In August my family and I headed out to Point Reyes National Seashore to see (and hear) tule elk during their rutting season. We drove to Pierce Point Ranch on the peninsula at the northern end of the seashore and walked along the open trail with the expanse of the Pacific to our left and the grasslands to our right. Turkey vultures wobbled overhead and the wind blew fiercely. The elk don’t love the wind either and take refuge from it by gathering in Windy Gap, a small valley that lets you see to the other side of the peninsula and the shore of Tomales Bay. The elk pretty reliably cluster here, and when we rounded the trail toward the valley, there they were. A buck with at least 10 points on his antlers was bellowing his heart out from the hillside to a quartet of does napping at the bottom of the valley. My 8-year-old of course began bellowing and then we had to show her how the grown-ups do it, and, well, weeks later we’re all still perfecting our techniques. (There are a lot of videos out there on human elk bugling!)
We make nature our own, something that has personal meaning, one experience at a time. Maybe it’s by (badly) imitating tule elk, planting seedlings, or noticing how a trail changes with the seasons. Building a relationship to nature beyond weather, natural disasters, and clean air and water is a choice, not a necessity in this day and age in the Bay Area. And it’s a choice to be celebrated. There are more good reasons for pursuing that relationship than we can list, including that it makes the myriad environmental problems we face here and globally more tangible and meaningful.
To help foster that relationship we try to pack each issue of Bay Nature with ideas and inspiration for experiencing our collective backyard, and in the following pages that includes learning the stories behind a park’s name, using iNaturalist to discover species, taking a walk with new neighbors, drawing an insect, watching a family of birds, kayaking past otters and seals, or noticing life in fall.
We’d love to hear how Bay Nature has inspired you. The places it has led you. The plants and animals you’ve encountered. The experiences that have bonded you to the Bay Area’s natural world. Please share your experiences and/or photos via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using the hashtag #mybaynature. Or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll publish a handful of reader anecdotes in a future issue of the magazine, or on baynature.org.