Last week I went on a pre-sunrise hike on the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy‘s Ventura River Preserve. My main purpose, besides the exercise, was to see how the native plants are faring in the midst of our drought.
I was treated to some beautiful scenery, including the full moon setting in the western sky.
I headed west across the meadow just as the sun was rising behind me.
The only wildlife I saw was this Brush Rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani).
I rambled past White Sage Alley where these specimens of Salvia apiana seemed to be weathering the weather just fine as they finished up their flowering cycle. Not all Sages are doing so well this year, most showing signs of stress from the lack of rainfall this past winter.
This lone White Sage plant, showing off its flower stalks on the east side of the dry Ventura Riverbed, looks typical for this time of year. Those on steep, south-facing slopes are looking pretty dry now.
After crossing the riverbed, I entered the world of Wills Canyon through the gateway of this Western Sycamore grove.
The Sycamores share this riparian corridor with Southern California Black Walnut trees.
The trail climbs out of Wills Creek at the entrance to the canyon where this signs orients the hiker…
… and a sunlit bench completes my route for this morning.
Heading back I passed through this peaceful meadow…
… where a Coyote had left his calling card the day before. Their scat can often tell you what berries are ripe. This one showed evidence of a recent meal of the furry variety.
The Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) has finished its work for the year, displaying the dry whorls of seed heads that distinguish it as a member of the Mint family.
At last, I found what I was looking for, the slowly maturing fruit of the Islay (Holly-Leaved) Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia). They look to be about full size now with maybe a month to go to achieve their dark red ripeness. Around the valley, there is an abundant crop of cherries this year although they are on the small side due to the low winter rainfall.
The OVLC has provided several benches like this one on the various trails that crisscross the Preserve. I am eternally grateful to them for the work they have done to save valuable wild lands around Ojai from development and opening them to the public.
One last view, this time to the north, across the main meadow on the Preserve as I headed back to the Riverview Trailhead on Rice Road, refreshed and invigorated by an early morning outing in Nature.