch together with around 30 fellow POSTers and staff.
The outing was made even more special by the presence of photographer David Hibbard, who had generously volunteered to talk a little about his approach to photos and came equipped with examples, his own camera, and a wonderful willingness to answer questions.
We started at the former site of the house of the previous owners. No trace remains, but a single apple tree with inviting red apples gives a glimpse of the past. Here's what the POST site says:
"Though they had a walnut orchard on the land and raised a few cattle, the Clarks never used the ranch for commercial purposes, leaving its plentiful natural and scenic resources largely undisturbed for the last 60 years—another major reason for POST’s decision to acquire the property, said Moore.
The ranch stretches toward the wooded foot of a box canyon that drains into Bodfish Creek, a spawning ground for endangered steelhead trout. Lined with sycamores, a tributary of the creek cuts through the property. Mixed forest rises steeply to one side; across the water lie more meadows and part of the former walnut orchard rising to a high wall of chaparral. Trees and shrubs include madrone, big leaf maple, bay laurel, scrub oak, snowberry and California buckeye. Eagles, wild turkeys and mountain lions make their home on the land."
It was almost too much to have to decide between a longer hike, or learning more about photography, staying down in the canyon or going higher... I ended up staying with David as he explained how he chooses a picture.
His very high resolution camera had to be on a tripod, and he let us look through the view finder to see the lines formed by a small tree and the branches of a bigleaf maple. It was surprisingly challenging to get the light just right -- in my photo, the lichen ended up a little overexposed.
But the tree was majestic, and its big leaves treasures scattered everywhere.
At the second photo stop, David showed us a photo he had made, and contrasted it with an overexposed photo of the same scene. But when he started talking about the histogram -- which you need to examine to avoid an overexposed picture -- most of us got a slightly dazed look on our face. Still, it was a beautiful location for a shot, with the green leaves lit from behind and the tree trunks forming an intriguing pattern in the front.
By general agreement, we were let loose to explore a bit. Walking along the canyon, we saw remnants of the walnut orchard.
California buckeye ready to drop their fruit for the next generation of trees.
And Holodiscus biscolor (creambush) with impossibly large seedpods.
Splitting up into smaller groups, we all had a chance to follow our passion, make a few more photos, look for a few more special birds, or just drink it all in. It felt good to know that POST has already transferred this property to Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation, and that the county is planning to make public access possible in the future. Meanwhile, what a treat to visit, and to see things like this rickety bridge (which will surely be removed as a safety hazard before the property opens).
(For all those here in the area who are interested in POST, I encourage you to donate or at least get tickets to the Wallace Stegner Lecture Series. Who knows, we might meet there -- though I don't always wear the mouse ears...)