Step by Step

::: By Hand and On Foot :::

Category: Walks and hikes (page 1 of 7)

One week in

It’s difficult to write about a pilgrimage. Every day you get up and walk.  That’s it. Nothing happens, and yet everything happens.  

The world slows down.  You see the flowers and the bees.  You hear the constant birdsong that happens in the Spanish countryside. The clouds sail by. You feel the warmth of the sun on your back. You hear the crunch of your boots on the gravel.

And the world slows down and opens up and presents itself to you with the possibility of finding your best self. You have the chance to give and receive kindness. You listen to stories and share your own. You have the opportunity for stillness.

It is a gift for which I am extremely grateful.

Testing, testing….

Have I mentioned that I’m returning to Spain next month? I’ll be there for almost six weeks, walking on the Camino Frances for some of that time (the same route I walked in 2006), and spending the other part of that time serving as a volunteer hospitaliera at Monasterio San Anton, a pilgrim hostel built into the ruins of an abandoned monastery. I am very excited!

Right now I’m going through long ‘to do’ lists, one of which is set up my blog to let me post from my phone. Here it is: my first phone posting.

Let me share some images from the training walks I’ve been doing.

Last week I ambled along the coastal bluffs at Wilder Ranch State Park. It’s hard to see, but that’s a whale out in the bay. I saw three different pods swim by.
Later on the fog cleared, letting the coast shine in all its glory.

Later that week I took a long Beach Walk, from Manresa to Sunset and back again. A sign! I found two (mostly) intact scallop shells, which I took as a sign that yes, I should be going to Spain.

Yesterday I took a nice loop hike in the backcountry at Wilder.

Don’t worry — I’ll be spending minimal time on my devices. I plan on being totally in the present, not lost in the interwebs. But I know people back home like to see a picture or two, and have some idea of where I am.

I Used to Live Here

Last weekend I was up in the East Bay to attend the artists’ reception at Collector Art Shop in Berkeley, where I am in a group show (which will be on display through January 28, in case you’re inclined to check it out). I also had a few appointments, which left odd gaps of time in my days. So I took advantage of the situation and visited some of my favorite spots.

Friday morning I went to Brown Sugar Kitchen for my favorite fried chicken and waffles breakfast. This restaurant is right around the corner from where I used to live in West Oakland, and I miss having it near. Best chicken and waffles ever! Across the street there was a new set of murals on the recycling center.

New mural in Oakland

Nice textures when you’re close up.

Mural colors and textures

After which I went down to Middle Harbor Shorline Park down by the Port of Oakland, and had fun taking photos and watching the intricate dance of trucks, containers, and cranes.

A tall set of streetlights take on an alien aspect when seen through a fence.

Alien-looking light fixtures

Evil lurks. A small rusty sign on a fence.

Evil lurks

A rusty float just offshore.

A rusty float

Watch out for the soft mud! (Have I ever mentioned that I love hazard graphics? I think it would be a fun job to create them.)

Soft mud warning sign

A dredge at work.

A dredge at work

A goose among the cranes.

A goose and cranes

A study in contrasts: a rusty fence against a concrete wall.

A rusty fence in front of a concrete wall

The park butts right against the port, and gives a great opportunity to watch all the goings-on there. I couldn’t help but think of all that stuff coming in and out – a supreme example of rampant consumerism and capitalism in all its glory. How much of all this is really necessary???

A very busy place

Still, the port is a fascinating place with its own type of beauty.

Giant crane at the Port of Oakland

Star Creek Adventure!

Last Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to hike in a remote property in the Pajaro Hills, thanks to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. The Land Trust purchased Star Creek Ranch a couple of years ago, and because the way in is only a one-lane dirt road, largely privately owned, access is limited to only one or two days a year, and then just to members.

Driving in. Don’t worry; I stopped the car while taking the picture.
Driving in to Star Creek Ranch.

We were greeted with tents, maps, sunscreen in case we had forgotten (I had), water, and shuttle vans. There are some 15 miles of trails and fire roads on the property, so we had lots of choices.
The greeting area.

I decided to do a loop of the Black Canyon Trail, the (something) Cutoff Road, and High Point Road. Good signage helped me find the way.
Trail signs

The Black Canyon Trail descended into a redwood forest and followed a creek. It was cool and lovely on a hot day. On the way down I passed some dogwood blossoms.
Dogwood blossoms.

Old signs remained from previous owners and uses.
Old boundary sign.

