Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chickens, Tortoises, and Rabbits!

Taco tries to slide under the fence to be with me
and the chickens. =) Yes, the dog really is named Taco.
Yes, you read my post correctly yesterday, I was taking care of chickens and tortoises. I thoughtlessly didn't post any photos of them, which I will now rectify today. =) Actually, I'm just posting some pictures of them. Trying to herd three chickens into a photo is about as easy as herding three cats together, so my best photo only has two of them. And the tortoises like to hang out in their den--way, deep down in there where they're difficult to see. But with my flash, I was able to get a photo of one of them. The animals make terrible models. Nobody seems impressed with two dogs, though, so I didn't bother taking pictures of them, but ironically, they are much easier to herd around. However, one of the dogs followed me out to the chickens, so you'll see her trying to slide under the gate. The dog, Taco, gets along pretty well with the chickens, even though the chickens clearly have a huge weight advantage. =)

My mom has returned, so the animals are no longer my responsibility anymore. Whew! They all survived! =)

As for today's hiking, I decided to do what I originally wanted to do yesterday: Montana de Oro State Park.

The day was sunny and clear, but as I drove towards Los Osos, I drove into what the local weathermen like to call the "marine layer" which is just a fancy name for fog. By the time I arrived in Montana de Oro, it was cool and overcast. Just the way I like it. I'm not a big fan of the sun--hot and mean, it is. *nodding* But I knew the fog would likely burn off and the sun would probably pop out later in the day. In the meantime, I was going to enjoy the overcast skies. =)

I don't actually remember the names of the tortoises.
Heck, I can't even tell the two apart! You can barely see the
second one hiding behind this one in the front.
I parked near the park's headquarters and headed up to Oats Peak, a moderately steep incline the entire way. It only took a few minutes before I spotted my first widelife: rabbits. Rabbits, rabbits everywhere. At certain times of the year, when I hike out in Montana de Oro, I see more rabbits per mile of hiking than anywhere else I've ever hiked in my life. The place is practically infested with them! I only saw a few of them this time around--not the hoards I sometimes see at certain times of the year--but it's still more than I usually see anywhere else.

The hike was non-eventful. I passed not a single hiker along the way, and near the end, the trail lifted out of the fog and it was sunny and uncomfortably warm. Darn. And I forgot to bring sunscreen.

Spooners Cove, and where I'd start my hike from today.
I'm always a big fan of loops, so I didn't turn around and go back from where I started. Nope, I veered down a different side of Oats Peak down to Cook Creek along a short connector trail. I stopped once along this section to check up on a letterbox I planted ten years ago. At least it will have been ten years come this November--close enough, right? The box is named Bubbles. Cute, heh?

I was planning to remove the letterbox if it was still there--I figured after ten years, it probably would be in ratty condition and I'm not around often enough to check up on it anymore, but when I found the box, it was in absolute pristine condition! The box was still sturdy, the logbook dry, and it was such a fantastic little hole in that tree for a letterbox. I changed my mind, instead looking through the logbook to see who all had found it.

And do you know how many people have found it? Three. Three people. In ten years. The first was Amanda--which she found while hiking with me in 2002, so it wasn't even an attended find. Then there was Martini Man and Wisconsin Hiker, who found it without me in tow two years later in 2004. Then there was a couple who found the box by accident when one of them had to pee in 2007. After ten years, only Martini Man and Wisconsin Hiker ever looked for that box deliberately, and without me around to drag them along. Sad, so sad... It's a lonely little box, but that was undoubtedly why it was still in such good condition!

The problem with rabbits--they
never let me get close enough
to get very good photos of them.
Then I intersected the Coon Creek Trail, very close to the end of that trail. I followed it up to the very end, a minute or two towards the left and the psychological halfway point of my hike. It is the approximate halfway point. I figured at this point, I was slightly less than halfway in terms of distance traveled, but more than halfway in terms of energy expended. The climb up to Oats Peak is all uphill. The rest of the trail would be all downhill or flat.

So I took a short break at the psychological halfway point. It's surrounded by tall trees, in a nice clearing, and I've always liked laying down here and listening to the wind blow through the trees. Often times, I don't get this particularly place to myself, but so far today, I still hadn't seen another person anywhere on the trail.

Then I remembered my tripod. After my hike yesterday, I stopped at Borders because they were going out of business, and maybe I could find some books on sale that I wanted. Books were on sale, but I was disappointed to see that they were all only 20% off. I could probably get those kind of prices at Amazon.com--or even better in many cases. Not really a big shock that Borders is going out of business--they can't even compete on price with Amazon during a going out of business sale!

Then I wandered over next door to the Best Buy--because I had a $50 gift card from Christmas for Best Buy still burning a hole in my pocket. I didn't really need anything, and I didn't really want anything, but I poked my head into the store in case something jumped out and tried to bite me. And a small tripod did. =) It's a small thing, that extends up to 11 inches tall or something, which is perfect for short day hikes in case I ever wanted to take pictures of myself.

Blue skies, straight ahead!
Fast forward to today, and it was time to take photos of myself. =)

I whipped out the tripod, attached my camera, set the self-timer, and click GO! Dashed back to the log I had been laying down on and laid down as if I didn't even know the camera was there. I did this several times, to make sure I got at least one pictures of the "real me." =)

After a half hour or so, I started getting a little cold--a cool breeze blew through--so I hefted on my pack and headed off to the other end of the Coon Creek Trail.

