March 8, 2009 Joseph D Grant Ranch

The announcement

We’ll get back at Laura and all those other beginners that have been joining us since the beginning of the year by going to Grant Ranch this Sunday. If you haven’t been to Grant, it’s a great place for pictures and will possibly have the best wildflowers in the area soon. We’re going to check out the progress of wildflowers, look for the mountain lion we saw a couple of years back, and do a non-easy hike.

Which hike we do will depend on who shows up. But plan on 3.5 to 4 hours of hiking, almost all exposed on wide trails. We hope to do the loop down the “hill of many despairs”, which is not despair-y when you’re going downhill, but it is steep in parts. Very steep, in fact. No sneakers on this hike. Poles would be a good idea. That’s if we do the big loop. If we’re lazy, we’ll do one of 3 other loops nearby.

We’ll have lunch on the trail. We’ll be doing this at a slow pace. I’m expecting that all the photographers in the group (about half are now serious photographers) will have lots of excuses to stop and take pictures. “Look, here’s a spider. Look at the family of quail. Look at the wild pigs over there. Oh, look, a bent blade of grass.”

The hike

As far as I know, we didn’t break anyone last week at Grant Ranch. Well, maybe we did and they’re still lying in a fetal position, softly whimpering, moaning “That G*@$% Mike, just wait till I get my hands on him.”

That was one of our four “Grand Hikes” that we do with some regularity. The others are Pinnacles, Henry Coe (south entrance), and Big Basin. Inspired by a comment by Tom Mangan, who we think on with envy on every hiking trip, we decided to do the hike in the hardest way possible—clockwise—tackling the “hill of many despairs”. We confirmed that the word “steep” on the map was a modest adjective. There are parts of the trail that are on order of 30% grade.

The adventure began with Pei missing all the wildlife as we drove into the park. She missed the large rafter of turkeys (thanks to Judy for that adjective), the trio of coyotes, and didn’t even see the tiger or bear. No one else saw the tiger or bear either, but we all saw the turkeys and coyotes. I believe she must have seen them, though, as we moved to Grant Lake and started the hike. It was particularly hard to miss the turkeys that were flying and pooping all over the place as we approached the white barn turnoff.

The hike was deceptive at the start. It rose gradually and it looked like a long, moderate climb to the top. Deceptive is the key, as in big fat liar. FOMFOK is predicated on people being encouraged to whine during hikes. Whine about the hike, whine about the weather (during the 3 hiking days a year when the weather isn’t perfect), which about politicians, whine about work, or whine about whoever thought the current hiking trail choice was a good idea. When the whining stops, we know there is trouble. When the whining stops, the breathing is heavy, faces are pale, and the only sounds people make is a vague grumbling under their breath while giving me the old Stink Eye, I begin to really worry.

The thing about accomplishing a hard hike, though; I mean the thing that is really good, the thing that you ultimately remember the next day. Well, OK, the next day you kind of just keep grumbling, practicing the old Stink Eye, and sit around with ice on the sore bits. But the thing you remember the second day, or maybe the third day, is the texture of the sky, the feel of the howling wind in your ears, the pressure of snot-clogged sinuses during the bloom, the shared misery of friends and the incredible sense of accomplishment that you made it to the end. You don’t think about how stupid it was to have believed another of Mike’s descriptions about what the hike was going to be, you don’t remember just how sore you were, at least not for very long. You do remember, with extreme clarity, that you were alive.

My pictures are here

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