While poor Country Mouse was working too hard last weekend, I took the opportunity to go for a hike. One of my favorite hikes, and just a short drive from where I live, is Windy Hill Open Space Preserves. The preserves is part of the Midpeninsula Open Space Trust. I quote from their page:
The late 1960s was a time of rapid growth in the Bay Area. As tract housing and commercial development began to dominate the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” concern for the preservation of the Midpeninsula’s irreplaceable foothill and bayland natural resources mounted among open space advocates.
Through the determined and heart-felt efforts of local conservationists, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was created by successfully placing a voter initiative, Measure R, on the ballot in 1972. Measure R’s sentiment is as powerful today as it was more than 30 years ago.
- Measure R will preserve open space by creating the Midpeninsula Regional Park District (currently named the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District). Open space is our green backdrop of hills. It is rolling grasslands - cool forests in the Coast Range – orchards and vineyards in the sun. It is the patch of grass between communities where children can run. It is uncluttered baylands where water birds wheel and soar, where blowing cordgrass yields its blessings of oxygen, where the din of urban life gives way to the soft sounds of nature. It is the serene, unbuilt, unspoiled earth that awakens all our senses and makes us whole again … it is room to breathe.
The humidity was quite high that day, so the views weren't as crisp as I would like. Here you can see the bay, with the Dumbarton bridge crossing the bay (double-click the photo to actually see that).
But I digress. I actually started the hike down in the valley, then hiked up the spring trail. The trail is fairly steep and completely exposed, so we usually make sure we go down that trail. But it was a fairly cool day, so I was actually able to do the trail in that direction, stopping for photos along their way.
The area was, I'm sorry to say, overrun with non-native annual grasses. Only close to the path did I find a few native wildflowers such as the lupine above.
Lots of thistles, as well. Welcome food for the birds, but seemed to be fairly aggressive. The trail was very popular with hikers, especially hikers with dogs. Interestingly, many of them seemed to just dash up the trail, then dash back down. I, instead, took the anniversary trail, more or less parallel to skyline boulevard, and then walked down on Hamms Gulch trail.
And suddenly everything changed. First, a beautiful Ceanothus thyrsiflorus in full bloom (see this informative and entertaining post from Curbstone Valley farms about the plant and where its name came from)
Then a fairieland, with trees, ferns, and lychen.
Trillium as big as dinner plates.
Dainty Smilacea racemosa (false salomon seal) right next to the path.
And the most special find: Fritillaria affinis (checker lily).
All that combined with blessed quiet. Back at the parking lot, after about 3 hours of walking, I felt refreshed and relaxed, hoping to come back to Windy Hill some time soon.