Here's a lovely sight and sound for you: Rain sluicing through a towering tree up in Oakland’s Redwood Regional Park.
My dog, Django, and I often run on the park's Golden Spike Trail, a single track that weaves up and down a ridge above Redwood Creek as it flows toward San Leandro Reservoir.
The trail offers a microcosm of the dramatic changes that December’s rains have brought all over the Bay Area. The dusty brown hillsides are beginning to glow bright green as annual grasses, perennials and wildflowers push up new shoots.
Golden Spike crosses in and out of half a dozen miniature watersheds, drained by tiny feeder streams brought back to life by recent downpours.
The trail ends at a fish ladder well down the canyon on a branch of Redwood Creek, where rainbow trout were first identified as a new species in 1855.
The leaves of the bay trees and the coast live oak are washed clean of the summer’s dust. The moss lights up with a lime-green light. The non-native forget-me-nots are sprouting -- they’ll bloom in the spring.
The redwoods here are second growth, repopulating the canyons after the clear-cuts of the 19th century, but they’re still huge -- 100 to 150 feet tall. And they shelter hillsides of ferns.
Django and I splash through the puddles. My running shoes are soaked, and my legs splattered with mud. That’s half the fun.
“There are mushrooms coming up!” East Bay Regional Park Naturalist Morgan Dill says with glee. “The newts are popping out, everything seems to be really soaking it up and really loving the rain.”
I talked to Dill at the park district offices at Crab Cove in Alameda, where the weather inspires a family of ducks to splash about in a flooded pothole in the street.
Dill says the heavy rain is a good sign for wildflowers and other native plants that naturalists are trying to re-establish in the Skyline Serpentine Prairie near the Golden Spike trailhead. The soils there are thin and underlaid with green serpentine, California’s state rock.
Dill says naturalists spent time last fall collecting seeds of Presidio clarkia, a pretty little lavender flower. He and others have now scattered the seeds on the prairie.
“And it’s botanists' folklore that after a drought, there are extraordinary wildflowers. It’s almost like a celebration of the drought being over.”
But then Dill catches herself. The drought won’t be over unless we get a lot more rain. Still, she’s keeping her fingers crossed, as I am, and my dog, Django.