Every year in late December, Mr. Mouse and I feel our whiskers twitch a bit. Is it time? Will the next weekend be cool but not too wet? And if we go, will we make it to the top?
Last year we were lucky again to have just the perfect day for our annual Black Mountain Trail hike. We started the hike at Hidden Villa and walked through lush forest of mossy trees and many mushrooms.
Above, a brilliant yellow mushroom right next to thimbleberry (in the wild) and here one on a mossy branch spanning one of the creeks.
And some brown mushrooms blending into the leafy forest floor.
After a brief area of south facing chaparral, the trail switchbacked up and up and up through slightly more dense vegetation facing, I think, southeast. Toyon, ribes, and manzanita lined the path, and small patches of trees near runoff or creek areas shaded parts of the trail.
It's a bit embarrassing if you don't ask "why does everything grow better in my neighbor's yard" but "why does everything grow better in Mother Nature's yard." But I'm hopeful that my Toyon, still a baby at 3 years old, will eventually put on a show of berries like this one.
As we got higher, we caught tantalizing glimpses of the bay and the east bay hills in the distance, with more and more of the view revealing itself.
It was a perfect day, clear but not too chilly, and we enjoyed our walk very much indeed. Regrettably, Mr. Mouse was still recovering from a cold and after having made it halfway up the mountain, we decided this was one of the years where turning around was the smart thing to do.
We retraced our steps and, on our way back, took a few more photos of Hidden Villa. Here's what they say on their website: "Hidden Villa is a nonprofit educational organization that uses its organic farm, wilderness, and community to teach and provide opportunities to learn about the environment and social justice. Hidden Villa stretches over 1600 acres of open space in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, about 40 miles south of San Francisco. Our mission is to inspire a just and sustainable future through our programs, land and legacy."
Hidden Villa also includes a youth hostel and conference facilities, and they graciously host the native plant nursery and native plant sale. We found our stroll through the grounds enjoyable.
I admit I'm not sure I'd want creative planters like these in my own garden. But it's perfect at Hidden Villa, and thinking about the kids who enjoyed painting and planting and putting up signs just made us smile.