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June 2012

Well, after an 8 month hiatus from blogging, I am back!  I almost don’t remember how to do this, despite positing every day for a year!

I just recently took a weekend trip to Fallbrook, California to celebrate my dad’s cousin’s 60 1/2 surprise birthday.  Many of my dad’s cousins, who I met for the first time on my trip around the USA, came for Bill’s birthday as well, so it was like a family reunion!  We enjoyed a nice dinner outside in Bill and Pam’s backyard with beautiful weather.

While the family wasn’t congregated together, I took a short drive, winding along narrow roads that cut through hillsides of avocado orchards on my way to Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  I would call it farmland, however, each orchard included a decorative gate adorned with seasonal flowers opening to a long driveway which led to Mediterranean mansions.  No wonder avocados are so expensive!

img_8977 avocado 3

Actually, due to droughts and water restrictions, many of the avocado trees in the area are being replaced by grapes.  Someday, the entire state of California will be a vineyard.

It was a little weird not to have VANilla and my mutt as climbed up 18% grades and looped around blind turns, though I still ended up with a Volkswagen from the rental car company…kind of spooky.

Upon arrival at the Reserve, I took a 4.5 mile hiker along the Vernal Pool Trail and the Adobe Loop Trail.  The Vernal Pool Trail led me through golden grassy plains that shimmered in the breeze like a rattlesnake’s tail.  In fact, I had my eyes peeled for the three different species of rattlers that reside in the Reserve.

In addition to rattlesnakes, mountains lions travel through the Reserve and warning signs seemed to be posted at every fence post.  When I wasn’t busy watching for snakes, I was hopping over mountain lion feces that peppered the trail.  At first, I thought disrespectful dog owners frequented the trail, but dogs weren’t allowed and there was way too much.  I found myself thankful to be hiking mid-day, in warm weather, and sharing the trail with others, so that I did end up as a cat’s dinner.

I was excited to see the pools, as I prefer hikes near water, only to find out they were seasonal and dried up in June!  In order to entertain myself, I decided to see if there were any geocaches around – another activity I haven’t done in ages.  According to the earth cache description, the vernal pools are the only known examples of Southern Basalt Flow Vernal pools.  The basalt is the key to the large number of pools as it is nearly impervious to water (perhaps the water evaporated in the heat).  There are only 14 pools in Riverside County, 13 of which can be found in the preserve.

The flat, dry trail passed by prickly pear cacti and then dropped down the hillside through some shrubs before it led me to the oldest adobe structures still standing in Riverside County.  I stopped for a few minutes near the barn and adobe house to enjoy the shade as I expected the rest of the walk would take me across more sunny plateaus.  Not so: I ended strolling beneath enormous trees that lined the narrow Adobe Creek as birds rustled in the leaves.

After half a mile of shade, I returned to the car on the open trail that was used by cattle ranchers in the 1800’s.

I had a final chance to see my relatives Sunday morning for breakfast before returning back to Denver.  While half the state seems to be on fire, currently I am safe and sound and preparing for the MS150 bike ride to Fort Collins next week.  If anyone feels like donating, it’s not too late!  I’m only $225 away from raising $4,000.  Any amount helps…http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Bike/COCBikeEvents?px=4628235&pg=personal&fr_id=17994

—etb

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