by Corby Hines
The more time we spend in a particular place, the more we are shaped by it. This is true for individuals as well as cultures. In fact, the place that we live literally becomes part of us. Nearby trees release oxygen that we breathe, the food that grows from the soil we walk upon is the stuff that makes up our bodies, and those bodies respond to that particular place’s climate, latitude and geography. Even our psychology is affected by these variables of place. Over generations, these influences create a culture that is reflective of the place that nurtures it.
My job as the outings guide for Sonoma Land Trust is to connect people to this place — and what a magnificent place it is! We call it Sonoma County — the place between the Mayacamas to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west; between San Pablo Bay to the south and the deep forests and rugged hills to the north. Life has been blossoming here for a very long time and life’s wisdom is inherent in this place. We can only benefit as individuals and as a culture from tapping into this wisdom, and the more time we spend out on the land, the more wise we become.
Life’s strength is in its diversity — and we have an amazing diversity of places to discover and explore in the 50,000 acres of land that Sonoma Land Trust has protected. Each of these places is unique and harbors its own wisdom for those who make the time to visit and connect.
The only constant is change. There’s no place that reflects that truth more than the tidal marsh at Sears Point on San Pablo Bay. Just 10,000 years ago, there was no bay — just a great river flowing at the bottom of a huge valley. When the last ice age ended and the great melting occurred, sea levels rose and flooded that valley, creating the bay. A tidal marsh formed around its edge, making for a very productive habitat for myriad creatures — including people. When a new people arrived around 150 years ago from a faraway place, they brought their culture with them, draining the tidal marsh for farmland and radically changing the landscape.
As we’ve learned from the land over time, steps have been taken to restore the former tidal marsh, which we know will benefit us in the face of climate change and sea level rise. You can experience this change yourself by walking the Bay Trail out at Sears Point. Witness the tides ebb and flow each day and watch greater numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds return each year. As the years turn to decades, a fully renewed tidal marsh will have formed, making the next generation of people who visit all the wiser.
Glen Oaks Ranch
Everything is connected. Glen Oaks Ranch is the key to this understanding. This place is an oasis of natural habitat in the increasingly fragmented Sonoma Valley. Glen Oaks Ranch sits at the crucial pinchpoint of the wildlife corridor between Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas. Those of us who have spent a lot of time out there have seen wildlife up close, but we were astonished with the amount and types of animals that pass through as revealed by our remote camera study — mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, badgers, deer, bears, skunks, and even porcupines, are all present and depend on the interconnectedness that Glen Oaks creates between the larger protected areas to the east and west. If you come on one of our guided outings there, you too can travel like these animals beneath the majestic oak canopy and along newly restored Stuart Creek, making your own connection to the land.
Part of a vast swath of over 6,000 acres of protected land, the Jenner Headlands provides an opportunity for people to find solitude and discover their own truth in this remote backcountry setting. Beginning next year, the Jenner Headlands will be open to the public so that each of us can find a quiet place free of distractions and tap into our own wisdom while deep in the redwood forests, high up in the oak savannahs, and out on the wide-open coastal prairie with exquisite views of the ocean.
The land teaches us where we come from and what we are made of, but the sky reminds us that we have yet to reach the limits of where we can go. Pole Mountain is the place to experience this limitlessness. At 2,204 feet, it is the highest point on the Sonoma Coast. The feeling when you’re up there is not easily put into words. Archaeological evidence points to a long history of people visiting this high point, and now that your land trust has acquired it, Pole Mountain will soon be open to explore on your own. It will surely have a long future of people renewing their connections to this special place.
I’m thankful that the people of Sonoma County, especially the members of Sonoma Land Trust, recognize the value of protecting the land. We certainly have the ability to change the land — for better or for worse — but the land has the ability to change us as well. Life knows what works. If we choose to make the time to connect with the land, we will inevitably be shaped by it. Our reverence for life will grow, as will our understanding of ourselves and our world.
Corby Hines is Sonoma Land Trust's outings guide.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.