Wild Gardens

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A visit to remnant native grasslands in Richmond or diverse oak woodlands in eastern Alameda County gives a taste of our region’s native habitats. But few of us are aware of an important element that helped shape those habitats: the regimes of burning, pruning, and digging carried out over centuries by the East Bay’s indigenous inhabitants, some of whom still carry on those traditions today.

A Landscape Renewed by Fire

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Enter the woods on Inverness Ridge and pause for a moment to listen. Natural history weaves itself into stories for those willing to hear—whether teased from the patterns in stone, distilled from the rings of a tree, or gathered from … Read more

Fire on the Ridge

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On a clear January day in 2005, I took a walk up from my house on the east slope of Inverness Ridge to the trail that runs south from Mount Vision in Point Reyes National Seashore to Drakes View Drive … Read more

Getting Burned

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Fire dwells deep in the human psyche. It is among the oldest of words, the most elemental of tools, and the primary means by which early man projected himself onto the world. The torch and the hearth fire enabled our … Read more

Out of the Flames

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On October 3, 1995, a wildfire erupted on Mount Vision at Point Reyes National Seashore. Before the flames were extinguished a week later, 12,000 acres of this popular park had been scorched, and 45 nearby homes burned to the ground. A decade later, we return to Point Reyes for a lesson in local fire ecology to see how the landscape—and the community—were reshaped and renewed by the blaze.

Coe Kaleidoscope

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When it comes to wildflowers, you can’t do any better than a visit to Henry Coe, Northern California’s largest state park. Winslow Briggs, who wrote the book on the park’s trails, walks us through a year of blooms, taking us from season to season in a wild but accessible landscape.

Penetrating the Chaparral

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Though it’s the most extensive natural habitat in California, chaparral’s brambly ways discourage human visitors. Still, plenty of wildlife finds sanctuary in its tangled, brushy universe, as do the dormant seeds of wildflowers as they await the inevitable next fire, forceful sculptor of this complex landscape.