The thousands of Color Runners probably did not know this Happiest 5K is very likely based on the Hindu Holi Festival.? If you had to guess what the Holi festival celebrates with its tossing of colors, you’d likely guess the return of Spring, and you would be right.? Well, mostly right (it is the Hindu Pantheon after all, so its more complicated that that), but definitely return of spring and goodness are key elements.

We ran it in May starting at the Shark Tank in San Jose and it was indeed Happy and Fun – Holly and her daughter Sarah, Aleah, Anna and I. Afterwards we pigged out and beered up at Gordon Beirsch and took the bus home.? My first several miler since starting PT and I could feel the difference.? I really would love to take the nephews on this crazy fun run, but the next one nearby is in Sacramento in August, which doesn’t sound so fun. Stay tuned to where we’ll show up next all rainbowed out.

It was summer, really, early yet. Everything a month ahead – the lupin mostly gone, and the tribs dried up weeks earlier than last year. The Wagon Cave Plains golden instead of green.

Still yet, May is so sweet to visit the Indians. Just oceanside of Fort Hunter Ligget, its an easy drive in fording the San Antonio and a few creeks for fun in a 2WD will get you to Memorial Camp and near the headwaters of the Arroyo Seco.? A 4WD will get you a few miles further to Escondido Camp along the Arroyo Seco Indians road and you’ll feel like you are in the heart of the wilderness – canyons all around, Santa Lucia peak above, fish in the cool creek flowing through desert-like slopes above.? Or, you can do dispersed camping on the Wagon Cave Plains numbered roads – just get a campfire permit if you want a fire or a stove.? Be sure to drive the speed limit through the Fort – they are sticklers!

Second year in a row we came for the Ventana Wilderness Alliance‘s Spring Gathering. Last year we celebrated the official adoption of the Milpitas Special Interest Area, planning for management of the unique wilderness, cultural and historical heritage here.? This time we heard from and appreciated all the stewardship programs and volunteers. We learned that in the ’70s this wilderness had 7 full time rangers with mules and gear to keep the trails clear.? A “small government” movement combined with a devastating fire that obliterated trails was enough to put the wilderness back to itself for many decades, limiting access.? Now the forest service and VWA volunteers are working together to re-open access.? It was great to appreciate all those volunteer rangers and trail workers in person!

A few pics from the visit below. Full set of pics and more of the story here.


Lois meander’s Santa Lucia Peak’s foothills on a warm Friday night

Starry night out in the freshest of air, sweet dawn chorus all around

Breakfast spot on the Arroyo Seco near Escondido camp

Touring the Wagon Cave – cool out of the sun!

…which made it a great millnery long before wagons ever arrived.

Quick scramble above the caves for an amazing view over the Plains.

A dip here at 8:15 AM and 3:30 PM tells you its summer here already..(Swimming hole on the Arroyo Seco trail, left turn past Memorial Camp at the South Monterey County Sportsman’s Club)

It was a good year for them to come; a handful of sorrowful homicides, continual challenges of the homeless population, drug users, and the overall chaos of the world challenged us in our beachside town.? They arrived and brought us together unexpectedly with wholesome fun, high production value and professional atheleticism that inspired and encouraged us.

I didn’t get a pic of us at the opening night of this inaugural season, but I do have a t-shirt.? I had a blast working with Matt DeNesnera, their Community Relations guy during NBA green week and rallying the EA crew for a rowdy Monday night nationally televised game in the stands (above) in late March.? I caught the last home game of the seasons with Holly and Beau (big Oakland Warriors fans) during this week’s finals (Idaho Vipers) which they lost in a heartbreak of a final 89 seconds.

Thanks Warriors for making good on your promise to be a part of what we are about here in Santa Cruz. You may not have won the finals, but you definitely won our hearts.

Been with her since the start, well her start in Santa Cruz anyway. Mike was just picking up the pedal steel. He rocked it tonight and so did she, her confidence level up to 11 since those early days in that Seacliff beach bar, now belting it out without reserve. She reminds us ‘grace is hell to keep’ but she does it oh so sweetly. So glad I can be your groupie Amee Chapman. Keep rockin it. And your boys too.

