I say this nearly every month… but this is one of my favorite times of year. I try not to take the beauty of where I live for granted, but some days it really smacks me in the face. Driving home from a lunch meeting today was one of those days. The temperature was in my perfect zone – low 80s, nice breeze, and blue skies. The lower elevations have turned a lovely suede color, but the upper foothills haven’t quite lost the green. And the tops of the Sierras are still capped in a dozen feet or more of snow.
I’ve heard this area called many things – most commonly the foothills of the Sierras, but my favorite word is Rangeland. Maybe because it makes me want to just get out and range. Maybe it hearkens back to the days before the Gold Rush before the masses came to California. The Rangelands also include the great Central Valley and bit of the eastern Coast Ranges. Today I was on a road where (other than the road) there were no signs of human activity. No houses. No power lines. No cities in the distance. It was so peaceful. Just cows and meadowlarks. This type of peace is rapidly disappearing. Ranchers are trading in cows for almond orchards, displacing not only cows, but the meadowlarks, pheasants, coyotes, eagles, hawks, wildflowers – especially vernal pools with irrigated, fertilized and weed suppressed fake forests. Instead of cattle lowing, I’m sometimes greeted by crop dusting planes.
Pre-Gold Rush California is an era of California’s history that seems to be disappearing from schools and just general knowledge. Even the History Channel glosses over the period from the 1700s to the Gold Rush, and makes no mention of pre-Spanish California. Even the all mighty Amazon doesn’t carry a single book covering pre-18th Century. Good grief. Once that history is gone – it’s gone for good. With all our technology, data storage, cloud storage, it’s easy to think we can record history, to never forget. But we do. Sometimes I think it’s easier to forget history these day – algorithms spit out the most popular results. It’s hard to Google “what history have we forgotten?” and get a relevant result.
So what to do about it? Get out! Explore. Take the backroads. Read the roadside historical markers. Visit museums – small town museums often have a wealth of information.
Rangeland Moo Cows, Doodle#10