Sunday, December 19, 2021

That's All He Wrote

 Full Moon

I quit. 

Yesterday was my last day as a Caltrans Adopt-a-Highway volunteer. After eleven years of picking up trash on Highway 156 each month, I am hanging up my grabber, turning in my hardhat, retiring my dayglow orange-yellow safety vest. Someone else will have to clean up after the pig people.

I am not "The Logo" for Caltrans, but it kind of looks like me.

I am not quitting because of any particular reason other than I am tired of doing it and my bad knee balks at skidding down the steepish roadside slopes into the drainage ditches to retrieve thousands of exploded pieces of Styrofoam or the occasional wayward tangled up deflated Mylar balloon or a heaved poop-filled diaper. What kind of Mom heaves a poop-filled diaper out the car window? If you need to assign blame on my exit from the ranks of highway angels, finger idiots like her. I have done my service to the San Juan Bautista community many times over. Now is the time for the next generation to step up.

I like it clean.

These years were not without fun. Every once in a while, friends like Captain Chem or Commander Cody or Chiquita Anita would pitch in to help. Sometimes there were monetary rewards. Once I found half of a a 20-dollar bill sticking up out of the dirt. I dusted it off and checked to see if the serial number was intact. It was complete so I mailed it to the Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C. with a note saying where and how I found it. Sure enough, about three months later, a brand spankin' new, crispy Andrew Jackson arrived in my mailbox. Andrew Jackson was an a$$hole, but he paid for breakfast that day. 

Then there was this story, the day I had to pick up all kinds of panty liners on Highway 101.

But this one just might be the best roadside toy tale in history.

I told, via  Facebook post, the local citizenry of my decision to retire and asked nicely if there might be a person or group of persons who might like to replace me. The responses were lukewarm in terms of volunteers, but there were many grateful and sincere words of thanks and praise for my years-long efforts. I appreciated that and to them and to all of America, I say, "You are welcome."

Peace, Love, and Trashy Memories,


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Beach Walk

 Waxing Crescent Moon

A rare overnight rainfall Monday night gave way to a cool, crisp, sunny Tuesday morning in Moss Landing, CA, which is, as the crow flies, or as Hondo scoots, the closest beach to my camp. I met Captain Chem for a post-birthday breakfast and beach walk. Captain Chem, ever the alert and literate blog reader, almost immediately asked me how old I was. To which I replied:

"I am in my 71st year, thank you very much."

The grin on his face revealed his sly attempt to catch me in a septuagenerian error, but I was onto him. I am finished with being 70 period.

The Moss Landing Cafe was first choice for vittles, but they are closed on Tuesdays, so we took a chance on the satellite-eatery, over-the-bridge version of Phil's Fish Market. It's kind of rudimentary, but it will do in a hungry pinch and the people there are super-nice. It has both indoor and outdoor seating. 

Parked in front of of the market/eatery/convenience store was a funky cruiser bicycle which, as I later discovered, belongs to a local character known as Pirate Don. Sadly, Pirate Don was nowhere to be found on Tuesday, but if you see him, tell him I like his ride. Except for the saddle. I do not think that saddle would be comfortable.

The greatest things (aside from the Pacifc Ocean and the sand dunes) about Moss Landing State Beach are twofold: 1) you can walk for a long way between the jetty and the Pajaro River and back and 2) it is rarely crowded during the week in the waning days of autumn. 

The scenery and relative isolation are conducive to purposeful striding and stream-of-consciousness world-problem-solving. Some Palomino-Captain Chem conversations are quite brilliant if I do say so myself, and alternatingly funny as hell. Maybe we should start taping these hiking wisdom nuggets for broadcast or podcast or outcast podcast or something. When the good Captain completes his 70th year in 2023 I think it is, if there is still such a thing as the Internet, we can begin to share with the world the many ways they can get their sh*t together. The Septuagenarians might stream all the way to Netflix.