Amee Chapman and the Velvet Tumbleweeds, Moe’s Alley 14 April 2013

Second backpack trip of the year, this time with Linda and Holly. Bumped our way up past the summit on Tassajara’s dirt road our of Carmel Valley and parked at China Camp on a Friday, half dozen other cars (or should I say high clearance 4WD trucks?) at the trailhead. After checking the car a few times to ensure we weren’t leaking fluids and hadn’t lost any underparts to the rocks on the way up, we headed out on Pine Ridge trail for the 5.2 mostly downhill miles to camp.? Up top the meadows were crazy with lupine and owls clover, scenting the air so heavy I almost didn’t need to eat lunch it was so rich.

Stopped for a rest at the Church Creek Divide, where years earlier I’d met Calipidder and Paige and their crew headed right to where we were going today. That day I headed east instead, with Robert, down through Church Creek drainage thicker with wildflowers than any place I’d ever seen, it being a wet February and just two years post fire.?? Today just a few lupine remained in the divide meadow under the live oaks leafing out chartreuse and we headed west, walking until the first trickle of the Carmel River headwaters appeared and led us fully into Pine Valley. Lovely.

Love Rock

Pine Valley opened up all sweetness and meadow and rock walled scrambly goodness.? Linda and I met Richard, a wanderer back in there 16 days so far, wildharvesting nettles.? We heard a kids group up valley past Jack’s cabin so we set up camp east of there, with a lovely meadow view, under a sweet pine right next to the creek-like River.

We set up camp and ambled around a bit. As we finished up dinner Richard showed up in a ruffled polkadotted button down shirt and took us up a side drainage to perch for sunset and fascinating conversation. We watched a Great Horned Owl swoop in for some who-who who who perch calls as the stars came out. As the evening went on I could feel my breath slowing down, my shoulders dropping, and a sweet relaxation replacing a stress level I hadn’t been aware I carried in.? No fire that night for us, just to bed in the cold. Despite being up a lot with my not-warm-enough sleeping situation, I awoke rested. Linda too, having slept out under the stars. Hot breakfast to birdsong and then we headed out or shall we say up-up-up? toward and around Bear Basin (center of the recent fires) on the Pine Ridge trail (thank you trail builders!).

Fantastic views west to Ventana Cone, Double Cone, Mount Carmel, Uncle Sam Mountain and northwest to civilization and the ocean from Bear Basin’s rim. The trail pulled over a saddle and down into dry brushy south facing Ventana slopes. Pushed our way through brush to Pine Ridge camp where we found the miracle of water in the desert.? Crossing the creek met the confounding False Lupin and ate lunch with her overlooking the wild and scenic Big Sur River drainage and over it to Cone Peak.? Met a Ring Necked Snake, a Blue Tailed Skink and many other wildflower friends that day on our 9.2 mile route. I flushed a bobcat drinking from the headwaters of the Carmel on the way back too. Sweet gifts.

Baby Blue Eyes

Holly and her pooch Jud were waiting for us at camp when we got back.

Too cold to hike down and jump into the falls pool we shivered our way into a sit-dunk near camp then sunned naked in the meadow til toasty.? Linda cooked a fab meal of Thai peanut sauce, couscous and veggies and we blanched some wildharvested nettles ourselves to round out the meal.

That evening Holly and I went and explored the main valley where I clambered up, heart thumping, to the top rocks above the valley and Jack’s cabin. I tracked the Great Horned that evening and saw him calling from a bare branch, the evening still young enough to see his coloration, the white breast feathers, and how he stretched himself out in the calling. Next time I must bring binocs – there were so many birds in Pine Valley to see! We came back to a fire in camp and sweet conversation as the night fell, the beauty of the shimmering coals as we broke apart the fire at the end.

Before we left the next day Richard made a surprise visit and took us to the rocks again, Linda had not been, and we softly scrambled up into the north facing cave with grinding holes in the wind sculpted ledge. Easy to imagine the valley’s past guests gathering the live oak acorns and gathering themselves here in the cool shade, looking out over the sweet pocket meadow of shooting stars and shooting the shit while they ground the poison out, working their harvest into edible acorn mash.

Hiking out we said farewell to our interesting Pine Valley companion Richard and moseyed our way toward home.? Resting at Church Creek Divide some kids pulled up and I recognized one from our Camp Tequilla Mockingbird crew. Turned out it was a Gateway school group and Dave (our fiddle player) was there too with travel guitar on his pack – too bad we did not visit their camp earlier in our trip! The hike up and out was hot and long but offered amazing views of Church Creek Divide. Linda was ahead, me having chatted up the gents for a bit, and she wisely stopped again in our wildflowered meadow for lunch.

