April 2010

I am sitting on Feyner’s front steps drowsey in the sun. I am watching a handful of quail browse for lunch on the knoll. I am listening to a chorus of barn swallows and ducking under their acrobatic aeronautics.? I am watching two whales make their way north far below as the surf sounds whirr up the drop off scrub slope. How easy it is to make friends when you are delighted! When you are delighted and they are delighted and you are grinning at each other bumping along in the mule, chilled, through the creeked forest, he stopping and gathering a posey of yerba santa for you to smell, debating whether or not it was a ringtail cat we heard cackling at lunch, keeping an eye out for spotted owls, or condors (“its a good day for condors”), eyes mind heart skin ears open, open to everything.

Its the first time I’ve ever crashed a party and I picked a good one.? A volunteer trail day brought me to Big Creek late Friday eve and I arrived to the start of a weekend long Redwood Camp birthday party with fresh caught ahi steak dinners every night for friend of a friend Jered who was gracious enough to let me join. What I found was a group of smart heartfelt folks who were funny, kind and generous. Who I met were cute kids, sweet dogs, beautiful men and women who love and live on the land there.? What I got was a world class adventurous introduction to an amazing special spot and I am feeling the gratitude for it all.? More stories and pics here.? Experience it for yourself! Volunteer for UCSC’s Big Creek Research Reserve or attend their open house in early May of each year!

Weather conditions report: Many lizards, few newts. At last. (Nothing against newts)

After a pastoral evening on the deck and in the cliff perched hot tub of Pidgeon Point Lighthouse celebrating Piets 47th I introduced a few of his friends to the wonders of Whitehouse Ridge Trail and Chalk Mountain. We checked on the Checkerspots I met at Easter, and they were already dried. Barb found a decimated fox carcass, tail fur strewn about, which I collected some of, so soft, and a bit left still under the chin inviting a considered caress. (I thought to leave a bush poppy in blessing on the way back but passed the spot in my fatigue not noticing). We parted ways at the repeater, whose pit toilet boasts the most amazing view I?ve yet seen one of its kind have. Then, deliciously alone all afternoon, only passed by one mountain biker, I headed up and down along the watershed ridge peering over Whitehouse to the West and various drainages to the East, the big basin in the distance. Skirted under Sandy Point and dropped down to Sunset Trail camp (sites 1, 6 and 10 being the preferred ones ? weekly trash and pit toilet pumping service but no water). Once I hit Sunset/Berry Creek Falls trail I was surprised to find an almost highway with folks in their street clothes, and I?d felt all tough tackling a 17 miler with my bag full of gear, layers, emergency supplies. Here they were doing it palming one water bottle, sporting cotton and in regular old tennies?.

Stopped a bit above the falls in a sunny clovered spot for a quiet lunch, then down – the falls ? Golden, Silver Cascade, Berry Creek ? pushing big in a lovely way with all the water. I saw novice outdoor love makers going at it behind a log, their knees obvious from my trail direction but obviously not from the one they’d come in on as they thought they?d found a private nook. I saw a few newts on the creekbank and some just pre-emergent with still their fins. I saw the season’s first white iris smile big. I saw a crow up above and below, shadow that they are. I finally saw sun instead of days of raindrops dance on the redwood forest floor.

I had come up through mixed evergreen, out into the chalks scrub, down into redwood riparian, and back up out through the dry heat, out onto the blue sky ridges to where the sun would keep me company until it set, up to where the coastal cool pushed over the ridge. Back to where the only thing coming at me were the bootprints of an earlier me.? And tracks of cats.? And of one other, taller than I, who had not yet returned.

over 17 miles and somewheres around 2.5-3.5K elevation gain

So happy to see Piet sporting the birthday shirt Kyrrha got him in Seattle, shows you how racy racy bike activists can be:

So enjoyed chilling with his peeps at Pidgeon Point Lighthouse on a calm, sweet night.

Robert drove us up Carmel Valley Road in the greenlyness of it all spring and dripping with spanish moss up to Pine Ridge Trailhead at China Camp where we parked and started walking the ridge trail in the wind and mist whipping snow-cold up the south flank of the hill.

We were headed to South Ventana Cone but the weather changed our minds as we stood on the Church Creek Divide watershed a sweet saddle where the rain chooses its route to the sea either winding Pine Valley Way northwest toward the Carmel River or easterly into Church Creek which joins Tassajara Creek to Arroyo Seco and the wide (for California) Salinas River.

Taking the trail less traveled we wandered south dropping into the soft green bouquet of Church Creek drainage,

with its uplifted rock formations reminding us that faults can be beautiful,

through fire damaged forest and its resurgent undergrowth, wildflowers – banks of them – everywhere.

lunched on a log after hopping over Church Creek,

and sat surrounded by lupin on top of the world watching the clouds come our way

Rain all day, and wind, and clouds swirling up at our feet from the valleys below obscuring, allowing, long narrow views. Smack dab in the middle of orographic enhancement, total failure of raingear, wet to the bone, smiling big anyway at new plant friends, at a hedgehoggy popcorny mushroom and at the always sexy sinewy manzanita shining an even darker blood red in the wet.? Wind banging doors on the old relay shacks, finding another Chalk Peak 30 feet higher than the one I’ve known, point-to-point turned around in on itself and back up over the same rolling hogback ridges, back through the rain, up over the mountain, over dozens of newts winding their way up steep slopes as we walked down through the cathedral of young redwooded canyons. Dry clothes, warm truck, cold hand of a new friend.

chalk_peak (click for cool GIS map, route speed and elevation)