Lime Ridge Open Space is a lemon-shaped ridge of grassland and chaparral wedged between suburbs. Steep hills drop to live oak and sycamores along Contra Costa Canal and rise to bald summits where red-tails, Cooper’s hawks, and white-tailed kites hover then stoop toward gophers and ground squirrels on the meadows. Yards with swimming pools back up to the border of the little wild preserve, a thick skin of town everywhere but the base that meets the foot of Mt Diablo.
A packed-dirt trail runs along the spine of the hill’s hunched back. At noon most days I hike there under the hottest sun that keeps bikers, strollers, and dog walkers inside. From the peaks, I can see the city spread out over the flat pan of alluvial plain, traffic pumping along arteries, a haze like the exhalation of some great animal hanging over it. In the small ravines between hills, I see nothing but chaparral and hear only a distant, muffled hum of cars.
A fire truck siren floats up to me from Ygnacio Valley Road, and dogs in the backyards between pick up its whine, howling back. Thirty or so yards from where I stand, a wilder breed joins in. A pack of coyotes, sleeping through the summer heat in a den beneath a wide oak, wakes up and begins their maniac yipping at the siren, the dogs, the heat. I stand on an open trail below them, afraid to move or attract their attention, glad they caught mine.
first cricket sings them awake—
dogs go inside