The sun beamed down on a caravan of cars pulling into the gravel parking lot at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve after a long drive from the San Mateo County coast. Midpen Docent Naturalists Roberta and Jaime Cavazos and Nick Yatsko greeted the arrivals, a group of two dozen high school students, as they stepped out into the late morning sun and stretched their cramped legs.
The meeting marked a new collaboration between Midpen and Puente, a nonprofit that promotes equitable access to education, health and economic security for all members of the San Mateo County South Coast community, to offer a docent-led youth program.
Docent Naturalist Roberta Cavazos, said:
We led this hike to encourage young people to enjoy and protect these spaces. I was excited to share my love for nature, and I think we reached some of the students to respect and be in awe of it. We decided on Ipiwa Trail because it shows different habitats that are around us – oak woodland, grassland, chaparral and riparian. It has a sampling of habitats but also a great view of how these habitats connect.
As they hiked along the trail, the students were encouraged to immerse themselves in their surroundings and pay attention to how nature made them feel. Roberta pointed out wildflowers blooming in the shade and clusters of branches near hollow trees that could be home to dusky-footed woodrats, introducing the students to native flora and fauna.
After passing vistas of forested hills and hiking through dry chaparral, the group reached their destination – Horseshoe Lake in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. The cool breeze of the lake washed over the students as they watched the surface ripple from the paddling of a noisy family of ducks.
Midpen docent naturalists are trained volunteers who not only deliver programming with our partners, but also provide guided activities to the general public in many preserves.