We never did get a pic of the three of us.? :)? Full set of pics here.

Thanks for a great trip ladies.

Warm weather, longer days and I’ve been out playing too much to blog!? Two weeks ago I enjoyed a lovely wonderful fantastic gratitude inducing laughter filled event……. SPRINGBERRY – Because May is just too far away!

I gathered 50 of the usual Camp Tequila Mockingbird suspects together, this time at the Green Oaks Farm for a weekend of camping, music, wiffle ball and wildlife.? As camp organizer, I was the first one there and got to watch the farmhands pull the stuck porta potty truck out of the meadow with a teeny tractor.

I then set up camp overlooking the wooded hillside and farm. Time for a nap!

I awoke to the squealy sounds of 4 new baby pigs arriving on the farm. They also had two goats and a box of baby chicks in the greenhouse to keep kids of all ages entertained, especially when the pigs escaped the electric wire fence in the night and headed for the new raspberry plants.

As the evening approached, the crew arrived. We feasted on a BBQ potluck, including a chicken stew coal-cooked in Dave’s jealousy-inducing 16″ Dutch oven tucked into the fire.? Music of course, and a sweet jam ended the evening in the event barn.

Day 2 was Friday and before the rest of the crew arrived I hiked up Chalk Mountain bushwhacking up an overgrown trail – the last of the 4 mapped routes up there I’ve now hiked. Checked out the view to Ano Nuevo from the best picnic table spot ever and texted a few folks last minute logistics (you have to work hard for cell service on the coast!)

Friday afternoon was a rare bout of sunshine and badmitton with beer in hand.? Friday evening was homemade Italian feastiness and an unexpected visit from Dona and the Bean (who proceeded without prompting to figure out how to feed her zipper in all by herself!).

S’Mores, tequila, light up hoolahoops and glow sticks saw the sun down and we headed into the barn for late night music.? The almost-teens led their first camp jams while their proud parents tried to keep from grinning uncooly while they did.

We’re all lined up for Spring Strawb now, which itself has a great lineup this year. The festival gates open in? 32 days 10 hours 52 minutes and 4 seconds………

I rode home tonight late, the last light marking the curve of the levee. Crickets and angels trumpet celebrated the end of the bitter cold. The color was poignant looking back west; there is no time of day that is bluer than dusk on the river.

Arriving home I went right upstairs to visit my new/old quilt.? I have long longed for one, and felt the time was right when I met this one at the Blue Goose antique store in Benicia where we stopped en route to Healdsburg. This one has faded soft colors, sweet hand stitching and more than a few squares that are worn through in need of repair.

Last night, and again today, I sat with it looking and looking, running my fingers along the frayed edges.? My worrying fingers wondering what stories it holds: first kisses and tooth fairy visits, fiery fights and long cold hearted nights, sweet lovemaking and milk-drunk baby cuddling, death and marriage, friends visiting from afar, toddlers testing the bed springs and the light slanting in through the paned windows different each season.? What homes has it lived in? Where has it traveled? Who made it and whose old dresses and curtains and sheets has it carried forward through the decades? Who passed it down to who? Who cherished it along the way?

Last night I started to add my stories to it and am in love already.

It was a sweet weekend in Healdsburg: Art galleries, jewelry and fabric, amazing eats in great company (Mick, Lise, Kath, Kel) at the Flying Goat, Woodhouse Chocolates, Barndiva and The Cheese Shop (of course). Canopied king bed at the Irish Rose Inn with a bathroom and spa tub bigger than a New York apartment. Morning run over the rusty Lambert Bridge trestle, and later a rambling Sunday drive along West Dry Creek Road amidst ancient head prunes just budding out. Visits to old vines and old friends. Greenly field gray sky showery drives through Alexander Valley and home. They had some hard winter weeks this year and the lilacs are glorious.? The innkeeper sent me home with a bunch that are perfuming my whole place.

A few pics from the trip are here.

The words “he didn’t pay me much attention” are not what you usually would expect to hear describing a great date.? This, however, was anything but expected.

I met him a mile and a half from the trailhead, me running back to my newly returned Ellie.? I’d pulled up short to photograph some Butter-N-Eggs and when I stood back up there he was, 100 yards ahead of me emerging from the meadow onto the trail.