One way that people could improve things is to knock off the whole oops-I-killed-a-porpoise-when-fishing-for-ling-cod nonsense. I think they call these accidents "bycatch."  Here is a definition of bycatch from Merriam-Webster:

"the portion of a commercial fishing catch that consists of marine animals caught unintentionally"

Okay, okay, it happens, they didn't mean to do it (key word mean), but my questions are: how and why did this poor critter get sawed so perfectly in half? Just to freak out septuagenarian beachcombers? The vultures and gulls will gladly, or at least efficiently, take care of it, I suppose.

Speaking of birds, there were planty of snowy plovers, curlews, gulls, pelicans, and yes, a few wary, but persistent vultures at the beach. They make a very good living from Monterey Bay and I don't believe they ever kill anything unintentionally. 

Peace, Love, and Be More Careful,


Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Sixties Are Over

 Waxing Crescent Moon

Well, the sixties are finally over. On Sunday, December 5, at 7:51 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, I will complete my 70th year as an ethereal spirit masquerading as James Raymond Ostdick in this rapidly aging bag of bones. From then until next December, I am supposed to say I am 70 years old, even though as every second goes by I will actually be living out my 71st year. 

Whenever I have this conversation with people, no one seems very bothered by our custom of understating our ages when asked. Saying I am 70 is not very precise. While it is true that I have lived 70 years, it is also true that I have lived 66 years, or 68. I may as well pick any other round number reasonably close to the way I look (as long as it is not over 70) if I want to abide by societal norms. 

However, I feel rather adamant that, to be forthright, I should admit that the sixties are over and done with. On this final day of my 70th year, I vow that I'm not going to say, if asked, that I am 69. The sixties have been over for quite some time now. Tomorrow, if asked after 7:51 a.m. PST,  "How old are you, Jim?" I am going to say, "I am in my 71st year, thank you very much."

This is me, finishing up my 70th year on Earth. I feel fine.

This morning my camp and its surroundings were smothered in a thick marine layer.

It was chilly when I got up so I hustled over to the Mission Cafe to treat myself to a pre-birthday omelet. I wanted to take one more 70th-year hike at Fremont Peak State Park, so I was going to need some righteous sustenance. Just like I knew it would be, the omelet was both righteous and delicious. 

Imagine my surprise when I was ready to leave, all fired up by eggs and coffee, and my pretend Mission Cafe granddaughters/waitresses Maria and Jessica announced that my meal was on them. They were all smiles and happy birthday tomorrow wishes as I fished out some bills to leave them a tip anyway. Very cool way to start the day. I made a mental note that if I should happen to win Superlotto this evening, I will definitely buy each one of them a brand new car. Pretend Grandpa is righteous, too.

On the way up San Juan Canyon to the park, I stopped at an overlook to check out the view down into San Juan Valley. This is one of my favorite things to do when things are socked in down below. 

This makes me imagine the ocean just broke over through the
Coast Ranges and created a whole new landscape.

Up in the park it was sunny and warm and I had the place to myself. There are about six miles of hiking trails. I chose to do the loop starting from the upper parking lot: the Valley View Trail to the Cold Springs Trail to Tony's Trail to Carmen's Trail back to the beginning. Took me about two hours, which is slower than I could do it even a few years ago, but who really cares? It was fun! The trails took me through madrone and oak forests with lots of moss and lichen. It was odd not to see any mushrooms or deer, although I did see plenty of deer tracks and scat. The trails, by the way, are in great shape right now.

On Carmen's Trail there was a lot of furry moss on the trees and rocks and many windblown pieces of what I am calling lichen. There is a good chance that's not correct. It's some kind of parasite anyway.


I also saw a Boo Radley tree, which always makes me smile.

I feel really good after today's hike, my last walk of what people call my sixties. As long as I can keep doing this kind of thing, I'll be a happy camper.

