Thanks to this year’s abundant rainfall, she led her docents-in-training on a Fall Creek trail in Felton lined with mounds of verdant and flowering plants.
Stopping her team, she pointed out the sugar scoops flaunting their sprays of delicate white flowers. The plants were named for their seed capsules, which resemble scoops of sugar. They grow in moist and shady areas from the Santa Cruz Mountains north to Alaska.
Judy, a Henry Cowell State Park docent, has led hundreds of walks on the steep slopes of Ben Lomond Mountain and has become the expert trail master of Fall Creek. As many as 13 types of fern grow along the hillsides and the creek, and she can identify all of them for you.
Unlike most other mountains in our region, which are made of sandstone-shale formation, Ben Lomond Mountain is made of granite. Granite is very resistant to erosion, which explains the clarity of the Fall Creek water. Mica in the granite explains the water’s glitter.
On Cape Horn Trail, the team halted when a deer was seen resting in a shady nook. The deer sized up the walkers and finally arose, stretched and began to chew some sprouts. After a photo was shot, it ambled on down the path.
Around a bend, Judy and her students discovered the endangered and poisonous western-burning bush, with its intense maroon flowers that ripen into fiery red berries, giving the plant its name.
Many medicinal plants grow at the park, including wild ginger and wild rose, but the most important one to the history of medicine is the willow. Willow bark is the original source of aspirin and was used for centuries as a pain cure.
On a late afternoon, I was walking under the redwood and oak arbors at Fall Creek and listening to the haunting evensong of the hermit thrush when I remembered a few lines from one of my favorite children’s songs, “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”:
If you go out in the woods today,
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely out in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home.
For every bear that ever there was
will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.
You don’t have to go out in the woods alone or take a teddy bear to the picnic. Just join Judy and me at Fall Creek for a nature walk and picnic at the old lime kiln next weekend, on June 19. E-mail me for more information.
This is a free walk made possible through an environmental education grant from the San Lorenzo Valley Water District.
Carol Carson, an environmental educator and grant writer, writes an occasional nature column. She has been a docent for Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and taught courses on Big Basin State Park for UCSC Extension. Contact her at email@example.com.