New Turf

I’ve lived for many years in Sonoma County, and hiked many of the parks and wild places. But one mountain has eluded me all this time: Hood Mountain, east of Santa Rosa. The surrounding territory is rugged, with the closest approaches only accessible by private roada—until recently.

But some new access recently opened up the north end, so that’s where Guy and I drive. The parking lot belongs to Hood Mountain Regional Park, but it adjoins a recently-added section of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The hike from the parking lot to the summit of Hood Mountain is about 5 miles each way; a bit too far for a short winter day. But exploring the immediate watershed proves very rewarding.

There have been a couple of rainstorms this month, so the land is wet and humming with new life. Lots and lots of moss. More newly-sprouted mushrooms than we can catalogue; I only photograph the largest one!

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From the dense forest, the trail descends through some freshly-green meadows, and then crosses the headwaters of Santa Rosa Creek at the joining to its two forks. The water at the ford is just deep enough to come over my shoes and get my feet wet. (After heavy rains, it would be impassable).

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Climbing the hill on the other side, we come into oak woodlands. The ancient trees take many forms, offering all kinds of micro-habitats. I see some that must be homes for tree-nymphs (above); then one that seems to be screaming (from the first approach)…


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The terrain is not too steep, but we are doing a lot of climbing—about 90 meters down to the creek over a distance of 1 kilometer, and at least triple that up the other side. At some point, I realize I’m getting tired, but my excitement keeps me going. Here is an old man, saying, this is exhausting, I need to rest. Here is a young man, saying, this is exhilarating, I’m having fun, I can do this for hours. And both of these identities are in the same body. Who am I? Accepting all sensations, carefully attuning my attitude.

 

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We seem to be alone here, if you only count humans. But Coyote has left a calling-card. Fresh and wet; he must still be nearby, keeping tabs on us.

 

The trek is rewarded with great views: both of the expanding landscape….

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… and of the secret entryways to the Otherworld that Nature offers to the shaman—the hollow tree, the cleft in the rock.

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