Peace, Love, and Oh Boy, I'm on My Way to Get a Giant Smoothie at Bliss Blendz,

Friday, November 26, 2021

Close Encounters of the Aromas Kind

 Third Quarter Moon

What I really wanted to do for the last ten days of November was to pack up and head for Death Valley NP. I love the desert this time of year and there was a good chance I could score some tasty Turkey Day grub at Furnace Creek Ranch (at least there was in pre-COVID days). However, reserving campsites in the national parks now takes a set of internetal (new word) gymnastic skills which I do not possess. Or maybe it's patience that I lack. Or maybe reserve dot gov is the crappiest web site this side of planet Mercury. I knew that some of their campgrounds were still closed or restricted and I was hesitant to to drive that far if I couldn't nail down a spot to camp for a few nights in advance. 

Should I gamble on a cancellation for the chance to see a desert Sunrise or a Moonset? I can see them fine right here.

My end of the month decision was rendered much simpler by a request by friends Teri and Clete to watch over their house and animals in Aromas, CA, a mere hop, skip, and scoot from San Juan Bautista. So I agreed to a twelve-day stint in their beautiful home while they travel back East. 

I like Aromas a lot. It's a small, friendly, hilly, wooded town on the Pacific Plate side of the San Andreas Fault about ten miles from the beach. There isn't much to do there, but the Aromas Grill serves good food, Marshall Grocery makes excellent burritos, and the Aromas Sports Park on the edge of town is great for walking dogs and playing disc golf. That's enough for me right now. I get a change of scenery and an opportunity to spend quality time with Bob the Dog, Hazel the Cat, and Eekamouse the Other Cat. 

Hazel and Eekamouse are exclusively house felines, originally feral kittens, who have wide-ranging, manic personalities that swing between cute-and-cuddly to kitchen-counter-hurdling savage. Hazel is on the left in this awww-ain't we-sweet pose. To capture them in action would require a few ESPN camera crews. 

Bob the Dog, in contrast, is the most consistently laidback creature this side of Pluto. He is getting up in years, just how many no one knows, but he's very smart and way easy to get along with. He keeps a regular schedule of the following low key activities: peeing, pooping, eating, drinking, sleeping, and walking on a leash. Here's a photo of Bob in his festive pumpkin-colored holiday sweater. He's not really into posing for the camera, but he'll  occasionally put up with human housesitter quirks if it means getting to go to the park.

Every day after breakfast Bob is scheduled for an 8:00 morning mile. I load him into Teri's Subaru and we drive over to the sports park for a brisk amble around the crushed  gravel track. The brisk amble is frequently interrupted by sudden bursts of stoppage to smell the heck out of the grass and sometimes pee a little bit. For a couple of old guys, we are pretty durn quick. Bob can stop and pee on a dime whenever he wants to, though, something, alas, I cannot do without risking arrest. Here's one of Bob setting the pace.

The amount of time and effort that goes into caring for just these three relatively copasetic critters amazes me. I really don't know how people do that plus raise kids, hold down jobs, maintain marriages, socialize, recreate, and be on time for group therapy, too. I mean, I like to recreate, you know? It sort of takes up my whole day, come to think of it. And I avoid group therapy like the plague. 

Well, I'd better get on the stick. Bob is looking at me with that forlorn, take-me-to-the-park look again. Away we go.

Peace, Love, and Recreation All Day Long,

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

An Invitation to the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Recently, no fewer than five of my most valued friends recommended that I read a book by Robin Wall Kimmerer called Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. The author and mother of three daughters is an absolutely brilliant writer of Potawatomi descent with a Ph.D. in Botany. Every page is delivered purposefully like visual poetry. Each chapter is a separate lesson. The whole book is a treatise on realism and natural philosophy rooted solidly in Mother Earth. To all those friends who knew I would love it and urged me to read it, thank you and bless you. You were right.

