Singing in the rain!

When I last left you, I told you my goal for the week was to walk 12 miles two days in a row. I did it!

On Saturday, March 5th I walked 14 miles with a group of friends on the historic San Diego Arizona Railroad tracks in Carrizo Gorge and crossed the Goat Canyon Trestle.

My photo album on Facebook with comments:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10207987224152709.1073741901.1661145605&type=1&l=2e998fbeca

I was very discouraged after the 14 mile hike because I was so tired. If I was on the Camino, would I have had enough energy to even check into a hostel?

Sunday and Monday were rest days due to the rain . . . and personal choice.

Tues: I walked 15 miles around my neighborhood and neighboring towns. The entire walk was on either asphalt or cement, but my camera and I had so much fun finding the spring colors and smells wherever I went, even under freeways.

Wed: I walked 14 miles through a very commercial part of San Diego and took the trolley home. The good part about this day was I made it home easily before dark.

Thursday: I walked 10 miles: 4 on cement, 6 on mountain trails up and down. This was not a good day. My backpack hurt my shoulder blades after eight miles and I wanted to quit. I couldn’t imagine being on the Camino and having to go on. What will I do when/if this happens? Sit down and cry or regroup?

Friday: After my disastrous Thursday, I got up early Friday and was on the trail at 6:30 am. This time I was hiking in a canyon, all on dirt and under beautiful oak and sycamore trees. I kept my backpack lighter, changed socks mid-day, took breaks and was determined to walk at least 12 miles. There was a really good chance of rain, and I was hoping it would rain because I wanted to test the “rain gear” that I will be using on the Camino. It didn’t rain until the very end of the hike, but rain it did!!!!  It came down in buckets and my rain gear protected me perfectly. The trail was empty by then. I may have been the only one left having so much fun singing and skipping in the rain. It came down so hard and so fast the canyon’s little creek became a rushing river and I couldn’t go back to my car the way I came; the trail had become a river, like a mini flash flood. But I did find another way back to the parking lot before it closed, lengthening my walk for the day to 16.8 miles. Funny thing, with all that singing in the rain I wasn’t tired at the end of the day.

I exceeded my training goal for the week, now how can I top that this week? I can’t. No I can’t “top” it, I will just keep on keeping on, trying to do at least ten miles a day.

These were all taken Friday in Penasquitos Canyon.

Maybe San Jacinto . . . again!

Last week I mentioned my Saturday “training” hike might be a repeat of my July 4th weekend hike of Cuyamaca and Stonewall Peaks. It turned out to be a very successful training day. I did not hike by myself as I did last time. I started the hike at 6:4o am with my friend Brian. We approached Cuyamaca Peak from the north, hiking up the Conejos Trail via the Azalea Glen Trail from Milk Road off Hwy 79. It was a hot summer day, in the mid-eighties. After sumitting Cuyamaca, we hurried down the service road and headed up Stonewall Mountain (4 miles round trip). The heat and fatigue of the morning hike was catching up with me, so I told Brian I would walk my pace and see him on the way down. He sumitted and we met on the trail when I was about 3/4 of the way up. We walked down together. Brian was ready to leave, but I wanted to stay and put in some more miles. While he was traveling back to San Diego, I was taking a long break (over an hour) with my boots off, dozing in the shade.

When I got up from my break, lactic acid had settled in and I could hardly move. The Gambler sang: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away. . .” I thought it was time to “walk away” and go home. But, could I even get my hiking boots on, I was so stiff. After the boots were in place and I was moving a bit better, I decided to walk to the trail head of Stonewall Mountain, just to enjoy the cool late afternoon breeze. Then I would turn around and go home–a 10 minute walk.

I took that 10 minute walk, but kept walking one step at a time up the mountain and made it to the top. I ended up logging in over 18 miles that day!

Here are the photos posted on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10206597144481586.1073741879.1661145605&type=1&l=9ec1404877

Tomorrow, Brian and I are going back to San Jacinto. This time, he and a friend will hike ahead of me, wanting to summit. I don’t care about making it all the way up to 11,000 foot peak, but want the experience of hiking in the high altitude. We will start at 6.000 feet and it is 8 miles to the top. Brian and his friend will meet me on their way down. I will really try not to get  lost this time!

We are leaving San Diego at 4:30 am and driving directly to the trail head. We’ll see how far up I make it. I’ll let you know . . .

