Tuesday, May 19
You readers already know what I do with some of my day: I crank out Geezer Diary entries from a rapidly receding reservoir of ideas.
But what about the rest?
Am I propped up in front of a flat-screen for hours at a time, fueled by junk food and diet soda? Do I nap away afternoons, awaiting inspiration from dreams that never come? Am I hypnotized by my iphone, grazing on podcasts and videos? Am I transfixed by the clock, wondering just how much longer all this can last?
OK, I only do the above stuff for maybe four hours a day. For two to three, I walk with my dog, Lil. We step out the front door, hang a left or right, then walk for miles without seeing a single car.
Last week, hiking the seven miles to Five Mile Creek and back, this was my traffic count: Bears 1, Cars 0.
An adolescent cub crossed 20 feet in front of us about a quarter-mile short of the creek. Lil was smart enough not to chase. I pulled up, immediately on the alert for Mama. Mercifully, she never showed.
Granted, bear sightings are rare. But this dirt-road route is hardly congested with cars either. I average maybe 1.5 per creek trek. If I take The Loop instead of The Creek, I might see three or four cars. And if I walk to the bottom of Yankee Hill Road and back, I could cross paths with a dozen.
Almost all of my treks start and finish here at home. And, no, I do not keep a log with daily and total mileage counts since confinement began. I’m not that possessed. But an app on my phone does record steps. The Loop takes about 13,500 and The Creek, 16,500. I do each twice a week or more.
A few of you may wonder if I am still riding my bike. The answer is yes, with friends (kept at a distance of course) and not as much (once or twice a week). I am wary about having a mechanical problem or falling while riding solo.
Also, Lil is very disappointed when I head out on rides. The afternoon treks are the highlight of both our days.
But, what if I break a leg hiking in the middle of almost nowhere?
Glad you asked: As part of my hikes take me out of cell range, last year I bought an ACR ResQLink personal locator beacon. It’s not much bigger than a smartphone and, says ACR, “weighs no more than a couple of energy bars.”
If stricken, I aim this baby skyward, set it off and it sends a message to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration search-and-rescue satellite. My info is on file and, presumably, Tuolumne County SAR will then use a homing beam (also sent out by my ResQLink) to find me.
And ACR will give me a brand-new beacon if this happens. What’s more, I will also become a member of its “Survivors Club.” But, as cool and high-tech as all of that is, this is one club I do not want to belong to.
Still, you might ask, don’t you get bored walking the same route day after day? After day after day?
The answer is no, because my walks are different day after day.
Right now, for example, larkspur, fairy lantern, yellow star tulip, Indian paintbrush, deer brush, woolly sunflower, white yarrow, yellow-bush poppy, wild iris, five-petal wild rose, golden brodiaea, foothill phlox and mountain misery are all in bloom. It’s prime time. Within a single mile today, I saw them all.
Aren’t you impressed that I know all of these wildflowers? Don’t be: My friend Mary Anderson, amateur botanist par excellence, ID’d all of them for me a few days ago. I would have only gotten mountain misery right.
Tiger swallowtails and California sister butterflies are also out. Creeks and waterfalls are flowing. And this afternoon, at the upper end of Five Mile Creek Road and for most of my descent on Mountain Boy, I got drenched by a spring storm. But I had my trusty Repel umbrella and North Face rain jacket with me, and did just fine. Then I really enjoyed the hot bath and cup of tea that followed.
I see plenty of birds too, and when I bring an ornithologist along, I’ll tell you what they all are. Jays, buzzards, red-tail hawks, ravens, quail, and the wild turkeys that Lil regularly flushes into flight are a partial list.
The creeks and waterfalls will recede as summer approaches, then heats up. Most of the flowers wilt, but a few new blooms persist into the later months. The dreaded eye flies will also swarm, providing upper-body (and vocal chord) exercise with the required shooing, swatting and cursing.
The canyons, Five Mile Creek and Stanislaus River remain spectacular year-round. By July, of course, I keep an eye out for smoke and wildfires. Also, I now tick-proof myself and my clothes with Deet and permethrin before heading out.
Which – and maybe this is just me – is a lot better than dodging muggers, crazy drivers and knots of virus defiers on city streets.