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Creek Running North

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March 06, 2005

Surfeit of sore feet

Platystemon californicus, a.k.a. "cream cups," El Sobrante Ridge 3/6/2005. Matthew and I hiked 14 miles today if you believe one map, 13 if you believe another. I believe 14: I am sore.

It was a slog. The rain stopped a few days back, but the mud remained on the trails. In places we were glad we'd laced our boots tightly: it was a good six inches thick where declivities had funneled extra rain onto sections of the trail.

But what good are weekends if you can't spend them slogging through 14 miles of boot-sucking mud with an old friend?

We followed the trail around the north shore of the Briones Reservoir, with its lake-like fringe of tules and cattails. Coots and grebes sang from the astonishing blue-green water. A mile or so in Matthew gasped and pointed: a giant appparition floated in the air, crossing the reservoir without flickering a muscle. "So Matthew," I asked, "what do you suppose that great, bluish, heronlike bird was?"

A small frog huddled in mid-trail in an inch of water, waiting for us to pass. Matthew scooped it up. We examined it, gave up deciding whether it was a bullfrog or something else, let it go. Later on we'd see two Pacific chorus frogs likewise in mid-trail, these obviously identifiable by their bands of Cleopatra mascara. One's khaki skin was suffused with gold flecks. Matthew stroked its spine softly with a fingertip for a moment, then it left. We tried to catch the second for a minute, not particularly effectively.

Also seen: several lizards and change. Most were fence lizards, or (as we renamed them for the hike) Fent's lizards, so called for their discoverer the famous if imaginary naturalist Dr. Fent. Matthew saw a skink. I did too, if noticing a flash of bright blue tail constututes "seeing." "And change"? Toward hike's end, I found a two-inch section of blue skink tail, likely shed to distract a predator. The tail now sits in the zinc pot on my front porch where the cardon cactus lives: that's where I put all my lizard tails.

Oh, and an eagle, and a rodent tooth like a scimitar among the trail pebbles, fields of miners lettuce and cream cups and bright soapy orange poppies and blue brodiaea, feral cranesbills and filaree, sunburn on the back of my neck and on the teenaged girls smiling as they passed on horseback, sandwiches on the north shore as we headed up Oursan Ridge and trail mix and chocolate at Disorientation Point - where I signed the geocache register "Ed Abbey." We crossed the Bear Creek inflow into the reservoir just before we got back to the truck, a couple inches deep to wash the mud from our boots. Call it 72 miles hiking for me since January 1.

P.S. Oh, yeah: A snake too. I only saw the tail, but I suppose it might well have been an Alameda striped racer - if said snakes have a dark variant with inconspicuous red-orange longitudinal stripes. Anyway, it was coal black.

Posted by Chris Clarke at March 6, 2005 09:02 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Just lovely, Chris. Do you get to travel much for hikes? You've probably covered it but I'm just starting to work through your archives.

It's Don't Get Around Much Anymore chez Riley, as my wife's knees are giving her fits and Vioxx was the only thing that really helped, and she may be looking at replacement now. The old guy can still make 20 miles in a day, but now it takes the rest of the weekend to get out of bed.

The best reason, hands down, to come east of the Mississippi is Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.

Posted by: doghouse riley at March 6, 2005 10:52 PM
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D.R., has she ever tried diclofenac? That's what they've got me on, some days my back is so bad I can't walk two blocks. Not that diclofenac really seems to do much, but that is apparently one of the last prescription arthritis drugs out there that doesn't kill you.

Posted by: Craig at March 7, 2005 12:45 AM
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Thanks, Craig, I'll pass that along. She got switched pro forma to Celebrex, but even before that was pulled she said it wasn't helping. She's taking glucosamine and aspirin now, and that helps with the pain some but doesn't get her up and around.

Posted by: doghouse riley at March 7, 2005 09:14 AM
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Hey, cool blog! And thanks for commenting over at my Discover Your Momma's Network site.

Posted by: Eric Lee at March 7, 2005 09:56 AM
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