Maybe Not . . . Really Maybe Not

Last week, my goal was to hike 16 miles up and down on the various peaks of Cowles Mountain in the Mission Trails Regional Park, close to where I live in San Diego, California. I had to take a break mid-day and still was able to meet my goal.

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It was a good hike, no mishaps or even horrible challenges. Here is the Facebook link:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10206455132491375.1073741877.1661145605&type=1&l=52f73a29db

This weekend, I am hosting a Bible study at my house. I have suspended my Monday through Friday walking/training to come home right after work to catch up on all the things I haven’t done yet in the normal spring cleaning of my yard and patio. (I wonder what I have been doing?) The prep “may” run over into my Saturday hike. But, if by Friday night I am ready, I will have a beach hike, probably Torrey Pines State Beach again; walking 16 miles up and down the road, steps and cliffs that this interesting park provides.

Or, maybe not. I will check in with you next week.

Maybe Half, Maybe Not

Last Saturday I set out to hike 15 miles, by myself up Cuyamaca and Stonewall Mountains. Because I was afraid of running into a mountain lion in the early dawn, I began at 8 am. That is really too late to start a 15 mile hike (for me). It was a beautiful clear warm day (mid-80’s). I learned a few important lessons on this training hike. For one thing, I had frozen my camel back the night before and did not lay it flat in the freezer. Although the cold water was  refreshing on the warm day, the wrinkled camel back felt like heavy fist poking me for most of the day. Note to self: lay the camel back flat!

Here are the photos I posted on Facebook with comments of my journey:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10206407388937816.1073741876.1661145605&type=1&l=6fd90e952d

I have organized my training hikes into three venues and will rotate them during the summer months: 1) the beach (sea level), 2) the local mountains (elevation 4,000 – 6,000 feet) and 3) Mission Trails: a local hiking area near where I live (about 10 – 12 miles inland). At about 500 feet elevation it has several peaks that have an elevation gain close to 1000 feet.

I had forgotten last week that it was no longer June, the month of my 15 mile hikes. I had turned the calendar over to July, but forgot to increase my training by one mile. The rest of my hikes during the month of July should be 16 miles.

This week will be a Mission Trails hike. I have a friend who is very ill. He is having an open house in the early afternoon. Unless I were to start walking at 3 a.m., I will not be able to walk a continuous 16 miles Saturday morning. I will walk as far as I can in the morning, break for his open house and then come back and continue with an evening hike. Maybe I can squeeze in 16 miles. I’ll let you know.

Maybe Cowles

Last Saturday my training hike was a joke, as I was traveling. I tried to spend some of my layover time walking around in circles in the airport, but I didn’t accumulate many miles. This Saturday I am doing a training hike here on Cowles Mountain, a local little mountain. With some of my hiking friends we are going to go up one side of the mountain (approximately 1000 feet elevation gain) and down the other side several times. There are three trail heads to the top of Cowles Mountain; we are going to start at the Big Rock trail head. Hopefully, I will eventually reach my goal of 15 miles. I plan to walk 15 miles every Saturday during the month of June. Well, maybe . . . .

Lessons Learned

(For anyone not able to read their e-mail, just click here: https://gerisroom.wordpress.com)

When I was in the first and second grades, I lived in Spring Valley, California, in a house right next to my cousins. Mt. San Miguel loomed over us in the south as a magnificent tower, and I would imagine a magical kingdom of kings and queens and castles in a far away land. Over the years Mt. Miguel did not seem to get smaller as I got taller and older. It still looms high in the skyline to the southeast of downtown San Diego. I live about twenty minutes north of Mt. Miguel and can see it any time I am on the freeway.

In last couple of years, and especially this last year, since I am only working one job, Saturday has become my hiking day. On a recent Saturday I had a meeting in the vicinity of Mt. Miguel, and I wanted to use the opportunity to hike up the mountain. I usually hike on the weekend with friends, but this was going to have to be a solo hike because of the logistics, so I arranged with one of my hiking partners to be my phone buddy and would check in with her periodically.

I changed into hiking clothes after the meeting and drove towards Proctor Valley Road. I had read on the internet blogs that it was difficult to find the trail, but I followed directions, parking in a residential area, walking about 1/4 of a mile east and seeing a tiny dirt path heading off into an empty field.

