100 Peaks http://100peaks.com Pick a Peak and Go Wed, 01 Mar 2017 00:28:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.16 Sedona – A family trip in the outdoors http://100peaks.com/2016/08/09/sedona-a-family-trip-in-the-outdoors/ http://100peaks.com/2016/08/09/sedona-a-family-trip-in-the-outdoors/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 22:23:36 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6214 Sedona from The Red Rock Visitor Center

Sedona from The Red Rock Visitor Center

Several times a year, I am tasked with one of my favorite things: planning a family trip. This time, I didn’t have to come up with the destination. I asked my wife and daughter where they wanted to go and they quickly came up with Sedona.

We hadn’t been to Sedona since the fires of 2003, when we had to cut our trip short and drive home through the night to San Diego so we could evacuate to Orange County. We felt like there was so much more to see, so we decided to give it another try.

We flew into Flagstaff and, seeing lush forests, I was once again reminded that Arizona has many different faces. It isn’t just sand and cacti. We made the drive down to Sedona and got settled in.

As a family, we are all on the same page. We don’t really like to shop. We like to hike, eat, and relax. We tend to have a hearty breakfast, pack a lunch for the trail, hike all day, and then return to town for a wonderful dinner.

Our first full day, we headed out to the Red Rock Visitor Center, getting a map of the area and forming a plan for our time here. While there, one of the ranger staff put some popcorn into the microwave for too long, causing an evacuation and a visit by the fire department. After waiting for a long time with no time for re-entry, we decided to head on out for a hike. Our destination: Chicken Point, taking the Chapel Trail. It was a wonderful day, a slight chill in the air, and the clouds were amazing, as they would be for the duration of our trip.

Hiking upward on the Chapel Trail

Hiking upward on the Chapel Trail

The view from Chicken Point

The view from Chicken Point

We spent some time hanging out on the top of Chicken Point, getting a nice view of Sedona and watching all the people come to the top from all sorts of different trails. Some pink jeeps drove by and people on ATVs made a U-turn on the red rocks. Since we got a late start, this would be our only hike of the day.

Descending Chicken Point

Descending Chicken Point

The next morning, we got another late start. Hey, we’re on vacation. We went back to the visitor center and enjoyed a nice rain shower while we got oriented and received our Junior Ranger information. We then headed out to Bell Rock, one of the many vortices in the area.

Enjoying the vortex on Bell Rock

Enjoying the vortex on Bell Rock

Once again, we took our time, enjoying the view and our temporary destination. We saw others scrambling in city shoes on the slippery rock to try to get higher. We decided we were high enough and found a nice spot to see the red rocks of Sedona.

We then decided to go on a little drive up to the town of Jerome, an old mining town in the hills. I had an ulterior motive, because, as a longtime fan of Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, as well as Caduceus Cellars, I knew that Maynard James Keenan called this place home.

Enjoying Maynard's wine at Caduceus Cellars in Jerome

Enjoying Maynard’s wine at Caduceus Cellars in Jerome

Less than an hour outside Sedona, Jerome is a quaint town, built into the hillside with views into the distance. We tasted some wine, visited his store, and enjoyed the Jerome museum. We headed back down the mountain amid scattered showers and had dinner in Sedona.

The next morning, we got up and headed down south toward the M Diamond Ranch, where we had reservations for some horseback trail riding. The staff and horses were gentle and the views were great.

Horseback riding at M Diamond Ranch in Sedona

Horseback riding at M Diamond Ranch in Sedona

We learned that we could easily have ridden for two hours or longer and enjoyed the other animals they kept on the ranch. The sky was stunning all day.

Some friends on the ranch

Some friends on the ranch

Hanging with horses under a giant sky

Hanging with horses under a giant sky

On the way back to the highway, we stopped at the V-Bar-V Heritage site, where we went on a short hike to see the largest and best-preserved petroglyph site in the area. It was a pleasant hike along Wet Beaver Creek. The location of the site on private property is a reason why it is so well-preserved.

A pleasant trail at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

A pleasant trail at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Detail Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

Detail Petroglyphs at the V-bar-V Heritage Site

We then drove to both Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle, both Native American sites that show the ingenuity of Sinagua people in surviving in a harsh desert environment.

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

Hiking along Montezuma Well

Hiking along Montezuma Well

Montezuma Castle

Montezuma Castle

It was getting late, so we called it day.

The next morning, we decided to drive up to Oak Creek and find a place to hang out by water. We drove along the highway and pulled out at a day use area and followed some use trails down to Oak Creek. Within minutes, Soph had her shoes off and was at home among the rocks and water. It was so much different than the red and green valley below.

At home along Oak Creek

At home along Oak Creek

After a while, the rain started, so we decided to go out for lunch. Next to the tiny Oak Creek Visitor Center, we found a lunch spot, the Indian Gardens Cafe and Market, that was perfect. After finding the eating in Sedona to be hit and miss, we thoroughly enjoyed their food, which we found to be right in line with our style at Burger Bench. Energized with coffee and food, we headed out again, and decided to make Doe Mountain our final hike of our trip.

The view from Doe Mountain

The view from Doe Mountain

After climbing up a short but steep hike to the top of this butte, we traversed to the far side and were presented with yet another gorgeous view of Sedona. Knowing this would be our last hike of the trip, we lingered again, enjoying the vibe. I had to do some business, ordering beer kegs for the upcoming weekend for the restaurant, but thoroughly enjoyed this place. Hardly anyone was up there, and we had it to ourselves for quite a while.

As the day got older, we had to get up and head down.

Heading down and home

Heading down and home

Even with the rain, Sedona was a hiker’s paradise. Although there were many places we didn’t get to see, we felt like we got our time’s worth.

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Laguna Meadow – A late winter family outing http://100peaks.com/2016/07/22/laguna-meadow-a-late-winter-family-outing/ http://100peaks.com/2016/07/22/laguna-meadow-a-late-winter-family-outing/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 01:27:38 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6194  

Heading through the forest to Laguna Meadow

Heading through the forest to Laguna Meadow

Back in February, it was a gorgeous winter day. There was a chill in the air, but spring was on its way. I carved a day out on the calendar away from Burger Bench. I wanted to take my family on a gentle hike so we could enjoy our time together without gasping our way up to a rocky peak. I chose Laguna Meadow, because I hadn’t been there since the early 2000s, and I remembered it being beautiful. I found some old pictures from back then:

Me at Water of the Woods, Laguna MeadowMe at Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Me at Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Water of the Woods, Laguna Meadow

Funny how lush and green it was back then. I remember that we were using Afoot and Afield in San Diego as a guide and were aiming for Cuyamaca Reservoir and changed our destination at the last minute, opting instead for Laguna Meadow.

