The Riley Ranch Nature Preserve is somewhat of an oddity within the city limits of Bend. Odd, because it represents a rare decision by a recreation-driven agency to allow nature the opportunity to recover somewhat from the effects of past development. Rather than taking a parcel of land and crafting into a park exclusively for the use of humans and their toys, it is being left alone—for the most part.
There is a graveled trail on the upper portion that provides wheelchair access. A couple of ADA accessible viewpoints jut out over the Deschutes, offering a river view to those otherwise unable to enjoy such an experience. But no dogs or bicycles are allowed—so the hiking trail winding down through the the river canyon is wonderfully quiet.
As the area recovers from the impact of past ranching operations, there are numerous signs nature is seeking a new balance. Indigenous wildflowers are reclaiming their previous territory, doing battle with invasive cheatgrass, and other species. I count fifteen native species in bloom during this hike.
Among the returning flowers is a healthy stand of scarlet gilia(ipomopsis aggregata), now growing in the ruins of an old homesteader’s cabin. Their bright red color contrasts with the silvery grey/green sage also reclaiming some space. On the other side of the trail, townsendia daisies hug the sandy soil, delighting us wildflower fans with white to lavender florets and yellow centers.
Everything I see is bathed by the morning sun as it coaxes fragrance from flowers, shrubs, and trees. Piney aroma merges with incense-like sage which then blends seamlessly with all sweet and pungent essences wafting from every other plant. All my senses become gateways to another realm of awareness.
I cherish these glimpses of wildness. They invite me into a world where the true nature of my mind sees itself mirrored in the beauty of untamed processes. The natural mind, unhampered by the habit of past memory and future expectation, recovers its original territory when given space to do so. It blooms amidst the ruins of worn out ideals.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour. William Blake