Finally, I passed the first of several people I would see, but I didn't stop to talk with any of them. Took pictures of some of the flowers along the creek--the creek was rarely visible through all the brush but could be heard most of the way. And finally I ended up at the parking lot for the Coon Creek Trail 2 1/2 miles later.

The problem, of course, was that I was parked at the park's headquarters, not this parking lot. But no problem--another trail, the Bluff Trail--connected the two, and it happened to follow some of the most scenic portion of the entire park.

Oats Peak, just ahead!--the first waypoint of my loop hike.
The Bluff Trail is very well named because it follow along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful formations have been carved out of the terra firma, and waves continually pound it down further with each passing year. Seems like every time I hike along the bluffs now, you can see where a section of it slide down into the ocean. Fortunately, the new formations are always as neat as the old ones. =)

This trail is probably the busiest of the entire park as well, and I passed what seemed like a hundred people along this section. I have a love/hate relationship with this trail. I love the trail, but I always hate how crowded it seems.

And finally, I arrived back at my mom's car, as good as new. As I started getting into the car, I noticed that the back tire on the driver's side seemed especially low. I hesitated to call it flat, fearing if I used that term that I might jinx myself. No, I thought, it must just be low on air. I looked closer at the tire, and didn't see anything like a nail sticking out of it--always a sure sign of a flat. Yes, I hoped, it was just low on air. I could fix that at the next service station I passed, back in Los Osos. =)

This letterbox is *almost* ten years old now!
(It was hidden under the leaves when I arrived--this
is not how I found it or left it!)
I jumped in the car and headed off, kind of watching that rear tire from my side mirror. Yeah, wow, it did seem really low....

The car made it to Los Osos, probably a good ten-minute drive away, and pulled into a gas station. I filled the car up with gas--I figured it's the least I could do for my mom letting me borrow her car. And it's the least I could do if I somehow gave her a flat tire as well. =)

While the tank was filling, I riffled through the glove compartment for a tire gauge--I always kept one of those in my glove compartment back when I used to have a car, a habit I started because my mom had the same one and it turned out to be useful more than once. Yep, there was the tire gauge.

I went back to the tire and, wow, it still looked really low.... But I tried the tire gauge, and.... wow, it was really low. It didn't register any PSI at all! Yeah, that's definitely not good.... I looked all around the tire for anything that might have caused a puncture, but saw nothing.

Doesn't it look like this oak tree is
'barfing' up a bunch of leaves and debris?
You see this kind of thing quite often around
here--the middle of the trees are hollow,
and debris falls into it from above, then spills
out through orifices lower down the tree. 
I pulled the car up to the air hose and started pumping the tire full of air, and the tire filled with live. That's what a tire is supposed to look like! I didn't hear anything like air leaking out of the tire, so I crossed my fingers and drove back to San Luis, occasionally checking the tire with my side mirror along the way. I still wasn't entirely sure if the tire was just really, really low--or if the tire had a slow leak and needed to be fixed. I'd find out eventually one way or another. =)

Back at my mom's house, the tire still looked fine. Maybe it was fine after all. But all the same, I should tell my mom to keep an eye on that tire the next time she wants to drive it and see if it's deflated at an unexpectedly fast rate. So I called her on the phone to tell her about it.

"Hey, Mom," I said, "I think your tire might have a slow leak in it...."

"You mean that back tire on the driver's side?"

"Yes," I said, a little surprised. "How'd you know that?"

"I filled it with air about a week ago, but wasn't sure if it was just low or if it had a leak."


Sheeze, moms--sometimes you expect more from them. =)

Well, then, I guess it's official--the tire does have a slow leak. Glad I was able to confirm that for her. Several hours later, I went back out to see it, and the tire still looks full. But I know... it's leaking air. Slowly but surely. Maybe in the morning it'll look flat again. Maybe it'll take two or three days. I'm not sure how fast it's leaking air, but it's leaking....

Amanda and my team page
My personal page
Amanda's personal page

Hike another 9 miles or so today. I need to find a map with mileages listed if I'm going to get a distance accurate to the tenth of a mile.... I like measuring tenths of a mile...

I always love forests like these--it's like something I'd imagine in a fairytale nightmare,
where perceptions are distorted, and the trees are out to get you. =)
I lay down and listen to the wind blowing through the trees....
My new handy-dandy tripod! =)
Just look cool.... Make it look like you didn't dash here quickly
because your camera is an a 10-second timer....
California poppies are everywhere!
The habit along Coon Creek is very thick--if they hadn't
cut a trail through this, it wouldn't even be passable!
The Bluff Trail--clearly an obvious reason why they call it this!
Can you spot the small arch in the center-left of the photo?
I often see sea lions lounging around on the rocks near this beach,
but not today. Sorry folks, nothing to see here....


Sudoku Crazy said...

Oh, what beautiful pictures! One day I will make it to the West Coast...

Anonymous said...

Put spit on the end of the valve stem to see if that is the source of your slow leak.

Rabid Quilter from California said...

I will always be grateful that your letterboxes led me to Los Osos Oaks. What a spectacular place!