This time, I was prepared, having memorized the route and trailhead information. We stopped at the Mount Laguna visitor center and enjoyed their displays before driving to the trailhead by the Laguna Campground.

A nice shady forest

A nice shady forest

There was a nice cool bite to the air, but the skies were a crystal blue. The trail was easy to follow through the trees, and then the meadow opened up.

The trail to Laguna Meadow

The trail to Laguna Meadow

It’s hard to explain the feeling of coming upon a meadow. One minute, you’re on a shady trail and the next you feel you’ve found something special. The Kumeyaay thought this area was special, too, since there are several mortero sites that we discovered along the trail.

In Laguna Meadow

In Laguna Meadow

We hiked along the Big Laguna Trail, past Little Laguna, which was completely dry. We enjoyed our time, seeing the ground squirrels frolic in the grass and the red tailed hawks soar high above us. We stopped for snacks here and there, spending a long time at Big Laguna. This was our first time out for an extended period as a family after opening up Burger Bench, and we needed it.

Enjoying a view of Big Laguna

Enjoying a view of Big Laguna

We watched the equestrians enjoy the meadow and chatted with hikers as they passed. The breeze was gentle and the scent of the grasses and trees was great.

Big Laguna Meadow

Big Laguna Meadow

When we stripped away all of the complexity that had been upon us for the past few months, we were simply a family, spending quality time together.

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The Thrill of Discovery http://100peaks.com/2016/04/18/the-thrill-of-discovery/ http://100peaks.com/2016/04/18/the-thrill-of-discovery/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 15:38:25 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6182 Lately, my blog posts have been few and far between. As many of you know, I have been a little busy with a hamburger restaurant in Escondido.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been taking some time out and enjoying the outdoors. Just not as much as I’d like. In my spare time, I’ve been doing my usual daydreaming about interesting places. I scour the maps, zoom in and out of Google Earth, searching for an interesting place. Could I camp there? Is there too much bushwhacking? Is it as flat enough for a tent as it looks?

Recently, my friend and I had reservations to stay overnight in a cabin at William Heise County Park. Unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trek down to San Diego. I decided to go anyway and have a nice quiet time in one of my favorite areas of San Diego and visit two places that were on my list to explore.

I have done it before, visiting someplace off the trails; just an interesting feature that looked promising on the map. One time I went to Cemetery Hill and enjoyed the best sunset I had ever seen.

A lovely campsite in the wild

A lovely campsite in the wild

Another time, I went on a short overnight trip with a friend, returning to Sunshine Mountain, squeezing our tents into small areas between the chapparal. The stars were glorious and we saw plenty of wildlife.

A tent or two can fit almost anywhere

A tent or two can fit almost anywhere

This time, I first went off-trail, bushwhacking from time to time, but made it to a secluded spot with rolling grass. Our reasonably wet winter and spring had been kind to our backcountry. While many of our seasonal ponds and streams were still just damp, the grasslands were in excellent shape.

I pitched my tent and relaxed, enjoying the solitude and the views. I may have even dozed off for a bit. I heard nothing but the healthy afternoon breeze rattling the tent from time to time.

I found no signs of humans at this campsite

I found no signs of humans at this campsite

Once the sun started going down, I headed to the cabin at William Heise. I was instantly struck by the clamor of my neighbors. Playing loud music caused them all to shout at each other as I carried my gear inside and it wasn’t really quiet until about 11PM.

It was a really nice cabin and I slept well, but my heart was out in the grasslands from earlier in the day.

I lazily woke up, sleeping in for the first time since I could remember. After cooking breakfast on my backpacking stove, I headed out, eager to explore a new area, in hopes for the solitude that I knew I needed.

I found my entry point along a dirt road and headed in and up. I climbed some steep slopes, said hello to some grazing cows, and started following the twin tracks of a ranch road. The whole area was beautiful. I could camp almost anywhere, just as long as I was far enough back off of the road.

I searched for morteros, finding none. I sat on a rock in the shade and enjoyed the quiet, my eyes following the path of a low-flying red-tailed hawk as it searched for a squirrel to catch.

It was as beautiful as I thought it would be

It was as beautiful as I thought it would be

“I will come back here,” I thought. I wanted to see the stars from here and listen to nothing except the breeze.

Overall, I was filled with an elation, a sense of discovery. My curiosity caused me to seek out these places. I had scanned the maps for a way in and it paid off. Here I was, again sitting in an amazing place, all to myself.

I usually don’t write about my failed attempts to access a peak or meadow, or how the place I had in mind didn’t turn out to be a place worth visiting, but there are plenty. What was nice about this trip was that I was two for two. Both places were as amazing in person as they were in my head and on the map.

And for 24 hours, I didn’t speak to a soul, except for the ranger at William Heise County Park.

And that was exactly what I needed.

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The outdoors, escapism, and selling hamburgers http://100peaks.com/2016/01/27/the-outdoors-and-escapism/ http://100peaks.com/2016/01/27/the-outdoors-and-escapism/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 04:53:08 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6172 Good morning, Cleveland National Forest

Good morning, Cleveland National Forest

As I pass the one month mark since Burger Bench has opened, my urge to have an outdoor adventure has increased incredibly.

The restaurant has been very successful, beyond what we could have hoped for. Our customers have been friendly and generous in their reviews. As can be expected, my entire days are filled with the restaurant as we learn our processes and work out the kinks. On some of the days, I both entered and exited the restaurant without seeing the sun, except through the skylights and windows of our restaurant’s dining room.

I am still managing the bits of remaining construction, the daily ordering of food, beer, and supplies, process improvement, employees, vendor relations, costing, and the vast array of small emergencies and decisions that emerge throughout every day.

I knew it would be like this. There was even an article written about how hard it would be, but it still doesn’t make it any easier.

As I browse social media and nearly form tears from the beautiful outdoor pictures I see, and in the few minutes I have before I fall asleep at night, I think about what the outdoors means to me. Some people describe a sort of magical effect that nature has on people. I understand that, but for me, it is something clearly defined.

