Thursday, April 8, 2010

Long Run and Burn Aftermath

For days I've told myself, "Today, I'll take Kona above the Peak." Our steep run to the Peak really isn't the peak of the mountain. I often look to the higher ridge line and wonder what the view would be like from that vantage point. We found out today.

The weather called for another day of 80 degrees, so I left the house in a t-shirt. I was glad I did. We started at the trailhead at 6:30AM, and the sun already shined brightly. I felt strong during our climb to the Peak. Kona never explores as much on singletrack trails, but she still took plenty of sniff stops. Whenever I stopped, she stood on alert.
We passed several parties on the way up. I don't know if it's the season that's brought more people to the trails, or if people are still off on their spring holiday. Kona never seems bothered by activity on the trail on the way up (coming down is another story).

I was surprised how relaxed my body felt after we reached the Peak. I stopped to try to give Kona water. Kona is often either too distracted or too anxious to drink. I was worried about continuing if I couldn't get liquid in her. She took a couple links from my water bottle and went back to high alert.
We took off up the trail. I'm always nervous when I take to a trail for the first time. Our path was rocky and narrow at points. Not long after we left familiar territory, we came up to wall of loose rock and boulders. The wall sandwiched us with the canyon below. When we rounded a corner so the wall sat up against the trail, Kona froze.

I stopped running to see what caught Kona's attention. I didn't see anything, but decided to slow to a walk. Kona would take a few steps, then freeze again, sniffing the air. I wasn't into the rock wall to begin with, now I really didn't like it.

I was glad when we moved through that stretch of trail, though Kona stayed on high alert for the rest of our ascent.
We crested the ridge and looked towards the mountains to the North. The landscape was barren.
This was part of the forest that burned last fall. Today was the first time I've seen the burn area up close. My heart sank. Our forest needs fire to keep its ecosystem healthy, but it needs surface fire. This was not a surface fire.
As I walked around, I was surprised by the lack of new growth, despite a good season of rain. It soon hit home that never in my lifetime will I see our forest like it was last year. While I'm sure the chaparral will begin to grow over several years, I don't know if I'll ever see a sycamore or oak tree in these canyons, or smell a Jeffrey pine on a high ridge.

Kona soon found deer tacks and leaped to a frenzied searched. I let her dragged me up the ridge while I took in the lunar hillsides.
I decided to turn around for the day. I want to explore this trail more, but time was short, and I knew I wouldn't be able to run down the lose rock and ash that made the trail slippery and uneven. Kona reluctantly left her deer trail.
We made good time on the descent. I had to body block Kona several times to keep her behind me. We tripped over each other for the first few minutes, but we are out of practice on technical downhills.

I felt some relief when we made it past the rock wall (yes, Kona stopped in her tracks again) and back to the Peak. We stopped for awhile to enjoy the shade of a sycamore tree and look at the city below us.

Despite the haze and smog of summer that snuck into our sky, I could still make out the ocean. And I enjoyed the lively chaparral that framed the view.


Priscilla said...

I'm sorry the forest was burned so bad. Kona is a good girl on the trail, I love how alert she is, always using all her senses.

Barb said...

Kona does seem on high alert! Her body language was warning you of something. What a long and steep run - both you and Kona had great exercise that morning.

LauraK said...

80 degrees sounds wonderful! Great pictures :) That's so awesome that you and Kona get to spend time running the trails together in the morning, I'm sure she sleeps all day with the amount of running you two do!

Priscilla said...

Hi AC. We heard that especially during puppy time, having frog legs may contribute to HD. Your dad's dog probably does it consciously. Eva doesn't. She slides down on the floor into that position.

Sam said...

Wow - that is really sad, that the forest has burned so badly. You're right, "lunar" seems like the right word to describe it. It just looks so barren and lifeless.

It's funny that Kona does better on the way up rather than the way back. Marge is the opposite. She's more fearful on the way out while walking, and usually more comfortable on the way back.

I'm longing to go back to our own forests, but, due to the storms that we had here in the Northeast recently, our park officials are cautioning against it - there are trees blocking the trails, and some that are still standing, but in danger of falling.

Kathy said...

wow, that has to be sad to see the burned area and know that something is forever gone, especially since nothing has grown to replace it yet.

That is so interesting that Kona does better going up then coming back, humm, wonder why that is

Sara said...

In that last photo, the colors are just incredible.

How sad to see the destruction from the fires. Whenever trees come down, break, burn, it always saddens me. They took so, so long to grow, it really is a huge loss to the world.

I wonder what Kona was on alert about?

KB said...

I wonder about the relaxed versus alert on the ascent versus the descent. Could it be the wind direction and she can smell people coming from a long ways off on the way down? Or more people on the way down? I always get puzzled by bizarre patterns like that one.

I agree about fire. The kind of fires that seem to take off in the west these days are NOT the kind that foster new growth any time soon. It's very sad to see...

But, I'm glad that you two had a great run to a less familiar place. Exploring is the best!

Shelley said...

What a fantastic life Kona leads with you! She is a gorgeous animal. Such a shame to see all the damage from the fires. Just a big reminder that nothing remains unchanged. Looking forward to your next adventure with Kona and living vicariously through your words and images :o) Thanks for sharing!