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Skyline Wilderness Park - The Lyorn's Den

Sat Mar. 3rd, 2007

09:00 pm - Skyline Wilderness Park

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Friday evening I finally got home around ten, found the fridge empty (I had planned to buy groceries after work, but my favourite shop closes at 9), and a single can of soup left in the kitchen cupboard. I had the soup, and a cup of strong black tea, fell into bed and slept for thirteen hours straight.

Which put me in the enjoyable position to be awake, up and about at noon on a Saturday, with six hours of daylight left. I dawdled a little, read the newspaper articles about Thursday's earthquake, tidied up the room some, packed the camera, maps and drinking water and finally got on the road around the time I usually wake up.

Skyline Wilderness Park is a smallish park in Napa County, north of the eastern arm of the Bay. (Look at a map sometime, "the" Bay is a complicated body of water.) It was a drive of about 30 miles, over a toll bridge without a traffic jam, through beige and bronze wetlands with steel-coloured water, through hills which are more pretty than impressive, dotted with vineyards. Napa and neighbouring Sonoma are known as "Wine Country" -- if you drink a Californian wine, it's most likely to have come from there. The region is, I read, on the upper end of the temperature scale for many quality vines, and global warming may put an end to it. So best get a few reds for the cellar soon.

But I wasn't there to drink (more's the pity). The park was easy to find (most places are, here) and a little past two I was pulling into a parking lot with a RV park on one side and a horse corral on the other. Straight ahead was a big oak tree that did not look at all like an oak tree, and there the trail started with a warning sign that you should not hike alone, or you'll risk to be eaten by mountain lions. I'm very good at ignoring warnings. (It's a professional skill. I can even ignore errors, occasionally.)

The trail led up a gravel road (no mud!) with a small creek murmuring in a deep valley to the left. Some ancient or not-so-ancient moss-covered stone structures jutted out of the rock to the right, giving no hint at their purpose. After the first few hundred metres, the path was shadowed by the trees, which was just fine, because it was a warm day (around 20°C) with strong sun, and I'm not on entirely-friendly terms with the sun. Despite the trees the view was fine, and after the first kilometre the path and the valley took a turn, and the sound of the streets and the city vanished to be replaced by birdsong and the sound of the wind in the evergreen scrub oaks. After an hour or so I reached a small reservoir overlooked by a very welcome bench, The gravel road, while easy to walk on, had been entirely uphill so far, I felt that I was developing a blister (should have worn my thick socks), and wondered if maybe it would be a good idea to just walk back down the same way instead of following the one described in my guidebook, but the hills were pretty and the wind was cool, and good ideas of this type are another thing I'm good at ignoring.

A trail led over the dam, and then steeply uphill on the other side, which was fully exposed to the sun. But then, with the added height and the wind, and the better part of the afternoon past, the sun and I went along OK (I thought), and the wind and the view over the lake were well worth it. The trail was narrow, but very easy. No roots, few stones, no mud. Just perfect. Then it went downhill again, back under the trees, crossed the brook that fed the reservoir, and back up again, and became the level-to-gently-downhill kind of path that I like best, where you can set your legs on autopilot and let your thoughts drift where they may. Except for a guy hunting mushrooms and a few joggers I met no one on that leg of the trail.

When I came into grassland again, the sun had already disappeared behind the crest of the hill, and the valleys and mountains to the east had taken on a bluish shade. I worried a little, because at that time of day you do not want to happen upon a wrong path and lose an hour or so, not even with a full moon soon to rise -- a full moon isn't worth much in the shadow of the trees, plus, mountain lions! But very soon the path started to go steeply downhill (my poor knees!), turned out of the shadow of the hillside and below me I could see the RVs on the parking lot, and in the not-so-far distance the city of Napa.

I took a short stroll through the native plant garden at the end of the trail, and then sat down at a picnic table to cool off and drink the rest of the water I had brought. I felt a headache coming on and glowered at the sinking sun, which was totally unimpressed. The evening light had turned pink and reflected on the waters of the Bay when I crossed the bridge again, and when I was done with my grocery shopping it was dark and the full moon was rising through the clouds.

A hot shower, dinner and a cup of tea didn't help my headache any, so I was in bed again at 10 pm (I've backdated this). And awoke Sunday morning at 5. It seems that I create my own jet lag out of nothing.

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(Maybe I should make a tag for this type of entry?)

ETA: Done.

Current Mood: awakeawake