B. and I just recently went hiking on San Bruno Mountain on a blustery, sunny day, altocumulus clouds scudding darkly from the horizon. We’d been before, near the summit, where we’d hiked on trails home to the endangered Mission Blue, and other rare butterflies.
But that day we could find no trail, although I could have sworn I saw an overgrown footpath from the road. B., ever the perseverant adventurer, pressed on, hoping to connect with a dirt path. Here it felt like we were assaulted at every torturous step: vines snagged our hiking boots underfoot, human-height thistles and nettles raked at our faces, necks and shirts, and even taller branches of poison oak brushed me every which way, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it (later: a long-lasting, itchy leg rash that didn’t manifest until two weeks after our hike!) I complained all the way.
“There’s also shady eucalyptus, and wildflowers,” B. pointed out, and I fingered the huge echium that stood at my side like a Dr. Seuss character. He’d spotted a cave ahead, and as we were circled by a hawk, made our way up to it, rewarded with amazing views of Point Reyes, the Pacific Ocean, and even San Francisco Bay on the other side. The wind sang through the trees, and whispered through the wild oats and other grasses drying on the hillside, preparing for summer.
Visitors are encouraged – you can hike on actual trails, enjoy amenities such as picnic tables and restrooms – but are never supposed to hike off-trail because of the endangered species and habitat in the park (which we later learned, to our shame). Later, after we got home and joked about the hostile environment where we’d just hiked, we both appreciated this real wilderness, unmanicured to suit any of us. I find comfort in the fact that places like this still exist, rich with plant and animal life, so close to our own City.