California newts with their bright orange underbellies and greenish yellow eyes, blue houndstongue and springtime poison oak with its shiny leaves of three, all of these were seen yesterday at Augustin Bernal Park in Pleasanton.
Rainy day hikes are great for birdsong too. At the end of my hike I encountered three wild turkey walking across the staging area in the park. I wonder what the purpose of that long snood hanging down in front of the bird is.
Michael and I are leading today’s hike. Our first stop will be China Hole which is about five miles from our current camp site, Manzanita Point. I’m not liking the title of this stop: It sounds very politically incorrect to me. I wonder what meaning lies behind the name?
Manzanita Point to China Hole will be a strenuous hike with an elevation gain of about 2,000 feet. Michael takes the lead for the first part of the hike; I will lead after the China Hole stop.
Here Michael and I are conferring about the route we will be taking. This is after Michael missed the first turn. Luckily, the sweep (me) was paying attention and so, saved us extra time and miles! Oh Alicia, maybe you oughtn’t to be so glib. Do you trust us to get you to tonight’s camp site after that first wrong turn?
A little out of the canyon, heading up towards Lost Spring, newts and banana slugs crossed our path. This guy was curled up, probably trying to get warm. I wonder what kind of snake it was and was it harmless? Unwilling to test our luck, we gave him/her a wide berth. Ben, our designated photographer, stopped to take a photograph while most of us kept on hiking. The terrain here was rough, rocky and steep.
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It is now lunchtime. We have stopped at a junction near Lost Springs, tonight’s camp site. The land has leveled out here. I hope there are no more hills to climb before we get to camp.
About twenty minutes after leaving our lunch spot, we find water in what looks to be a cow trough. We fill our empty bottles, add a few drops of iodine to each, burp all our bottles and pack them away.
Back on the trail we go, water bottles jostling about in our packs. The iodine has begun the process of purifying the water. In about thirty minutes it will be ready for drinking. But this isn’t all the water we carry. We are also carrying three full water “bladders” that hold the water we will use for cooking and for cleaning our hands and pots. No need to purify these as the water, once boiled, will become germ free.
Ten minutes after filling our water bottles, we realize we are lost. This camp site, Lost Spring, is aptly named: We cannot find it!
Here are Michael and I, checking our map to see if we can find the place, but no, it doesn’t seem to exist. Now we give the orders — We send two people to the left and two to the right, to scout. No sense all of us getting even more lost and tired. Leading is not all it’s cracked up to be. When you are in charge, everyone depends on you to find the wretched camp site that refuses to reveal itself.
Ben, one of the four scouts, comes back with a photograph of an out of order outhouse. The rest of us joke that maybe we will have to sleep in it tonight.
We eventually find the site which we blithely walked past earlier — It looked nothing like we expected it to. Now it’s time to set up our living areas, kitchen, sleeping, hand washing station, etc. Our regular routine is that two different people cook dinner each night. Tonight we’re having red quinona.
It has gotten very dark. Here is Cordelia cooking by the light of her head lamp:
While the cooks cook, the rest of us pitch the tarps under which we will sleep. Each tarp sleeps four to five people.
Next morning’s lesson, by Jason, is about risk management.
Having cleaned up our camp site, we are ready to begin another day’s hike. Today we’re off to Coit Lake. And if you are wondering, nope, we are not responsible for the remnants of that fire in the photograph. Whoever made that fire is crazy. There has been a “no burn” policy in California for months now, because of the severe drought. We have only used our very controlled, “whisper stoves.”