Trails. They take us on a journey from here to there, from beginning to end, from past to future.. Trails are the way we are able to observe wildlands. Whether they are trails made by rangers through Parklands or National Forest, they weave through the countryside inviting us to come along. Trails are not static, but speak of motion and movement.
In the California Chaparral, trails can be seen as brown strips cutting through the thick blue-green stands of native brush: Toyon, Sumac and Sagebrush. Trails are also the way for us to enjoy wildlands, native plants, and the wildlife there without disturbing them.
Some trails are well-worn paths made by footsteps over & over, years in the making or even started by Indians long ago. Some trails were practical & deliberately made, such as for getting to a water source, or a waterfall, or perhaps a bathing spot.
Other trails were made by animals themselves. For instance, in Southern California where I live, Coyote has made many of the hillside paths, taking shifting, moving, sandy soil and compacting it over time, until we too can walk on the path without it sliding away under our feet. (A scary feeling, I can tell you.) Sometimes Coyote paths become State Park Trails, and sometimes they become roads. Imagine, the repeated footsteps of the silent Ghost Dog could make way for a road!
On Catalina Island (just 20 miles off the coast of California), wild goats make terraced trails on the hills, fighting erosion while eating dense brush (benefits fire clearance) at the same time.
Rabbits make trails too. I see them under and through stands of Chamise. Not as useful for us, perhaps, but awfully important for Rabbits, as these trails take them to places that offer cover from predators.
Wildlife need to go places too. Animals need to find water, food and a place to raise their young. In the Santa Monica Mtns, the wildlands are like a puzzle of interlocking green spaces. The National Park Service, the Conservancy and CA Dept of Parks & Recreation, with the help of dedicated volunteers, have worked very hard to connect wildlands, buying private pieces of property when possible to create essential wildlife corridors.
The Backbone Trail is one of the better known trails that runs up and down the Santa Monica Mtns on the West Coast. You can pick up this Trail at several points here in Topanga. You can walk the entire length of the Coastal Mountain Range, 65 miles. Or, you can enjoy part of the trails at a time, at your own pace, stopping at camp areas to rest and observe wildlife along the way. Group hikes are also offered with field guides.
Trails, paths taking us from here to somewhere else.. From what is familiar to what perhaps is the unknown and could be a great adventure.
Trails intrigue me – I wonder at the footsteps or paw prints that travelled here before me and feel a sense of peace at moving forward along a path. On a nice breezy day, civilization fades away and I am part of the wildlands. There is a quiet satisfaction in travelling along old trails that follow the natural contour of the land. And if on your walk you should stop to look back, you would see the trail melting into the chaparral landscape, and gracefully disappearing.
Do you have a favorite trail? We’d love to hear about it~
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