My eyes ached and I felt a fogginess that usually signals a headache, so when I left work today I decided to do something to get the oxygen flowing. The best thing seemed to be a short hike. I found a suitable one in the trail book. One mile each way, "easy". I figured I would just go, not bother to go home, not bring anything with me.
Reservoir Canyon Road is just beyond San Luis Obispo, off highway 101, at the beginning of Cuesta Grade. The trail book says it isn't a real trail, just various paths. The main path parallels a nice creek (San Luis Obispo Creek) much of the way. When I got to the parking area the light rain had stopped. I considered bringing my book with me to read on the way but left it in the car instead.
I was immediately in yet another wonderland. The quiet central coast beauty. When I first moved to California I fell in love with the way the Coast Live Oaks looked, scattered on the smooth green round hillsides. I wondered at first if the hills were somehow manicured by man, but no, they aren't. The gnarlish nature of the oaks creates a beautiful silhouette against the green or brown hills. When one gets into canyons, like today, the vegetation is more plentiful and views are obscured, but there is much life: birds, small animals. And the sound of the creek rushing over rocks and bright red grasses - I saw these straight red grasses growing right in the creek, with the water rushing right over them. I wonder what they are.
I soon got to what was apparently the end of the main trail, time to turn back. But there was a path crossing the creek so I took it. I ventured on back going in the other direction, figuring maybe I'd get to cross the creek again farther on and then return to the trailhead. That isn't quite what happened.
I reached a place where I could cross the creek pretty much where I figured I could connect with the beginning of the trail. I slogged on across, using the boulders as a bridge but still kicking up a bit of water, and headed on uphill. I soon came to the end of that trail. I remembered passing a trail going in that direction and turning the other way, so I turned back and soon saw a small path heading uphill. It looked like one I had come down originally so I took it.
Instead of taking me back to the trailhead, this path led, after a fair hike uphill, to a meadow scattered with interesting "found metal sculptures". Tripods made of pipes with rusted trash cans hanging from them (more than one of these). A chair made of pallets, wedged up with concrete blocks and leaning against a tree. Various parts of cars holding sticks or plants. A curious kind of thing. Farther into this meadow I found a series of stone arrangements. Stones stacked on top of each other, in a ring. Sort of a little Stonehenge, very small scale. It looked almost like a sacrifice site. I saw no clothing or bed materials or cooking materials so it does not look like anyone is actually "living" there. I soon convinced myself that I had not passed these things on the way in. And I had no idea, really, where I was, which way to go to get out from there except to retrace my steps.
So that is what I did. It was as I was heading back down and the rain was starting to come down more heavily that I couldn't help enjoying it. I knew I had much farther to go than I had originally intended but figured it was very manageable even in the late afternoon. The rain was nice, was helping me have the solitude I treasure on a trail. The hills I could barely see in the distance had a fairyland quality. One day I am going to have to pack filters and wide angle lens with my Nikon. That is the only way I am going to get the true look of what I find out there.
I found no shortcuts, had to retrace all the way back, but I was able to do so without much trouble. It took me an hour and fifty minutes total and I did get some oxygen into my system. My back hurts a little right now but my legs are fine. Some things to remember: bring those USGS maps even when I think it's going to be easy. Bring the flashlight. Put copies of the maps in plastic page covers to protect them from rain. Oh yeah, and for heaven's sake get a compass.