About a hundred pages into the book is a chapter entitled Allegiance to Gratitude. Kimmerer refers to the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, an Onondaga greeting or prayer called, in their language, "Words That Come Before All Else." She describes it thusly: 

This ancient order of protocal sets gratitude as the highest priority...It is said that the people were instructed to stand and offer these words whenever they gathered, no matter how many or how few, before anything else was done.

The scene during which this Thanksgiving Address is presented should be read in context of the chapter and the book as a whole, so I won't give that away. Suffice to say it stunned me. I was moved to read more about the address and discovered a beautifully constructed website that gives the expanded version which extends gratitude to all of the natural world.

This year on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, I am extending an invitation to anyone who happens to read this to join me virtually tomorrow morning in reading aloud each part of the address in the order constructed on this beautiful site. No Zoom thing, just join me in spirit, wherever you are. I recommend taking a few minutes to watch the short videos first to set the mood, then proceed to speak the "prayer" either by yourself or with a partner or a group. I think it is quite a powerful meditation when read aloud and a soothing way to start any day, especially Thanksgiving.

Peace, Love, and Say It Out Loud,


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The Twisted Grove of Nisene Marks State Park

 First Quarter Moon

This past Monday I returned to the Magical Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in the company of my semi-notorious friends Captain Chem, Sultry Sue, and Saint Nacho the Chihuahuan Empath. This visit had the twin purposes of a) finding the much ballyhooed "Twisted Grove" of redwoods and b) enjoying a picnic lunch at the end of the Old Growth Loop trail. I successfully checked both items off my Monday to-do list.

Now I have another thing to-do. I have a Facebook friend who has sort of been bugging me for a while to find the Twisted Grove and report on what I saw. Her interest prompted me to think the grove might be both hard to find and somehow very spectacular. It was neither, really. It's only a half-mile, if that, from the park entrance and it was easy to spot on the park map. This small grove of twisted trees uphill from Aptos Creek exhibits a curious thing called spiral growth. They are interesting, but unspectacular, at least until you start to learn the how and why these trees grew in spirals. 

They are cool-looking, though. My photos did not turn out so well, so I borrowed a couple from my San-Juan-Bautista-by-way-of-Soquel friend Katie Smith.

Photo credit: Katie Smith

Photo credit: Katie Smith

To understand how these trees got so twisted, I turned to Dr. Maynard Moe, a retired Biology professor and plant expert/naturalist/hiker/backpacker who grew up in Yosemite Valley, yes that Yosemite Valley, in you know, Yosemite National Park. The good Dr. Moe allowed me to ask one dumb question after another as I scoured the web for an explanantion that wasn't pure speculation. He helped me eliminate a few wild goose chases and he didn't once come out and say "Geezuz, Jim, you really should be in a home by now." Heckuva nice guy, that Maynard. 

To begin to understand what happened to these redwood trees that made them grow in spirals, it helps to review a few terms from high school daze. I'll go ahead and preface all of this by telling you two things: a) this will be a very simplistic explanation and b) the exact mechanics and causes of the process are still being studied. How is that for lowering expectations?

For a little review of how trees get water and nutrients from their roots to their branches and parts farther out on a limb, I'm going to quote some folks from the University of Tennessee who know what they are talking about. 

Tree Growth Characteristics

Upon peeling the bark off a branch, the soft inner layer of bark next to the wood is revealed. This is the vascular cambium, and every year it creates xylem (new wood) on the inside, and phloem (new inner bark) on the outside. The xylem carries water and nutrients from the roots upward, while the phloem carries sugars from the leaves downward (Fig. 4). In temperate climates, the cambium does not grow during the winter and a dark line can be seen in the wood where cambial growth slowed at year’s end. These are the annual growth rings that are visible in many species.

A certain amount of diameter growth also occurs through growth of the cork cambium, which produces cork, the outer layer of bark. New cork is produced each year; however, the outermost layer is shed so that the bark thickness of a mature tree remains nearly the same from year to year. Therefore, while growth of the cork cambium may contribute greatly to diameter growth as a sapling develops a thick bark, diameter growth of a mature tree is mainly due to the production of wood by the vascular cambium. 