Look close at the top of the trail


He gave me a half a glance, then proceeded to eye the tall grasses across the trail from him, inching forward.? I watched for just a few moments and was treated to the sight of him jumping from an all-fours standstill at least 6 feet in a perfect arc, disappearing into the tall waves of green.? He emerged with a catch in his mouth – way too far away for me to see what it was – and paused, again looking my way.? He sought a bit of privacy.? Walking around a bunch of scrub he settled on the other side and went to work.? I could see his hindquarters but nothing else.? Less than a minute passed and he emerged, giving me again a casual glance, and started lazily swaying his way up the trail in that long limbed walk bobcats have.

I had worked my way closer as he ate. As he walked between tree shadows I saw the slanting sun light up his healthy fur, some russet, some white and brown spots, tawny above.? He’d walk a few yards, listening and eyeing the grasses along the trail, then stop, turn and look over his shoulder at me. As he glanced he’d give me a few swats of that curled short tail of his before resuming his stroll.? As I passed the spot he hunted, I looked and found a neat pile of entrails in the otherwise spotless and undisturbed grasses. They were absolutely beautiful.? The kidneys were feather thin and winglike. They were all still warm.

I was so bummed to find this picture blurry because I was tracking him.

We continued on that way; his lazy long limbed walk and look backs.? My soft quiet steps following then pausing.? He squatted to mark the trail in a few spots, not shy of me being there.? At the next trail junction he resumed his rapt attention into the meadow and I got a repeat of the same show:? standstill, leap, catch, eat. This time I counted the time:? 29 seconds start to finish.? Predators are brutal, clean.? I wondered how that would feel, imagining a Tyranosaurus Rex leaping from the forest nearby, giving me the same treatment, part of me still alive on his insides, part of me warm in the cool field.

I continued to move closer while he ate and then we picked up the walk-pause-follow dance, him letting me draw slightly nearer all the time.? At the next trail curve he walked downslope into the grass. I thought he had for sure dropped into the scrubby drainage and out of sight, but as I cautiously approached I found he was standing just 20 yards off trail. I paused another dozen yards away, watching his ears work the field, black with their white arrow stripes, his eyes relaxed almost shut as he pulled the dusk air across his tongue and nostrils. He tracked an opportunity and almost jumped twice.? After awhile of no action, he actually settled back on his haunches, not going anywhere. He finally turned full my way and all of a sudden he was an owl’s wide face, surprisingly all grey mottled, the warm tones gone.

I stood. He sat. The fog bank rolled in down the coast, eating up the sun. I shivered, my animal body needing its own dinner, its own winter coat.? I wasn’t sure the next step was, never having had the opportunity to be the first to leave a wild animal date.? I gathered my energy into my bones, quieting myself, and slowly started along the upslope edge of the trail, closing the last gap. I did not making eye contact as I came broadside, within 20 yards.? A quick shot of fear arose as I realized I was not watching this wild thing that could dismember a mouse in 30 seconds. A slow look sideways showed he had not moved.? He tracked me all the way by but did not really pay me much mind.? As I moved out of close zone, my breath let out and my heart broke open into tears: at the beauty of the gift, at the sadness I did not stop at that closest midway point and just settle back, too, on my haunches and smell him, watch the field, sit through the night. I thought to go back, but remembered his wildness, respected his space. I again gathered myself, turned toward him with a deep bow, and moved on into the last of the light.

At the car, I found a little boa (?) snake curled cold in the drive, which I moved out of tire-harms way.

These pictures too from the oh-so-warm evening hike on the Enchanted Loop Trail.

Poppy covered slopes.???????????????????? Trillium.

?The cure for anything is saltwater;?? sweat,? tears? or? the sea.?

~ Isak Dinesen

Despite hip challenges I’m still running.

Easily motivated when this is what’s out your front door.

All those metaphors about the ocean, well, they’re true.

Lost Coast Dozen, Photo by Paige Godfrey Faulk

Drove north with a new friend I’d met on the JMT to rendezvous with a group of strangers, except one gal I’d met briefly at the Church Creek Divide in Big Sur and then followed for years on Facebook. She’d opened up their annual Lost Coast trip and I hopped on it, being excited to get to know her and cross this trail experience off my bucket list.? The Lost Coast is a thin thread of a trail where the Kings Range meets the sea, so named because its the only 80 mile stretch of California coast that was has no highway on it due to the extremely challenging terrain. A look up at the ridges dropping down to drainage after drainage proves it and makes one glad they are not currently hiking the inland route.