It is escapism at its finest. The definition of escapism is “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”

People do many things for the purpose of escaping. We watch TV, listen to music, see movies, read, go to concerts, hang out with friends, do yoga, pilates, sports, surfing, drugs, drink, buy things, go fishing, skiing, skydiving, hunting, dine out, write, knit, gamble, crossword, sudoku, meditate, cycling, among other things. We do all sorts of things to place a pause on the increasingly complex world we live in.

I choose to hike. Whether it’s a short hike in the canyon with my dog or a multi-day backpacking trip outside of cell coverage, I hike to escape. It is a specific mechanism to remove the daily distractions and pressure by causing me to forget the endless tasks that I yet have to do. It’s sort of a temporary ritual of minimalism; a head-clearing.

During hiking, my existence on this planet is stripped down to keeping my feet moving at the right pace for the slope while being aware of my thirst, hunger, fatigue, and balance. All this in a state of allowing myself to be open to amazement. I want to marvel at the natural world, at the tracks in the dirt, the hawk feather in the grass, the view of a green valley below, the scented breeze, and the startling color gradient in the sky.

As I do this, I relax and remember to feel myself breathing.

Sure, there’s a little magic in the experience, but at the heart, it’s escapism. And it’s OK. It’s here for a reason. Escapism exists because our ancestors lived a simpler life. They perceived longer days and a razor focus on survival. Now, every second of every day is typically assigned to something specific. We need that regular taste of simplicity.

So, as my life as a restaurant owner continues, I can wax philosophical about my reasons for hiking, but as I begin to delegate some of my responsibilities, my eyes are on the prize. A short hike in the morning. An actual day off here and there. A backpacking trip.

My next step is to sacrifice some sleep and get some outdoors time. From there, it can only get better.

Sometimes, this is enough

Sometimes, this is enough

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New 100 Peaks T-shirts available http://100peaks.com/2015/11/17/new-100-peaks-t-shirts-available/ http://100peaks.com/2015/11/17/new-100-peaks-t-shirts-available/#respond Tue, 17 Nov 2015 23:59:15 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6119 I Like 2 Hike t-shirt

I Like 2 Hike t-shirt

Hello happy readers, I’ve designed another t-shirt over at Adayak.com that’s now for sale.

Show off your propensity for strapping on some boots and carrying several pounds of water over great distances by proudly wearing one of these beauties.

All 100 Peaks’ styles can be found at Adayak.com

If you are interested in different colors or sizes, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Thank you for reading.

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100 peaks in 100 hours – Two of San Diego’s best endurance athletes attempt the impossible http://100peaks.com/2015/11/04/100-peaks-in-100-hours-two-of-san-diegos-best-endurance-athletes-attempt-the-impossible/ http://100peaks.com/2015/11/04/100-peaks-in-100-hours-two-of-san-diegos-best-endurance-athletes-attempt-the-impossible/#comments Wed, 04 Nov 2015 19:52:16 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6096 100 peaks in 100 hours, is it possible?

100 peaks in 100 hours, is it possible?

“Can you clarify what you mean by non-stop?”

We sat in a coffee shop, respective laptops open before us. I felt old and slow, sitting next to Nick Hollon’s lanky frame, which bristled with energy and focus.

He had emailed me, wanting to obtain some insight on tackling San Diego’s 100 peaks. He hadn’t realized that I had recently attended one of the Gut Check Fitness workouts which he had trained. I had returned from 3 years in Santa Barbara with a shaved head and a beard, looking nothing like my videos and previous selfies. It had been a great workout. I knew who he was, though. News of his exploits had gotten out, as we shared the same friends, mostly from Gut Check Fitness.

The most impressive of Nickademus Hollon’s exploits, to me, is his finishing the Barkley Marathons in 2013. Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait. This race has bettered one the toughest people I know. Since it’s beginnings in 1986, there have only been 16 finishers. Nick is one of them. He also completed the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2009. At age 19. You can Google that one, too.

What information could I possibly give him on hiking 100 peaks in San Diego? After all, I started this blog in 2009 and still haven’t completed all 100 of them. I’ve only done 71 to date.

Nick Hollon on Morena Butte

Nick Hollon on Morena Butte

“How fast does a dedicated person typically complete the list?” he asked.

“Retired people can get them done in a year, but it varies widely. I’m still not done with all 100.” I answered.

“How about non-stop?” He asked.

This is about the time when I asked him to clarify what he meant by non-stop.

He grinned.

Nick Hollon somewhere between Spain and France

Nick Hollon somewhere between Spain and France

It turns out, he was making the entirety of San Diego County a giant endurance race. He wanted to summit all of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks List. Without stopping. Sure, he’d be supported, so he could do point-to-points. He’d be able to catch a few winks slumped in the back seat of a car that drove from one trailhead to another. But pretty much non-stop.

This is when I realized why he reached out to me. He knew how long I had stared at maps of San Diego County and dreamed. He knew how many hours I’d spent on the road in the early darkness, aiming for remote peaks few people visit. He knew how many miles I’d hiked, both on well-defined trails, as well as zig-zagging up desert hillsides, dodging cacti along the way. How do you scale that lengthy exploration into a non-stop ultra-marathon? I thought about it for a few seconds.

“Two weeks,” was my initial response. In my mind were the countless miles of cross-country desert peaks and driving on dirt roads around the county. Sure, some time could be shaved off for some of the drive-up peaks, like Boucher Hill and Palomar Mountain, but, glancing back to the map before us, what we called “The Villager Group” would take a large chunk of time, just by itself.

Villager-Peak-from-Rabbit-Peak

Villager Peak from Rabbit Peak

To be thorough, we started sifting through the peaks, and realized a lot of them could be grouped together in 24-hour increments. We went through every peak and thought about loops vs point-to-point. Having organized car support would be crucial, as well as communication while on the trail. Knowing his level of athleticism and drive, I shaved his time down to 7 days. One week, to drive and run all over the county and connect the dots of all the peaks.

“You’re awesome, Nick, a machine, but seriously, there are a lot of challenging desert miles with route-finding required. I don’t even know if 7 days is possible. But if anyone could do it, it’s you.”

And that’s how we left it. A list of 100 peaks, broken up into 7 days of running.

