PALMDALE — From sea turtles at the mouth of the San Gabriel River, to big horn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains, nature is out there, you just have to know where to find it.
Antelope Valley College English Professor Charles Hood wrote the book on it. Literally.
“Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature in and Around Los Angeles” is a nature guide for Los Angeles that clues readers in to the surprising nature that surrounds the urban environment. Hood served as the senior author and primary photographer on the project with a team from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
“We wanted to write a book that would give people from less privileged backgrounds or urban environment access to nature,” Hood said.
The Southern California Booksellers Association named “Wild LA” the Best Nonfiction Book of 2019.
“It is literally true you could see a sea turtle in the morning, and go up and see a big horn sheep in the afternoon,” Hood said.
The sea turtles are the same type of green sea turtles you might see snorkeling in Hawaii. They are a tropical species that also call Southern California home.
“You can go to the outflow of the power plant in Seal Beach, Long Beach, right at the mouth of the San Gabriel River, and see a sea turtle. No ticket required,” Hood said.
Big horn sheep are on Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains.
The book has 10 ecology chapters and 25 area field trips with 101 species of plants, animals and birds.
“Nobody in Los Angeles should be further than half an hour from a nature hike,” Hood said.
One of the ideas behind the book is that urban nature is important nature.
“We never want to say you need to go to Yosemite to have nature. Nature is here; it’s all around us,” Hood said.
Vasquez Rocks, Hood’s favorite hike, did not make the cut. Arlington Garden in South Pasadena did.
“It was a Caltrans staging yard that’s become a Mediterranean garden. You cannot have a bad time there,” Hood said.
There is no admission fee to visit the garden. It has chairs, flowers, and lots of birds.
If there is one thing Hood wants readers to take from “Wild LA,” it’s that they live in a blessed place and beauty is all around them.
Hood started teaching at AV College in 1989. A graduate of Glendale College, California State University, Northridge, and the University of California, Irvine, he has lectured in Mexico, Japan, and at Cambridge in England. Hood’s previous writing awards include two national awards in poetry and one in experimental fiction.
“Wild LA” is Hood’s 14th book. Number 15 is a book by landscape photographer Michael Light that features an essay by Hood. Besides a new poetry manuscript Hood is working on a book about snakes.
“I really want people to understand that nature is complicated, interesting, but you don’t have to be afraid of it,” Hood said. “No snake is going to come bother you if you don’t have the foolishness to bother it first.”