Human settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area dates back 10,000 years to early Native American settlements. Today, the region is a teeming metropolis of 7 million people that collectively challenge the health of the region's ecosystems. How it got this way is a story that prompts a deeper understanding of our place in the landscape.

At Home off the Range

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Once home to California’s largest landowner, Mount Madonna near Gilroy showcases an impressive range of habitats, from redwood forests to open oak woodlands, serpentine barrens, and chaparral.

Highway to the Flyway

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Along the gentle arc of the northern San Pablo Bay shoreline, one of the region’s least loved highways, Highway 37, traverses one of its most fascinating landscapes. Best to be in the passenger seat, for the country you are traversing deserves far more than a stolen glance…

The Tribe

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When Greg Sarris of Santa Rosa, an adopted child, learned that his paternal grandmother was a Coast Miwok, it opened the door to a whole alternative culture. He would soon begin to explore that heritage, absorb it, and work to … Read more

The Cattle Baron and the Elk

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The 19th-century cattle baron Henry Miller (not the noted California author of the same name), who once had an estate on Mount Madonna (the subject of our July-September 2007 On the Trail feature) is not generally remembered for his conservation … Read more

Whispers in the Water

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By a quiet picnic area in the Presidio, water gurgles out of the hillside, spills over brick walls, and disappears underground on its way north to Crissy Field and the Bay. This is El Polin Springs, celebrated by the Ohlone and the Spanish for bringing fertility to anyone who drank of it. Ambitious plans to uncover the watershed’s stream channels are peeling back interwoven layers of human and natural history to reveal a complete urban watershed.

Presidio, Past and Present

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San Francisco’s Presidio is among the richest historical sites in the Bay region, or perhaps in all of California, a place with structures and changes in the landscape that go back to the arrival of the Spanish in 1776 and … Read more

A Hardy Californian

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Lester Rowntree (1879-1979) was a self-taught botanist and independent spirit who spent half her life trekking up and down California observing, gathering, and photographing the state’s native flora. Born in England, Rowntree lived in Kansas, Southern California, and on the … Read more

Recalling the Wild

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Walk a few miles in Jack London’s boots to see the landscape he declared more beautiful than any he’d seen in all his travels.

Carquinez Breakthrough

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The open hills along the Carquinez Strait are home to working ranches and open space preserves that are meeting places for native species from both the coast and the Central Valley. Today’s quiet pastoral landscape makes it hard to envision the violent formative flood that may have cut this critical waterway between the Bay and the Central Valley some half a million years ago.