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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 1:37 pm | A Few Clouds 60º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Welcome Rain Returns to Rattlesnake Creek

Most of all, it’s the sound I missed. Rain plucking into ponds, tumbling over rocks, sheering past rushes and reeds, and spritzing into eddies.

For the past year or two, I never witnessed Rattlesnake Creek actually flow. The water table is so low that it has taken 8 inches of seasonal rain, measured at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s RAWS (Remote Automatic Weather Station) east of Mission Canyon, for the creek to finally connect the dots between puddles and ponds. Countywide, we have received 135 percent of the average rainfall to date, but the reservoirs are still under 10 percent capacity.

During the string of storms, I’ve been visiting my favorite trail almost daily. I hike up the muddy path to watch the transformation. Despite the echoes from my mother, I tromp right through the puddles to avoid widening the path and thus my impact on the habitat.

In nondrought periods, I have heard the creek from a long distance away following a substantial winter storm.

That’s not happening yet, but the sounds I hear first are what seem like joyful shouts from the birds. The Northern Flicker’s insistent wik-wik-wik accosts me as a pair announce the treasure trove of water. Scrub jays and crows dart across the canyon. On both sides of the trail, the rock rose shrubs jiggle with the activity of juncos and California towhees.

With nature showing its force, the trail itself has transformed as well. Flat boulders are pocked with puddles perfectly sized for bird baths. Old dirt road sections predating recreational use bear rivulets of water, mud and sand.

Recent storms have brought much-needed rain to drought-stricken Rattlesnake Creek.
Recent storms have brought much-needed rain to drought-stricken Rattlesnake Creek. (Karen Telleen-Lawton / Noozhawk photo)

A small rockslide blocks my way just before the first creek crossing. A boulder the size of a small dishwasher has pierced the path, a reminder of the powerful surprises of getting outdoors. I manage to heist myself over it, wishing I had the strength to move it before ant-armies of hikers inadvertently widen the trail around the obstruction. We love our trails to death.

Moving through heavy fog, I enjoy the sensation of walking through a cloud. An increasingly wet cloud. My jacket is now sloughing off sprinkles turning to showers, but I am not anxious to go. With no one else on the trail, I’m enjoying being a voyeur to all the little live things that make Rattlesnake Canyon their home.

I find myself inside Robert Frost’s poem, "Walking Through the Woods On a Snowy Evening," living his words California-style:

Whose woods these are is very clear:
The birds, the plants themselves, the deer.
They may watch me with disdain,
Stopping by to see the rain.

The little wren must think it odd
To stop when others flee the flood
Between the cliffs and trickling creek
The darkest morning: but not bleak.

He gives his dark feathers a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only sound is the refrain
Of easy wind and sprinkling rain.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Enjoy the rain!

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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