Saturday, December 26, 2020


 Waxing Gibbous Moon

I realized today, the first day of Kwanzaa, that I didn't know the first thing about Kwanzaa so I decided to learn at least the fundamentals. Consulting the good Dr. Googlie, here is part of what I found.

The seven-day holiday is a non-religious one observed in the U.S. meant to honor African Americans' ancestral roots, according to CNN. The holiday celebrations last [from December 26] until the start of the new year on January 1.

Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase "matunday ya kwanza," which means "first fruits," according to CNN.

The holiday was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga and became popular in the 1980s and 1990s in tandem with the black power movement, CNN reports. The holiday is defined by the seven principals and each day of the festival is dedicated to a specific one, marked by lighting a candle on the kinara, a seven-branched candelabra.

These are the seven principles of Kwanzaa:


Umoja means unity in Swahili.

Karenga defines this on his Kwanzaa website as: "To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race."


Or self-determination. This principle refers to defining, naming, creating and speaking for oneself.


Translated as "collective work and responsibility," Ujima refers to uplifting your community.

"To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together," Karenga writes.


Cooperative economics. Similar to ujima, this principle refers to uplifting your community economically. "To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together," he writes.


Nia means purpose.

Karenga expands on this principle with, "To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness."


Meaning "creativity," Karenga defines this principle as "To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."


The final principle translates to "faith."

Karenga defines this as faith in community, writing, "To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."

So there you have the basics - according to this article, anyway. I am going to try to learn a little more about each principle each day until New Year's Day. It looks pretty straightforward, but maybe there is more to it. By the beginning of 2021, I expect to be just a little bit less of a cultural dumb ass.
But wait a minute, although 2020 is not over yet, my 2020 in 2020 Challenge is finito. Yesterday I completed my goal of walking 2,020 miles in the year 2020, a pretty modest task, really. I averaged a little over 5.6 miles per day, enough to keep your heart healthy, but far from strenuous. The challenging part was simply keeping it up day after day on mostly the same old local routes. THAT GOT PRETTY BORING. The farthest away from home I have been since the pandemic started is Point Lobos, about 45 miles from here. In the end, I only missed one day, when it was too unhealthy to go outside due to the skyrocketing air quality index during the fire season. So ta-da, it is done.
Who knows what 2021 will bring. I hope things will settle down and the vaccine will work. Maybe by July I will be able to hike in the mountains again. I think I will think up some kind of bicycle regimen or maybe a hike-and-bike thing starting in January just for variety's sake.
Peace, Love, and Self Improvement,

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Thank Goodness for Cartoonists

Waxing Gibbous Moon

This year especially, it's important to remember to laugh. It's okay to be irreverent in the process, but you know, don't be a bully.

Peace, Love, and Keep On Truckin',

Happy Happy Merry Merry

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

No offense to anyone in my family, but I am NOT coming to visit you this Christmas. Not because I don't like you. I DO like you and I like myself as well. I am also confident that each of you is intelligent enough and informed enough to understand and agree with me that this is the right course of action. I would also go so far as to say that if every other family was like my family we would have beat this whole virus thing months ago. 

Fifty years ago this coming Monday I was a freshman at the University of Texas. I had no idea what I was doing there. I sure wasn't studying. I spent much of the daylight hours that year inside Gregory Gym playing pickup basketball against a wide array of amateurs like me. There were guys from New York, guys from Nashville, guys from Austin, guys from Africa, guys from all over. It didn't matter where I was from - pick and roll is the same everywhere and I am good at it. The truth is that I played basketball a lot more than I ever went to class. It made me happy even if in "reality" I was just spinning my wheels.

As Christmas time approached, most of the players disappeared - poof - gone home for the holidays to all corners of the country. I snapped out of my hoops revelry long enough to realize that very soon I had some adulting to do. My dear sister Diane, aka Dinesey, was to be married on December 28 up in Dallas and I had the honor of giving her away at the church altar to my future brother in law Patt, aka King Safari. 

