Only a few short miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge the well-to-do suburbs of Marin County give way on their western flank to a vast reach of agricultural land, dairy farms which for generations have maintained their fragile hold at the edge of the continent. Seldom visited by tourists and unknown even to many Bay Area residents, the gentle hills of West Marin are rural, tranquil and sparsely populated. Most visitors head for Point Reyes National Seashore, by far the largest protected area in the region, but the smaller preserves of Marin County Parks and MMWD are ore intimate, closer to the land, and see few visitors.

Early April found me at Soulajule Reservoir, one of the water district properties, to climb small nearby hill I’d not visited before. The roads were drying out, the air cool, the hills green and poppies were abloom on the hillside. Finding a small bunch set in some rocks I carefully framed the flowers to cut out the bright sky and focus on the contrast, color and texture, orange and green, plant and rough rock. They don’t last long. For most of the year this hike is through brown dry grass, but in the short springtime the hills are alive with color.