We met Friday morning at Black Beach trailhead in Shelter Cove and piled all our packs into Fred’s truck and us into two vehicles.

Two long windy hours later we arrived at the Mattole trailhead and began our 24 mile trek south under surprising Humbolt County blue skies. Just over 3 miles to go our first day, we had to pause and wait a bit for the tides to recede. The wilderness here is the one that sets the schedule.

The few returning hikers were amazed we did not experience the typical gusting winds as we set up camp and enjoyed a bonfire at the lighthouse. Bart and Ree actually set up their tent IN the lighthouse in preparation for it! Rosanne and I shared a tent, and I kept mostly to my JMT list so my pack was under 30 and hiking was great.? Sunset was lovely and Todd’s bonfire took the group late into the night.

Lighthouse photo by Fred Gibson

We awoke the next morning drippy with fog condensation and packed early to get ahead of the tides, the mist magical as the big range stepped down into the ocean. It was more temperate than I expected and I hiked all day without a jacket, every step revealing big vistas, rock wall gardens and beach art underfoot. I ended up going a for a dip when my Nalgene bowl slipped from my cleaning and dropped down the waterfall into the creek bottom. I also started my beach trash collection on this day, Paige warning me I could never pack it all out.? I started light with a Clorox bottle that Rosanne suggested could also float my pack if I didn’t get to camp before the tide came in.

Fishing for the Nalgene before giving up, stripping down and jumping in
Photos of me by Paige

We camped that evening at Spanish Creek around the corner from a broad slope that will be royal purple with lupin in a month. After setting up camp I bushwhacked upstream, flushing a raven working marrow out of the ribs of a deer carcass. I returned to camp, the group gathered round the fire, rowdy on vodka and gatorade cocktails, grooving to Butch’s portable speakers and iPod.? Rain was in the forecast, but it held to just a few sprinkles overnight, the low pressure system bringing in some wind and keeping the fog at bay.

We awoke early and dry to a clearing sky, amazing low slanting light and some fine bluff hiking on the way to Shipman’s Creek. Perused some lovely inholding homes, complete with airstrips, perched on the flat bluff in front of some world class waves. Met some surfers from the Cruz camped behind slim driftwood shelters. They were quiet and salt licked with big smiles on their faces as they reloaded their 70 pound packs (with boards attached) after 4 days of riding the big break here.

We pulled our longest day, 8.6 miles, arriving before noon after ducking around the last pinch point to find a sweet little camp tucked tidily in the small space between the ravine outlet and the high tide line. Todd had the fine idea of getting in the water and so we did, dipping into the cold ocean and just-as-cold creek. We all risked sunburn over the long afternoon of nothing to do but play cards, doze, and watch the surfers play in their first ever take on the small break off camp. For the third night Todd built us a fire, this time just yards from the surf and we toasted the sunset and the fine day with whiskey, tequila and mandarins.

Creek and painting photos by Paige

Our last day was overcast, but dramatic with the trail never leaving the black rock and sand beach. I hustled ahead to get a past-due visit in with Paige and so enjoyed our one on one talk. She was relaxed, having shepherded our little band of hikers safely to this point and we walked out in front of the group.? We were exploring what looked like coyote tracks in single register when we looked up and saw the pair just ahead.? We herded them along the steep cliffs down the beach for a mile or so until they were able to scramble up a gully drainage and out of sight.

In true coyote medicine form, my camera batteries promptly died after that shot, but we had many photographers on the trip (see FaceBook for a zillion great images).? The rest of mine are here.

What good medicine for a still tender heart this trip was; the walk, the air, the ocean with all its lessons and wisdom… new friends.? When I got quiet I felt grief’s sadness. There too, deep in my bones, the first soft song of spring.

Running through my mind with each step, a JT song Fred had played in the truck on the way to Mattole:

“Oh, Its enough to be on your way. Its enough just to cover ground. Its enough to be moving on….

…Home, build it behind your eyes. Carry it in your heart. Safe among your own.”

So excited to have found some new hiking buddies and a down payment on more wilderness time in 2013.

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