Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Random Hike Can Be Good For You

The thing that I hate about being a grown-up is that I always have something to do that isn't fun. Most of the time it's five or six things that I have to do. So my fun time during the week is pretty slim. I'm lucky if I can squeeze in an hour of video games here or a chapter of a book there. The danger of this is that I quickly become stuck in a rut and I seem to stay in that rut until I force myself out. The evil fact is that ruts are comfortable, even the ones that suck, and this is because people like routine. So every once in a while I have to shake myself out of yet another rut. School was a great way to break out but once Summer break started I can't seem to drag my ass out of bed before 10:30am . I wouldn't mind this except that I'm not really enjoying sleeping late.

So Wednesday came and I had to drive into Monterey to deposit my paycheck and I thought maybe I'd get in a short walk somewhere later. On the way back from the bank I found myself in Borders trying to find a DVD to buy so that I could blow off my walk. This made me mad, once I realized that this was what I was doing I left the store and drove to Fort Ord (my home away from home) and parked my truck. I grabbed a bottle of water and hauled ass into the tree-line. I decided that I would walk down to East Garrison to survey the development of that part of the base. I'd heard that it was stalled because of the housing crunch but I needed to see the damage for myself and this was a great excuse to do a long walk. You see, it's about 3 1/2 miles from where I'd parked to East Garrison so I was looking at a minimum of six miles to walk round-trip.


It was a perfect day, in the upper 70s and no wind. I had my jungle boots and boonie cap and I figured I was set. I quickly discovered that in the five weeks since school had let out that I had slipped out of shape but this just made me mad and I pushed myself harder than I probably should have. Fort Ord will kick your ass. The first mile was a gentile uphill grade that lead into rolling hill country. Worse, about every 500 yards there are patches of sand that can stretch for 50 yards just to kill your momentum. Still, it was nice to be out on the Oak trees and moving. I didn't see a lot of animal life this time around except for lizards which I mostly heard zipping thought the oak leaves on the ground. I kept an eye out for Rattle Snakes but all I would find were their unique tracks in the sand. I was also not too thrilled to find a nice set of Mountain Lion tracks heading the same way that I was. Mountain Lions love to circle human housing developments, I think they are just curious but I'm sure they're also stalking prey. Still, I didn't see one or come close to one and that's just fine with me.

I made East Garrison in two hours and saw that it had been graded into a generic set of lots for the future homes. About half of the old buildings are still there and that's good but they're fenced off and who knows how long it will be before I can get close to them again. I hate fences. I then decided to continue to the Pre-Ranger site and survey the grounds there. This called for some serious bush-whacking and since this was a "Walk" I didn't bring my compass. However, I knew where I was and I knew that I'd eventually hit a main trail but it was interesting navigating the maze of Poison Oak and coastal Sage as I wove my way through the Oaks. It's a great way to test my nerves because it can get confusing in the bush and if I lose my cool I'm in for a bad time. No problem this time, I followed a game trail (bad idea in Mountain Lion country) that lead me to the trail above the old civilian firing range and down to the road that would take me to the pre-Ranger site. The site is still untouched and that made me feel good. The old sign is only hanging by one D-ring but it's still readable. I walked up the road and did a quick survey of the Monterey Pines (since Fort Ord closed in 1993, there are 40 new trees out in this one location) and found that there were 24 saplings reaching for the sky.

Then it was time to turn around and head back. By this time I was hurting, my feet were sore and my right ankle was in a little pain thanks to my boot. I headed back as best I could and I just let my mind wander. This helped with the pain and made the time pass a little faster. The thing I hate about Fort Ord is that there's always one more hill to climb, it takes the fun out of the return trip on a long hike because it never fails that I find myself cresting a steep hill and find that I have to climb yet another steep hill. The worst part is that I don't remember this next steep hill being here on the way in. Fort Ord is a unique place in many ways in that there are geologic features that occur only within Fort Ord and nowhere else on Earth. One of the main features is Fort Ord's magnetic field, according to the U.S. Army, the old base has the greatest magnetic declination from true-North of anywhere in the U.S.. The normal declination in Monterey is 15 degrees, but it's 18 degrees at Fort Ord. The reasons for this are that Fort Ord is a geologic hinge that sits between to faults. As the Peninsula pushed northwest away from the coast the land that is Fort Ord was shoved eastward into the base of the Santa Lucias and then twisted south by the San Andreas, which lies to the east. Fort Ord's soil has a high Iron concentration and all of that Iron is what drives compasses crazy.

Anyway, sometimes I think that the screwy iron-rich soil plays tricks on my head because it's so damned easy to get lost out there. The hundreds of trails twist and turn and the rolling hills disguise small gullies and ravines that make no sense. I found six more small canyons on this hike alone that I'd never seen in all my many missions on the base. I'm always puzzled as to how I could possible miss large geologic features but that's just the way it is on Planet Ord. This just added to my growing aggravation as I slowly made my way back to my truck. I reached my vehicle as the sun started to set and I dumped a bunch of water on my head and changed my shirt. It was nice to get back to my vehicle. Then I climbed in and started up my beast and slipped it into gear and began my take-off roll towards the front gate and the highway.

In spite of being sore and sunburned it was a good day. I'm glad I did it.