I had been shirking most of my responsibilities for a few months, so I had to scramble - to rise to the occasion as best I could. Number one on my list of stuff to do was to get a haircut. In 1970, most guys I knew had let their freak flags fly down to their shoulders and I was no different. I looked like a scrawny hippie hoop junkie, ragged around the edges and dressed exclusively in cutoff jeans, a less-than-fragrant sleeveless t-shirt, white crew socks, and white Converse All Stars. I was ready to hoop at a minute's notice, but not exactly presentable for a wedding ceremony.

So off came the hair, on went a cheap but acceptable sport coat and slacks and even a belt, shirt, tie, black socks, and dress shoes, and up the aisle I walked with my beautiful sister on my arm. There was a whole level of acceptability and gravitas in the church air that I failed to acknowledge back then. At the very least I should have rented a tuxedo and wiped the smirk off my face. But I was way too relaxed in attitude and way too immature in social graces to fully engage. At least I didn't make any obvious guffaws (that anyone ever mentioned) and the wedding went off as planned. 

I didn't really come to grips with any sort of feelings about that day until I was much much older and began to come out of the haze of my extended childhood - the extended childhood that served to protect me from some of the trauma of my actual childhood - the extended childhood that was a form of self-medication like alcoholics practice I would suppose. Refusing to accept academic responsibility and being nonchalant about social norms was not uncommon and not really all that radical back then, but it was a little out of character for me and for my mostly very conservative family. 

When I finally became aware of my true self, in my thirties, all kinds of things clicked and fell into place. And ever since, with a few wrinkles here and there, I have been comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, I just wish I had been a little less self-absorbed on that day fifty years ago. It really was an honor to be asked to be a significant part of the ceremony, but at eighteen, I just wasn't ready.

There was supposed to be a big 50th Anniversary party in Fort Worth this weekend, a giant family reunion and celebration. It was cancelled due to COVID concerns. I had been saving my pennies to go, to pay my respects for what to me is an amazing accomplishment - fifty years together with two great kids and a train of bright grand-kids - I can hardly imagine being THAT responsible. Would I have been any different at that party than I had been at the wedding? More present? More engaged? More loving? Less smirky? I think so, but I will never know for sure. 

The dadgum corona virus keeps screwing things up for everybody. I am staying home and masking and scrubba-dub-dubbing like a good, smart adult. That won't change. But on this Christmas and especially on December 28, I will pump the breaks and take some time to be quiet - to think my best thoughts for my faraway brothers and sisters whom I respect and love. 

Peace, Love, and Reflection,

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Jupiter/Saturn "Conjunction"

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Great fun has been had over the past weeks in anticipation of the once in several lifetimes visual event that has been called the Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction. That's a misnomer, but really, what else are you going to call it without using more words? I prefer the Jupiter/Saturn Alignment, but maybe I am being picky. 

What bugs me more, though, is calling it the "Christmas Star" and the "Star of Bethlehem." Planets aren't stars. But all the North Pole/Santy Claus romance and possible religious brainwashing aside, at least the U.S. government hasn't figured out a way to make it into an occasion for flag waving like an NFL game, so I suppose I should be grateful. The fact of the matter is that there is only one star in this solar system and it has nothing to do with Santa, Jesus, or the Dallas Cowboys. 

The alignment of these planets from our point of view on Earth that is the cause of all the hubbub and the extra brightness in the sky is still the result of our star, the biggo-baddo Sun. Jupiter and Saturn would not shine on their own were it not for the Sun. We think. It is not a testable hypothesis! Ha!

Anyway, one of my neighbors (Kurt Kurasaki) is a Berkeley-educated computer wizard and amateur astronomer with a telescope so complicated that it too went to Berkeley for nigh on a decade. I saw a picture of it yesterday and I immediately got a headache. You can't just hook it up to a tripod and check out the sky. You have to program it with a laptop, wheel it out of the house on a gurney, and ceremoniously synchronize its whirring, clicking gizmos with a tracking station in Greenwich, England. You lost me at laptop.

