Don Bauder 4:30 p.m., Dec. 9
My shoes crunch on the decomposed granite, following the ancient trail weaving into the boulders, stark sentinels to lifetimes of history. Hiking into the Poway hills, my hills, I know I will hear what I’ve heard before. Silence and birds and a whole city of animals that live within their sage jungle. I drop in to relax and enjoy the peaceful kiss of sun on the rain drenched earth. Little flowers everywhere beckon and soothe, are heaven sent just so I can feel it’s good to be alive on such a day as this. Gurgling streams make their way, falling, falling on to the ocean. What a relief from the buzz of daily life; listening to the silence, the absence of cars, houses, and people. Although, occasionally, the noisy Miramar jets, bombers and helicopters break the peace, reminders of war and other realities of modern life. The scourge is eminent, making the fragile bushes and trees seem very vulnerable - but the hills seem to have all the time in the world. This pristine resource will not change until the hand of man comes to shape it. It’s amazing that some California hills are still the same as when the Indians made them their home. Were they dreading the encroachment of the white settlers as much as I dread the developers? When did the last ones leave their life style and pack it in, never to return to the hunting and gathering? There are many mysteries hidden here. How much gold was found and how long did the old time prospectors search for it? Are those mining tailings? Where were the mines and is there more gold in the quartz rock present today? I ponder these things although I haven’t researched the answers. I prefer to piece the puzzles together from clues left behind. Muddy tracks are more mysteries to be solved. Are those puma tracks? Coyote or domestic dog? Bobcat? The deer tracks are obvious. Horses and bicycles, some motorcycles, and other hikers have left their mark for all interested to see. It’s exciting to know that horny toads, jackrabbits, and burrowing owls still exist. As a kid I played in the sage chaparral. Horned lizards were plentiful then. Where did they all go? I’ve seen a few in the last twenty years. Two were flattened and dead - they never saw the bicycle coming. Another one was eating black ants by the edge of the trail. I carry an oak walking stick about 5 ft. long for protection. Ever vigilant to the lonely mountain lion, I rehearse what I might do if attacked. The encounter won’t happen but it is good to be prepared. What is more disturbing is the human predator that might be waiting. That is why I don’t always go the same way. Cell phones are out of range here - not much help. I used to walk with my Akita and felt very safe. Maybe it’s time to get a new dog. Anyway, returning home once again unscathed, the perceived danger avoided, I feel like a conquering survivor with a refreshed attitude, ready for whatever life may bring.