Ah, The Rain
After a long wait, the first of the season’s rains are here – not enough to swell the creeks and rivers for the steelhead and salmon gathering at their mouths preparing for runs upriver into the fresh water to spawn, but enough to diminish the extreme fire danger on land.
The beginning of the rainy season brings a special relief to folks in Point Reyes after the great Mt. Vision Fire of October 1995 burned over 12,000 acres of forest and grassland taking many people’s homes along with it. The extreme dry conditions combined with fall winds acted to fuel a fast burning fire that raged for 4 days. Fire suppression practices in the area for over a century had built up a tremendous fuel load.
The pyrotechnics on the wooded Inverness ridge were astonishing to watch from the hill on the Schoolhouse Compound. We thought at first, horrified, that we were watching propane tanks explode at people’s homes. It turned out to be a natural form of a similar occurrence: the Bishop pines, ancient trees evolved over millenia to reproduce with the aid of forest fire, were heating up and sending their flaming sap rich cones flying hundreds of feet through the air to explode on landing, distributing their seeds over large areas. The dense carpet of Bishop pine saplings – some of which can be seen now standing along the Limantour Road edge – was the result.
As the rain continues to come down now it sounds like reassurance to those of us Point Reyes inhabitants who do not welcome wildfire readily.
Overnight the pale gold grasses will give way to bright green shoots, properly named as they shoot from the newly dampened soil to turn the entire coast range a shimmering green. This is California’s ‘second spring’ when the warm temperatures of fall combine with the first rains to spur the native grasslands to regenerate. Blooming California poppies will soon dot the hillsides along with wild radish.
Thousands of migrating birds stop to feed on the berries ripening in coastland gardens: cotoneaster, hawthorn, pyracantha, elderberry and huckleberry. Large flocks of western robins mixed with cedar wax wings drop out of the skies to gorge on their route south. The hummingbirds, Anna’s, Rufous and Allen’s, are dallying around feeders and the last of the blooms deciding whether to winter over here or move on to the south.
Five o’clock and the sun just dipped behind the Point Reyes ridge.