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This Most Barren Hill

“My thoughts expand and flourish on this most barren hill…”


   In the summertime we get a regular weather phenomenon known as a ‘marine layer’  that appears in the later afternoon. This brings in a layer of moist wet foggy low-clouds that roll in from the sea. By late afternoon the fog has reached inland enough to blot out the sun. While this might seem a disadvantage… actually, when other places are broiling in the summertime, our coastal areas can have very nice and cool temperatures. And in wintertime, we often have much sunnier weather than we do in the summertime…. go figure!

   At any rate…. the spread of this fog layer normally extends only to the first row of hills that are a prominent feature of the landscape along much of the California coast.  The relatively flat areas between the hills and the sea are known as a ‘Coastal Plain’.  The Coastal Plain is heavily influenced by the moderating of the sea. In the winter time, the relatively warm waters keep the coastal plain a bit warmer than the hill areas and inland deserts. In the summertime, the relatively cool waters will keep the coastal plain area from being too hot.

   We live inland beyond the coastal range of hills. So while we have clear skies in general, we can often look at the hills along the coast and see the fog backed up on the coastal side..  trying to reach over the hills. When it does, it slides down the low spots (saddles) and drifts down like a stream… slowly the warmer drier inland environment will break up the mist and vaporize it… you can watch as it slowly dissipates and turns into a vapor and drifts off into the air…. vaporizing and disappearing as it drifts….

   They say that each Hydrogen and each Nitrogen, and each Oxygen molecule has been around the world a number of times…. been breathed into and out of the lungs of great numbers of people and animals in the last billion or so years….. each of these molecules is something that is, was, and will be. Eternal as matter can be.


   The importance of this fog layer cannot be discounted. The fog keeps the local dry environment cool enough so plants transpire less, it reduces soil moisture loss, and as a great bonus, the fog often leaves the plants wet with dew by morning. This dew and fog being caught by the plants and dropping to the ground gives the local environment a bit of moisture in the heart of an otherwise dry summer.

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