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Monday, May 13, 2013

CA hiking: The thrill of victory and agony of defeat

Last week I visited one of my most favorite places in Northern California, Villa Montalvo at the Montalvo Arts Center.


My nephew Josh was visiting from out of town so I wanted to find fun things for us to do. I thought taking the public hiking trail behind The Villa to grab a view of Silicon Valley would be a great morning challenge. I tried to make this hike a year ago but failed.

The Poet's Walk is steeper than this looks.

We began at the Poet's Walk. Honestly? Just walking up the stone staircase to get to the trail was enough to leave me slightly winded. I really need to get out more often.

The Redwood Trail

This is the trail, a dirt foot path. Just over a year ago in March 2012 I tried to climb this trail with my friend Carl and his daughter on our Saratoga photo adventure for our blogs. I couldn't even make it to the Lookout Trail let alone the Lookout Point. Before long I was weak, sweating profusely, and so dizzy I had to sit down on the trail or I think I would have passed out. Carl seemed completely flabbergasted. He had no idea my health had become so compromised because I'd hidden it from everyone but hubby at that point in time.


It was a wake up call to me because I'd been dealing with my ever worsening dizziness, exhaustion, and fatigue for about eight months by then. To that point I had unsuccessfully worked with my doctor who took blood tests and kept saying I was fine, even when my blood pressure was at 79/59 and I said I was too tired to sit up or get off the couch four days each week.

In desperation I went to a naturopath in May 2012 for a second opinion. Her more extensive blood tests revealed that my vegetarian diet was causing me to have severe malnourishment issues. Among them she found an odd iron deficiency problem that was causing me to become anemic. As I'd suspected for some time, my body was extremely oxygen deficient which explained my inability to make the climb that day.

The thrill of victory: Lookout Point

So last May 2012 I began taking fish oil supplements for two months. In June I transitioned to eating fish twice a week (preferably wild, line-caught, Alaskan Salmon) to increase my intake of omega fatty acids.

I tried increasing my intake of plant based iron rich foods but my body seemed to be unable to fully absorb and metabolize nonheme iron. After almost a year with only moderate improvement I began eating 8 ounces of Prather Ranch beef each week just two months ago. As much as I didn't want to eat meat again I have to admit within days I felt so much better. The exhaustion I'd been suffering from for almost two years had finally lifted.

Hiking to the end of the trail to the lookout was a major accomplishment. It's by no means a long or arduous trail but considering where I was just a year ago I was thrilled to make it to the top.


Once there we hung out a bit enjoying the view, taking photos, and goofing around. Josh took that last picture before we headed back to the car.

Descending the Lookout Trail

Josh took the next picture of his uncle and I. It offers two clues as to why what happened next may have happened. Note the improper hiking attire I was wearing and how inward my foot points.

I was so high on life that I'd made it to the top I may have become a bit distracted and/or my clumsy pigeon toed feet betrayed me. I was walking along the path with my camera in my left hand when suddenly I felt my right ankle twist and give out beneath me. As I pitched forward two thoughts crossed my mind:

1. Fall straight forward without twisting my ankle or body.
2. Protect the camera!

I didn't trip on the dress hemline but it may have made it harder for me to see where I was stepping, not that I was necessarily looking down at that moment. Honestly the whole thing is kind of a blur. I just remember walking, then falling.

The agony of defeat.

"That's going to leave a mark" was the first thing I thought after making solid contact with mother earth. Despite my epidermal injuries scrapes and large contusion bruise just below my left knee, I'm happy to report I successfully landed without spraining my ankle or breaking my camera. I just let my body take the fall. *Thud.*

As you may recall, I've had more than my share of falls over the years. There was that squirrel hole at the Baylands, and good old Frankenfoot a few years back when I twisted my ankle.


Along the way we saw quite a few different types of wildflowers including a single Crimson Columbine plant Josh spotted on our way up the trail.


There are lots of ferns. This one I especially liked because of its vibrant green color and the dainty spider walking along its lower right side.


Josh spotted this well camouflaged lizard.


And I spotted the first of around a dozen Yellow Spotted Millipedes. I'd implore you if you go hiking in redwood forests to look down as you walk along the path lest you step on and squish these gentle creatures. We saw several flattened and dead that looked as if they'd been trod upon.


They don't bite and if you stop and watch them their little legs are quite mesmerizing.


This purple, six petaled wildflower with blue stamens is Ithuriel's Spear.


And this is a Globe Lily.


It's also known as a Fairy Lantern.


We saw several flowers in pink including thistle in the upper left, Starflower in the lower left, and Hedge Nettle in the lower right.


There were only two areas with Oragne Bush Monkey in bloom. All in all I have to say I was surprised to see so many different types of flowers in such a small area.


If you want to find a space of peace and serenity the trail is a gorgeous respite from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley. It's a hidden gem tucked away in our own backyard.


This is the route we took that day beginning at the Poet's Walk on the right and exiting in the south end of the parking lot. CLICK HERE To view the full map on the Montalvo Arts website.

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