This blog is closed. For more recent content, visit Chris Clarke's new site Coyote Crossing.

Creek Running North

<< Democratic Party leadership releases four-part strategy for 2006 | Main | Annoying statistics >>

January 22, 2006



My dirty little secret is this: aside from a short jaunt with Becky last weekend, three miles around Mount Wanda in the green and mist, I have not been hiking since July. 186 miles hiked between January and July 2005, and none for the rest of the year.

Matthew and I walked just under six miles today, my old default hike in Briones, up the Alhambra Creek drainage and past the newt ponds to Briones Peak, and then down and around the other side.

I'm not sure why I stopped hiking, though I suspect my renewed desire after starting anti-depressants is a clue. I just... stopped. Foolish of me, and not just for the exercise - though my labored breathing up that first 1000 foot elevation gain reminded me that I lose more than just communion with the elements when I stay in the house.

At the knife-edge ridge that's my usual first rest stop, two miles in and 850 feet above the parking lot, we sat and ate in the cold, stiff wind. Our hats blew off a few times. After a ten minute rest, when it started to get nearly uncomfortable even through layers of pile, we looked at the little thermometer on my day pack. 65 degrees F. It felt colder than it did Wednesday, when I walked Zeke through a hard frost down by the creek.

The wind blew the urban scales from our eyes. After five or so minutes Matthew asked "Is that the Sierra?" And there it was, across the Central Valley, a white band of peaks floating above the landscape. We headed for Briones Peak, two hundred feet higher, for a better view.

The Tahoe Sierra was a broad band of white. North of it, a perfect white triangle: Mount Lassen, 180 miles away. A snowy range peeking over the shoulder of Mount Saint Helena - itself at the other end of the long Napa Valley from us - was either the Yolla Bollys 150 miles north, or the Trinity Alps fifty miles past them.

The air was full of raptors. The trail crumbled beneath us. Great slivers of sodden earth had come loose from the cliffs and plunged downhill. Soil is a fluid, and the plants it carries do their best to sprout where it flows. We saw one fresh-tongued landslide already bearing soaproot rosettes and bracken ferns.

And then down the cow-trodden vertical mudhole that had replaced the Spengler Trail, and up again, and down and up again for a few miles. This was the hike I used to do when I had little time. It exhausted me today. It is late January, and I have not yet broken the double digits in my hiking mileage.

I will have to put some serious wear on the hiking boots' tread next week in the Mojave. And I can't wait to get back to Briones.

Posted by Chris Clarke at January 22, 2006 07:05 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

0 blog(s) linking to this post:

decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


in the museum at yreka there is a copper dome that was atop the peak of mt shasta in the early 1900's. it's about 5 ' tall. the text says it was visible from sacramento on the proverbial clear day.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at January 23, 2006 08:25 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

wow. i'm not much of a hiker, but you are; getting back to it is great news. what a glorious view, and many good sights along the way.

this is a reason i had to leave LA -- there were days, a lot of days, when it was hard to see the hills 3 miles from where i grew up. there has been a little improvement in the last decade, but i'm still glad i escaped.

Posted by: kathy a at January 23, 2006 10:06 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

It might be the other way around. Exercise is an excellent antidote for depression.

Posted by: KathyF at January 23, 2006 11:38 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

I used to love these sorts of crystal clear days, when we could do the opposite and look down at your folks on those peaks that crest the Coastals. Diablo was always the clarity check (although if you couldn't see the Sutter Buttes there was no point in driving the extra distance and hiking the steep trail to get that vista. Always made me think of Kate Wolf for some reason. It has become rarer now, more like Kathy describes for LA, but ooh that magic feeling when it happened.

Today i hiked the Centennial trail along the Spokane River from the lower nine mile point up the falls past Gonzaga. There is so much water in the river--indeed in the entire Columbia basin/plateau drainage--and 'they' have opened the flood gates to release three times the usual runoff down through the falls. The immense power of water carving basalt columns and conglomerate knobs was sufficient to create a sustained roar, that completely drowned out, what would otherwise have been, the worrisome "too-many-for-peacetime," B-1 bomber flights.

Posted by: spyder at January 23, 2006 04:30 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Great for getting yourself out of the house, Chris. Exercise and sunlight are good for you. (Or should I say, good for one. As in, one should take a daily constitutional.) (Preferably with a dog.)

Posted by: Buffalo Gal at January 23, 2006 04:56 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs