Reflections of Coal Mine Ridge

Trail Wandering by Ward Trueblood

Ward Trueblood lived in Portola Valley between 1992 and 2005, during which time he both walked the trails and, at one time, as a volunteer, adopting a trail performing substantial repairs; he famously re-purposed discarded deck lumber to replace failing trail retaining walls. Ward served in the U.S. Navy as a surgeon in Vietnam from 1965-66, was an award-wining faculty member at Stanford,  and more recently served as a Trauma Attending at Santa Clara Valley Medial Center, A Level One Trauma Center. He later published a volume of poetry In the Community of Whild Birds as an act of self-healing. WIth the author's permission, we include one such poem which was inspired by his time spent on Coal Mine Ridge.

Trail Wandering


Begin in manzanita chaparral
at the ever-growing stick hotel,
secret refuge of the wood rat, Neotoma
as a scrub-jay couple squabble, guffaw.
The trail, a confluent mat of fir fluff,
soft brown rice of unfertilized seed,
a thousand seeds for every developed cone,
a thousand cones for every seedling,
a thousand seedlings for every tree,
and a rarely found Methuselah.

A seasonal slit pond along the fault,
reminder of seminal geologic time.
Ducks lift off, leaving a wake
in the floating surface of blue-green algae.
The tree frogs migrated to this place
with the first autumn rainfall,
voiceless females overpowered
by vocal males for a momentary embrace.
Sperm-like tadpoles dominate the water's edge;
it shimmies like a horse neck thick with flies.

Moving in this landscape alone, feeling
the exhaling breath of wind, my mind too
exhales with the aroma of molding leaf,
while the trees sway contentedly
as part of the forest immortality.
Only we among the genera cast our lot,
not with sheer fecundity of seed and time,
but with far more uncertainty.