Kurt knows how to strap a DSLR camera to this bad boy and take photos of stuff. He sent me this one last night, the goldurn showoff. 

Photo credit: Kurt Kurasaki, San Juan Bautista, CA

Saturn, as most of you probably know, is the uppermost bright object and Jupiter the lowest. The little objects are some of the many moons of Jupiter. I was taught that Jupiter has 67 moons, but recently I have read it has at least 79. Jupiter of course is much, much bigger than Earth (see figure below). So is Saturn. If Jupiter, a gas giant, was much bigger it would have produced nuclear reactions in its core and would have become a star in its own right. Lucky for us, it was not and did not. As it is, because of its enormous gravitational mass, Jupiter attracts asteroids and other space junk, keeping them in orbit between itself and Mars, acting as a shield as it were to protect Earth from inconvenient and disastrous potential bombardment.

Learn much much more easy-to-read info about Jupiter at the
  planet dot org website, where I borrowed this figure.

So be real, the planets are aligned, not conjoined, okay? Jupiter and Saturn orbit the Sun in separate paths, as does Earth, at different distances away from El Sol. This rare occurrence of the positions in their orbits coming into alignment like they are right now is super-interesting and visually exciting from here on Earth. If you put yourself in swaddling clothes in a manger a couple of millennia ago in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph and little lambs, donkeys, etc. looking on, and the grown ups showed up gushing about this twinkling thing in the sky they never saw before, a little quick thinking on your part could easily parlay the scene into a real money-maker down the road.

I am probably going to hell for that one.

But this is what is going on, simply diagrammed. Note: no holy cards, Ouija boards, or tarot cards were harmed in drawing this figure. Possible psychological, religious, or military affects associated with this alignment may or may not be purely hallucinatory. 

Jupiter/Saturn alignments happen every 20 years or so, but this one, the 2020 one, is the closest one that has been observable from Earth since 1226 A.D.. So it IS a big deal. None of my traceable ancestors ever saw what I saw this week. Maybe we should all feel pretty special. Maybe we should all do something special to celebrate. If that means dancing in circles 'til you fall down dizzy, go right ahead. If it means living your best life and treating all the other special beings on Earth with honor and respect, do that, too. Earth is a pretty cool place to learn.

Peace, Love, and Alignment,

Monday, December 21, 2020

Winter Solstice Sunrise

First Quarter Moon

One of the best annual events in San Juan Bautista is the Sunrise ceremony at the Mission church on the Winter Solstice. The Mission, like a lot of other structures around the world, was constructed so the first light on December 21 directly strikes the face of the building. When the church doors are opened, light streams into the church, flooding the main aisle all the way to the altar and illuminating the golden backdrop behind it. The whole thing, when the weather is cooperative, is absolutely enchanting. 

This year, of course, the church is closed due to COVID and gatherings are limited in size, so most people stayed away, leaving the courtyard comparatively open. The sky was beautifully clear, providing perfect conditions for a primo illumination - if we could have opened the doors. As it was, the Sunrise was majestic and even without the indoor fireworks, the experience was exquisite. The air was a crisp 32 degrees F, but I don't think anyone who showed up minded a bit.

As the Sun began to peek over the horizon, the sky and church face lit up and people, including me, took every snapshot imaginable. This year wasn't as riveting as an altar illumination, but I liked it anyway. Without the glittery indoor show, I found myself looking at other things, too, like the graveyard next to the church, where more than 4,000 indigenous men, women, and children were buried in mostly unmarked graves. Kind of eerie, kind of glorious.

The church, built in the early 1800's mostly by the people in those graves under the "guidance" of the padres, glows a little bit extra in the sunlight. The adobe never looks better at any time or season than it does at Sunrise on Winter Solstice in my humble opinion.

