What is THAT?
This was originally posted as the intro to my first “What is THAT?” blog post. I thought I’d post it here because I believe it is central to why people hike – to enjoy, and learn about, our local surrounding. So, here…
I find that, while enjoying the outdoors, the experience can be more fulfilling if, instead of seeing a tree, you see a coast live oak, or instead of a bird, you see a scrub jay, or cedar waxwing. Being familiar with the flora and fauna of your area, or that area in which you enjoy spending your outdoors time, helps you feel a part of it, and establish a connection.
I know a lot of San Diegans don’t think too much about the plant life that covers the hills around the cities and suburbs of the county. They’re largely waist high, they don’t have delicious berries, or gaudy flowers (except jimsom weed), and probably don’t mean much of anything to most folks.
So, hikers, when you’re out and about, take a bird guide, or a plant guide, and when you see something you don’t know, but you find interesting, look it up, while you’re right there, so when you’ve gotten home you’ve learned something, in addition to having had a nice day in the San Diego outdoors.
I’ll tell you what, I learned about the local flora and fauna from different teachers from elementary school through college, and continue to do so to this day. Like I already said, familiarity with your surroundings allows you to build a connection. Once that “bush” becomes broom chapparal, or white sage, or laurel sumac, it becomes something specific, an entity with which you can connect. Then the next time you come across a white sage, not only will it not be just a bush, but something you know, and you’ll be able to point it out your hiking companion, and crush a leaf in your hand and offer up the rich, spicy aroma (I’ve heard trekkers of old put it under their pack straps to release the scent during a long hike). A good hike through the woods, or foothills, is a great hike when instead of brush, or just trees, you can say you saw flat top buckwheat, or some incense cedar, or California black oak turning autumn-yellow.
So, to this end, I’ll be occasionally highlighting a local plant or animal that helps to make San Diego an interesting, and beautiful place to live. There will be the common, and the unusual, and hopefully you’ll pick up a brochure or guide to local wildlife, and take up trying to identify the plants or birds you see on the trail. Believe me, those scrubby-looking hillsides hold a huge variety of plants and animals.