Having grown up in the densely developed neighborhoods of San Francisco, I became accustomed to walking up and down the hilly streets and seeing more and more buildings in the next valley. When my family moved to the Outer Mission neighborhood, my view looking southeast was all but a line of houses along Crocker Avenue and I simply assumed the houses continued beyond that. As I grew older I developed a penchant for long walks, just to see what interesting places they would take me. It was during one of these walks that I finally discovered the gem that lay beyond those ridge line homes. I was expecting to see more houses, but as I ascended Crocker Avenue and had my first peek on the other side of the ridge, what I saw took my breath away. I came face to face with the shrubby green and brown slopes of a vast mountain and the largest open space I had ever seen so close to my home. I could hardly believe that I had lived less than a mile from San Bruno Mountain but was oblivious to its existence
For some time after that, I enjoyed hiking the landscape of San Bruno Mountain, but was still unaware of the other treasures that lay on it. That changed on a cool January morning in 2010, when I dropped in on a workday with the Mission Blue Nursery. For the next few hours I found myself rubbing dried flower heads in metal strainers with Stewardship Director Joe Cannon and a crew of three volunteers. I became a regular participant, attending weekly nursery workdays every Wednesday, watering plants during the week, and becoming a regular member of the Saturday stewardship crew weeding invasive plants like velvet grass and eventually planting natives like coffee berry.
Through volunteering with Mountain Watch, I learned to gradually appreciate the local ecology. The more I learned about the mountain, like the Callippe Silverspot butterfly and the California golden violet that call the mountain home, the more I longed to understand and the more I wanted to do to help protect its ecological health. I became familiarized with native plants, learning to recognize the white fluffy seed heads of pearly everlasting so that I could collect them for the nursery. I made connections with dedicated community members whose warmth and kindness is what I believe to be one of the greatest strengths of Mountain Watch. For one of the first times in my life, I worked with people towards a common goal, not because our grades or our livelihoods depended on it, but because we simply cared about the well being of San Bruno Mountain.
It’s been almost two years since I moved out of state and stepped away from my involvement with San Bruno Mountain Watch, but the experiences I had there linger strongly within me. To this day, I still treasure the experiences I had as a member of a community dedicated to working together to protect the mountain. Be it scouting out the endangered San Francisco Lessingia on remnant dunes with members of the California Native Plant Society or scrubbing out pots to reuse at the nursery, each person contributed their efforts with gusto. Whether it was talking about how to get involved with local politics to help environmental causes while pulling plantain on the slopes of Owl Canyon, or simply sharing thoughts about our lives with the nursery crew while transplanting lizard tail seedlings, Mountain Watch provided an avenue for me to not only connect with nature but also to connect with people whose warmth and dedication to the cause inspired me to strive to do the same. My experiences instilled within me a resolve to dedicate myself to better understand the natural world around me, and to pursue a life’s work that would help enhance the health of our ecosystems. I hope to one day be able to return to the mountain to enjoy the open space it provides and bring back knowledge and experience that will help with conservation of its rich biological wonders.