“What’re they doing?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t look like a road. Those cuts seem random.”
“Remember those flags we were seeing all winter? Here’s one. ‘RT 173-24’.”
“Weird. Wonder what it means.”
“I don’t know.”
“Look. It’s here.”
“This is the worst place. They don’t even know, do they? They don’t know what’s in this canyon.”
“Well, if it’s a road, it can’t go here. This is granite.”
“Have you ever heard of dynamite?”
“Then the road really will go here.”
“Why here, do you think?”
“This is the end of Mission Trails Park. Miramar starts just a little further on.”
“I thought all of this was the park.”
“Well, let’s go home.”
“Look, in the dead tree. That mourning dove, all in shadow, except for that one glowing spot where the sun is shining on her chest. Last December I was standing right here. The hawk was chased by the raven. He landed right where that dove is perched. He didn’t move when I passed; he just looked at me with golden eyes.”
“How many times have you seen him?”
“I don’t know. Almost every time I’ve been here, he’s been here. How many miles did we figure I put on those Raichles in the last two years?”
“So I guess 2500 miles of times. Once, I was up ahead, in the oak grove. It was in the winter, just before the Gulf War started. I’d stopped to give the dogs water. We sat beneath the trees. I ate an apple. The ravens came. They were everywhere!”
“Maybe a dozen! It was like a Hitchcock film. They circled down, lower and lower, cawing. The dogs were frightened. They refused to drink and flattened their bellies to the earth.”
“Were you afraid?”
“I didn’t know what to do. I was fascinated, and I thought if I got up to go, I would threaten the birds, but I couldn’t stay. I leashed the dogs so they wouldn’t get any crazy ideas of chasing the ravens.”
“I started up the trail. I noticed the ravens were leaving.”
“That must have been what they wanted.”
“Yeah, it seemed like it, but that wasn’t it at all. After I went about 20 yards, I looked back. The ravens were tiny black spots high in the sky. Above me were two hawks, flying low. They had chased the ravens away.”
“Were they protecting you?”
“I can’t say that was their intention, but that was the result. I gave the dogs water and this time they drank. The hawks flew low over us. I could see their feathers. When the dogs were done drinking, I got up to move on. The hawks circled higher, but stayed above me for two miles or more.”
The two walked back in silence. The crude, shapeless scrapes violating the hillsides into a road stretched into the distance, portending a future that would make this moment a flicker in a different world.
The graders came in. The Good X and I went around pulling out stakes every weekend in imitation of the “Monkey Wrench Gang” but it didn’t make any difference. Following the indefatigable laws of human progress, the road was built, the bridges were built, the traffic came through. I avoided driving on that road unless I had no choice. Let me tell you, my boycott made as much difference as my monkey-wrenching. 🤣
One good thing about the bridges is that they were shelter from the rain. One afternoon Lupo (a dog I got in 1994) and I went out for a ramble. It started to rain, and, for a while it was great. Among the things we saw — or I saw — was a rainbow above a hill in Spring Canyon. A hawk flew under the arc of the rainbow while I was watching. Later in that adventure the sky opened up. Lupo and I made a run for the bridge where we met three mountain bikers. All of us were laughing — maybe even Lupo was laughing. We were all very wet, very muddy and very happy.
One awesomely cool and serendipitous post script…
It took a while for the road to be built and longer still for it to open. There were some long pauses, such as when fossils of prehistoric horses were discovered during the digging of the roadbed on the west side, just at the base of North Fortuna Mountain.
One December evening in 1993, I took some friends up to a solstice circle I had found on South Fortuna Mountain. They wanted to stay there, and they had their own car, so Molly and I headed down the silent mountain in ocean mist and dim moonlight. We stopped a couple of times to take everything in. That was my first night hike and after that?
The next morning the new segment of Highway 52 opened. In the following years I often thought about that, how the fates had led me there to savor that last silent night.
On the matter of boots. Within two years, I had worn out the Raichle Eigers. In 1991, I got the best boots I’ve ever owned, Merrell Wilderness Legends. The soles were stitched to the tops (Norwegian Welt construction) and in our lives together, I resoled them 3 times. I had to say “goodbye” to them in 1997 when they could not be resoled any more.
“Thank you for reading all this! I hope you enjoyed it.”
❤️ The woman pictured below and her much beloved dog, Molly ❤️
These are all stories from a folder I found in an old trunk. As I was busy shredding them, I stopped to read. This turned out to be something I didn’t want to shred. I’ve shared them here, and I have also put the stories into a little book. The stories are from the very first years I lived with dogs and hiked on my own, with dogs, in the California Coastal Chaparral of San Diego. I wrote these stories in my late 30s.
There are more stories about hiking with dogs in my book, My Everest. The little book with these stories is titled The Beginning of Everything. I saw that the hikes and dogs in those stories were, for me, the beginning of everything. I want to say, “I don’t have words to describe how I feel about my experiences with dogs in nature” but I clearly have a LOT of words for that. The bottom line? It’s been the best thing in my life and that’s saying a LOT.
17 thoughts on “XVI — Ravens and Hawks”
I hiked those trails in 1968. I had to leave California when they built the marina at Dana Point in 1973. Hello, Oregon!
Oregon is beautiful. I almost moved to Klamath Falls when I retired. I had family in Oregon — a favorite aunt and then my grandma when she left MT and went to live with her daughter. Lately I’ve been wondering why I moved here — I could have moved to Weed, CA! 😀
Sometimes (like your road actions) we do stuff because it means something to us, not because it means anything in the grand scheme of things. I won’t go to a particular ice cream shop on a principle. I go to the one in the next block. On the other hand, our whole neighborhood opposed a beautiful old stone building being torn down for a franchise taco stand (which arrived on a flatbed truck and was just dropped into place). Due to neighborhood action, the truck came back and picked up the taco stand. It is now a beautiful little park. Sometimes those things mean something to enough of us to make a difference.
You’re right. The Good X, some of the boys, a couple students and I were just making a stand. I would have loved seeing the taco stand driving away.
I understand taking a stand
Had to do it! 😀
I stand on principle, so your boycott meant a lot.
I went back to your book “My Everest” to read about Molly and the hawk and loved the little drawing of ‘Lupo Dreams of Rabbits.’ ❤
I really think Lupo DID dream of rabbits. 🐾
So much packed into this post! I can only dream of a raven/hawk encounter like that… And the hiking boots (I keep hearing that Nancy Sinatra song – These boots are made for walkin’ why I don’t know, as the song isn’t about the boots but the cheating guy)…
Yeah — I know but my boots were really made for walking! ❤️
You have had such interesting canine friends!
I have! I knew when I was a little, little girl I wanted a dog. I just didn’t know WHY! Now I do. 😀
Awesome find on fossils.
I wish I had gotten to see them. I don’t know what museum took them or what. The highway hired scientists who lifted some and left the rest.
I think the hawks protected you all. They knew you’d “love and respect” their land that was being interrupted by “progress”. How you came to become a hiker, your boots, travels, the trails, encounters, and your precious pups. The stories are of ancient tales that give me hope, wonder, and happiness. I’m buying your newest book! Here’s to muddy rain, giggles with the furry friends, the hawks and ravens…to the Mission…to YOU! Love me and Finn 💕❤️🐾🐾🐾 🥾
Thank you, Karla. 💚🐾 🥾 I know you get it.
It’s truly my pleasure. I do indeed 💕💚💚🥾🎶🤗💛🙏🏻