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The Mountain      

San Bruno Mountain lies just 10 minutes south of downtown San Francisco. As the last intact fragment of the Franciscan Region, this unique ecosystem supports forms of life that exist no other place on Earth. It is the largest urban open space in the nation - an untrammeled island in a sea of people, a wilderness on the edge of the city.

It has been said that the Mountain "hides in plain sight." To the uninitiated, San Bruno Mountain looks like a series of ordinary grass covered "hills" with a few shrubs and trees scattered about. At a mere 1,316 feet above sea level it just barely has "mountain" status. The residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, who drive by it on highways 101 or 280, rarely give it more than a glance. But beyond the grassy rolling hills you see, when whizzing by on the freeway, lay 3,300 acres of open space, which holds an array of treasures.

San Bruno Mountain offers miles of interior trails that make you forget just how close civilization is. The high ridge trails give you breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the Farralon Islands to the west, the Montara Mountains to the south, the San Francisco Bay and Mt. Diablo to the east and the Marin Headlands and Mt. Tamalpias to the north.

There are lovely lush canyons filled with native oaks, buckeyes and willows and slopes covered with coyote bush and rare manzanitas. It has streams and waterfalls that trickle in the dry summers and rush in the winter. As the winter rains begin, the brown hills turn to green and the meadow ponds fill up. The frogs begin singing, and the singing, of course, is followed by tadpoles. Along with the tadpoles come the native spring flowers that the Mountain is famous for. Some are bright and showy; others are so small and delicate that only a slow, purposeful walk and a keen eye will find them.

The early spring also brings out the first rare butterflies of the year. The San Bruno Elfin, in all of its coppery glory, can be found making its home among the sedum. A month or so later it will be joined by the delicate Mission Blue Butterfly flying among the native lupine. And as the rattlesnake grass takes on a golden hue, the striking Silverspot can be seen flying above it scouting for a Johnny Jump-up to lay it eggs upon.

Along with the butterflies there are hawks, quails and swallows, foxes, skunks and rabbits, snakes, frogs and lizards and many other creatures that call this Mountain home. When one takes the time, the effort, to get to know this unique and wonderful place, it becomes perfectly clear why so many have fought, and continue to fight, for its preservation.

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