Know Where You’re Going!
Planning a hike? Know the trails you plan to take. If the park you start out in abuts another, be aware of your route (otherwise, you may find yourself doubling, even tripling the miles you plan to cover).
Wednesday morning’s hike started around 9:00 a.m. I planned to do a four and a half mile loop, starting and ending at Golden Eagle Way. I should be home by noon.
Up Golden Eagle Trail to Pleasanton Ridge I went, stopping by a bench overlooking the valley. Here is where Golden Eagle and Valley View Trails intersect. Mount Diablo is visible in the distance. The East Bay/Tri-Valley hills are in the foreground.
The trails are dusty, making it easy to spot the tell tale tracks of wild turkeys. They have three toes forward and one back. Lizards scurry along at the edge of the ravine. Golden grass and yellow thistle cover the open fields.
Down by the turtle pond an Anna’s Hummingbird is frolicking in the water. Overhead an acorn woodpecker tap tap taps, moving from cavity to cavity. Is he removing or hiding acorns? My hummingbird is gone now. In her place, are blue damselflies. How pretty.
Thermalito Trail and Beyond
I decide to take a different route back and eventually end up on the Thermalito Trail. Am I still in Augustin Bernal Park or am I in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park? I don’t know. Up hill, downhill, on mountain bike trails, past several dried up watering holes. Something tawny colored and quite large darts out of the bushes, directly across my path. It is an adult or sub-adult mountain lion. I’ve only ever encountered one once before. (S)he stops on a hilly overlook a short distance away. She stares curiously, unwavering. My naturalist’s training kicks in: I stop walking; I make myself look big (I raise my hands up above my head and do so a few times); I keep eye contact, remembering never to look away; I begin talking loudly to myself for there is no one else around. She isn’t budging and neither am I. Finally, she loses interest in the crazy lady talking to herself and saunters off. This is an amazing encouner and according to what I’ve learned in my training, I ought not to have been alone.
This hike ends up taking all day. I do not exit the second park until 4:30 p.m. and I still have to walk another two miles back to where I parked my car. Worse of all, half of it is up a steep hill. I have covered the entire Thermalito Trail and most of Oak Hill Trail too. I’ve hiked about eighteen miles and I am exhausted. This is my second mountain lion sighting and it has made my day.
Oh, you know I didn’t take these photographs. I was too busy keeping my eyes on my new found friend.
Mountain lion photos, credit: U.C. Santa Cruz, California; and Mountain Lion Foundation.
No, you should not have been alone! What an encounter.
I like to hike alone. It’s great for my creativity. I’m not really afraid of these guys. They’re making a comeback and us humans just need to know how to respect them. Number one is try to back away (I couldn’t because of the terrain) and number two is NEVER run because you may trigger their hunting instincts. Because it was neither dawn nor dusk, I wasn’t too worried. Mountain lions are diurnal, and do not really hunt in the broad daylight. (Unless of course, some crazy Jamaican (me) gives them reason to. And I was not about to do that!)
Wow! What a wonderful way to spend the day!
Yes, I love to wander and wonder but if I’m going to hike that many miles, I like to plan that. As it is, I ran out of water around 2:00 p.m. and mahn, was that sun hot! Good thing I had my “Paddington Bear hat,” as Brian calls it. Very disrespectful, that boy!