We corresponded online for a while, until I saw his post on the Team Inov 8 blog. He wanted to do 100 peaks in 100 hours. I did the math. In just over 4 days, they wanted to do what I thought would be pretty challenging in 7 days.

He has paired up with Mike Trevino, another tremendous endurance athlete, who finished second in the Race Across America in 2004. They’ve added up some numbers. It would be 408 miles and 180,000′ feet of elevation gain. And loss.

Mike Trevino above the clouds

Mike Trevino above the clouds

Nick said it himself in his blog post about the 100 in 100, “Even on flat ground, that would be an accomplishment.” I completely agree.

I think about Leor Pantilat’s Supported John Muir Trail Fastest Known Time in 2014, in which he did 223 miles in just under 80 hours. Sure, the elevation was higher, but that was all on trail. The John Muir trail is very well-defined, but the route to Rosa Benchmark or Mile High in Anza-Borrego won’t be so easy. Leor averaged under 3 miles an hour, and came up with a record. Mike and Nick would have to average 4 miles an hour over cross-country desert routes.

If anyone could do 100 peaks in 100 hours, it would be Nick and Mike. In the post I mention above, Nick and Mike reference “roughly” 100 hours, which gives them some wiggle room, and they won’t be counting drive time. But still.

What we called the Villager Group would likely take most of a day. And that’s just 5 out of 100 peaks. Then there’s the San Ysidro Mountains, which contain 10 of the peaks, but the terrain is completely unforgiving.

The view to The Thimble and Ysidro from White Benchmark

The view to The Thimble and Ysidro from White Benchmark

Whatever the outcome to their endeavor, I will no doubt be impressed at what they will accomplish.

What is also pretty cool is that their attempt at 100 peaks in 100 hours is designed to raise awareness for an organization called Nutrition Science Initiative, which, according to their site, “is to reduce the individual, social, and economic costs of obesity, diabetes, and their related diseases by improving the quality of science in nutrition and obesity research.” I can get behind this.

They are still working out some of the details, such as logistics and how to donate. For now, the best place to get information is their 100 in 100 website.

Raising awareness of the San Diego’s 100 peak list, going after a crazy feat of human endurance, as well as getting exposure and support for scientific research? I’m hooked. I’ll help any way I can.

I wish them the best.

Nick on a ridgeline, doing what he does

Nick on a ridgeline, doing what he does

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100 Peaks makes the Union Tribune http://100peaks.com/2015/10/14/100-peaks-makes-the-union-tribune/ http://100peaks.com/2015/10/14/100-peaks-makes-the-union-tribune/#comments Wed, 14 Oct 2015 04:43:15 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6081 Me, strolling on a bridge - Photo by Rick Nocon

Me, strolling on a bridge – Photo by Rick Nocon

For those that already haven’t seen it in my other social media streams, I was featured in a nice article in the San Diego Union Tribune. It was a fun interview with Doug Williams, and had a great time shooting with the photographer at Penasquitos Canyon.

After he took his last picture, I didn’t waste any time and took a two-hour hike in the canyon.

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/oct/13/restaurateur-hiking-trekking-outdoors/

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Granite Springs Trail Camp – Cuyamaca moon http://100peaks.com/2015/09/27/granite-springs-trail-camp-cuyamaca-moon/ http://100peaks.com/2015/09/27/granite-springs-trail-camp-cuyamaca-moon/#comments Sun, 27 Sep 2015 01:57:03 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=6126 Oakzanita Peak Panorama

Oakzanita Peak Panorama

Summer had just come to an end, but it sure didn’t feel like it. It was sweltering in the lowlands and in the past I’d headed to the hills to get some relief. Since my daughter had a day off on Monday, we decided to go backpacking. We had already backpacked to Arroyo Seco in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, but had been curious about Granite Springs Trail Camp, which was a bit longer in mileage and more strenuous in elevation gain. Sophia was stronger than ever, so we packed our backpacks gave it a shot.

It was also the night that the blood moon would rise from the east. Being in the Cuyamacas would grant us a great view of the show, which was a total eclipse of a super full moon. The redness of the eclipse moon gives it the ‘blood’ name and the closeness of the moon to the earth gives it ‘super’ status and guarantees a brighter and larger moon.

I checked the weather and my app indicated that it would be 81F in Descanso, which is how I tend to gauge Cuyamaca’s temperature. However, once we got to the Green Valley trailhead, it was a solid 92F. It was already about 3PM, so I stalled a little bit, chatting with the friendly rangers and walking around the day use area. I was hoping the weather would cool down a little bit, but I also wanted to make sure that we made it to Granite Springs before dark.

At the Green Valley trailhead

At the Green Valley trailhead

We hit the trail and were immediately blasted with heat from the yellow dusty trail. We took our time, enjoying the shade where we could. It was a little steeper than I thought it would be, and Sophia was feeling the weight of her backpack. She had chosen to carry more on this trip, as she was acutely aware of the fact that I tend to cram my backpack so full of things for two people, that we often camp without a stove. This was the case this time, too. She was also carrying Sparky, the mascot for her classroom.

Heading toward the Harvey Moore Trail

Heading toward the Harvey Moore Trail

The trail climbed and climbed before East Mesa came into view. It was still pretty far off, so we took frequent water breaks where we could find shade. We could start to see the familiar peaks of Cuyamaca in the distance. We stopped for a longer snack break on a log. As we scanned the emerging grasslands, an enormous turkey vulture silently soared above us to check us out.

Stonewall Peak and Juaquapin Creek from the Harvey Moore Trail

Stonewall Peak and Juaquapin Creek from the Harvey Moore Trail

Oakzanita Peak from the Trail

Oakzanita Peak from the Trail

Time for a snack in the shade, almost to East Mesa

Time for a snack in the shade, almost to East Mesa

We finally made it to East Mesa and were treated with a view of rolling grasslands. We saw what we assumed were ravens, as well as some red tailed hawks looking for their afternoon meals. The trail guided us around a large hill and headed directly into the grasslands. We enjoyed watching all of the stink beetles, sensing our presence and sticking their rear ends high into the air. Occasionally, we’d see a flash of movement and spy a horned lizard sitting still in the grass, hoping we wouldn’t see it.

