• Gambolin' Man

THE EAST BAY UNKNOWN: Top 10 Overlooked Gems, Ignored Beauty and Hidden Splendors in Old Familiar Ha

Hidden gems, and thoughts on what it means to find beauty and exploration in nature. Click here for the full article! -Victoria

"We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

T.S. Eliot's oft-quoted line from Little Gidding reminds us that the places near and dear to our hearts may harbor secrets yet teased out. Jaded by years of familiarity, we may dismiss our favorite backyard hiking areas as "ho-hum" and our cherished views, vistas and venues as "same old, same old," consigning the tried and true to some mental dustbin of "been there / done that / seen it all." But pray tell let us hope not!

Constantly seeking something new and better, are we, in our repeated wanderings, barely able to notice subtle manifestations of natural beauty before unseeing eyes? If only we might, for a moment, set aside preconceptions of what constitutes "precious beauty." If only we might redefine what fun is and what adventure means, and take a second, deeper look at old familiar surroundings, we might be surprised at what we've missed. Right in our back yard, right under our nose, right in plain sight.

For in our haste to seek out the the prettier other, the more charming alternative, the grander elsewhere, how easily we fall for the fallacy that the "commonplace" is merely that - a common place absent of magic and mystery! But far from it! We are all sorely in need of a timeless lesson imparted by Ralph Waldo Emerson - "the invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common."

On closer inspection - and it does require getting down on all fours or putting your nose up against a tree trunk - it turns out that our most familiar stomping grounds are replete with novelty; our most pedestrian locales shelter tiny miracles yet disclosed to a searching, discerning eye. Where every nook and cranny has been (seemingly) explored, and every square foot of hiking terrain (seemingly) exhausted, and every view (seemingly) like watching a rerun again and again, what could possibly be left to exult over? But, ah, what magic awaits, if only, as Tolstoy exhorts, "in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you."

Look around you, where wild aura and character abound in special little places that unexpectedly turn up, places that have been right under our noses, within eyeshot, all along. In well-trafficked areas, just down a hillside, over an "off-limits" fence, up a trail to an obscure knoll, around a never before explored bend of "simple" creek, a scramble up to a normally arid cliff face above a placid lake now pouring forth an impressive discharge of run-off. Places to find solitude. To stumble upon expressions of implausible beauty in the most unexpected and overlooked venues. Places to appreciate a swathe of open space somehow missed all these years. To marvel at a stretch of creek winding through a landscape reminiscent of rural Oregon. Places to gaze upon familiar landmarks with a fresh perspective, affording a revitalized view of Mount Diablo, or an exotic backside panorama of the Berkeley Hills.