Thursday, April 13, 2006
It was supposed to be a wildflower hike—we should have known better. The bit of sunshine Saturday was just a break in the soggy gloom, and peak wildflower season is still weeks away. Still, we set out hopefully up to the BLM/Fort Ord land along the Monterey-Salinas Highway, across from the Toro Place Café.
Just 50 yards from the parking lot, we had to take off our shoes to cross El Toro Creek. El Toro, which runs north into the Salinas River, is a dry creekbed most of the year. Some winters and springs, the creek flows for a few days, and sometimes not at all. I’d never seen water in it before. Last weekend, El Toro was a torrent.
Kids from the neighborhood were skipping rocks, stomping around in the water in their sneakers. A golden retriever snapped at the wavelets.
Elsewhere along the trail, ponds had appeared in various low-lying areas (“vernal pools,” according to a helpful BLM flyer posted on a trailside kiosk). One of these was surrounded by a big flock of red-winged blackbirds, trilling as they do; another spontaneous pond, further up the trail, had been occupied by hundreds of their yellow-winged cousins. A couple of mallards circled and landed. Where are these critters when these ponds are just meadows? Hmmm.
According to the BLM flyer, the ponds are also full of fairy shrimp, which lie dormant waiting for the rainy year. Miracle of life.
Up on the ridge, the Peruvian shepherd who is there every year had set up his trailer and was out patrolling with his border collie. A couple of years ago, he explained to me that he trucks his sheep over from Los Banos for a month or so, when the hillsides are green. This spring, his flock appears to be huge—there are at least 700 animals up there. Must be because the grass is so much thicker than it usually is. The trail cut right through the flock—they scattered, filling the air with comical complaints.
There were some early wildflowers out—but we hardly noticed.
THE 45TH ANNUAL SPRING WILDFLOWER SHOW takes place 10am-5pm April 14-16 at the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum, 165 Forest Ave., in Pacific Grove. $2 donation appreciated. 648-5716.