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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States
Gazing into this abyss called Life and wondering.....what's next !?!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blue moons and little toads

Happy New Year! For me, January 1st is simply time for a new calendar. The end of summer is all about things new and renewed. A new class. New supplies. New ideas. Clearing out things that don't work anymore - from things stuffed in the back of closets and drawers to toxic relationships. You can't welcome new experiences as you grow when you are hanging on to things that only take up precious space. Appreciate what was then bless it and let it go.

This is what full moons are all about - and a 'Blue Moon' is an opportunity to do this clearing out twice in one month.  According to pagan folklore, today, September 1, marks the time for new beginnings since yesterday was the true "Blue Moon" - a time for appreciation and release.  To mark the occasion, I took myself out for an early morning hike before the heat set in. Having completed my first week of teaching, this first 'day off' promised a much needed long, long walk. I was the only one on the trail. In fact, I was the only car in the trailhead parking lot.

This time of year usually finds me planning and orchestrating hikes for groups of people. No longer. Now, it's just me, my journal for notes, and my camera to record what interests me. I missed the company on the trail until I realized there was no one to kvetch about how fast/slow we're moving;  no one to make snide remarks about their superior hiking abilities as compared to "the back of the line";  no one to roll their eyes when I (or anyone else) get back to the vehicles last because 1.) good leaders don't blow past everyone leaving the last person to fend for themselves, 2.) I like to savor what I walk by, or 3.) maybe I'm just tired. The sounds of sand crunching under my feet; the clink of poles hitting the ground; the wind blowing through the brush and boulders kept me company enough on this day.

It was a glorious morning - warm but breezy enough to keep me comfortable. My thoughts were full of the coming months being ripe with possibilities; with time spent getting reacquainted with friends from long ago now returning to my life; with adjusting to the empty space my two oldest children left as they fully move out and on with their lives (this week in fact...). Endings and beginnings.

The cycle continues...

Here are a few shots of my peaceful, morning trek:

All to myself!

Yes! Water on the trail. This particular trail is one of my favorites when I want about 6-7 miles and don't have all day. I was hoping there would be water with the recent rains.

Tadpoles!! I honestly don't know what type of toads these will become - red spotted toads perhaps? I need to talk with my ranger friends. Truth be told, I cannot remember seeing this in a very long, long time. Not only was this pool of water active with the tadpoles and other creatures stopping for a drink, the ground I was standing on was full of........

.....hoppy, teeny, tiny toads!  They were in various stages of development. A few still had a bit of a tail on them. This one looked fully developed - and not at all happy about being in my hand. They were all frantically completing their short-lived cycle of life. Birth, growth, reproduce, die. The bushes were full of interesting birds - no doubt waiting for me to leave so they could snack.

Just past the pool of water was an area of grass by the wash. The grasses were completely matted down - evidence of a critter resting spot. Big horn sheep? Mule deer? A pack of coyotes? I've hiked by this area many times and the area above the wash is always trampled...

This was the end of the trail for me. I only had maybe another 1/2 to 1/4 mile to go before reaching the willows. The recent summer rains completely changed this area - so much so that I didn't feel like I should continue on - alone. Usually you just hike around these boulders continuing up the wash. But, this time, there was a 3ish foot drop into more water with a lot of debris. I saw one set of footprints on the other side but couldn't figure out how they got to that side. The prints did not come back my way. These pools are also packed with thousands of tadpoles - and mosquitos who literally covered my arm if I stood still more than 10 seconds. And they meant business.....

Another view of where I stood. Not much better chances of getting around those boulders without hopping over more pools of water in narrow spaces.... Not this time anyway.

Scrub oak with galls. The fruit of the native scrub oaks are acorns - which were ground by the Native Americans inhabiting the higher desert areas in the summer. Sometimes you can find mortars, a bowl-like depression, in nearby granite slabs. These beautiful, apple-like galls are the tree's response to an insect parasite. (Thanks to my Facebook friends for providing the facts to this photo.) Other than to protect the tree, I'm not sure if these galls were used for anything else.

Recycled life in the wash....

The desert has its own version of fall colors........

There's always a sign to point the way - if you pay attention...

Happy New Year!