I was totally on my own, no map, no previous experience on this trail. Within about twenty feet I ran into a fork in the trail. There were no markers. Mt. Miguel loomed straight ahead of me across an empty field to the north, but the path went either east or west. To the east, would it then lead along the fence and then to the north? To the west, it headed straight up a little knoll. Would that turn north and head up the mountain? I chose west just by hunch. I was right.

Sorry, friends in the South Bay. This was not a pretty hike, not this time of year. It was like being on a military base, everything the color of  grey or faded army fatigue-green. But I was excited. This was an adventure. I was going somewhere new, by myself. I could take a long time taking pictures, or go fast pushing myself to the max (my “max” is the average hiker’s “slow”). I entered the trail at 1:10 in the afternoon and told my phone buddy I would turn back at 4 pm—I had nothing to prove by getting to the summit; this was just a fun discovery hike. I could come back later with my friends and go all the way to the summit.

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I stood at the top of the knoll and looked down at the first fork in the road and knew I was just lucky to have turned the correct way. The road on the right is Proctor Valley Road.

Mt. Miguel, now filled with radio and cell towers, actually has two summits. The first summit has an American flag proudly displayed and views of the entire South Bay communities, the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, Sweetwater Reserve and downtown San Diego.

The hike to the flagpole took me two hours. There weren’t many people on the trail, but I asked those descending if they had seen any rattlesnakes, or if I was on the right trail, etc. (no rattlesnake sightings) The trail in the beginning was rather wide, without many rocks–easy walking.

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I am sorry to say, but I think that is someone’s underwear.

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Looking back where I just walked, getting higher.

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The trail up. The peak above the trail is the flagpole summit, the one to the right is Mt. Miguel. I don’t know what the mountains are to the left of Mt. Miguel, but they are in the distance.

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Zooming in to the top of Mt. Miguel.

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Hiking up.

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Looking to the south, this is where there is an opening in a barbed wire fence.

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The power line tower and the trail up to the flagpole.

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That is what I have to walk up.

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Looking behind me and to the west.

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The only one who passed me going up. I did not see him coming down.

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Looking behind me to the southeast.

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To the west.

After an opening in a barbed-wire fence and passing a large power line tower, the trail goes straight up. I stopped about halfway up and rested on a rock, took a water break and enjoyed the view to my south of Otay Lakes. The visibility was not exceptionally good on this particular day, but the weather was perfect—about 70 degrees with a cool breeze coming right off the Pacific Ocean.

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My view, when I was sitting on the rock for my break. Looking south.

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Remnant of the 2003 Cedar Fire.

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The trail before me.

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Zooming in on Otay Lakes.

The last half of the trail to the flagpole was even steeper with large rocks to climb over and trails going in every direction. Most of the time I only knew I was on an” okay” trail by the footprints in the dirt. I could have never made this trip without my hiking poles and hiking boots. Many a time the boots and poles kept me from slipping as I climbed up and down and over boulders on the trail.

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The flagpole and the rocks I must wind around or climb over, not a well marked trail.

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Rocks I just climbed over.

I took a lunch break at the flagpole, enjoying the cool breeze, the waving flag and the peaceful isolation. The towers of Mt. Miguel still loomed above me to the east. I rested until 3:30 and knew I could only walk another 30 minute before turning back.

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Made it! Looking south.

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I know it is hard to see, but I am looking northwest and behind the marine layer are the downtown skyscrapers.

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Looking north to Cowles Mountain in the center and Mt. Helix on the right.

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Another attempt to take a picture of downtown. See what I mean about the visibility?

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Is it raining somewhere to the south?

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Downtown

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Downtown

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Just as I was leaving the flagpole, a gentleman and his two small children approached. I mentioned climbing to the summit of Mt. Miguel but getting back before dark. All he said was, “Gosh, you’re almost there, it’d be a shame not to try.”

That’s all it took. I got into some crazy thinking. I think a psychologist might call it denial. I had planned on turning back a 4:00 p.m., but I thought, well, maybe . . . I could walk until 4:30 and still make it back before 6:00, just as it was getting dark. The beginning of the trail could be easy in the twilight. Denial. Rationalization. I think this is the sort of thinking that led to some very strange decisions and consequences in my earlier years; but I digress—that’s for another blog. Full-blown in denial and challenge, I headed toward the summit of Mt. Miguel at 3:30, two and a half hours before dark. I had one hour to make it to the summit.

