A truck pulled into the campground around 6 am, and like any early morning movement outside, it was loud and woke up the soft sleepers, myself among them. The truck belonged to Mike Smith, the Forest Service volunteer pictured above that would play host for the next three days. Mike had brought along his son, his daughter in-law and his five goats. The goats would carry in a few camping supplies, tools for trail work and all the food and (COLD!) beer. Those goats were annoying as can be, but how can you possibly be mad at an animal that’s carrying your alcohol?
As the rest of our group finally started waking up, bagels and oatmeal and almond butter were being eaten, tents were being taken down, the van was being packed up and backpacks were getting loaded. By the time we got on the trail for our five mile hike to Mike’s very own Twin Oaks Campground, it was already hot. Very very hot. So hot that after a half mile in, we stopped at a watering hole for an hour to go swimming and shoot the shit. Because, hell, if all you have to do is get five miles in one day, you take your time. We took off our clothes and dunked ourselves in a few times before drying on the rocks.
Juniper Ridge takes their time hiking. You don’t ooh and ahh at the views of the California mountains. You don’t talk about girls. Or movies. Or whatever you talk about when you’re hiking with buddies. You stop and identify plants, pick them, rub them between your fingers and bask in the glory of aromatics. You talk about the Salvia family being The Beatles, you explain how making natural essential oils works and you ask if any of the plants around are natural laxatives. I learned (and probably forgot) a ton about California wildflowers, all while cooking in the hot sun, waiting for the next Coulter Pine to present itself for a moment of shaded glory.
After a long lunch, the group split up a bit so that some of us could walk a little bit faster in the hot sun to get to camp and drop our packs. Obie, Hall and I hurried ahead, getting to Mike and the goats, who had gotten on the trail a few hours before us, around 3pm. We took our shoes off, laid under the big oak trees, and when Mike got back to camp, brought us over a few cold beers as we waited for the rest of the gang to show up. It’d be a while until everyone was finally there, and when we were all settled and done ringing out sweaty clothing, the fire got going for chili and tortillas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, California is quite a lady.