19 March 2008
My town Wednesday: Riverside, CA
Travis Erwin of One Word, One Rung, One Day has started of series of posts entitled “My Town Monday” and invited others to take part.
Here is my contribution. I usually post on Wednesdays, though, so this is “My town Wednesday.” Being new to California and Riverside both, I’ll probably get some things wrong, and I apologize in advance.
Riverside’s biggest claim to fame is that it's home to the mother navel orange tree, a national landmark. Any time you eat an American-grown Washington navel orange, there’s a good chance it came from a graft from the tree at right, which came to Riverside from Bahia, Brazil, in1873. The mother navel orange tree now lives in a tiny park protected by a tall fence and is still producing oranges. You can view a slide show about the tree at http://ecoport.org/ep?SearchType=slideshowViewSlide&slideshowId=79.
Settlers named the town “Riverside” because it was by the Santa Ana “River.” I use quotation marks because most of the year the river contains no water. Since its founding in the early 1870s, Riverside has grown to be the 61st-largest city in the country and the 14th-largest metropolitan area—pretty impressive stats for a town you’ve probably never heard of!
Riverside is a good place for hiking because it has many hills and a few mountains. At left, for example, is the view from our back yard. We often see hikers and horseback riders on the ridge silhouetted against the skyline. Although the hills are bare most of the year, the winter rains turn them many shades of greens, dotted here and there with the bright oranges and yellows of wildflowers.
Perhaps my biggest surprise after moving here was the winds. Few days are still. Most days are pleasantly breezy, taking the edge off the heat. Then there are the Santa Ana winds. They can gust as hard as a tropical storm and sometimes fuel terrible fires, as they did this past fall.
If Riverside were abandoned, the desert would reclaim it quickly. No rain falls for months at a time, forcing the orange growers and home gardeners alike to rely on irrigation and sprinklers. Cactuses are many and varied, as are xeric wildflowers. Roadrunners graze in our yard, and coyotes visit at night.
I’ll revisit Riverside again in my blog when I’ve had a chance to explore it more.