Water Story (Fairy Tale, Part II)

4 -life in a bromeliad poolLife on Bromeliadia Island

In the beginning, there was just the rain – rain all day and rain all night. Water ran along and beyond every hill and every canyon. On and on it ran until sea and sky merged together and became one. This is when Slender Bromeliad gave birth to River Mumma. Unlike her brothers and sisters, the ginger bromeliads, River Mumma, from her very inception, refused to stand still or to remain in one place.

When all of the ginger bromeliads’ water tanks were filled to capacity and brimming over, they would call out to one and all, telling us to come live with them in the cave. That is how I got there. Oh it was a magical place, filled with forests and rare understories. It was a perfect home for iguanas and mountain river fish and bromeliads.

Day and night, night and day, the ginger bromeliads and Slender Bromeliad collected rainwater. In the void, the chasm, the abyss of the caves, they all worked hard to keep Water Table level. While River Mumma roamed up and down the mountain and back, her mother and siblings stayed put, replenishing subterranean springs upon which Water Table balanced.

Life in Castle Cave

Rain collectors, as bromeliads are also known, arch their gutters into curves until they overlap to form tight, protective bowls. This is no easy feat and in fact, is really hard work. In a good year, they amass so much water that the creatures of the forest cannot help but find new ways to enjoy the bounty. Some of them even make their homes in the bromeliads’ slender stalks.

The first time Red Crab visited Slender Bromeliad’s castle, Slender Bromeliad was busy sunbathing. What seemed to be shutters to the castle turned out not to be shutters at all, but windows. And far from being closed, the windows were flung wide open. Red Crab climbed across the roof and down the wall near Slender Bromeliad. “Anybody home?” she called out. Slender Bromeliad ignored her. She inched closer sideways. “She can’t hear you,” came a voice from the gutters. Red Crab moved closer. “Are you a tourist or are you looking for a home?” “What?” responded Red Crab. “Are you looking to live here too?” asked Blue Damselfly, trying not to sound too hopeful.

The luxurious blue creature with iridescent wings was happy to see Red Crab. She knew she could count on her to provide nutrients for her larvae. She had, in fact, been waiting and hoping for company to arrive. When Blue Damselfly first made her way to the cave, Slender Bromeliad’s tank had been under the control of miscreants. Damselfly quickly put an end to that and all the miscreants disappeared. Now Blue Damselfly needed a new source of food for her larvae. Her host, Slender Bromeliad, was oblivious to all of this. She was too worried about her wandering progeny, River Mumma, who she heard, had taken the reflection of their cave and placed it firmly in Gold Mine for all to see. No good could possibly come of that.

The Troubles

River Mumma had become a main source of worry for Slender Bromeliad who no longer, if ever, had control over her last born. First there had been the business of all the fish children she spawned with iguana. Now there was the matter of her goings and comings and her late returns home. That had been okay during the rainy season. Now, however, a second season had arrived on the island and like River Muma, it too, seemed to be up to no good. The fish children that lived in the mountain streams were starting to talk. They said the sun was getting jealous of iguana and was getting hotter and hotter under the collar. They feared he might stop River Mumma from returning home one day. What they really were afraid of was that she would dry up, wither away, and then they too, would disappear. Worse yet, if she took the castle with her, the underground springs would dry up too.

5- magical, enchanted Pan IguanaThey blamed it all on iguana for having tempted River Mumma to flow on out of the cave. They said iguana had tricked her into spawning fish in the lower rivers and even further below, in the salt laden sea. Lately, they claimed, he had taken to running pipes along her banks just to keep her close. It was he, they said, that kept her tethered to the golden table that shimmered and glowed and threatened to capsize any day now. He put her at risk and now she was in everybody’s crosshairs. River Mumma, of course, didn’t see any of this their way. She was merely charting her own course and beating her own path. And as for Pan, where would he find pipes in a land without pipes? None of this made sense, unless of course, the place ahd been bewitched by the fairies. Had it?

 

If you wish to read Part I of this tale, please click on this link.

Sightings on Pleasanton Ridge

long ridge view of valley 2
View of Mount Diablo from the Valley View Trail

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.

long ridge view of valley
View of Pleasanton from Long Ridge Trail

Summer Sights

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.

turtle pond at end of long ridge
turtle pond at end of long ridge trail

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.

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