Almost to the grasslands of the East Mesa

Almost to the grasslands of the East Mesa

Entering the East Mesa

Entering the East Mesa

In the East Mesa, with Stonewall, Middle and Cuyamaca Peaks behind

In the East Mesa, with Stonewall, Middle and Cuyamaca Peaks behind

Horned Lizard number one

Horned Lizard number one

Horned Lizard number two

Horned Lizard number two

Once the East Mesa Highpoint came into view, we knew we were close to Granite Springs. The shadows were getting long and the heat wasn’t quite as oppressive as before. Sophia was tiring out, so I grabbed her backpack and carried it over one shoulder for the rest of the way. I noticed some cowboy boot prints on the trail and wondered where they came from.

East Mesa highpoint, almost to Granite Springs Trail Camp

East Mesa highpoint, almost to Granite Springs

Just before making it to camp, we came upon the owner of the boots. He was hiking with his horse and looking for water. I let him know I wasn’t sure if there was any water around, since we brought our own. He saw some in the spring at Granite Springs, but wasn’t happy with the quality. He was going to keep looking around and camp just outside the park, in Cleveland National Forest.

We made it to camp and dropped our packs. We were delighted to see permanent pit toilets. We toured the campsites, settling on number one after noticing that number two didn’t have logs to sit on and number three appeared to have a large colony of fire ants in it.

In the failing light, we set up our tents and had our dinner. Once the sun went down, we walked to the eastern edge of the campsite and watched the moon rise over the Lagunas. I set up my GoPro and we chatted away, watching the stars and enjoying a mild night out. We had the campsite to ourselves and it was very quiet. Occasionally, we’d see headlights of a car driving across the canyon on Deer Park Road.

Watching the blood moon rise from Granite Springs Trail Camp

Watching the blood moon rise from Granite Springs Trail Camp

We hung out in our tent, playing cards and enjoying each other’s uninterrupted company. Before long, she was ready to sleep and I retrieved my camera and brought it back in, not knowing how the time lapse would turn out. It was like daylight, once the eclipse was over. No headlamps or flightlights were needed to walk around the campsite at night. As I woke up throughout the night, I had to check my phone to make sure that the light I saw wasn’t the sun rising. It was just the full super moon illuminating the countryside.

We woke up to what sounded like one dog barking. Then more joined it. Before we knew it, it sounded like over 100 turkeys clucking through the trees. It wasn’t quite light yet, so we enjoyed the warmth of our bags until the sun was about to shine.

Sunrise at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Sunrise at Granite Springs

Soph with her GoPro

Soph with her GoPro

Our campsite #1 at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Our campsite #1 at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Enjoying our morning at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Enjoying our morning at Granite Springs Trail Camp

Soph at home in the outdoors

Soph at home in the outdoors

We had some breakfast and packed our bags, enjoying the early fall morning sunlight. It was aiming to be another warm day, so we had to get going. I presented the situation to Sophia. She originally had her eyes on summiting Oakzanita Peak, but, in light of the warm and challenging day before, I wanted to confirm that’s what she still wanted. Today was going to be longer than the day before, but without as much gain.

“Let’s do Oakzanita Peak,” she said. “I want to do it.”

We had plenty of water and daylight, so we headed out of Granite Springs and followed East Mesa Fire Road southwest. Before long, we encountered the cowboy’s camp. His beautiful white horse was tethered under a tree while his tack, stove, and other supplies were laid out on a fallen log. The Pine Valley Creek drainage dropped off behind him. It was a great site, just over the border in Cleveland National Forest, outside of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We chatted a bit and then were on our way.

East Mesa Fire Road

Morning alongEast Mesa Fire Road from Granite Springs

East Mesa Fire Road rolled along as we chatted about what we saw and whatever came to mind. It’s this type of trail time with my daughter that I cherish. We scan for wildlife. We inspect insects. We talk about everything under the sun. We get into a rhythm; the hiking takes no effort. Our minds flutter from thought to thought, unencumbered by distractions. We’ve had many heart-to-hearts this way, and I hope the words we share continue to evolve as my daughter matures.

After passing where I left the road to summit Sugg Peak, we made it to the Oakzanita Peak Trail, which skirts along a meadow and leads up to the manzanita-covered base of the mountain.

Heading up the Oakzanita Peak Trail

Heading up the Oakzanita Peak Trail

We stopped at the intersection of the Oakzanita Peak Trail and the Upper Descanso Creek Trail. I again gave Sophia a way out. Summiting Oakzanita Peak would add 1.2 miles and ~240′ of gain and loss to the day. Sitting under the shade of a large sumac bush, with a mouth full of her snack, she firmly pointed the way up the mountain. OK, then. We hydrated and headed up the mountain. Unencumbered by our larger packs, we practically sprinted up the mountain. She was excited to be adding another peak to her list of peaks.

Almost to the top of Oakzanita Peak

Almost to the top of Oakzanita Peak

She has learned to navigate rocky trails. She’ll hike for hours without complaining. She has developed the patient mindset for hiking. She’s never bored, as she’s developed strategies to keep her entertained. She’s always noticing something interesting along the trail and pointing it out to me, a skill I’ve passed on to her. She knows to stop and drink water frequently and when to eat when she’s hungry.

We reached the top and had an excellent view of Cuyamaca Peak and Japacha Peak, Middle Peak, Stonewall Peak, Sugg Peak, and East Mesa High Point. We could see where we camped at Arroyo Seco and the face of El Cajon Mountain. She was glowing with her sense of accomplishment. She took our her GoPro (an older hand-me-down) and took dozens of pictures. The pride on her face was evident as she scanned the distance we had covered in the last two days. I am sure it was evident on my face, too.

Japacha, Cuyamaca, Middle, North, and Stonewall Peaks from Oakzanita Peak

Japacha, Cuyamaca, Middle, North, and Stonewall Peaks from Oakzanita Peak

East Mesa and the East Mesa High Point from Oakzanita Peak

East Mesa and the East Mesa High Point from Oakzanita Peak

Soph, enjoying the view from the top of Oakzanita Peak

Soph, enjoying the view from the top of Oakzanita Peak

After a leisurely amount of time spent on top, we made it back down to our packs and found that she had rested her backpack on the nozzle of her bladder, emptying all of her water onto the shady dry soil. This is a mistake many of us have made, sometimes even in the backs of our cars. I had plenty of water, so it wasn’t a dangerous mistake. I am glad she learned it.