You could say the same thing about the statue of John the Baptist, too.

And of course, the actual Sunrise is the best thing of all.

Dragging myself out of bed at 4:50 a.m., eating breakfast, and chugging over to the Mission in the cold was a small price to pay for witnessing a perfect Winter Solstice Sunrise. The daylight hours will start to get longer now. We will call these days Winter for a while. Soon it will be January 1st and we will call it a new year, but really, in Mother Nature time, this is New Year's Day. Today we begin anew. 

Peace, Love, and Enlightenment,

P.S. This is a really cool graphic. Explanation follows.

APOD: Solstice: Sunrises Around the Year (2020 Dec 21)
Image Credit & Copyright: Zaid M. Al-Abbadi
Explanation: Does the Sun always rise in the same direction? No. As the months change, the direction toward the rising Sun changes, too. The featured image shows the direction of sunrise every month during 2019 as seen from near the city of Amman, Jordan. The camera in the image is always facing due east, with north toward the left and south toward the right. Although the Sun always rises in the east in general, it rises furthest to the south of east on the December solstice, and furthest north of east on the June solstice. Today is the December solstice, the day of least sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere and of most sunlight in the Southern Hemisphere. In many countries, the December Solstice is considered an official change in season: for example the first day of winter in the North. Solar heating and stored energy in the Earth's surface and atmosphere are near their lowest during winter, making the winter months usually the coldest of the year. On the brighter side, in the north, daylight hours will now increase every day from until June.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Birthday Hike

Waning Gibbous Moon

Waking up 69-going-on-70 today made me determined to challenge myself to something a little extra. This new decade thing was not going to get me down. I tallied up my 2020 in 2020 mileage and decided I could probably finish up by Christmas or the day after if I tried. But to do that, I would have to motor on out ahora, no birthday lazy boy stuff. No concessions to entropy. Get up and grind!

The plan was to drive up San Juan Canyon to Fremont Peak State Park and hike the whole loop around the park, including the peak. I figured I could make it in three hours with a little water and a snack break in the middle. The weather was perfect at the start - sunny and 65 degrees F with entertaining cloud patterns and no wind. I opted for a clockwise loop, beginning with the Valley View Trail from the upper parking area. This day felt magical.

I finished that part in 45 minutes, reaching the Cold Springs Trail and hanging a left, expecting to pop out at the park entrance in another 45 minutes of colorful up and down trail walking. More cool sky action and lots of fungus-amongus.

When I was about halfway through this section, which happens to be the most remote and least hiked of the park's trail system, I barely heard my phone ringing  in one of my cargo pants pockets. I was surprised I even had a signal down there in the woods. It took a few tries, but I eventually maneuvered into position to field a call from the one and only Kirby Coe Kennedy, my longtime friend and basketball teammate since childhood. So for the next thirty minutes or so, we carried on in great spirits about anything and everything that came up. So much fun to be standing in a forest on a trail all alone jabbering with my friend two thousand miles away in Lago Vista, Texas. Social distancing.

In the meanwhile, a biggo fog bank had been muscling in from the coast, graying up the sky and dropping the temperature a little bit. Along with the clouds came a steady cool breeze. So eventually, I got rolling again, happy to have spent this time well and already considering an abbreviated version of the game plan. 

A few minutes later, my phone rang again.  There I was under an oak canopy, a little further down in the forest, almost to Cold Spring, talking with my local friend Jeanette. She wished me a happy b-day and said she was going to drop off a little sumpin-sumpin for me on my front porch. Okay, alright, I like surprises, especially when I know they are coming. I had something to look forward to after my hike. 

Another quarter mile or so, another phone call! It was Captain Chem from Aptos, CA! This was remarkable! I have been so careful this whole pandemic time to stay isolated and remain healthy. I have barely spoken to any of my friends other than by text message or email (I do not do that Skypey Zoomey thing - it's too sci fi for me). Three phone calls with three good friends in the same hour made me feel really fired up! 

