Bay Nature magazineApril-June 2004

Letter from the Publisher

April 1, 2004

Three summers ago, in late June, I took a hike at Purissima Redwoods on the Peninsula, a reserve managed by the Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD). While the redwoods there aren’t old growth, they are tall and deep enough to provide not only shade on a warm summer day, but also that sense of soaring up to the canopy along the straight lines of the trunks of the trees. But what made that hike memorable and utterly surprising for me was the variety and diversity of berries we found growing down at our level—from the bright red thimbleberries, which were at the peak of ripeness; to the shiny black huckleberries, which were just coming into their own; to the stark snowberries, which were making a strong case for white indeed being a color; to the almost impossibly intense blue of the Clintonia berry, a color I had never seen before in nature. Soon we found ourselves looking down instead of up, seeking out the next shock of color against the green and brown background of the forest.

That walk was the genesis of the photo essay on page 16 of this issue. If you’re like me, those images will make you want to taste the berries. I have to confess that we did just that during our walk at Purissima, sampling the ones we knew to be edible: the thimble-, huckle-, and blackberries. I didn’t know then—though I do now—that this is strictly against MROSD rules. (Similar rules apply for the East Bay Regional Park District, state parks, and many other public parks.) I can certainly understand the reasoning behind those rules—everything growing serves a purpose in that ecosystem. Of course, if a couple of people pick a few huckleberries, no harm done. And it certainly deepens one’s experience of the forest, adding the sense of taste to the sight of the trees, the sound of the birds, and the softness of the air against your skin. But if every hiker did the same thing, there’d be fewer berries for those birds and animals that depend on them. And after all, from the plants’ point of view, the purpose of berries is seed dispersal, something birds can accomplish, but we can’t (unless we violate yet another ordinance). Still, it seems a shame to pass up the sublime taste of ripe thimbleberry, an intense explosion of jam-like sweetness. That’s why I planted several thimbleberry plants in my backyard last year; I’ll let you know if I get the berries before the birds do!

I do want to thank all of you who sent good wishes following my letter in the previous issue. I’m delighted to report that the treatments and surgery for the cancer have had great results so far and I hope to be back at close to full strength by autumn. I am most grateful for all your support. And for the superb work that Dan, Marc, and Tracy have been doing at Bay Nature in my absence.

About the Author

From 2001-2017, David Loeb served as editor and then publisher of Bay Nature magazine, and executive director of the nonprofit Bay Nature Institute. A Bay Area resident since 1973, David moved here after graduating from college in Boston. The decision was largely based on a week spent visiting friends in San Francisco the previous January, which had included a memorable day at Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990s, after many years working for the Guatemala News and Information Bureau in Oakland, David had the opportunity to spend more time hiking and exploring the parks and open spaces of the Bay Area. Increasingly curious about what he was seeing, he began reading natural history books, attending naturalist-led hikes and natural history courses and lectures, and volunteering for several local conservation organizations.

This was rewarding, but he began to feel that the rich natural diversity of the Bay Area deserved a special venue and a dedicated voice for the whole region, to supplement the many publications devoted to one particular place or issue. That’s when the germ of Bay Nature magazine began to take shape. In February 1997, David contacted Malcolm Margolin, publisher of Heyday Books and News from Native California, with the idea of a magazine focused on nature in the Bay Area, and was delighted with Malcolm’s enthusiastic response. Over the course of many discussions with Malcolm, publishing professionals, potential funders, and local conservation and advocacy groups, the magazine gradually took shape and was launched in January 2001. It is still going strong, with a wider base of support than ever.

Now retired, David contributes to his Bay Nature column "Field Reports."