Guest authored by Doug Silverstein
Know the Land on Which You Stand. Two environmental leaders in San Mateo County spoke of this to me last month, yet I don’t think I’d heard it once before. Nor have I spent much time in my decades on the Peninsula thinking of who came before me. Long before me.
Nevertheless, the afternoon of February 27, while hiking San Bruno Mountain, a prized San Mateo County Park, seemed just the perfect time to reflect. So, during the first of ten 2019 SMC Hike-a-Palooza outings – every other Wednesday afternoon until July 3 – I shared the mountain’s history with my fellow trail mates.
From the website of San Bruno Mountain Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and protecting the land’s ecosystems, I read:
“According to archeologists, San Bruno Mountain was first settled about 5,000 years ago and may have been the first location on the San Francisco Peninsula to be inhabited.”
“Native Americans, generally assumed to be Ohlone (Costanoan), established the first known human settlements on and around San Bruno Mountain,” as evidenced by shell mounds on the Southeast Ridge. (More history here.)
In the hundreds of times I’ve driven by that mount, from San Francisco to Palo Alto and back, and towards Candlestick and the Cow Palace, I’d never imagined it 5,000 years younger. Or even 50.
Now more mindful of the past, and back in the present, myself and a few other hearty souls weathered the light rains and continued up the 1,314-foot peak. Consistently over two hours and four miles, we discussed sustainability and natural habitats. We laughed while slogging through mud and kept our eye on the prize – a 6:00pm visit to Armstrong Brewing in South San Francisco for exceptional empanadas and hand craft brews.
I’ll definitely go back soon to San Bruno Mountain to cover more trails… or all of them. On the south side of Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, I’ll hike the Ridge Trail from the summit, east toward the Sierra Point Marina. And, hit the Summit Trail section – from junction 14 to 19 – that was closed due to rain.
On the north range of the 2,416-acre park, I’ll retrace past steps around the saddle area to peer down on the lower stretches of my home town, San Francisco. And on all hikes, I’ll enjoy sweeping 360-degree panoramic views of the entire Bay Area.
While not much of a naturalist myself, possibly fellow hikers can point out a few of the 14 rare plant species, or one of the four endangered butterflies (San Bruno Elfin, Mission Blue, Callippe Silverspot and Bay Checkerspot) found in only a few other locations in the world. And, of course, the beautiful wildflowers that draw photographers from around the bay.
Imagine that. At the northern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, an easily accessible urban highland brimming with life and steeped in 5,000-year-old history. And with the crafty land stewardship of so many San Mateo County residents and sustainability leaders, hopefully 5,000 more.
Doug Silverstein is a 23-year San Mateo County resident and local sustainability leader. As a volunteer for Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame, Citizens Climate Lobby, Sustainable San Mateo County and others, Doug has used his decades of technology sales and marketing skills to champion local clean energy and transportation justice causes.
Join San Mateo County Parks Foundation and other San Mateo County sustainability leaders on one or more of these hikes. San Mateo County Parks Foundation inspires people to care for, learn about and enjoy San Mateo County Parks.