We started making our way down to Descanso Creek, which seemed to take forever, and then met up with the East Mesa Fire Road again. I could tell she was tired and hot, as was I, but we still had a ways to go on the East Side Trail before we would find our car at Green Valley. She grew quiet and all of my jests fell flat. The last 10 minutes were challenging for her, but I encouraged her to dig deep. We’ve all felt that last mile on the way back to the car and have learned how to deal with that discomfort, and she learned this day.

We made it back to the car, started talking about lunch and our next hiking adventure, so all was well.

In two days, we hiked 11 miles with a decent amount of gain in the heat. We had a great time watching the moon and sharing time with each other.

I learned that my daughter is a very strong person. And so did she.

Soph at Oakzanita Peak

Soph at Oakzanita Peak

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Solving a 1904 Mystery – Is Elizabeth Pass misplaced on maps? http://100peaks.com/2015/09/15/solving-a-1904-mystery-is-elizabeth-pass-misplaced-on-maps/ http://100peaks.com/2015/09/15/solving-a-1904-mystery-is-elizabeth-pass-misplaced-on-maps/#comments Tue, 15 Sep 2015 05:50:30 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=5956 Where was this picture taken?

Where was this picture taken?

You’re going to laugh. I am up to my sleuthing again.

Recently I posted a lengthy blog post on recreating my 1987 trip to the Tunemah Trail based on photographs and sketchy evidence. Using Google Earth and other maps, I was able to piece together and solve the mystery of that trip.  

In *this* blog post, I solved a new mystery and figured out that Elizabeth Pass in the Sierra Nevada is mislabeled on topographical maps. Not that anyone else cares, but for me, this was a fun find. I promise this is a lot shorter than my last research post. It’s still long, though.

The Setup

This time, I was browsing my old photos for a Throwback Thursday #tbt Instagram post when I came across the photo above. I had assumed this was from one of my several weekend trips with the scouts back in the 1980’s. We typically went to the Southern California mountain ranges, like San Jacinto or the San Bernardino Mountains. I wanted to figure out where this was when I noticed the sign. I zoomed in on the photo and read the inscription.

"Stewart Edward White Camp - Locale of the Pass"

“Stewart Edward White Camp – Locale of the Pass”

I had no recollection of this.

From the picture, I had the following information:

  • It was on a Boy Scout backpacking trip in the 1980’s
  • At least 5 tents are in the photo, one was George’s, a father of one of my troop-mates, the rest were our troop’s tents
  • Approximately 10 people were on this trip
  • It was located at a place called Stewart Edward White Camp
  • It was somewhere near a pass

I googled “Stewart Edward White Camp” with and without quotation marks. Surprisingly, nothing came up that matched what I was looking for. I then researched who White was and found out he was a prolific author back in the early 1900’s, writing  adventure books mainly about the outdoors. After more research, I realized that he wrote a book called The Pass, published in 1904. Since his books are in the public domain in the US, I was able to find a free copy online and started reading.

It read a little like a blog post of a trip report. I skimmed the content looking for location information. The first paragraph mentions Big Meadow Trail, which I was sure wouldn’t be very helpful. I was focusing on Southern California and not getting any hits. I found Big Meadows all over the place, from the Lake Tahoe Basin to the Domelands area in the Southern Sierra, but I hadn’t been to any of them, except the one near the Tunemah Trail. But we hadn’t had that many people on that trip. I had also camped at Big Wet Meadow in 1984 on my Sierra Trip to Mount Whitney, but I didn’t think that was it. So I continued to read.

He described Big Meadow in detail, but it could be anywhere, typical of any high Sierra meadow. In the book, White gets a tip from a ranger at Big Meadow that there is truly beautiful and remote country up near Roaring River.

“Somehow the names fascinated me – Roaring River, forking into Cloudy and Deadman’s Cañons, beneath Table and Milestone Mountains in the Great Western Divide. It is a region practically unvisited.” – The Pass, 1904

These were places I could find and found them easily. I decided to follow his explorations on topo and google earth maps starting at the Rowell Meadow Trail through Sugarloaf Valley and into the Roaring River drainage, to see if I could get a sense of where the camp in the picture was.

It was at this point that I started to realize that the picture was likely taken on my 1984 Sierra Trip to Mount Whitney, since we had traveled through Cloudy Canyon to get to Colby Pass. In fact, I had seen Deadman’s Canyon from our trip, as I discovered  below, by researching Google Earth and Panoramio.

Deadman's Canyon from Moraine Ridge 1984

Deadman’s Canyon from Moraine Ridge 1984

Deadman Canyon from Moraine Ridge - danmaxwell

Deadman’s Canyon from Moraine Ridge – danmaxwell – 2013

So I researched the places where we had camped on our trip:

1984 Whitney Plan Elevation Profile

1984 Whitney Plan Elevation Profile

The two main places that I could see would be either Scaffold Meadow or Big Wet Meadow.

The book then describes, much like one of my trip reports, their attempts to get over the Kings-Kaweah Divide. Ultimately, they go over Elizabeth Pass, which White named after his wife, who was along on this trip, at the end of Deadman’s Canyon, making their way down a challenging ledge into the bottom of the Kaweah River Valley to find the trail. Overall, it’s a nice little book, if one can ignore the unintentional racist remarks in two parts of the book.

In a wonderful chapter called The Permanent Camp, they regroup after two failed attempts to cross the divide and camp for over a week at what is now called Scaffold Meadows, so I am certain that is where my picture at the top of this blog post was taken.

One mystery solved.

The Other Mystery

I finished the book and thought about how exciting it was. Stewart Edward White, his wife Elizabeth, his friend Wes, two dogs, and some pack animals had quite an adventure in a part of the Sierra that I had been. Something bothered me, though.

I followed their trip, all of the way up until Elizabeth Pass, but then I could not see how they got down into the valley below. I realize that this was 1904, so certain liberties could have been taken while writing the book, so the truth could have been bent a bit. However, everything up until that point lined up, so why wouldn’t his ascent over Elizabeth Pass, the name of the book, and his descent be correct as well?

Looking down Elizabeth Pass - A jumble of mountain peaks

Looking down Elizabeth Pass – A jumble of mountain peaks

This is the picture that made me pause. I scoured Google Earth all the way down what is now labeled Elizabeth Pass and could not find where the photo above was taken.

