Wandering the Woods

I got up early the other morning and went for another hike.  My second hike in as many weeks.  Since the weather has changed I’m making an effort to get outside more and take advantage of it.   I printed out a trail map I found online and put it in a gallon ziplock bag, so now I have a waterproof map that I can take with me.  It has all of the trails marked and their mileage, so I have a pretty good idea of how far I’m hiking and roughly where I’m going.

It was just about 0730 when I pulled into the parking lot.  The temperature according to the car was a cool 58 degrees and the sky was clear and blue.  I hit the head, donned my pack and set off.  I had decided on taking a different trail today, one I had been on only once before.  It was during the summer and sun was of course brutal so I wound up heading back before finishing the trail. Summer’s great for barbeques and picnics not so great for hiking.

I didn’t really remember too much of the trail and to my surprise it was a fairly easy hike up.  From the trail head up to the Saddle is 3.7 miles.  The trail itself was mostly dirt, fairly flat and with a pretty moderate elevation change.  It runs about a 1600 foot elevation change over the 3.7 miles of the trail.  Not too bad compared to the trail I did last weekend where the elevation changed 1700 feet in just 1.7 miles.  I meandered up as I normally do, stopping to talk to whatever animals I encountered and taking lots of pictures.  I really should invest in a good camera.

On my way up I found a feather from a Blue Jay who had sat still for some very blurry photos.  A little later on I ran into a pair of what looked like ravens or crows.  They were perched in the top branches of a dead tree and at first I thought they were vultures.  I sat and talked with them for a while snapping some pictures.  Just as I was making ready to set off again a single feather, born along by the breeze began floating lazily down towards me.  I headed back down the trail and into the dry creek bed to see if I could find it.  At first I didn’t see it as I was searching on the ground.  So I went up the stream towards the tree and turned around and then I saw the feather.  It was sitting on top of a clump of vines waiting for me to pick it up, which I did.

Now that it’s cooler out there were a lot of people taking advantage of the day as well.  Everyone was pleasant, I can’t say I’ve ever really had a bad people experience while out in the mountains but it does harsh my mellow a bit.  I look forward to the solitude and the sounds of nature, not people.  It is what it is, though.  There’s nothing to be done about it and as the weather remains nice there’s going to be more and more people out enjoying the space and in a way that’s cool.  I’m glad people are taking in the wonder about them, at least some of them.  There were a few people out running the trails today.  I mean the trails are hard enough to walk never mind run but I get that it’s some good crossfit training or whatever.  For me it misses the whole point but I digress.

With all of my meandering it took me about 2.5 hours to reach the Saddle.  Not too bad considering.  Works out to be about 1.5 miles per hour.  If I just “hiked” I probably could have done it in less than 2 hours, I easily spent at least a half hour fucking around……..well, communing with nature.  There were a bunch of people up there so I found I shady spot, sat on a fallen log and had lunch, watching the birds chase bugs along the ground.  There was a guy who came up from one of the other trails with his daughter.  It seemed like they were planning on taking the trail I had taken last week back down, making a loop, but didn’t seem to really know the trails, very well. So I wandered over with my new addition, the waterproof map.  I showed them where they were and told them that the trail they were considering was much steeper then the trail they just came up so they opted to take the trail I had just come up back down.  A much better choice considering they were wearing running shoes and not boots.  The other trail is doable but it’s fucking steep.

After that I started heading down.  I took the trail that the father and daughter came up. It’s about another 2.5ish miles back down and the same 1600 foot elevation change so it’s a bit steeper and harder on the knees.   When I go with my brother, a lot of times we take this trail in and out.  He goes for the exercise so when we hike together there’s a little less Zen for me but it’s cool because we get to hang out and we’re still in the mountain.  I’ll still stop and take pics but not nearly as many and there’s not an hour long Zen writing break.

So anyway, I started down and just about 15 minutes into my journey I notice something weird on the ground.  Kinda looked like a broken stick, turns out after a very brief inspection, it was a bone.  Well part of a bone, from what I’m not sure but into my pocket it went.  The rest of the trip down was fairly uneventful.  Since the hike going up wasn’t too bad, my knee didn’t bother me too much going down despite the steeper grade and I made pretty good time.  Going back down the mountain is always faster anyway since gravity is hurling you down towards the bottom.  I got back to the car about noon.  This time I grabbed my Zen on the trail as opposed to planting myself in some secret spot.  It’s about as close to just hiking as I’m apt to get when I’m by myself.  I’ll take it either way.

There was still one more lesson for me to take home, although I didn’t know it yet.  The road back down off the mountain is twisty and turney and pretty narrow.  It’s really easy to pick up speed if you’re not riding the brakes, so it’s this constant speed up and slow down.  I was most of the way down and was cranking a bit coming back up over a rise when I notice three deer attempting to cross the road.  I slammed on my breaks more than a bit startled by their sudden appearance and they slowly crossed the road, seemingly unperturbed by their brush with death.

I of course talked with them or at least at them while snapping a few pics before heading off at a much slower and responsible speed.  The lesson?  Take it slow, live in the moment and experience what’s around you.


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