Okay, so the root system transports water and nutrients up through the xylem to the branches, right? As long as the roots are intact and functioning "normally," the water goes pretty much straight up the tree above where the root system is feeding it all around the circumference of the tree. Absent any funny business, what you get eventually is a big ole beautiful straight redwood. 

BUT, what happens when the roots are not functioning as described above? What if, for example, the roots on one side of the tree get tangled in rocks and can no longer reach soil to transport water? What if that or another external stress changes the straight upward movement of fluids through the xylem on one side of a tree?  Then you get blockage called cavitation, creating an embolism.

Cavitation occurs in xylem of vascular plants when the tension of water within the xylem becomes so high that dissolved air within water expands to fill either the vessels or the tracheids. The blocking of a xylem vessel or tracheid by an air bubble or cavity is called as embolism (Gr. embolus, stopper), and such a vessel or tracheid is said to be embolized.

An embolized xylum vessel will prevent straight upward movement of fluids from the roots to the branches, so for the tree to grow, something  must give. Of course, nature finds a way. The tree compensates by an adaptation called spiral growth. Fluids move around the blockage (embolism) at about a 30-degee angle and begin a spiral journey around the tree like stripes on a barber pole, thereby bringing fluid to all parts of the crown, not just the parts directly above the healthy side of the root system. The end result is the twisted form exhibited in the Twisted Grove at Nisene Marks. 

Simply stated, spiral growth is:

an adaptation that resists the "upstream" effects of embolisms. If embolisms aren't an issue, there is no selection for twisting. – Dr. Maynard Moe. personal communication

In the hundreds of redwood trees that surround the tiny Twisted Grove in the Magical Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, there are no consequential, bothersome embolisms and thus, there is no spiral growth. 

I for one am happy the twisted trees and their embolisms allowed me to visit and wonder how they came to be. Did I arrive at an exhaustive answer to why and how spiral growth occurs? Nope. But at least I gained a basic understanding of what may be the process that produced the result. And I learned to be cautious and dubious while reading speculative, data-less answers like the Coriolis Effect and earthquake shaking self-correction on the internet. 

No doubt, I will learn more as time goes on. That's entertainment.

Peace, Love, and Picnics,

Saturday, November 6, 2021

The Magical Forest of Nisene Marks

 Waxing Crescent Moon

Yesterday's mini-adventure began with breakfast at the Sunrise Cafe in Soquel, CA with my esteemed colleague and hiking pal Captain Chem from nearby Aptos. The Sunrise is one of my favorite little cafes in this neck of the woods, but due to COVID concerns, it had been a while between veggie omelets. I can verify that they are still awesome as is the swift and friendly service. 

The plan for the day was to head up to nearby Land of the Medicine Buddha to do a six-mile hike around the property - and perhaps to spin the prayer wheel/ring the gong in the middle of the holy redwood forest. The weather was perfect and I was more than excited to get on the trail. 

Alas, this hike was not to be. Unbeknownst to me, administrators have closed the trails and grounds to the public from November 1, 2021 until April 1, 2022 for monk maintenance of mind and soul and for land recovery of soil and tree. Good medicine requires special care. If I had bothered to check their website beforehand, I would have been forewarned. Consider yourself forewarned, in case you were on your way. 

No biggie, though, Plan B quickly hatched itself. Captain Chem knew of an easy fix to our simple problem. Parking Hondo at the southern edge of the Cabrillo College campus, we accessed a very pleasant Santa Cruz County hiking trail that winds along the back of a residential area through a healthy-looking oak forest. I know that pampas grass is non-native, but I think it is pretty nonetheless.

 After a mile or so, the trail connects to the northern boundary of Forest of the Nisene Marks State Park. Just like that, we were walking among the redwoods anyway, so there was no need to be disappointed. On the contrary, this hike was great. I think the medicine buddha is probably everywhere anyway, prayer wheels, prayer flags, and gongs notwithstanding.

