May 2012

Sta’yokale is the Salinan name for what is now officially named Junipero Serra Peak, or referred to by old timers as Santa Lucia Peak. Tallest point in Monterey County, it was a holy place for the Salinan tribe that lived at her feet.

I had heard about Indians for years and had wanted to visit. The Ventana Wilderness Alliance Spring Gathering celebrating the adoption of the Milpitas Special Interest Area plan got me there. I learned of the unique cultural heritage of the area and how, by working with VWA and joining the wilderness and cultural preservation forces, they were able to get one of the largest ever special interest areas ever in terms of acreage.

Sta’yokale requires dedication. Its at least a 12 mile trip and some 3,700 feet of elevation gain from the valley floor to the peak.

Near the top is reminiscent of the Sierras, with some of the only sugar pine stands in the Ventanas (others are on Cone Peak).

I hiked up with Mike Splain, ED for VWA and was grateful for it. In many cases (not unusual for the Ventanas) the trail disappeared into knee high brush and you just had to trust it kept going on the other side. Mike was great to hike with as he got stoked on seeing new plants and critters and photographing them for the index they are making for the Special Interest Area. He took me off trail to visit some Harlequin Lupin (we counted 9 species of lupin on the trip). The blue bush lupins smelled wonderful!

There was cell reception up top due to Fort Hunter Ligget and we were able to check in on FB (“Junipero Serra Peak, Local Business”) and call our family folks for mom’s day. We lunched and napped under the big sky clouds before parting ways on the way down.

We clambered up the skeletal remains of the fire tower there and Mike oriented me to so many places I’d been in the Ventanas – it was great to view it from the east side and put it all in perspective.

We parted ways on the hike down so Mike could scout for some Luisia he’d heard was on a spur ridge (he did find it) so I had a sweet, meditative and sunset-light-loved hike down the sacred mountain back to my campspot.

I dove into the chill waters of the upper Arroyo Seco River to wash the dirt away and headed home in the dusk.

The Wagon Cave Plains rolled out in front of me like a scene from the past that was everywhere in California – undulating grand oaked meadows that go on for miles.

Go sometime in the spring, between mosquito and face fly season and dunk the creek, roll in the wildflowers and say hi to those old oaks for me, too.

Mike Sap accurately captured our sentiment about another successful Strawberry Music Festival weekend? which ended winter and started summer.? Camp Tequila Mockingbird experienced sunny meadow sunburns and Birch Lake swims on either side of two days of cold that threw in some fat snowflake and hail excitement for good measure.

[Iris and Snow]

Just like life, there were challenges (some of the weather, not enough time to do everything, and no one brought bacon) and triumphs (we did not run out of tequila, water, good food or fantastic jams, and the hammock repair withstood its first kid-test with flying colors).

This was the Strawberry where:

* Amee Chapman had her first main stage act! A ‘tweener on Friday afternoon mid hailstorm just before the zydeco band. (Shout out to Doug Dirt for putting on his best shirt and making that happen)

[Next year: A full act!]

* Harper led her first jam, singing and playing the ukelele! (Surfin’ USA and one other sweet song- anyone remember?)

[Harper with Bubo Strigidae, my special guest for the weekend]

* Stella enjoyed her first guitar jam performance on Gary’s knee, rolling on the momentum of her 3 for 3 unsullied record of attendance. ( Its her third consecutive festival: one in utero before her mom even knew, one at 4 months and this one at 16 months)

* Epic Saturday happy hour jam that went on for 5 hours. Great
musicians flowing in and out, just enough sun peeking through and
somehow full tequila bottles kept showing up.

[We always treat new guests extra special]

* We made lots of new connections culminating in a great four-camp jam in the toasty camp chandelier tent Sunday night (Santa Barbara, SF, Tequila Mockingbird and the Lost Dogs…)

[Doug teaching Amee some moves on the Mainstage Meadow]

* Between Ruthie Foster and Robert Earl Keen on the Mainstage Meadow, Stella took some of her first real walks between Dona and Gary, back and forth over and over, everyone delighted and laughing, lovely in the sunset light.

* I danced into a new connection and enjoyed a crazy delicious after hours New Orleans style street party of the California Honeydrops off their Cabin 102 porch into the wee hours with him.

* We missed many who stayed home for the weather and important graduations, especially Ellen, our President-cum-Camp Photographer. (We went significantly under-documented this trip without her).

So grateful for these many blessings, to be celebrated and to celebrate this amazing community we’ve grown together.

Until Fall Strawberry or other such gatherings…..

[Strawberry through the whiteout – heard Amee’s set from here!]