Friday, January 02, 2009

Into The Green Again

New Years Day, 2009, I decide that I'm just going to go on a hike just to get my fat ass outside and moving. I put on my boots and drove to Fort Ord again. I had no plan, no objective and I didn't even bring my camera. I just wanted to move and I wanted to get some sweat out of it. So I locked up my truck and slung my hydration bladder onto my back and started moving.

It was a beautiful day, around sixty degrees with the sun in the sky. There were many mountain bikers and horseback riders out and why not? I couldn't think of any place where I'd rather be once my hike was under way. I had decided on a three mile loop that would take me up and down and up and down the hills of Planet Ord. I also figured that if an opportunity presented itself I would explore. Almost right off the bat, as I had descended to a road in a shallow canyon I veered off into the Oak trees that lined an open area. I have walked by this place hundreds of times but I'd never explored the opposite side. Needless to say that as soon as I was in the shade of the Oaks I was surrounded by fighting positions, some still had their green sandbags in place. The recent rains had exposed dozens of spent .762 shells. As I moved beneath the trees I found the white splatter droppings from a large bird-of-prey. I quickly spotted a "Pod" from an Owl and then looked to the branches to locate the bird. This is a fun exercise as your eyes scan for an animal who will remain invisible until it moves. I guess I made it nervous because a Barn Owl broke cover and flew a short distance to another stand of trees. It's massive wings made no sound. I then cut across the field which had once been the site for M.A.S.H., CPs and LZs for choppers. I saw spent simulated .203 rounds and other remnants of the Army dating back to the 1940s.
I then moved up a ridge, moving close to a gully that has been slowly eroded into the hillside since 1994. I do this to look for unexploded munitions and other goodies that may be revealed by the rains. I found nothing new by the time I got to the top. From the top I looked down onto another road that lay about 200 feet below me. I followed a secondary trail down to the road and rambled down to an area just past the ancient plow. There has been clearing of this area for development, which is sad, so I wanted to see what the clearing had revealed. As it turned out, not much had been hidden by the thick brush. After a quick look I began another climb up the ridge adjacent the clearing zone and made my way to the top where I was soon enveloped by the Oak trees at the top. The Oaks are thick here and the angle of the Sun paints everything in a green halo. Many plants are starting to bud which means that we are in a drought. I moved down the trail to begin to return to my truck, which was about a mile and a half from here.
I love moving through the green. Everything smells good and the green light makes me feel thirty years younger. My mind wanders in different directions. For a while I think about when I was a kid and how I loved to ride my bike in places like this. Then I think about the Army that trained here and I wondered if a place could have an impact of the quality of soldier and I decided that it did. Every man and woman who was based at Fort Ord loved being here. In Vietnam, Fort Ord graduated always stood out. I wondered if a place could make you a better person? Maybe, it was making me feel better at the very least. I moved easily through the trees and along the trail. Birds sang and rodents rooted through the underbrush as I passed by. I finally broke out into the open again and I made good time back to where I was parked. Once there I paused a few minutes to enjoy a little floor-show put on by a Turkey Vulture and a Raven. The Vulture had perched upon an electrical tower and the Raven didn't like it one bit. So the Raven puffed up his feathers until he was almost as big as the buzzard and eventually he decided to leave.

It was a good day and it felt good to vanish into the green light of the Oak trees of Fort Ord for a couple of hours.