There were quite a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and lots of hikers and mountain bikers on the trails. I had assumed that many people, like myself, would choose to take the more remote and wild paths, but I was wrong. I didn’t see anyone else on Black Canyon Trail, and only once saw a human footprint. But I did see a motion-activated camera attached to one of the redwoods.
Motion-activated camera.

Wait a minute… the Land Trust often posts photos of mountain lions that trigger the cameras on their land. Now which trail was it? Was it the one I was on? Oh yes. Here, from their website, is a photo of mountain lions in right about the same spot I was standing.
Mountain lions.

Alrighty then! I kept going, like Macbeth thinking I had gone so far already I might as well plunge ahead, but I made sure I sang and made noise and looked big and scary as I walked. And I nixed the plan I had to sit and draw during my hike. Sitting quietly while absorbed in a task didn’t sound like the best idea at this point.

But still, it was a lovely hike. Looking up through the canopy.
Looking up through the canopy.

After following the creek bed for quite a while, the trail ascended. Here is a clearing full of horsetails.
A lot of horsetails.

Lots of banana slugs in the damp areas. Here is one next to my foot for scale.
Banana slug.

A hillside full of columbines, which would not stand still for my picture.
Columbine along the trail.

The trail got really steep before hitting the cutoff road, and yet it got steeper still afterwards. (Caution! Extreme! said the signpost) I decided to be relatively sane and turned onto the cutoff, which proved to be utterly delightful.
A lovely trail.

Exposed roots make an interesting pattern.
Exposed roots.

Iris along the trail.

By now I had ascended quite a bit, and had gone from redwood forest to oak, with wide vistas visible between the trees.
Oak trees.

And more reminders of those who had used this property before. Yes, I tried the swing. It worked just fine. 🙂
A swing.

Up here in the more open and accessible areas there were more hikers.
Hikers at Star Creek Ranch.

I enjoyed lunch in this meadow.
Wildflowers in the meadow.

While I was sitting eating my lunch, I noticed a big fat bumblebee making its rounds from flower to flower, which made me happy – until I realized there was just one bee. One bee. In this whole meadow. One. A sad reminder that bees are in trouble. (And a nod to Emily Dickinson.)

TO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

All in all, it was a fine outing, and I’m looking forward to returning next year for another Star Creek Ranch Adventure.

Leaving Star Creek Ranch.

Back Again!

I promised in my last post that I would return to hike more of the DeAnza trail, which is turning out to be one of my favorites. It reminds me a lot of Briones in the East Bay, with its cloud-brushing climbs and views of surrounding rolling hills.

For anyone planning on checking it out, here is what the trailhead looks like. It’s just outside of San Juan Bautista, and pretty easy to find.
DeAnza trailhead

A welcome sign, and there were brochures in a box just behind this. The DeAnza trail, as you can see, travels all the way from Mexico through Arizona and California, ending at San Francisco. Not all of it is hikeable, but there is a lot of interest in trying to make it so.
DeAnza welcome sign

It’s just a little over a month since my last visit, but there have been changes. Signs of spring abound!
New growth

A view up the valley. The dirt in the foreground is a corral, and a group of four cowboys was practicing calf roping. Later, a class was practicing turning their horses in tight circles. I should mention that at this point I’d only been hiking around 10 minutes, and had started out at about the same level as the ranch – yet it didn’t feel all that steep.
The view up the valley

It does get steeper here and there.
Up up and away

This is cattle country, and there are barbed wire fences on either side of the trail. I love the road in the background of this photo – it winds its way up and over the hills, and looks like it would be a blast to drive, and makes me wish I still had my motorcycle.
Fence and distant road

The way the road curved, and the green and roll of the hills, and the farm nestled in the valley, reminded me of paintings by Grant Wood. This one is titled Rural Scene.
Grant Wood Rural Scene

More barbed wire.
DeAnza trailhead

A gate, with distant cattle.
A gate leads to rolling hills

Downhill fence.
Downhill fence

This fence made me think of Maynard Dixon’s painting, No Place to Go.
Maynard Dixon No Place to Go

The shapes of the hills and trees against the sky! The lines created by the wire fence! The blue! The green!
Designs in nature

The trail is mostly open, but occasionally goes through stands of oak and pine.
Going in to the light

A tenacious tree.
Tenacious tree roots

This is the point at which the trail finally begins its downward course, and the point at which I turned around. In the distance, Watsonville and eventually the Pacific. Lessons learned: either don’t stop at home and pause to check email etc. before going on an afternoon hike, because you will suddenly lose an hour or two; or, don’t go for a hike on a day when you have dinner plans with friends. And especially don’t do both.
Towards Watsonville

On the way back to the car, I saw that the moon had been caught in a fence.
Moon in the fence

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