Breaking Through: Essays, Journals and Travelogues of Edward F. Ricketts, Katherine A. Rodger (ed.), UC Press, 2006, 348 pages, $39.95 www.ucpress.edu While he’s well known as the inspiration for the character “Doc” in several John Steinbeck novels, few people are aware of Edward Ricketts’ place as one of modern ecology’s seminal thinkers, a philosopher, scientist, […]
California’s Frontier Naturalists, by Richard G. Beidleman, UC Press, 2006, 484 pages, $39.95 www.ucpress.edu If you’ve ever taken a moment to imagine California’s landscape in its youth, you might have some inkling of the world you’ll enter when you pick up Beidleman’s ambitious chronicle of California’s pioneer natural historians. Following Sir Francis Drake’s expedition and […]
Archive | History
Q: What is the largest species of fish you could find in San Francisco Bay? A: Let’s limit ourselves to the true bony fish, which leaves out any great white sharks that might wander into the Bay looking for harbor seals. Among that group of fish, the white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) takes the size prize. […]
You can easily visit the 10-million-year-old Sibley Volcano (see Voice of the Volcano, April-June 2005) in the hills above Oakland. And college geology classes often visit the Nicasio Dam in West Marin to see pillow basalt lava that erupted deep in the Pacific over 100 million years ago. But for the most recent local volcano, […]
Exploring a Sense of Place: How to Create Your Own Local Program for Reconnecting with Nature, by Karen Harwell and Joanna Reynolds. Self-Published, 2006, 92 pages, $25.00 www.exploringsenseofplace.org Ask yourself these questions: On what day are the shadows shortest where you live? From what direction do winter storms arrive? I did, and the answers required […]
When I was three years old, I lost sight in my left eye in a freak accident while playing with a friend in the park. The permanent vision loss in that eye didn’t cause any lasting problems (outside of my woeful inability to hit a fastball in high school baseball), but I think it led […]
Geology of the San Francisco Bay Region, by Doris Sloan, UC Press, 2006, 360 pages, $17.95 www.ucpress.edu “The world-famous Bay Area rocks tell a geologic story that reads like a Russian novel with a very large cast of characters. Because of our plate tectonic history, we have a crazy-quilt pattern of rocks almost defying description […]
Legacy: Portraits of 50 Bay Area Environmental Elders, photographs by Nancy Kittle, text by John Hart, Sierra Club Books, 2006, 156 pages, $29.95 www.ucpress.edu It’s no accident that the heavily populated Bay Area is surrounded today by such natural beauty and vast green space. Long before the well-established environmental movement we know today, pioneering activists […]
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.
Native Treasures: Gardening with the Plants of California, by M. Nevin Smith, UC Press, 2006, 288 pages, $24.95 www.ucpress.edu It’s almost an embarrassment of riches for native plant enthusiasts: two comprehensive new books on gardening with California natives published in less than a year. Even better, the two books complement rather than compete with each […]
By the time that sudden oak death (SOD) began hitting North Bay oaks and tanoaks in the mid-1990s, Ted Swiecki and Elizabeth Bernhardt, husband-and-wife plant pathologists, had been studying oak diseases in California oak woodlands for many years in the inner Coast Ranges and Sierra foothills. Shifting focus to Marin and Sonoma counties, Swiecki and […]
New Guardians for the Golden Gate: How America Got a Great National Park, by Amy Meyer with Randolph Delehanty, UC Press, 2006, 338 pages, $29.95 www.ucpress.edu How quickly we forget. Less than 40 years ago, the Presidio was an active army base. Less than 40 years ago, developers nearly succeeded in pushing through plans to […]
Stewardship | Urban Nature
In 2001, bulldozers excavated two immense old army water tanks that long sat at the edge of Mountain Lake, a two-and-a-half-acre lake in San Francisco’s Presidio that’s one of only three natural lakes in the city. That same year, native seedlings and cuttings were planted, a forest of more than 100 eucalyptus trees was removed, […]
Stewardship | Urban Nature
The Islands of San Francisco Bay, edited by James A. Martin and Michael T. Lee, Down Window Press, 2006, 200 pages, $55.00 www.islandsofsfbay.com Ask any ten locals, and chances are that none will know how many islands there are in San Francisco Bay. The magic number is 48. The ecological and human histories of each […]
Since 2000, sudden oak death has spread through 14 California counties, including all nine in the Bay Area, threatening our signature oak woodlands. Though rain, wind, and fog have caused much of that spread, some of the blame likely lies with those of us who venture into the woods for business or pleasure: The disease can move on infected plants and firewood, and on the muddy shoes and bicycle tires of recreational trail users.