These next two photos are what made me think I was onto something:

Green Ledge Above Tamarack Lake

“The thin black line across the face of the cliff is the ledge by which we descended”

Greed Ledge from Google Earth

Green Ledge from Google Earth

I had come across some proof that the way they descended, and the Elizabeth Pass they mentioned, was different than what is labeled on our topo maps. This green ledge was over Tamarack Lake, nowhere near the Elizabeth Pass labeled on USGS maps.

I went back and reread the sections about their attempts to find a pass over the Kings-Kaweah Divide.

Attempt #1

On their first attempt, they rode to the end of Deadman’s Canyon where, “There, to my delight, I discovered an old miner’s trail leading leftward of the falls through the greenery, which turned out to be tall brush.” Before long, he reaches an old miner’s camp and then reaches the end of the snow, and writes one of my favorite passages:

“It forced home a feeling of the discrepancy between what a man can conceive and what he can do.  Here I can leap by one eyesight to the valley of Tuolumne, yet it would take me about three toilsome weeks to make the notion good.” The Pass, 1904

He gets to Coppermine Peak and decides that the lower pass he sees to the east, at the head of Cloudy Canyon is going to be the way to go.

Note exhibits A and B below which tell the story of this attempt:

First Attempt A

First Attempt A

First Attempt B

First Attempt B

“In the process, he [Wes] reported an interesting view and a fine glacier lake.” Wes had explored to the west and apparently found Big Bird Lake:

Wes's picture from Big Bird Lake

“The lake that Wes discovered”

Big Bird Lake from Google Earth

Big Bird Lake from Google Earth

Attempt #2

They headed back to where Deadman’s and Cloudy Canyons met and headed up Cloudy Canyon, sure that they would find a way over the divide and down into the valley. They went up the east side of the canyon, past Glacier Lake and up and over what they called Bloody Pass, which is now called Triple Divide Pass. They were sure that the way down to the valley would be easy once they got there. They were wrong. They got stopped by a cliff before the large glacial lake below. They nearly killed their horses and themselves in the process, just having to reverse the way they came and camp a cold and rainy night in the higher reaches of Cloudy Canyon before they returned to Scaffold Meadows, making a pleasant permanent camp for about 10 days.

Second Attempt

Second Attempt

The irony of their disappointment is that even if they had made it to that larger lower lake, they would have been in for a surprise of a 1,200′ drop into the Kern-Kaweah Canyon. After their night out, White sends the others back to Scaffold Meadows, while he decides to go back to near where he went during attempt #1 and start forming a trail down.

“”I will climb the ridge again,” said I, “and look for a route over from the other canon [Deadman’s Canyon]. You can make camp at the meadow where the two canons come together [Scaffold Meadow], and I will join you about dark.”

Attempt #3

Having gone back up to Coppermine Peak, he looks for a way down:

The Third Attempt preparation

The Third Attempt preparation

He prepares a trail to the trees and figures they’ll figure out a way down once they get there. He heads back to Scaffold Meadows and camps. The next morning, the whole team goes back up Deadman’s Canyon, “The old trail to the prospect holes part way up the mountains we found steep and difficult, but not dangerous.” They reshod a horse on the trail and “Thanks to my careful scouting of ten days before, we had no trouble at all in reaching the “saddle.””

They were happy to have reached the top and, in a pivotal moment of celebration, christened this pass, Elizabeth Pass.

“In the meantime, however, having finished our hardtack and raisins, we poured about two spoonfuls of whiskey over a cupful of snow, and solemnly christened this place Elizabeth Pass, after Billy. […]It proved to be a little over twelve thousand feet in elevation.”

It’s interesting to note that the pass that I propose to be the ‘real’ Elizabeth Pass is about 12,275′, and the one labeled on the USGS maps is about 11,375′. Another notable section:

“We cached a screw-top can in the monument. It contained a brief statement of names and dates, named the pass, and claimed for Billy the honor of being the first woman to traverse it.”

They made it down to the trees and made a “Side Hill Camp” as is the title of the next chapter. From there, they went down the green ledges in the photos below:

"A misstep would have tragic consequences"

“A misstep would have tragic consequences”

Google Earth view from the green ledges

Google Earth view from the green ledges

Third Attempt - Over Elizabeth Pass

Third Attempt – Over Elizabeth Pass

Having passed the hardest part, they made it down to the lake and ultimately down to the valley and found the trail.

The Question: Why is Elizabeth Pass misplaced on the USGS maps?

The Question

The Question

My possible answer has to do with the fidelity of the old maps and the establishment of an easier trail in later years to the west.

Here are a series of USGS Topographical maps from 1903 to 1988:

1903 Map of Elizabath Pass

1903 Map of Elizabeth Pass

This 1903 version shows Elizabeth Pass in a large font, and it’s hard to be sure where it is, but there is a gap in the border right where the pass could be by the copper mine. However, it’s likely placed too far to the west already.

1905 Map of Elizabath Pass

1905 Map of Elizabeth Pass

This 1905 map above actually shows the trail that White drew at the back of his book (see below). It erroneously goes straight up to the divide, rather than angling to the mine, as shown on White’s map below. The label for Elizabeth Pass has been moved to the west, possibly to reference the portion of the newly added trail that crosses the divide. Later mapmakers will assume it is to reference the easier trail that passes underneath it.

White's Elisabeth Pass Map

White’s Elizabeth Pass Map

1956 Map of Elizabath Pass.jpg

1956 Map of Elizabeth Pass.jpg

The 1956 and 1988 maps show Elizabeth Pass where we now know it.

1988 Map of Elizabath Pass

1988 Map of Elizabeth Pass

Update: 09/15/2015

I forgot to add his trail notes from the back of the book, which is very telling. And I found a picture of the very area they descended.

Getting there:

Regular trail into Roaring River. Ascend west fork of river; proceed by monumented and blazed miner’s trail to cirque at end of canyon. When a short distance below the large falls, at a brown, smooth rock in creek bed, turn sharp to left-hand trail.

Climb mountain by miner’s trail to old mine camp. If snow is heavy above this point, work a way to large monument in gap. The east edge of snow is best.

The way down:

The way down from Elizabeth Pass - Photo by RoguePhotonic

The way down from Elizabeth Pass – Photo by RoguePhotonic

From gap follow monuments down first lateral red ridge to east. This ridge ends in a granite knob. The monuments lead at first on the west slope of the ridge, then down the backbone to within about two or three hundred yards of the granite knob.