But it was getting cold, the reception was poor, and I had to scoot on outta there. I abandoned the Peak Trail idea and just hoofed it around the loop back to Spugly the  Rusty Trusty Palomino Transporter. What a fun and unusual birthday experience! Some things defy explanation.

Pretty soon I rumbled back down the canyon road to my camp to find a box with four of the most amazing cinnamon rolls from the Black Pot Artisan's Bakery waiting for me on my porch. These things are so good. You could put me in a cage in a zoo with a sign that read "Drool Boy, Cinnamon Roll Addict" and I would be delighted to sit there forever if you just kept bringing me these cinnamon rolls. 

Peace, Love, and I Haven't Even Mentioned the Icing,

Friday, December 4, 2020

In the Beginning

 Waning Gibbous Moon

This week has been my birthday week, so in the interest of maintaining all the benefits of a healthy self-esteem, I have been quietly celebrating - nothing extravagant, just trying to be as excellent and alert as possible.  Today I stumbled upon a little info that I found interesting about the hospital where I and my sister Diane were born a couple of years apart way back in the 20th century. 

I officially joined the human race at 7:51 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on December 5, 1951 at Fullerton General Hospital in Fullerton, California. My family did not live in Fullerton. We lived in Anaheim, which at the time was mostly orange groves, oil wells, St. Boniface Catholic Church, and the smatterings of modest homes that would later be the core of a moderately large So Cal city (population 352,000+ as of 2018). Anaheim had no hospital then, so when it was time for Mom to pop, she made a beeline to Fullerton. The hospital building still stands today in its original location. The last time I visited, about twenty-five years ago, it served as a shelter for battered women. Sad, but beneficial.

There was no Disneyland then, but Knott's Berry Farm in nearby Buena Park was a pretty cool venue for laid back country fun. I met the Cisco Kid there when I was three or four. He gave me a spent blank cartridge from his pistola which he randomly fired into the air atop his horse Diablo. I still have it.

But that was not my earliest memory. My earliest memory was being carried in the crook of my Dad's arm, tight above his hip, with my tiny arms clinging to his neck, as he waded into the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach. I must have been three. I remember being terrified at the force of the waves - they could almost knock Dad over and dad was BIG - and then I remember how cold the splashing water was and then I remember it was cold and it tasted weird when it got into my mouth. The Sun was shining at a low angle and I learned how to squint from watching Dad squint. And I learned how to smile and laugh playing in the surf from watching him. He was not afraid, he was having fun. I was still a little afraid - I was not very big and honestly, I was hanging on for dear life. But afterwards, I remembered it as fun. I remember it clear as day right this minute.

I share my birthday with Walt Disney, Little Richard, and Jim Plunkett. Walt and Little Richard are dead now, so it's just the two Jim's for the time being. Plunkett is 73. I am just now finishing year number 69. Frankly, it does not seem possible that I am starting year number 70. I realize that I'm not the only one, etc., etc., but nonetheless it feels pretty weird. So far I can still walk and exercise every day, I can still balance my checkbook, and I can still recall the Happy Birthday song when I'm washing my hands, so I guess I should be grateful. Things could be worse. So what the hell, I guess I'll goof around a little while longer.

Peace, Love, Stay Here, and Keep Going,

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Pacific Grove Attitude Adjustment

Waning Gibbous Moon

From 2004 to 2005 I lived in a tiny cottage on Central Avenue in Pacific Grove, CA, just a few blocks from Hopkins Marine Station on Monterey Bay. The cottage is not there any more. It was bulldozed a while back to make room for a condominium better suited to someone who could actually afford a condominium a few blocks from the ocean. The time I spent in that cottage though was crucial, a time of a major upswing for me psychologically and spiritually. I now feel like my soul has its roots in Pacific Grove and I always return there whenever I feel the need. When I woke up this morning, I knew this would be one of those days.

