The blossoms started coming out in San Francisco in spite of last week’s rain, or perhaps because of the milder temperatures that accompanied it; this early flowering is a perennial California joy for me.
The last of the rain blew through on Friday morning, and once it had gone, the blue skies that followed seemed to bring a certain peacefulness. I was on my way to Wilbur again, and it was set to be a different forecast to the previous visit.
Whenever I go to Tassajara, there are a few ‘gates’ that I pass on the journey, letting me know where I am and where I am going, transitioning from city speeds to the pace of the monastery: coming down Laureles Grade with a view of Carmel Valley; cresting the small rise on the Carmel Valley Road just before the Tassajara Road turning; and the final and most significant, arriving at the southern ridge on the Tassajara Road with its long view south over the wilderness as the five-mile descent to the monastery begins.
The journey to Wilbur has several similar thresholds: crossing the Carquinez Bridge, which means leaving the east bay behind and broaching the north bay; turning off the 80, which usually signifies the end of the heavy traffic, even if the vehicle which is kindly being lent to me is not capable of exploiting the 70mph speed limit on the straight shot north on the 505; turning onto the 16, for the sumptuous Capay Valley, which was luminously green this time; entering Cache Creek Canyon, life-affirmingly beautiful, with many visible traces of where the rocky hillsides had slid onto the road, the reason why it was closed last month; and finally the dirt road itself, not as epic as the one to Tassajara, but still a time to start slowing down, the process that continues when you leave your car in the lot and revert to human speed for the rest of the weekend.
A few hours after leaving the city, then, I was running along the valley road, disturbing cows, quails and ducks, seeing hawks, a heron and a kingfisher, reveling in the quiet.
The bright blue skies meant warm days and cold mornings, bright stars and planets at night, the just-past-full moon setting as daylight grew. For all the joys of being soothed by the water and by the warm air on my skin, though, I was plagued with pre-occupying thoughts during the weekend, which persisted through a few hours of sitting; it was a long run that, as it has so often in my life, dampened that energy and brought some peace.
The buds were only just starting to open on the trees, but when I went running up the hillside on Sunday, I saw baby blue eyes and shooting stars by the side of the trail. I had tried to get up to the ridge trail on my two previous visits, and this time I managed it by starting from the farther end, and was rewarded with views over Bear Valley and the plain beyond to snow-capped ridges and peaks to the north east, even as I could see down to the scattered buildings around the hot springs.
Hillside run-off on its way to the main creek, up the valley from the hot springs