Turn down east slope of ridge to the watercourse. Follow west side of watercourse to a good crossing, then down shale to grove of lodgepole pines. Cross west through trees to blaze in second grove to westward above lake. Follow monuments to slide rock on ledge. Best way across is to lash a log, as we did. Follow monuments to knoll west of first watercourse. Turn sharp to left down lateral ridge for about one hundred feet. Cross arroyo to west, and work down shale to round meadow.

From meadow proceed through clump of lodgepole pines to northwest. Keep well up on side hill, close under cliffs. Cross the rock apron in little canon above second meadow. Work down shale ridge to west side of the jump off below second meadow. At foot of jump off pass small round pond-hole. Strike directly toward stream, and follow monumented trail.

Update 09/16/2015

It has been brought to my attention that the book mentioned in this post, The Pass, was first published in 1906, not 1904 as I so confidently declared above. I also put the year in the name of this article. I have no idea where I got 1904, so I am going to make up a story like, perhaps Stewart, Billy and Wes made the trip detailed here in 1904 and the book wasn’t published until two years later. That seems feasible, right?

Also, it turns out that the USGS knew of the misplacement and were OK with it, as it was named “near the present pass to which common consent has shifted the name.”

US Forest Service Decision Card approved in 1928

US Forest Service Decision Card approved in 1928

Per Farquhar:

Stewart Edward White and Mrs. (Elizabeth Grant) White crossed from the head of Deadman Cañon in the Roaring River country to the Middle Fork of Kaweah River and named the pass for Mrs. White. (White: The Pass, 1906, pp. 157-158.) The account of their expedition was first published in Outing Magazine, March, April, May, 1906. By mistake, they crossed the divide a difficult route. The name is now generally accepted for the true pass, a little to the west of the one used by the Whites.

 Conclusion

What now? I guess I feel satisfied that I made a case that Elizabeth Pass has been misplaced on USGS maps. And that’s about it. That and I identified where the photo at the top of the post was taken.

I doubt the USGS will change the location of the pass, since there are likely a lot of references to this pass in a lot of maps and guidebooks. There’s an official process with the USGS, but I doubt I will even try. [It turns out they knew it all along. I didn’t really discover anything. See 09/16/2015 update above. But it was still an exciting riddle to solve.]

The exercise was fun in itself. As it should be.

Also, perhaps I now have another Sierra Nevada backpacking itinerary, ready to go, when I am ready.

And Craig, I hope you like this one, too.

 

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Felicita Creek – Being present in the outdoors http://100peaks.com/2015/09/09/felicita-creek-being-present-in-the-outdoors/ http://100peaks.com/2015/09/09/felicita-creek-being-present-in-the-outdoors/#comments Wed, 09 Sep 2015 18:44:21 +0000 http://100peaks.com/?p=5931 Bernardo Mountain from the bridge

Bernardo Mountain from the bridge

The other day, my daughter and I were walking our dog in the canyon near our home, like we do several times a day. It was hot, so we wanted to get our dog back inside as soon as possible. However, my daughter wanted to get some water, go back outside, and play in the dirt. She wanted to dig holes and play with mud. As she should.

I looked out over our dry, shadeless canyon and convinced her we should go elsewhere. I thought of somewhere new I could take her that wasn’t too far. I remembered my hike 6 years ago to Bernardo Mountain, on a similarly hot day. I remembered a shady creek alongside the trail that might work better than our hot and orange canyon. I hoped there was still water.

She agreed and we drove out to Lake Hodges. We had been wanting to go over the pedestrian bridge for a while, so we parked on the south side and walked over. We said hello to all the others that were hiking on the trail. Before long, we were looking for shade. I knew that we had to take a right at the fork to go up to the Bernardo Mountain trail and then go down to Felicita Creek, which was just to the right. A small sitting bench would be there.

Soph, at home in the outdoors

Soph, at home in the outdoors

However, the first shade we found was under a large oak tree to the left, off the main trail. We walked past a picnic table and saw Felicita Creek gurgling below. We had some water and snacks at the bench and then headed down to the creek, carefully avoiding poison oak. Confirming that there was no poison oak right along the creek, we rock-hopped to a shady spot, where my daughter immediately started digging. I found a comfortable rock to sit upon and chatted with my daughter as she continued her project of creating mud.

The idyllic setting

The idyllic setting

Since I’ve started opening a restaurant, it’s been hard to get outside as much. And when I have the opportunity to get outside, my thoughts drift to the endless details. The effort of learning a thousand new things has crumbled my attention span. This time was no different. I was thinking about our construction process, our hiring process, ordering supplies, etc. Sometimes a shadow covers my spirit when I think about how my opportunities to get outside will be reduced once the restaurant opens.

My mind gets so filled with a chorus of ideas and responsibilities that it is often hard to be present.

Just then, I noticed some clouds of silt spreading on the bottom of a large pool in front of me. I wondered what had caused it. As my daughter sang to herself next to a flowing part of Felicita Creek, I sat still and watched the microcosm of the creek come to life.

Felicita Creek, still flowing in Septermber during a dry year

Felicita Creek, still flowing in September during a dry year

Water striders skimmed the surface, looking for mosquito larvae. Small translucent fish, likely carp fingerlings, swam within the pools. Along the edges, some black tadpoles were starting their journey. After a few minutes more of quiet observation, the crayfish started emerging. Some small and grey, others proud and deep orange, they scoured the bottom of the creek for edibles and postured for the ideal hiding spots under rocks and leaves.

Butterflies, blue damselflies, and a large amber dragonfly made their appearance, humming through the pleasant breeze that flowed downward through the drainage. In the trees, black phoebes and spotted towhees hunted for small insects. Occasionally, a shadow would pass over us. A turkey vulture, looking for lunch, patrolled the skies.

I was hypnotized, and temporarily completely present. I had forgotten about the dissonant complexities that had been tapping on my skull for the past few months and was simply there, enjoying this little world that was Felicita Creek.

Felicita Creek - The living water

Felicita Creek – The living water

Occasionally, we heard voices of hikers, the rhythm of trail-running shoes, or grinding dirt under mountain bike tires on the sun-baked trail above, but those travellers were unaware of this little bubbling eden below.

We stayed there for about 3 hours, enjoying the place and moment. Sophia sang to herself while constructing her mud hill, and I just sat, watching and listening to the life around me, forgetting about my own complex one.

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