Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gusty Gales Howling on my Hike

Determined to build up my leg strength I was up on the skyline Drive once again on Saturday for another hike, this time a bit longer and more strenuous. I had come close to backing out because of the weather, because although bright and sunny through the glass, it was a raging, howling windstorm once the door was opened. I'd opened the patio doors to let Kota and Rosie Lee have some fresh air, and they both rapidly backed away once a gust blew in. We watched as ferocious gusts ripped the leaves from the trees, they twirled and lifted, and were then hurled furiously to the ground.
I left Kota and Rosie Lee inside, snug by the heater, and headed out before their contented coziness convinced me to stay home with them.
I was surprised to see cars already lining up to get in the park and wondered if they were hardy hikers or there just for the panoramic vistas; the wind had blown any misty haze into eternity, the views were clear and magnificent. But starting early as I was, the sun hadn't heated up the day, and it was freezing cold as I set off on the trail I hoping I wouldn't get an earache, I had thoughtlessly forgotten to bring a hat. The winds roared through the branches as I slipped and slid my way down the trail, loose rocks already hidden under a thin carpet of fallen leaves. The noise was so loud from the gales, like an approaching freight train, that sometimes I ducked involuntarily, imagining that a tree was coming down and about to crush me. The leaves rustled furiously on their branches, sounding like ocean waves crashing across a pebble beach.
It was actually quite difficult taking photos of pretty leaves on the ground as they never stayed still, blowing across the trail or billowing up as soon as I got down close to them. I had to take ten photos to get one relatively good image. Everything out here was in constant motion with these winds, and it was cold, so I had to keep moving. I wondered if there would a good chance of seeing bears out here since with the racket from the gales they wouldn't hear me, but then I guessed they'd likely smell me sooner; with all the human hiker scents in the vicinity being slammed into their nostrils from the winds.
I'd turned on to a trail that led further down hill, in fact getting very steep, with huge rocks on either side, and beautiful hues of reds in the ground from the maples above me. I was so intent on clambering down on the rocky trail and taking photos of the beautiful surroundings that it wasn't until I'd hiked another mile or so on flatter ground that I realized I wasn't on my intended trail. I had to turn around and head back since I had no idea where I was walking to. It's amazing that I actually let myself out alone to hike these trails... It was harder work this time climbing up the rocks and I kept stopping to puff and pant at regular intervals. That is the actual path in the immediate photo above.
Eventually I was back on more level ground but still the air was filled with the sounds of trees creaking and moaning as they bent and rubbed against each other. If it wasn't for the bright sun falling on the golden autumnal colors vibrant from last night's showers I may have given up and turned back after a couple of miles, but despite the harsh winds the scenery was beautiful. My cold hands were thrust deep into my pockets after every photo and my jacket was zipped up tight.
I did come across some more fungi on the trails but didn't want to keep checking my phone to identify them, instead wanting to keep my hands in my pockets, but there was a cluster of these odd looking specimens on the side of the trail, about a dozen of them looking like they had just emerged and had some more unfurling to do. Oyster mushrooms maybe?
I carried on walking but then a pine tree made a weird noise as its trunks rubbed together that I swung round with my heart in my mouth, thinking it was a bear snorting behind me. Not even 3 minutes later, after I'd only just pulled myself together from that fright, a bear DID appear, about waist height and crossing the trail 40ft in front of me. He didn't seem to have noticed me with the commotion from the wind so I walked quickly up to where he'd gone, pepper spray in one hand and my camera in the other, but all I saw was a brief patch of black fur in the bushes and then he'd gone. He had looked a little harried so I was kind of glad our paths had only crossed and not collided.
After hiking about 7.5 miles I returned to the parking lot which by now was full of vehicles. The wind had dropped a little but I was glad I'd enjoyed my hike before the hoards had arrived. As I drove out of the park, cars were stretched down the mountain waiting to enter.But I was done with this blustery bothersome weather. I stopped briefly at a farm to buy apples and cider, then headed back home, hoping there would be a free spot on the sofa for me.

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