By the way, you might be curious as to who or what Nisene Marks is or was. In case you are or may someday be curious, I did the tedious, nitty-gritty, scholarly, Dr. Googlie work for you.

The park's name honors Nisene Marks, the nature-loving mother of the Salinas farm family that bought the land in the 1950s. Her children donated approximately 9,700 acres to the state in 1963 with the provision that the land never be developed. Today, the park showcases a forest in recovery, with rugged canyons and remnants of its once-bustling railroad and logging industry. A grove of ancient old-growth redwood trees near the Pourroy picnic area was preserved under private ownership and added to the park in recent years.

Yesterday, we encountered a potpourri of happy hikers with equally happy dogs plus sleek, rosey-cheeked trail runners and a few well-mannered mountain bikers, too. Everybody in the park seemed to be tuned into the same sunshine-and-clean-forest-air vibe. What a spectacular day in a magical forest!

The seasonal low-angle sunlight enhanced the forest enchantment when it was time to descend to Aptos Creek and step cross the rocks to the other side. The reflections in the water were mesmerizing. And beautiful.

You might also be curious as to what is the origin of the word "mesmerize?" Again, I have done the heavy lifting via Dr. Googlie. 

The origin of the term "mesmerize" dates back to Franz Anton Mesmer, an 18th century physician in Vienna who founded a therapeutic movement called mesmerism. In his dissertation Mesmer proposed the existence of an invisible fluid in the body that reacts to the gravitational force of the planets

Okay, Franz, whatever!

Captain Chem observed on the way back that he had detected no birds or mammals or wildlife of any sort in the forest. In fact, neither of us heard or saw a single peep, cheep, or warble on the whole hike. Unusual? I think so! Nary a squirrel, nary a crow or jay or sparrow. Nary, even, a Santa Cruz banana slug! 

Verrrry interesting. Did they run out of invisible fluid I wonder? 

I guess you can't have everything all at once, even on a perfect day in the magical forest. For a Plan B hike, this one was pretty excellent!

Peace, Love, and Flexibility,

Friday, October 22, 2021

A Fresh New Era

 Waning Gibbous Moon

Few 1987 Mazda B2200 longbed pickups have been celebrated as grandly as Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter. I will go out on a sky high redwood limb and posit than none has, in fact, received even half as much acclaim. Spugly was an integral part of several of my retirement adventures and, for the most part, it came through like a champ.

All things, as they say, must pass, so it was with the utmost respect and no small measure of gratitude and melancholy that I sold dear old Spugly at the same time as I plunked down a chunk o' cash for a newer, nowhere near as ugly, 2004 Honda CR-V EX. 

This transaction occurred a few weeks ago in Tracy, CA with a friendly, hardworking gentlemean named Pablo. Fans of Spugly will be happy to know that Pablo is a man of many skills, one of which is the painting of trucks and automobiles. Two days after Pablo purchased Spugly, he sent me this photo.

Note the slick gray primer hood complexion contrasted with its flat black bumper and grill. This truck is styling now. It is no longer ugly in form or fashion - instead it seems almost smug in its stoic transition away from Boomer Beat Frantic to Millennial X-change Cool. There was a time to be Spugly and now there is not. Spugly is no more. 

In Spugly's place is a used, one-owner, low mileage gas saver that runs like a top and fits nicely under my poor-ass retired-teacher budget. In a fortunate, happy twist of fate, I was able to purchase it for nearly the exact amount I sold my 2002 Toyota Tacoma to a friend back in 2013. I gave him a great deal on that supercool truck so he could give it to his son as a high school graduation present. "What goes around comes around" has never been more timely. If all goes well, this car might be my last one. It is in pretty great shape and it really scoots. 

