I arrived about 15 minutes after the gates opened and struck out on what i thought would be an easy nature trail. Due to a large social hiking group that also set out about the same time as i, i dawdled over some photos, grumbling to myself that local fauna would be well clear of the trail. At one point the main trail headed up the slope, and a less traveled trail continued by the creek. I chose the creek route, staying in the shade of the willows and sycamores. One asteraceae presented itself for documentation. A Stellar's Jay followed me, announcing my presence to all and sundry. I was no more stealthy with that companion than the whole crowd of chattering hikers.
Having not established a good rapport with the map (oh, i am spoiled by the GPS tools), i thought i was continuing on the Canyon View trail, which would meet up with the nature trail. Indeed, i figured i was doing the loop counter clock wise, hoping the large group was going clockwise. As i continued walking, though, the trail was more track like and less and less clear. The sand had occasional bootprints but was generally not clearly marked to my eye as the sand was just more uneven and drifting, not wet and taking much of an impression. As i got to a place where the apparent trail would require me to ford the creek, i got out the map again and studied some more. I was pretty sure i was still on the north bank of Alameda creek and not walking along the other creek (which is the seasonal Indian Joe creek). I'd clearly tracked along an unmarked trail. I back tracked to where i'd seen a cow or dear track heading up a grassy slope, and clambered up the 60' to find the trail and the fork i needed to take.
The clamber up the slope with the worry in the back of my mind of how lost i might be got my heart pounding and, as happens when i engage in such a climb, my face becomes beet red. It takes forever for such a flush to drain from my face, and i suppose the folks who met me afterwards might worry. I've had this flush for years, my dissertation advisor remarked upon it when we were hiking in New Hampshire during a break in a conference. My usual breakfast was not meeting my needs though, and i could feel the need to boost my sugar levels. Along the dry creekbed i found a number of blooming flowers (no profusion, at all), and my hands shook as i tried to shoot. My battery died as l looked out over a grassland at low circling buzzards. Even though i didn't get the shots i would have liked, the sun on the golden hills dotted with the oaks delighted me.
Eventually i remembered i had a nut and fruit bar, so i ate that as i returned to the car. I'd taken a good while longer than i'd planned on the hike, and texted Christine, to find the text on my departure hadn't left the phone, either. I drove home south from the park, on the winding road well frequented by cyclists. I listened to The Game, a Mary Russel novel set in the context of Kipling's Kim's India, twenty to thirty years later. The narrative of the brutal and dangerous adventure of "pig sticking" is now overlaid in my mind with the visual memory of the twists and turns of the road with vistas of golden hills, banks covered with the magenta clarkias (never where i could pull over and get photos), and tree-arched tunnels through groves of oak.
Home, an errand with Christine and lunch at a diner (hearty egg whites over veggies and potatoes), a deep weariness, home to read Kim in the shaded living room and to edit photos from the hike. In the evening, as a party started up across the pool, we went out to See Man of Steel. I found the story very engaging, but, oy, the lens flares, the faux camera jitter, the extreme special effects. I wonder just how dense contemporary battlefields really are: the documentary images i recall of panzer attacks in WWII are of dispersed vehicles. The density of special effect laden screens seems to me to be an effort to pull whole worlds into frame, a surreal wide angle view. The sky is so much bigger.