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best five minutes of a perfect day

Pt.Reyes4It’s the middle of April, and I have been hiking a six-mile loop of trails at Bear Valley Trailhead in Point Reyes National Seashore: Bear Valley trail to Pine trail to Sky trail, and back on Bear Valley.

The best five minutes are in the early afternoon, when I’m about half-way and coming out of the trees and into the open.

The ground right here is hard and full of rocks and small stones instead of soft with the pine needles I’ve been walking on. The sun overhead is bright and glaring; it’s hot and I’m sweating hard.

In the mid-distance is Mount Wittenberg, but about an eighth of a mile ahead, the trail smooths out and winds to the left around a low hill completely covered in golden poppies waving and shimmering in the light breeze. It’s an amazing sight you don’t get to see unless you’ve worked for it, since it’s a considerable climb no matter which way you come up.

I’ve been anticipating this and I never, ever tire of it. I push ahead until the poppy-covered hill is on my right and a gradual, rolling, dark green, and lush drop-off on the left exposes specks of tents and tables from Sky Camp far below.

Beyond that is the blue-green water of Drake’s Bay lapping at the shore, sunlight rippling the surface. I’m so thirsty I stop and take a long drink of water from the plastic bottle in my backpack. The water’s warm but I gulp it, marveling at how much better water tastes when I’m hiking than at any other time.

I stand still, gazing at the distant water and letting the sweat evaporate from my skin. I smell the dust of the trail and the pine trees. I turn to look at the poppies again, drinking in the sight as a couple of orange and yellow butterflies flit in and out among them.

That’s paradise to me.

What are the best five minutes of your perfect day?

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One thought on “best five minutes of a perfect day

  1. Richard Jones on said:

    MOUNT Wittenberg!…Slo-o-o-ow-lee I turned…

    Wow, Joycelyn, is that name a blast from the past. You may recall that back in my misspent youth, my best friends from junior high on were Edmond and Raymond Chung, aka “The Notorious Chung Brothers.” Ray and Ed were avid hikers, campers and rock climbers and managed to get me, sluggard that I was, to accompany them on several camping trips to Point Reyes in the early ‘70s. One particular trip was to Mount Wittenberg.

    On one particular trip, along with another school chum named Chris Pence, the Chung Brothers and me did a weekend backpacking trip to Point Reyes. Because I was something of an idiot in my younger days (walk off enough cliffs and you eventually get over it), I dressed for the trip in an old WWI army field jacket, with its four pleated patch pockets and epaulettes, it kind of resembled an olive drab leisure suit jacket, a pair of olive drab jodhpurs that made me look like it was standing waist deep in a giant olive, a pair of cowboy boots totally unsuitable for hiking in, topped with an old gray, wide brimmed fedora.

    We hitchhiked all the way to Olema. I told everyone who picked us up I was a deserter from the Italian Army fleeing Addis Ababa. We smoked a lot of dope on the way there, both our own and that provided by our rides. From Olema we walked to Bear Valley and thence along the Mt. Wittenberg trail. Despite the long trek were still thoroughly ripped out of our minds by the time were reached our campsite on Mount Wittenberg. Once we’d settled in and had a meal of miso soup, veggies and this rock hard, sun baked chia bread Ed made, we dropped some acid.

    Very early the next morning, still high as a kite, Ed quietly roused me from my trance (I can’t call it sleep). Our campsite was enveloped in a cool fog bank that had crept over the mountain overnight. Ray and Chris were already awake. Ed motioned for me to be silent and pointed towards a line of trees; there coming out of the fog was a small herd of the white Tule Elk that Point Reyes is known for. We sat there speechless for Lord knows how long watching them until they meandered back into the woods.

    This is the closest thing to a mystical religious vision I’ve ever experienced. Probably lasted longer than five minutes, though.

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