Universal access to nature and recreational activities is a work in progress, and opportunities, though currently somewhat limited, are expanding. Here's a list of resources.
Waterfall Lover’s Guide (Northern California), by Matt & Krissi Danielsson, The Mountaineers Books, 2006, 256 pages, $16.95 www.mountaineersbooks.org I never considered myself a “waterfall lover” before, but what’s not to love? Last summer, I found myself pulling over in my car to shoot pictures of waterfalls and point them out enthusiastically to my daughter on […]
Trails | Water
Wave-Swept Shore: The Rigors of Life on a Rocky Coast, text by Mimi Koehl, Photographs by Anne Wertheim Rosenfeld, UC Press, 2006, 179 pages, $39.95 www.ucpress.edu This book is not quite what one might expect. The title and the stunning photos suggest that this will be, if not a field guide, then a more sumptuously […]
When I was growing up in Tiburon, my grandparents lived only a couple miles away and were a big part of my childhood. It was my grandfather who ignited my interest in nature, and in particular birds, by giving me my first binoculars and a bird book. When I was asked at age five, “What […]
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.
Geology | History | The Bay
Purisima Creek Preserve The shaded understory at uncrowded Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve on the Peninsula is a delicious place to ramble in hot weather, especially when berries start to appear in early summer. Mature second-growth redwoods, mingled in places with madrone and Douglas fir, shelter the gently flowing stream and a lush understory of shrubs […]
Not so very long ago, two counties on opposite corners of the Bay competed to grow the best stone fruits in the West. With fertile soils and favorable climates, Santa Clara and Solano counties have rich agricultural heritages stretching back to the mid-1800s. Times have changed: The Valley of Heart’s Delight is now called Silicon […]
Rain or shine, Bay Area birders participate in their own Christmas tradition when they grab a pair of binoculars and head out for the annual Bay Area Christmas Bird Count. Begun in 1900, the Christmas Bird Count takes place between December 14 and January 15 throughout the Western Hemisphere. Each bird count covers a 15-mile […]
As a sighted person, I take in most of my information about the world through my eyes. So I’m wondering how my fellow travelers perceive this journey when they can’t see the backdrop to our adventure: the impressive green of the hills, the quaint houseboats circling Richardson Bay, the gulls and terns wheeling above, and […]
While you’re heading to the polls this November, California brown pelicans will be returning to breeding grounds that range from the Channel Islands south to Mexico. From May to September, these stately birds fly as far north as British Columbia. With its six- to seven-foot wingspan, the prehistoric-looking brown pelican seems equally at home skimming […]
Pollution | Wildlife
I was a backpacker from early childhood, and by my 20s thought myself a rugged adventurer, self-sufficient and in close communion with the natural world of John Muir. Unlike him I always carried a sleeping bag, but I could do without air mattress and (usually) tent, could read a Sierra meadow for the prospect of […]
Losing your eyesight or the use of your legs doesn’t mean you lose your desire, or ability, to explore the natural world. Until recently, opportunities for people with disabilities to do so were few and far between. Fortunately, local activists have been knocking down these barriers, creating more opportunities for access, such as kayaking on […]
When yellow star thistle hitched a ride to California on alfalfa seed in the mid-1800s, it found fertile soil, a temperate climate, and no natural enemies. In its native Mediterranean home, yellow star thistle is kept in check by a small army of biological rivals, but here the plant has become California’s most invasive weed. […]
Losing your eyesight or the use of your legs doesn't mean you lose your desire, or ability, to explore the natural world. Until recently, opportunities for people with disabilities to do so were few and far between. Fortunately, local activists have been knocking down these barriers, creating more opportunities for access, such as kayaking on the Bay, hiking in the hills, and cycling along the shore.
Things begin rumbling about now. Storm clouds pile up along the outer Coast Ranges, the winds shift and come out of the south, days get shorter, and the air gets colder. We all know what's coming: the rainy season. Termites and spiders know it too, and they're getting busy.
Kids and Nature | Wildlife