Going on a wildflower hike was one of my spring bucket list activities, so last week, Stella and I took a trip to visit the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, to see the Table Mountain wildflowers.
NOTE: For directions and information on how to get the easy and inexpensive required land use permit, go here!
This was my first time visiting this area, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I drove the hour and a half or so, the later part winding up a narrow country road, before arriving on the top of a natural butte. The small parking lot on the side of the road wasn’t well signed, but it was easy to spot. Even on a weekday, there were several other cars, but spreading out behind them, where the rolling fields of flowers.
Getting out of the car, I was hit with the force of damp air and cold wind. But when I started traversing the fields, I was hit with something else, a swell of emotion. Like other times when my highly-sensitive-self encounters immerse beauty, tears were brought to my eyes. But in addition to the wonder and magic of rolling hills painted in swatches of natural color, I felt immense pride- that such a diverse and beautiful place exists in my home state.
The Table Mountain wildflowers are just example of the diversity of California’s flora and fauna. There are approximately 6,000 native species, making it one of the most diverse floristic provinces in the WORLD.
Stella and I headed out over the plateau, bracing against the wind and pulling my hood up closer. Much to my surprise, there are no designated trails, you simply chart a course and saunter through the fields. I chose to follow a distinct trail, likely cut from the cows. Oh yeah, did I mention there are cows? There are. They must be the happiest cows you might ever see. I headed downhill, following a small stream that cuts through the hills.
I admired the white masses of meadowfoam that dipped their toes in the babbling water, cried a bit more over the purple hills of lupins, and examined the tiny yellow goldfields, nodding in the wind. I skirted over a hill to avoid a mass of people on a school field trip and was greeted by a bank of fuschia owl’s clover. Another creek cut through the rocks, bordered by seep monkey flower and white tipped clover. On higher ground blue dicks and poppies, their orange petals closed tight under the cloudy skies, stretched over the undulating grasslands.
As I wandered over the hills with no destination in mind, my thoughts turned to what it means to me to be from California? What it even means to be from somewhere?
Is it the memories fostered from time spent there? The collective community coming together to overcome things like earthquakes, fires, or other tragedy? The perseverance of trying to make ends meet as prices rise, but the grit and determination to stay there, in a place you love so much? A place you call home because you get your mail there, or because it’s stated on your birth certificate? Is it the knowledge that you knew of its awesomeness before other people did- the ultimate version of being a hipster- discovering something before it was cool? The simple fact that you were there first?
People have been moving and relocating for centuries, in search of a place to call home. And newcomers arrived, the locals are displaced. This first happened to the native people, when white people appeared on their land and called it home. It later happened when rich people from Silicon Valley moved into my surfside town. It’s happening in my current city of people moving in from the Bay Area.
While perhaps not directly, I’ve been part of the movement that has been both displaced and done the displacing.
As my husband and I are looking to move out of state, currently looking at somewhere in New England, I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that I’m on the latter side. The newcomer, the one that is not welcome. In the emails I send to brokers and agents, I make sure to mention “my husband is from New Hampshire” in hopes to add some credibility to my request, to stave off any resentment of a Californian moving in.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in the pride I have for California, for my hometown, for the native plants that blanketed my feet. How does one become part of a new community? How does one avoid resentment? Is it possible to avoid displacement? All questions I don’t have answered to but they weigh heavy on my mind.
I left these musings on the crests of the wind, and they carried my thoughts down the valley. But surrounded by such beautiful blooms, it’s hard to stay focused on future unseen problems for so long. In the wise words of the late Petty:
You belong among wildflowers. You belong someplace you feel free.
Despite the cars in the lot, I didn’t see many other people, as the space is vast and open. I only talked to a few other people, who stopped to ask me if I knew the trail to the waterfall. Sadly, I did not, but I only wished I had more time to try and find it for myself.