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The trail after leaving the flag.

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Tracks – bike? boot? snake?

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Sun is shining on the mountains to the northeast.

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The trail, heading to the summit. See the towers.

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I think this is Sweetwater Reservoir to the west of me.

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This is the trail I am on, the direction I am heading toward the top of Mt. Miguel. Can you see the trail? Straight up, no switchbacks.

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Finally a marker, top rock is mine. At the base of the summit.

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Sweetwater Reservoir, far below now.

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It took me a half hour to get off the ridge that hosted the flagpole, tricky with winding trails to the base of the Mt. Miguel summit. I stood at the base, the summit towering above me—the trail went straight UP, no switchbacks. It looked very challenging. It was. I had a half hour to make it. The trail, steep and rocky, was very difficult for me. My poles kept me from sliding backwards several times. I almost felt like giving up walking and just crawling, it was so steep. I heard voices above me, and soon there was another family, a man with two teenage boys. They told me I was about twenty minutes from the top. It was going to be close, but I thought I would make it. They also told me there was no one else behind them. I really concentrated, going as fast as I could without slipping. I had never tried so hard to combine speed and safety, but I had to hurry! The next half hour went so fast, I hardly took the time to look at my watch, I was concentrating so hard on hurrying and not slipping. Finally, when I looked at my watch, I was shocked! It was past 4:30 and I wasn’t at the top. I couldn’t go back now. I could see the towers, I could almost touch them. Surely I could make it in five or ten minutes. More denial. More rationalization.

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The rocky, narrow trail, straight up.

The next half hour was the quickest 30 minutes of my life. I put one foot in front of the other, weary, tired, stressed, worried now about the trip back, but I would not turn back. I worried about coyotes, coming across them on the trail back. I was alone on a mountain and I knew I would not get down before dark. But, I foolishly kept heading upward.

I made it to the top, stumbling up out of a ditch and turned around to see the view. It was 5:00. It took me one full hour to hike what the father and his teenage boys told me would take twenty minutes. Shock! Fear crept into me for real this time.

While I was climbing and watching the trail, the fog came in behind me. The ridge to my west, where the flag was flying, was no longer visible. I was above the clouds and the fog was moving in quickly, higher and swirling around me. I am not a very fearful person. That is not necessarily a good thing; it causes me to take chances sometime I shouldn’t, but I don’t have a lot of natural fears. But right then I was full of fears. And they were no longer about rattlesnakes and coyotes. Those seemed harmless compared to trying to find my way down a steep mountain that I was not familiar with, with unmarked trails and no visibility. Fog and darkness—a bad combination. I quickly took a picture to show I made it to the top, sent a text to my phone buddy (too embarrassed to call her and tell her I was just now turning back) and hurried down the steep trail, fog swirling around me, dropping the temperature by ten degrees. It was still daylight. I whispered a desperate prayer, my heart beating with fear: “Lord, I know I have been stupid, but please protect me on this mountain by myself.”

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Above me the sky is blue.

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At the top, looking at the clouds to the south. There is a paved road all the way to the top on via Miller Ranch Rd.

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Looking at the clouds below me.

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Fog coming in, I can no longer see the flagpole below me.

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Looking northwest. Downtown below the clouds.

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I think looking north, over Spring Valley and Lemon Grove, below the clouds.

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My hand, just to put myself in the picture; no time to pose.

Ever tried hurrying down a trail at a 45 degree angle? When I was a child, I would have just slid down it. However, this was rocky and I am not a kid, so I just did my best, walking carefully and quickly, my legs tired and wobbly by now.

About ten minutes from the summit, I was surprised by another hiker coming up towards me. I teased him and said, “Are we going to make it back by dark?” He answered, “I don’t know, it’s going to be close.” I said back over my shoulder as he rushed past me, “Well, I’ll be the one groping around in the fog.”

I continued hurrying down. When I got to the base, I had to go straight up the flagpole trail. My legs were working so hard, fog swirling past, but visibility was still good. It was about 5:45, twilight. I went up that hill as fast I could. Soon I heard a voice behind me, “Hey, looks like I have someone to walk down with me.”

