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Aliso and Wood Canyons

Immersed in Nature’s Rain-Dance Symphony

 

Quiet Trails Make Happy Hikers:  A lattice-lace canopy of coast live oaks in lower Mathis Canyon, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

Quiet Trails Make Happy Hikers: A lattice-lace canopy of coast live oaks in lower Mathis Canyon, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

Cloudy mists settled heavily into the dark folds of the verdant blanket wrapping around the canyons and hills.  Like a Japanese woodblock print, it felt solid yet ethereal.

The valley below was dancing in the flashing rays of sunlight cutting through the Pacific mist, like so many filigree-winged fairies.  I was transported to a land of high-country wildness, more like Wyoming than our own backyard in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness.  No chain-link fences, no high telephone wires, no fake cell-tower evergreen trees.  Three winter-coated coyotes stepped stealthily through a grassy meadow while the magic of a rain dance hung on the precipices above me.

Fallen Leaves:  A crunchy path of prickly edged oak leaves.

Fallen Leaves: A crunchy path of prickly edged oak leaves.

The pregnant mist gave way to plump droplets of rain.  I found shelter in the middle of a long-standing sycamore grove, and given a concert of super, natural delights.  Giant, golden drying leaves with long-fingered hands dangling from slender white-and-gray limbs turned into a syncopated symphony, like a babbling brook in sensory-heightening surround-sound.

Coming out from cover, I let the now-delicate but steady rain saturate me, water me, fill me up as my body opened to the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sensations of nature in motion.  Puddling park trails led to mystery after mystery, bandit hide-out caves, deserted corrals, even a wrecked gangster-like sedan from days gone by.

Looking at the valley below me from a ledge on a high trail, the startling sound of a boulder dropping directly from the sky turned out to be a mule-deer doe bounding her take-off from behind a nearby bush and escaping across the hilltop.

Photo Op:  Put your face in the hole and become the mighty Atlas of oak trees.

Photo Op: Put your face in the hole and become the mighty Atlas of oak trees.

Coast live oak trees gently released their prickly edged holly-like leaves, adding more pile to the rough-hewn earthen rug under each crunchy footstep.  As I came around a wide bend, I spotted a sight high up that instantly became a personal insignia:  a monstrous split granite rock yielding to an oak tree growing out of the middle, like a huge seed giving way to its sprout.  To me, it was a symbol of splitting souls or personalities with another.  Like the pain of separating identities with a lover or a child to give way to the potential of greater abundance, to me it became the universal tree of life, a symbol that all needs will be met.  That’s just me feeling poignant on a mystical day in the mountains.

After three hours of immersion into nature’s wonders, living again felt free, spirited and connected to something more important than human conflicts, time pressures and “things to do.”  It was good to feel new again.

 

 

I’m Melting:  Seemingly liquid canyon walls provide cover for hidden sandstone caves.

I’m Melting: Seemingly liquid canyon walls provide cover for hidden sandstone caves.

Outlaw Caves:  Once a hide-out for cattle thieves, the wind-sculpted walls and ceiling of Robbers’ Cave are blackened from long-gone (and now outlawed) campfires.

Outlaw Caves: Once a hide-out for cattle thieves, the wind-sculpted walls and ceiling of Robbers’ Cave are blackened from long-gone (and now outlawed) campfires.

 

A Winter’s Respite:  Cool, creek-side reflections on a misty morning.

A Winter’s Respite: Cool, creek-side reflections on a misty morning.

Put Me There:  Coyote Trail, suitable for personal R&R, reflection and relaxation.

Put Me There: Coyote Trail, suitable for personal R&R, reflection and relaxation.

 

After the Rain:  Sunny skies reveal true colors of native sycamores and oaks (look closely to see the split rock with tree of life).

After the Rain: Sunny skies reveal true colors of native sycamores and oaks (look closely to see the split rock with tree of life).

 

 

Photos by Ron Chilcote

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