Seasonal Creeks

12377639_10153144331341786_3674935992491065197_oSeasonal creeks are by definition creeks that only have water during the rainy season. In California, the rainy season can potentially stretch from early Fall into late Spring, although variations in weather patterns can of course add nuance to that schedule. However, for truly seasonal creeks it usually takes a fair bit of rain to form the runoff required to start them up.

So although we’ve had rain just about every week for the last month or so, it was only with the latest storm that we began to see the seasonal creeks on the Overlook Trail and the Montini Preserve begin to run. Specifically, the creek that runs through what I call “Fern Glen” and across the Overlook part of the Rattlesnake Cutoff trail, has begun to run (see pic).

This is good news, as it means that our storage reservoirs will also begin to fill. And having been in a multi-year drought, this is definitely good news. However, runoff by itself isn’t necessarily good. We should trap as much of that as we can into the aquifer, where those who draw from water wells can take advantage of it. To a large degree, this means slowing down the runoff and making it soak into the ground instead of running directly to the bay.

Personally, I think we have a ways to go before we can say that we are doing the best we can at water capture in this valley. Until we figure out how best to harness our seasonal creeks to maximize underground water storage, we perhaps deserve the droughts that we will likely increasingly get.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away

rainpoolsWe’ve been lucky so far this Fall, with rain coming almost on a weekly basis. It has been enough to both finally end one of the worst fire seasons on record as well as foster the eager growth of new grass.

I love hiking the trails in the rain. There tends to be fewer people and more animals. One day in the pouring rain I saw a large flock of wild turkeys — the most I had ever seen.

Out on the trail today although I didn’t see many wild creatures I saw a few hardy people and water beginning to pool and start to run off the trail. After returning home, it poured even harder. If it keeps up we my have water running in the creeks by this evening.

We certainly need this moisture, but we need so much more to escape this period of drought that it’s hard to imagine getting enough in one rainy season. So let’s all hope that the rain doesn’t go away and that it soaks the ground, fills our reservoirs, and ends our latest drought.

Winter Is Coming

fernglenFor the first time on the trail today, I noticed that the ferns are coming back. At the place I call Fern Glen, on the trail that connects the Montini Preserve with the Sonoma Overlook Trail, they are shooting up fairly quickly, in response to the off-and-on light rains we have had recently (see pic).

This is very nice to see. It’s a sign that we are getting enough moisture to renew plants such as these which rely upon dampness. As is probably quite obvious, winter is coming. It’s just nice to see the weather signs that indeed it is.

So the Summer Ends as it Began…

lateseasonflowers…with flowers.

I was rather astonished, after a very long and dry summer, to see a flower blooming alongside the Sonoma Overlook Trail. Really, I thought? After seeing the meadow grass blasted completely past brown into a stark grey in the long summer drought, I couldn’t imagine what would possess a flower to bloom. But there it was.

With bright orange-red blooms, it stood out in stark contrast to its brown and grey surroundings. What were the conditions that could enable this to happen at this point in the year, I wondered? How could it survive, let alone make such a flagrant display? I’m not sure that I will ever know, but I was thankful, and I gladly climbed the short way up the hill from the trail to document its courageous and unexpected existence.

Later that day, rain began to fall. Actual, serious, rain. Welcome rain. But the flower existed before the moisture. It had made its play for existence and attention when there was nothing left upon which to draw. When the soil had been sucked dry. When all of the other flowers had long since gone down to dust and desiccation. When clearly, all hope should have been lost.

But it wasn’t. And seeing this, and understanding its message, I took heart once again.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away!


A small pool captured by a trailside rock.

Recently we had some rain on the trails, albeit somewhat light. But it was enough to completely settle the dust and create small pools where the water could not sink into the ground (see picture).

It is welcome, indeed, as the fire danger has been off the charts as we enter the end of summer and the beginning of fall. According to Cal Fire, 2015 is the worst fire season they have ever seen. So…yeah. Rain is what we like to see right now.

Unfortunately, there is no more rain visible in our forseeable future, so we will need to hang in there for a while longer before we are completely out of the woods regarding fire. These conditions makes it even more important to not smoke on the trails, as all it would take is a spark or tossed cigarette to start a Valley-wide firestorm.

A flock of turkeys in the driving rain.

A flock of turkeys in the driving rain.

Rain on the Overlook and Montini properties provides a number of benefits for both plant and animal life. Many of the benefits to plants and animals seem obvious, but others are not so obvious. One benefit to animal life is that during particularly hard downpours the human traffic on the trails lessens substantially. Although I never let rain keep me away from my almost daily trail perambulations, it does keep others away. I find that I see a lot more wildlife on rainy days than on clear ones.

If you want to see wildlife in the rain, just buy some waterproof walking shoes, some rain pants, and a waterproof jacket with a hood. I add a cap to keep the rain off my glasses and I’m good to go. Sure, I often still come back wet — probably more from sweat than rain, but hiking in the rain is more fun than you might imagine if you haven’t done it. I highly recommend it.