Dorland, Day 4


Excerpt from my journal:

After lunch, I headed to the Santa Rosa Plateau, an ecological reserve with around 40 miles of trails through prairie grasslands and rolling hills. I hiked a 4-mile loop and it was beautiful. The day was hot, but breezy. This was my first big hike on my own and I got more and more confident being alone as I went along.

For a while I thought there were rattlesnakes all around me, which surprisingly didn't bother me much. I kept hearing a rattling that sounded just like them. But there were so many that I thought it just couldn't be possible. Later on, I looked it up and apparently they were cicadas "whose strident buzz is so rattlesnake-like that they are quite deceiving to even rattlesnake experts and entomologists. Nature is cool.

The plateau used to be a 47,000-acre Mexican cowboy ranch, Rancho Santa Rosa, but eventually became a reserve and is now around 8,500 acres. It's known for its vernal pools (dry right now) that seasonally collect water on rare volcanic mesas and support endemic fairy shrimp! Who knew? Shrimp in the desert! Again, nature is cool.

The loop took me to an area of the prairie that was covered in hundreds of prickly pear cactus colonies, all blooming. It was really something. I'm really into cacti right now and I took so many photographs of them. (All on film, sorry!) I also saw lots of ground squirrels, which I learned are immune to rattlesnake venom.

But my favorite moment of the day was in the late afternoon when I was visited by a hummingbird. Lucky for me it was an Anna's Hummingbird, also known as the bird with the fastest heartbeat ever recorded. Again, again, again, nature is just so cool. She stuck around for a little while enjoying the indigo bush on my front porch. Lovely.

I ended the day with another sunset, playing the piano, and reading more of "A Field Guide to Getting Lost." Rebecca Solnit really gets me. The chapter I'm currently reading covers her experiences in the desert. How serendipitous...

"The desert is made first and foremost of light, at least to the eye and the heart, and you quickly learn that the mountain range twenty miles away is pink at dawn, a scrubby green at midday, blue in the evening and under clouds. The light belies the bony solidity of the land, playing over it like emotion on a face, and in this the desert is intensely alive, as the apparent mood of mountains changes hourly, as places that are flat and stark at noon fill with shadows and mystery in the evening, as darkness becomes a reservoir from which the eyes drink, as clouds promise rain that comes like passion and leaves like redemption... with a rise of scents in this place so pure that moisture, dust, and the various bushes all have their own smell in the sudden humidity. Alive with the primal forces of rock, weather, wind, light, and time in which biology is only an uninvited guest fending for itself, gilded, dwarfed, and threatened by its hosts. It was the vastness that I loved and an austerity that was also voluptuous."


KATHLEEN

SAUNDERS