Sunday, April 04, 2010

Oaks on Mount Diablo


I have an almost perverse love of taking photos out the windows of moving cars. A downed oak trunk in the foreground, and the tiny shape of a grazing cow in the middle-distance.

Today was the first day in ages that I didn't have something I had to do. I got it into my head that Robb and I should head up to Mount Diablo to see the spring wildflowers. And because I really, really wanted to just stare out the window, I asked if he could drive.

Since Robb uses a specially adapted car, we can't switch off driving. Depending on which car we take, one of us has to do all the driving. He can't drive my car, and I can't drive his. Typically, I do all the longer drives, in case he runs out of energy.

Spring in Northern California is insanely green. So green that it makes your eyes sizzle. So green that it looks fake.

Doesn't this landscape bear an uncanny resemblance to the set-ups for model railroads? I have a fascination with the texture of model railroad trees. I have to resist the urge to squish them, in person. Good thing that I don't find myself in the vicinity of model train hobbyists very often, huh?

Actually, those tiny round-looking trees are gigantic, ancient oaks. I've read that something like eight percent of California's land is classified as "oak woodlands."

These trees are massive. Many are "live oaks," meaning they don't shed their leaves in the fall. These trees have leathery, almost holly-like leaves. They're tough, gnarled, beautiful trees. And they're absolutely huge.

Mount Diablo is a truly wonderful place. Thanks to the foresight (and fundraising) of many Califorians, Mount Diablo State park has 20,000 acres of preserved wild lands. In the immediate area, there are about 90,000 protected acres. Considering that the surrounding areas are known for their congestion and suburban sprawl, the protection of this much land is quite an accomplishment.

The topography of the mountain is spectacular. These giant rock formations prompted a "stopthecar! stopthecar!" moment on our drive today. Consider that the spread of an oak tree's canopy can be from fifty to a hundred feet, and you'll get a sense of the size of those stone "fins."

It's ironic, I suppose that while I admire the local oaks so very much, and while I live in Oak-Land, I'm terribly allergic to oak pollen. The last week has been miserable. Tree pollen levels are incredibly high. My eyes have been so swollen that my body just shuts down, apparently interpreting my inability to keep my eyes open with the need for sleep.

Lok how puny the actual oak flowers are! You'd hardly think that something so small could pack such a punch.


Erin said...

Before the arrival of Europeans, much larger areas of California were oak woodland, partly due to the careful fire-based management systems of local Indian tribes. California oak woodland is much more diverse and productive (at least from a human perspective) than almost any other native ecosystem.

I also have a quercus agrifolia tattooed on my leg. I do like them a lot.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Erin -- we have a section of our tiny Oakland garden that I call the Oak Woodland. I'm cramming in as many plants as I can. Talk about biodiversity!

John and Diane said...

I also love to take pics from a moving car. Love all the green in the photos, it's luscious, can't wait for it to get here to NM!

Christine said...

What amazing photos! That indeed was a "stop the car" moment and I'm so glad that you've shared it. Hope the sniffles stop soon- I have the feeling that with all the rain this year, us allergy prone folks are in for a doozy of a season.

lkw said...

Oh, what a great reminder of how nice spring and oak woodlands are in N. California.

Our oaks here in SC are in ful flower now, and I can appreciate the impact of the pollen, too. Allergy shots have helped!

Anonymous said...

My daffs are open here and the lilacs are in teeny tiny form. I loved when we went to Mount Diabolo! Landscape photography of big open natural areas is indeed my favorite porn!



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