That hiker, probably 30 years my junior, did not rush past me this time. He decided to walk down with me. Instead he was the first of two miracles that night. The second one: the fog lifted. Suddenly, just before the day disappeared into total darkness, the night was clear. We walked down the mountain on rocky trails with our flashlights, the sun setting behind the marine layer to the west, displaying scarlet splashes of an evening sunset. Above us the sky was clear. Soon we saw the stars and maybe Venus.

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Losing light, the sunset became more vivid when it was darker, but I was walking too fast to snap a picture then.

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Clouds or fog below me.

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My view from the trail.

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What could have been a disaster turned into a lesson learned. I may not be so fortunate next time to have a hiker willing to walk alongside me in the dark. I will say the lesson I learned is the sun will set when it is determined to set, and I have to turn back at a predetermined time. Those are the facts of life. I can’t race against time and think I will somehow change the forces of nature. Again, I know it was denial, rationalization and foolish. I won’t do it again.

On a residential street, we walked our separate ways to our cars. I thanked the hiker; his name is Bill. I told him he was my protective angel. He disappeared into the dark.

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My view at the end of the trail

Lessons learned.

Back in my car, it was 7 pm. I was weary by safe. I sent a text to my phone buddy.

“Thank you Lord.”

Lessons learned.

I’ll still think of Mt. Miguel as a magical place with knights or angels rescuing damsels in distress.

A picture of Mt. Miguel taken a couple of days later from Pt. Loma near the Cabrillo Monument.

Mt. Miguel - the one with the towers..

Mt. Miguel – the one with the towers. In the foreground; Coronado Bride, Hotel del Coronado and San Diego Harbor/Bay

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For anyone interested, this is an eight minute video I found on you tube of a ride up Mt. Miguel from the north (I came up from the southwest).  http://youtu.be/ZwTavRl08CU

What a Day for a Daydream!

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What is your first thought when you hear the words, “What a day for a daydream”? Where does your mind drift when you hear the first “C” chord of this delightful tune?

My mind goes back to the spring of 1966: I am a sophomore in college and I am overwhelmed with papers, midterms, working schedules and my thoughts of a certain “boy.” I just want to run away and “smother my face in somebody’s new mowed lawn.”

I am no longer a student and don’t have to worry about midterms, but I can still be overwhelmed by life. A couple of weeks ago, I replaced my 1966 memory of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s classic “What a Day for a Daydream” with a 2013 version.

My friend Brian was going hiking with two of his buddies to Three Sisters Falls in the backcountry of San Diego County. He asked if I wanted to tag along. These are real hikers; they have all summited Mt. Whitney here in California (the highest summit in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet).

San Diego’s backcountry welcomed us that day with sunshine and cool breezes. Three Sisters is an easy two-mile hike down into a canyon where the trail abruptly nosedives toward the falls. Brian didn’t want to go that far down, so when the other two hikers in our group plunged down the hillside, he and I chose to sit at the edge of the trail listening to the sounds of the falls and the birds singing.

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The trail down the canyon to Three Sisters Falls.

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Three Sisters Falls.

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Three Sisters Falls, view from where Brian and I sat down on the trail and just listened to the falls.

Eventually Brian and I started back up the canyon trail. Our pre-arranged meeting place with the other hikers was a grassy knoll at the beginning of the trail called Three Oaks. We had to wait almost 45 minutes. When have I had 45 minutes to do nothing? I couldn’t remember.

Three Oaks - our meeting place.

Three Oaks – our meeting place.

I wandered around and tried some macro photography, which was quite challenging in the wind. I ate my lunch

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and then . . . I laid in the grass and did nothing. I stared up into the sky through the oak trees and watched the clouds float by. I found faces and figures in the clouds and breathed in the smell of the wildness; the grass, the trees, the sage. I daydreamed.

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Staring up at the sky through the leaves of an oak tree.

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Laying in the grass.

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No to-do list. No projects. No phone calls. No e-mail. Just waiting and sweet daydreaming. What a day for a daydream!

Now, two weeks later, I still feel a sense of serenity remembering that day, that moment of lying in the grass on a mountaintop in the backcountry.

When was the last time you were able to daydream? When did you last lay in the grass and stare at the clouds through the leaves of an oak tree, or smother your face in somebody’s new mowed lawn? Do you have a 2013 version of “What a Day for a Daydream”?

That's me, hard hike up out of the canyon, but relaxed and ready to daydream at Three Oaks.

That’s me, hard hike up out of the canyon, but relaxed and ready to daydream at Three Oaks.

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