I expect that this little Honda will run and run and run, calling to mind NBA great John Havlicek, one of my older brother's and my favorite basketball players from days gone by. Havlicek was a legendary Boston Celtic small forward whose endurance and clutch performances  inspired even me, a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan. He never stopped moving, running opposing players into exhaustion and filling up the bucket with fast break layups and "leaping leaner" jumpshots. 

Havilicek's nickname was Hondo, ostensibly borrowed from the 1953 classic western movie of that name. I'm not sure about the John Wayne/Geraldine Page/Ward Bond connection, if there was one, but I believe that christening my ride Hondo Hondacek would be a fitting tribute for my indefatigable, resolute, steadfast wagon.  For sure there will be wild west adventures to come, maybe even soon. Hondo Goes to Hollywood? Hondo Meets the Mother Road? Breakfast with Hondo? Hondo Hoops America? Or maybe all the above, all together, all at once. Stranger things have happened.

It's a fresh, new era. Let the games begin.

Peace, Love, and Wonder Wheels,

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Mitteldorf Preserve

Waning Gibbous Moon

Last week I noticed a post on Wastebook announcing the opening of public hiking opportunites on the Mitteldorf Preserve, part of the Big Sur Land Trust above Carmel Valley. The link outlined an easy procedure to register for a hike, how to get there, and what trails to take. So with a few mouse clicks and a bunch of fill-in-the-blank typing, I was all set with a permit for a new adventure close to home. This Big Sur outfit is super-organized. They only allow about twenty or so hikers per day through the gate in order to keep the land clean and to preserve a reverence for natural peace and quiet. I'm for it.

So I opted to reserve a spot on Wednesday, October 20, the day of the Full Moon, forecast for partly cloudy sky with temps in the 60's. I showed up at the gate at 10 a.m.after a 40-mile drive, showed my registration email, got my pass, and found my way to the parking area on the road to Williams Canyon. When I arrived, there was only one other car and the forest was perfectly silent. After a 1.8 mile road walk, I came to the kiosk that marked the launching point for a variety of hikes around the preserve.

The Mitteldorf Preserve, established in 1990 through the Big Sur Land Trust, has only recently been open to hikers. It would have opened sooner but for a major forest fire. In 2016, the Soberanes Fire burned 137,000+ acres from Garrapata State Park to Chew's Ridge. The magnificent redwoods of the preserve took a big hit as the fire (started by an illegal campfire, grrrr) surged inland from the coast. Suppression efforts cost more than 260 million dollars. Everywhere I went I could see the damage mixed in with the resilence of the forest beginning to make its way back.

By United States Forest Service -, Public Domain

The longest trail in the park is the climb to Patriarch Ridge and back, about 11.5 miles round trip. There are lots of historic sites along the way and on a clear day, from the top you can see out over the Pacific. I decided to work my way up to hiking that one and start with the easy swing around to the Lodge and the Nature Trail Loop. The overcast sky accented the quiet of the woods and the beauty of the hardwood lodge.

I saw one furtive deer and a few scrub jays. Other than that, the only signs of animal life were several small piles of bear scat. The duff-covered trail revealed no tracks that I could see.

Just before looping back to the Lodge I came across the Landmark Redwood, a giant of a tree whose base had been charred by the fire. Otherwise, it seemed like the massive tree weathered the burn quite well.

In all, I hiked about 5 miles yesterday and learned the lay of the land for my next visit. I'm going to shoot for a sunny day and an earlier start next time to tackle the Echo Ridge Trail/Headwaters Road hike, about 8 miles round trip with views of the ocean and an old time loggers' bunkhouse. That will set me up for my third hike - a final outing up to Patriarch Ridge, the sacred site of Essalen and Rumsen tribal ceremonies. 

On the one hand I am kind of amazed by the extent that Father Time has eroded my conditioning and motivation to take on small goals like these. On the other, I seem to respond to that little push that comes from who knows where, directing me to keep my feet moving and my eyes wide open. There is always something new to see.

Peace, Love, and Preservation,