Whenever I turn a corner on the trail and spot a discarded facial tissue (which happens with some frequency) my heart skips a beat. Ahh, I think, some hiker has left something of theirs behind for me. I approach it, casually lean down, pick it up, and slide it surreptitiously into my back pocket, hoping that no one sees me. This is because I am fundamentally selfish. I want the tissue experience to be mine and mine alone.
Just think of the metaphysical implications of the placement of that artifact. Was it left in the middle of the trail, it’s otherworldly whiteness in stark contrast to the reddish brown soil, to spark contemplation about life’s fleeting nature? Or was it deposited just so with folds carefully applied, to make one consider the nature of art? Or perhaps it was discarded almost without thought, as a commentary on the disdain with which the hiker contemplates the natural world that surrounds them.
I guess we will never know if any of these are the reason, unless I happen to witness someone in the act of placement, when I can ask them their intent. Meanwhile, I will continue to gather these symbols of humanity’s fleeting dominion wherever I find them.
Well, that was fun.
But seriously, people, tissues are trash. If you pack it in, pack it out.
When hiking out in the wild it’s inevitable that you run into the remains of deceased (and probably eaten) wildlife. Some hikers may be sad to see these signs, but I take it as an indication that the ecosystem is working as it should. In a world of carnivores there is simply going to be carnage.
But at the same time, I pause and admire the feathers, or bones, or hair that remains behind and see beauty in what is left. I’m afforded a much closer view than I usually get, since squirrels scamper away as I approach and birds take flight. It’s a chance to admire the colors and textures of skin, hair, feathers, and fur.
A rare occurrence is to find an animal intact (see photo of a Shrew Mole), and at those times I feel particularly blessed with an opportunity to study it. More frequently, I find the animal mutilated (see photo of the snake) or largely gone (see photo of what was left behind of a squirrel).
But I find even the fragments fascinating in their own way, and grateful for the opportunity for close-up inspection.
When you are out on the trail, keep an eye out for these sights, and count yourself blessed should you come across a relatively intact wild animal. And if there are only remains, you will know that they fed a predator and are part of a cycle that includes not just a life but also a death that nothing living on this planet escapes.
If you’re a reader of this blog you likely know that dogs are not allowed on the Montini and Overlook properties. However, there is one type of canine that is definitely allowed, Canis latrans, or coyotes. I happened to spot one today out in the meadow below the Holstein Hill trail on the Montini Preserve (see photo).
Even if you don’t see a coyote you can often hear them. The other day I was hiking on the Montini Preserve and sirens started going off below me in the town of Sonoma. They were met by howls from above me by a coyote responding to the sirens. They also bark (see the video below of a coyote barking on the Montini Preserve).
Coyotes are abundant throughout North America, and they thrive in the kinds of mixed meadows and woodlands we have here in Sonoma Valley. They eat small game such as rabbits, rodents, fish and frogs, and deer. They can also consume snakes, insects, and even fruit or grass (but most of their diet consists of mammals). Near humans, they have been known to eat garbage and pet food.
Canis familiaris, the domestic dog, is descended from the coyote. So you could say that we owe coyotes quite a bit.
Keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re out on the trail, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot one (or hear one).
Hiking the Overlook is great at any time of year, but winter can be particularly rewarding, especially this year! When other parts of the country are muffled in deep snow and freezing temperatures, the Sonoma County trekker can take to the trails in relative comfort and ease. This year, after the fires, the green grass blanketing the ground gives us all a great breath of hope and renewal. Wintertime hiking is a joy and offers some unique benefits:
- You’ll see less people and more wildlife
- Mosquitos and other bugs are nowhere to be found
- Rattlesnakes are still hibernating
- Less people=less noise. Enjoy the quiet peacefulness
- Hot food and warm drinks taste even better after a cold weather hike
- Hike the trail on a sunny winter day and you will instantly feel the happy effects of endorphins as they kick in!
If you haven’t been up the trail lately, now is the perfect time to shake off those solstice doldrums and take advantage of our Northern California winter. You’ll be glad you did!