At the top of our street there is a beautiful walk, one of my favorite choices for the now-daily routine. There is something about starting out from home and heading straight uphill that acts as an excellent warm up for my sometimes-reluctant muscles and mind.
Today I have company along. As our strides fall into a rhythm, Husband, Kona the dog, and I steadily pass rectangles of homes and yards that make up our mostly elderly-feeling neighborhood. Two-thirds of the way up, we pass the ditch trail: a level meandering path that follows the irrigation canal throughout the hills above our valley.
We continue on, a different type of walk in mind today.
As we pass the last of the homes, the view of the top meadow opens up, green and gold fronds waving in the afternoon light. My formerly fit legs begin to quiver with their lack of stamina, a direct consequence of this year's double enchantment: writing and Open Salon. My growing writer's enthusiasm has been motivated and enhanced, as well as obstructed and delayed, by my many delightful hours spent here with you, fellow Open Salon writers and readers: writers, jesters, philosophers, artists, musicians, warriors, friends and concerned citizens, spread all across our planet.
Never a dull moment, but...the daily walk has returned.
This is the rewarding sight when the trail's slope begins to soften, when we stop to catch our breath and gaze back over our shoulders. This insta-camera I have with me today does not do justice to this view, but hopefully, you get the idea.
Those volcanic slopes visible across the valley are younger than the slopes we stand on, their colors changing chameleon-like throughout the year. The current apple-green of spring is soothing, as the crisp brown tones of late summer create vigilance -- townspeople scan hills anxiously and regularly then for telltale wisps of a beginning wildfire.
The slopes on our side, the side we live on and walk over today, aren't volcanic at all, they are the much older, basalt remnants of ancient coastal islands, the valleys' ocean bottom days evidenced routinely by the ubiquitous smooth oval groundrock.
Our trail continues on, marching toward an inviting side canyon just on the back side of the mountain.
Once over the ridge, we head downtrail towards the forest where the vegetation changes quickly. The scent in the air builds, grows rich as well. The canopy thickens overhead as we choose the smaller path at a fork, the big leaf maples' presence telling us water is near. It's a good ten or more degrees cooler back here, a nice respite from the heat up top. A hundred yards further, a first glimpse of the creek is seen beyond the maples' sheltering boughs, although the melodic sounds have accompanied us for awhile.
Next, we head over the first bridge to our favorite spot. This is where we usually stop for awhile and just listen to the sounds of waterfall and creek.
I begin to suspect my camera is no longer welcome.
The falls are beautiful though...
"I cannot commune with nature properly with your gadget flashing garish light..."
The camera is put away.
~ Later ~
Our hike has progressed after silent reverie by waterfall. All bare feet and paws have been refreshed by the just-past-ice-melt waters, irritations soothed by the creek's first-day-of-summer chords, a distinctly more robust tune than the autumn melody offers.
The camera surreptitiously makes its reappearance as we cross the second bridge downstream. The canyon deepens, the trees struggle to maintain their grip on the steep walls.
They often don't.
We are just in time for a rare sighting of the hybrid Glowing-Eyed Otter-Dog.
(Glowing-eyed odd-er dog, she is..)
The advancing hour is noted by the sun's rays through the canopy. Soon they will drop back beyond the ridge.
This is our signal to head back up out of the canyon before the gathering shadows of dusk draw the bigger animals in to drink and hunt. Bear are routinely sighted in our area, and the dates of any seasonal cougar sightings are courteously posted by foresters at the trail's head.
This townsperson has learned the hard way that these postings, other than offering caution to local hikers, also mean: Keep your small pets inside at night!
We begin to venture back uptrail, hiking steeply up out of the canyon toward more sunlight and the drier topography above. We pass the manzanitas stretching skyward, their velvety sinuous branches tempting a caress. I never stop marveling at the softness of their bark.
Edible manzanita berries are shown below, but the tannin content and resulting dry mouth prevent usual foraging excitement.
Any photo blurriness is due to my optometrist antipathy.
These are madrones below, technically bushes in the plant kingdom, also related to the manzanita. This wood is so hard, yet the bark so smooth and luxurious, even our cats' claws can't grab hold. It's hilarious to watch a bemused cat slipping down a madrone trunk like it's a greased pole.
This is the one area I've lived where madrones and manzanitas grow, they are part of the many specialties of this area.
We trek further, past the meadow full of blooming white yarrow flowers, although yellow is the more usual blossom color. Yarrow is one of the Midsummer herbs that ancient Celtic tribes picked, part of the sacred Nine Herb bundle gathered for the twelve day Summer Solstice ceremonies.
Having lived in these mountains' long winters for several years now, I understand more fully the ecstatic partying and rituals the ancients participated in to celebrate the sun's longest stay of the year.
Are those blue blossoms cornflower or batchelor's button, I wonder ?
I get those two confused.
Below is a wild patch of lilac bush, its blossoms so pale compared to the more deeply saturated lavenders one buys in the garden stores.
It's possibly a leftover from some long-ago homestead.
As we loop around back to the top meadow where we began, we soak in one last panorama before heading back down our steep suburban street toward home.
Yes, there's a wonderful walk at the top of our street.
All it takes is being willing to begin.
JUNE 24, 2011 4:56PM