It is not news that Southern California has more than its share of automobiles, freeways, sprawl, and malls both mini and mega.  All of these crowd into a landscape that is at turns magnificent and harsh, but surprising and lovely where it can be found in a more or less undisturbed state.  I’m learning that the winters here are exceptional–not only is it warm enough to be outside much of the time (without protective gear!), it also rains enough to make the hillsides green and the desert wildflowers bloom in unexpected places.  It is easy for me to imagine why early settlers would have put their stakes in the ground here as the ‘Garden of Eden’ at the end of the road—at least at this time of year.

On Saturday we ventured out to explore an area that was new to us, but by all accounts a not to be missed ‘great outdoors’ destination, the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  Located in the Santa Ana Mountains, and only a 45 minute drive away for us, the reserve boasts riparian streams, basalt-capped mesas, oak woodlands, grasslands, vernal pools, and 35+ hiking trails.  It sounded perfect.

It was.  Just what I needed.

burned tree figure with sky

burned tree figure with sky

a perch for everyone

a perch for everyone

From a strategically placed boardwalk at the vernal pools we saw ducks and water birds happily swimming, found frogs peeking out of the green growth, and hundreds of tiny fairy shrimp feathering through the water.

boardwalk over the vernal pools

boardwalk over the vernal pools

water world

water world

Our group of hikers diverged at a trail’s crossing–I took the one less traveled by–and you know what was written about that particular path…

the path

the path

Oak tree

Oak tree

…and this trail, this tree, this mountain peak, this time walking alone…

lichen covered rocks

lichen covered rocks

peaks

peaks

…has made all the difference.

sunshine on the grass

sunshine on the grass

I think I can live here.

reflecting

reflecting

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