Breathtaking Batholomew Park
Finishing up the breakfast lunch at work, all I can think about is hiking. It’s been over a month since I’ve been able to enjoy my native terrain by walking through it and I’m itching to leave the Valley floor for a hike. With only a little free time between work and afternoon daddy duties, I head home after work to prepare for a quick excursion through Batholomew Park.
Racing past at least a dozen other cyclists, I hurry towards my destination. Legs pumping furiously, I even manage to keep pace with a few cars slowed down by the speed hump on Leveroni Road. The feeling of burning in my legs and the wind whipping past me is exhilarating as I sprint down Castle Road and up the hill to Bartholomew.
Past the north gate the terrain changes immediately. The neatly rowed grapevines give way to a seemingly disorderly configuration of trees and shrubs. But look closer at how manzanita and chaparral scrub grow sideways to catch any bit of sun that gets through the canopy of canyon oaks, madrones and bay trees and like me you’ll see that the forest creates its own order as the plants grow towards the sun.
For some reason I feel like running. Usually I take my time on hikes looking for birds and reptiles to photograph, but today, for whatever reason, I want to see how quickly I can make it up the hill. The answer is not very fast at all. Though the elevation gain is no more than a few hundred feet, the trail does dip up and down fairly constantly and I’m not yet in the running shape needed to easily ascend the hillside. Sucking wind as I approach the first bench, I use the landmark as an excuse to stop and take pictures of the view from this first lookout point.
In a small, cool canyon the foliage changes again. A small stream that runs year round feeds a small pond, keeping the area moist enough to support a grove of redwoods. Sitting on a bench underneath the towering trees, I watch adolescent tadpoles lounge underwater in the warm sun. Just beginning to grow legs, several tadpoles are able to climb up onto the shore before quickly jumping back in to the green algae covered water.
A shadow passes over me as I run along the trail up the hill from the redwoods. I stop and look up to see a pair of turkey vultures pass overhead. Mere feet above the tree-line, I can see their bare red heads as they scour the hillside in search of a meal. Though I’m pretty gassed at this point, I’m fairly sure they are not there for me. If they were, I need to increase the frequency of my runs.
Just before I leave the trail to return to my bike, I stop to take a picture of another small stream. Paying little attention to my surroundings, I almost walk straight through a patch of poison oak, stopping a few inches from the red leaves. In a spot safe from the poison oak, I crouch down to take a picture and suddenly feel a sharp pain coming from my lower abdomen. As I lift up my shirt a wasp flies out from underneath, leaving a red welt and pain to remind me of its presence.
The soreness from the sting and from my ill-advised run through Bartholomew Park will only stay with me for a couple of days, but the memory of my hike through the forest will hopefully be enough to get me through my work week. When I start to get caught up in the craziness of the next morning rush, I’ll have the memory of a lazy summer day spent watching tadpoles to calm me down and bring me back down to earth.