Hi, I'm Ev. I'm training to become a horsewoman. These are my adventures and misadventures. I'm green as hell, but so far, so good. I'm now learning from Bo (and sometimes his wife DeDe) at D&D Ranch in Pope Valley. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity, I feel quite blessed, and I feel that they, and horses, have really turned my life around.
Solomon is my baby- a big old flea bitten grey Appendix gelding who is very kind and way too smart! I love him so very much. He is a rescue and was meant to be co-owned rehabbed, and maybe rehomed to a good home. He turned out to be over 25 years old with injuries that ultimately do not make him riding sound, so he is retired.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

And the raven watched over me.

Today I did something that I thought I would never be able to do again.

Today I climbed Wildcat Peak.

Bo says that people are very good at limiting themselves. They say "I can't, I can't I cant." I said to him this past spring "I can't hike up to the tops of hills any more." He told me I would be able to do it again someday, and I didn't believe him.

But he was right.

I wanted to share this day with you all, even though it is not really horse related.

I decided that it was time for me to try my hand, er, legs, at hiking. I drove out to Jewel Lake.

First I explored the little nooks and crannies on the way to the lake.

I love the tunnels of greenery, sweet bowers of fecundity. The soil is rich and pungent here, and brilliant green arches over your head.

A little stream ran to the lake.

I think maybe a raccoon passed through here.

Near the lake, there was a watering trough and hitching post. I wouldn't give that nasty water to my horse unless he was in duress and desperate for water, but it's cool that it's there.

The lake was gorgeous.

Were these guppies or pollywogs? I couldn't tell.

Yoga turtle is having a zen moment.

See this? Don't touch it. On pain of... pain. And itchiness. Horrible rashes. It is poison oak and it adds to the excitement of hiking by growing everywhere.

Once I got to the lake, I decided I was feeling just fine. I guess I do a lot more walking than I realized, because I wasn't winded at all.

So I decided to give in to the temptation and walk on a bit of the trail that leads up to Wildcat Peak. Wildcat Peak is both an old friend and an adversary. That is the hill that I would run down before I hurt my back. Running down it most certainly contributed to my back injury and my tendinosis. But sometimes to get better you have to not just treat your body... you have to treat your mind, and you have to treat your heart. Emotionally, hiking is very good for me.

So I started in, and at first my legs were a little sore from riding the other day. I thought, "Maybe I am not ready for hill hiking. Well, I'll go a little ways."

It had been at least three years, but everything was so familiar. It felt good to be on the trail again.

This trail is like a biome parfait. There is the lake level, which is thick hedges of greenery with scattered fields of irises in the spring. There is the eucalyptus layer, which to me is unsettling. It is invasive, an alien in this area, and it does not belong here. There is the mixed oak and bay laurel layer. There is the chaparral layer of thick scrub brush. Then there is the scattered scrub and grass layer.

The eucalyptus layer was almost entirely the trees themselves and poison oak, because poison oak is just nasty enough to survive the tannins that eucalyptus trees soak the soil with. Lately, however, a bit of bay laurel has been coming in.

For a little while the trail weaves between native and non-native forest.

I was surprised that I got to the native forest level. And my feet kept moving. It was hard, but not as had as I thought it would be. And I just kept going. I got to the scrub level.

This little fellow was rather worried about me walking past him.

After a great deal of walking, I looked back to see the tops of trees below me.

And the valley.

Little daisylike flowers occasionally dotted the hillside.

The scrub rattled in the breeze as vultures circled overhead.

The top of the hill was still very far, however. I didn't expect to get there. This isn't even the peak- it's a false peak, and the real one is behind it.

This tree is an old friend, and one of the last before the top. I have leaned on it many times. Never thought that I would see it again.

Humans aren't the only creatures to use these trails. Deer do too.

I wish that I could tell you the sounds of the city had faded away. But there was the constant rumble of the freeway, there were planes and helicopters overhead, and there was often the distant wail of a siren. But closer to me there was birdsong, the rustling skitter of small creatures in the underbrush, and the air was fresh and sweet.

I paused many times, and I thought about stopping. I thought "I shouldn't be doing this. I should turn around."

But then a man walked past me, and he gave me a quick once-over type of look, followed by a "what is someone like YOU doing HERE?" Of course, that could have been my perception! But he was the first person I had come across, and everyone I have run into up there has been skinny and pretty fit. So it might have been my own insecurity more than the look he was giving me, but I got angry. And the anger inspired me to push on.

I reached the grassland layer.

And the trail wound up and up and up, every turn revealing more length, more walking that I had to do to get to the top. But I was so close! So very close. It is 1280 feet above sea level at the top. I think I remember the hike being a couple of miles, but I'm not really sure. I walked for a long time.

When I reached the top, there were nice people there. They took my picture for me.

The city was far below me, across the bay.

I told the nice folks up there how I had been badly injured and unable to sit up or stand on my own a few years back, and that this was my first time making it to the top again. They were eating little golden apples, and the woman came over to me and told me, "We have an extra apple and what you've done is something worth celebrating, so here, have it!"

Made my day right there. Sure, it wasn't exactly Atkins compliant, but I knew my body was going to just burn it right off, and I needed the juice that the fruit held. Thank you, random nice folks at the peak!

After they left and I made that video, I sat down at the stone ring that rests on the very top of the hill. Next to me was a section of straight stick, about as thick as my thumb. A stave. I carved some runes into it to make a little offering to my gods, and a request for my self.

Wunjo, for joy.
Uruz, for strength. Primal, wild strength.
Raitho, for my journeys.

I threw the stave and it caught in the scrub, hovering between earth and sky.

I closed my eyes.

I heard the whoosh of great wings, and when I opened my eyes, he was there.

A great glossy raven, resplendent in onyx plumes. A sacred bird in my faith. A bird of the god Odin, to whom I feel particularly close. He hovered on an updraft maybe 4 feet from my face. And he just stared into my eyes. It made it all worth it. I felt so close to my gods.

I said to the raven, "thank you for sharing this with me."

The raven circled me twice. I managed to overcome the awe enough to snap this photo before he floated away.

And then the butterflies came.
First there were a couple floating around. Then they were dancing around each other in groups of three and four. Then 6 or 7. Butterflies everywhere. Painted ladies, which I always associate with Baldur in my mind because of something that happened years ago, and these black butterflies with reddish-orange wingtips. I couldn't tell if they were mating, or warring, or both. But they were beautiful and they swarmed the hilltop, flying all around me. Really it is impossible to capture something like that on film. They were too quick. And a static photo just doesn't show you the magnificence of the complex acrobatics they performed, swirling around each other in a riot of colors.

I felt like I could almost fly myself.

But yeah, then there was the matter of getting back down off the top of the hill.

I thought I'd be clever and take a couple of shortcuts... except that THIS:

Turned out to not be a shortcut to my trail, and went the wrong direction entirely a couple of times. I managed to get myself kind of lost in the wilderness, but I did make my way back out again by backtracking, thank the gods.

The sky was darker for my descent, and I was truck by the beauty of the bay laurels.

It is a glorious day to be alive. Cherish every moment!


MaggieMae said...

I have goosebumps, see what that grey horse has done for you...

ariemay said...

What a beautiful spot... I'm so happy for you.