Today would have been my Dad's 103rd birthday. There were many years, decades really, when Dad's birthday made me rock bottom sad. In the back of my mind, in the pit of my gut, I had never stopped grieving his death in the bad old days of 1963. But in 2013, when my Mom passed, it was like  the other shoe dropped, to use a tired old weather beaten phrase. For whatever reason, I stopped grieving. I didn't mull it over. I just said no mas - no more being sad when people close to me die. I am free.

So I drove to Pacific Grove this morning, not to escape being sad, not because I was missing Dad, but simply to be my best self. I wanted to walk by the sea, to smell the salt air, to hear the massive splooshing waves break hard on the rocks, to crunch my shoes on the sandy trails, and to revisit tide pools too long neglected in the isolation and distancing of 2020. It was predictably glorious and invigorating. 

The powers that be there in Pacific Grove have tight control over the locals and tourists that are frequently out in force. I only saw one person without a mask and every encounter with other walkers was almost comically careful. The six-feet rule was remarkably enforced by everyone I met - like we all had those shock collars on, the ones people put on dogs to keep them from leaving the yard. Some people contorted their torsos and limbs in the funniest ways to keep from being too close when we passed each other going in opposite directions. Anti-COVID spasms. 

I was wearing one of the heavy duty masks I have in my arsenal in case I might be exposed to a throng of virus rebels. This mask, alas, did not pair well with my prescription sunglasses - I could not keep them from fogging up unless I let them slide way down to the tip of my nose. That was fine and well except way down there they don't do much in the way of blocking the Sun or helping me see. Once I came to terms with all of that, fussing and cussing, I was able to enjoy my walk.

It occurred to me more than once as I cranked out the miles that I really ought to win Lotto and purchase one of those split level beach homes with the enormous bay windows across the street from the Pacific Ocean. So I made a mental note to add that to my to do list on the table in my trailer. I am willing to bet that people I know and love will start coming to see me for a change when that happens rather than me always risking my life driving cross country in Spugly or Amtraking all curled up in train pretzel pose for days on end. Who wouldn't want to sip coffee at my breakfast table with the windows open listening to the waves crashing and the knucklehead sea gulls squawking over a touron's spilled  French Fry.

The whole Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary protection thing is really working. This stretch of beach is incredibly clean and regulated. As a result, the water is still beautiful, the tide pools are full of life, the sea otters play smugly unrestricted, and a walk beside the sea is still holy and restorative. 

Whatever it was that told me to go to PG today was completely on my side in the endless struggle between me and all the stuff that sucks. I am sending my sincere gratitude to that inspiration source from way down in the bottom of my well worn Vasque trail runners. By the time I finished my miles, I was more than ready to head for Goodies Deli for a walloping king-sized egg salad sammie on heavenly wheat bread prepped by the same cool sammie-artist ladies who worked there fifteen years ago. Goodies had to move over to the next block on Lighthouse Avenue from their old location (some kind of "progress" is happening on the old block) , but it's still great and it's still affordable. That, to me, is pretty much a miracle. Also a miracle is how much about-to-burst sunshine energy is stored in the ice plant at the beach. I'm surprised someone hasn't figured out how to run e-bikes on that stuff. Something else for the to do list.

I love this place.

Peace, Love, and Happy Birthday, Dad,

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Carmen's Trail

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Carmen's Trail at Fremont Peak State Park, eleven miles up San Juan Canyon from my camp, is named after former Ranger Rick Morales's daughter. It starts at the upper parking lot near the trail to the peak and winds down through grass and ferns and oak trees past the Observatory, hooking up with Tony's Trail (after Rick's son) which takes you to the park entrance. 

From there, you can walk the road back up to the parking lot. Or, if you want to stay on dirt (the more funner option), you can take the Cold Springs Trail through oaks and madrones and pines to the Valley View Trail (with views of the valley, duh) circling back around the campgrounds to complete a long, rolling, hilly loop hike back to your vehicle. 

If you are feeling frisky, then you can hike up the Fremont Peak Trail to get the whole 360 degree pano shot of the Salinas Valley, Monterey Bay, the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Juan Bautista, the San Juan Valley, Hollister, the Diablo Range, the Hollister Hills, and the Gabilan Range. That loop-o'-the-park is a pretty sweet hike that hardly anybody ever takes on (or knows about?), probably because the park is understaffed and they can't patrol it. This is the perfect time of year to do the whole thing, though, because it's cool and because the poison oak has been tromped on enough to be almost inconsequential to all but the most urushiol-sensitive. You are welcome, by the way.

The highlight of my walk yesterday was a brief but fun exchange of stares on Carmen's Trail with a small group of mule deer. They were sort of trapped between me and the road so there was only one safe way to avoid trouble. After freezing in place for a minute or so, they boing-boing-boinged lickety-split past me to safety. 

I spoke to them in reassuring terms but I have no idea if my words had their intended effect. I looked at it as a win-win. I got to see them for a minute and they got to haul booty outta there without getting murdered or maimed. From a deer's point of view, that's basically what parks are for, methinks.

There were lots of cars in the lot, but the campgrounds were not full and I didn't see a soul on the trails (except for the deer souls) until I got around to the Fremont Peak Trail. That was sort of too crowded for me, so I went back to Spugly and crept back down the winding road to home. 

Another "Black Friday" successfully avoided! Yay!

Peace, Love, and Opt Out of All That Mess,

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mudstone Ranch - No Turkeys

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Yesterday I really wanted to go to the beach. I didn't go, mainly because COVID-fricken-19 is out of control in Monterey and Salinas and I figured traffic would be O.O.C. as well. But I wanted a change of scenery and a bit more of a challenge than my usual walks around San Juan Bautista, so I decided to go to Mudstone Ranch. 

Mudstone Ranch is only about ten miles from here, part of the Hollister Hills Off Road Vehicle State Park, a rolling piece of grazing land set aside for hikers and mountain bikers and equestrians as a buffer zone between the noisy dirt bikes and the burgeoning suburbs of Hollister, CA. I only hike there in the shoulder seasons due to the blasting heat exposure in summer and wet, slippery trails in winter. Yesterday's conditions were perfect and I enjoyed a hardy two-hour hike featuring steady climbs and beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. On the Razorback, AMME Connector, and Roadrunner Trails, I was the only bipedal creature, alone with my thoughts and working up a fine Tuesday sweat.

On the Razorback Trail, you climb pretty quickly up a drainage into oak and buckeye forests and the breeze picks up, lending a little chill to the air. I was glad to be wearing my vest up there, zipping it up to keep my core warm. The trail here is shady and the tread is smooth. 

Toward the top, before the Razorback Trail ends and the AMME Connector begins, the views east and north are outstanding. It's good to stop and catch your breath, be still and look for wild critters. I didn't see any turkeys. Maybe they know better than to show themselves this week.

I spotted a couple of alert mule deer at the crest. They were giving me wary attention before they hightailed it west toward the trees on the AMME. 

I think the AMME Connector is my favorite part of this hike. It's short, but woodsy and full of side trails with deer prints and acorns. It doesn't last long, though, taking you to a cow trough with some very healthy algae and a picnic table with long views down into the Hollister area. 

If I was so inclined, and equipped with a lunch and water, I could have headed out on the Glen Loop Trail, adding four or five more miles to the day, but I was already hungry by that time, so I settled for a return to the parking lot via the Roadrunner Trail, completing a healthy six mile loop, which seems to be about par for my daily course right now. The cows were not impressed. Generally speaking, cows do not see the value of hiking longer distances than those required to eat more grass or wash it down with some algae water. To each his, her, or its own.

Peace, Love, and Gobble Gobble,