My tenth hike! Double digits!!
I didn’t even realize this was my tenth hike until I was part way through it. In the couple of days leading up to it, I was completely preoccupied with one topic: ticks. I was learning what could about preparing for, avoiding, and identifying them, and becoming completely paranoid in the process.
What set this all off was a simple mention in the book to watch out for them. So I Googled ticks in Charmlee, which led to an article about Lyme Disease ticks found in several other coastal parks, which branched off into searching Lyme Disease symptoms, tick bites, what they look like, where they’re found…far more than enough information to get me unreasonably worked up over something that, for all my hikes, never crossed my mind before.
I was also getting a new hiking buddy for this one, my friends Della. Our kids go to school together, and back when I was on crutches I was telling her about my project, and she said she’d like to go with me sometime. Fast forward to about a week ago, we ran into each other at a restaurant and I mentioned to her how good she was looking, curious about what she’s been up to. She said she’s been walking more, and said she was waiting to hear from me about hiking, haha. I told her I’m back at it, and hadn’t forgotten about her, but I realized I didn’t have her number to invite her, and that I happened to be going that Saturday (and pretty much every Saturday!). It couldn’t have worked out better.
That was the Wednesday prior. That night, I made the “tick discovery” and immediately began to worry that I’d scare her off when I told her there was suggested apparel, and why. She happened to ask me the following day about it, and tried to say as casually as possible that it was tick season and long pants tucked into socks was recommended, along with some other apparel details. I am so glad she was game!! If she flinched at all, she didn’t show it, lol, which is impressive for a fellow rookie. Even though I had my buddy locked down, I found myself very nervous the night before, for the first time in months. I’m still not completely sure why, but I think it was because it was the first time since January that would be driving myself to a new location for a new trail, and this time with new company. I’ll be honest, I felt responsible for her in way, too. I did all the preparing I could think of the night before so I could be up and on time in the morning, including bug spray with 98% DEET and picking out some stripey knee socks to wear over my leggings (no ticks for this girl!). We planned to leave by 7 for Charmlee.
The drive down wasn’t bad at all. I usually make these trips by myself, unless the family comes, so it was a nice change to have someone to chat with on the way down. An adult female, even! For a moment I was worried I was being navigated to Peter Strauss by mistake because it was the same exit and the same road, but we eventually passed right by it, which was a relief, haha. After driving farther into the hills with, luckily, not much traffic, we found our spot. I do love a nice clear sign letting you know you’re in the right place!
The lot was easy to get to, and there were at least two, and a third we couldn’t quite tell how to get into. I met up with my old friend The Iron Ranger to pay the $4 parking fee and proceeded into the upper lot, where there was just one other car. I never really know what to expect from a site, but I immediately liked this one. It had real bathrooms off to the left (I took a peek, well stocked if not very clean), and nice shaded area complete with picnic tables at the very beginning. It was very encouraging 🙂
Charmlee Wilderness Park has a few trails that cross and meet with one another. We followed the trail in the book, a 2.3 mile Easy loop that, while quite sunny, did have some pockets of shade. It followed Portrero Road up to an old concrete reservoir, then doubled back a bit and took another trail to the beginning. We passed the Nature Center (It was closed. Thumbs down.) and started heading up a small incline the curved back around the other way. We passed the water tower (I love landmarks that tell me I’m on the right track!) and began encountering our first Kamikaze Lizards. What is it with these guys? It’s like they have that small dog syndrome, charging out of nowhere to nip at our ankles only to realize “bad idea! bad idea!” and scurry away. Oh! There were also bunnies! I almost never see bunnies on my hikes! This was also where I realized that, while we were staying well in the middle of the trail, we were high-stepping and side-stepping any bit overgrowth we came by, haha, which included some random sprouts in the middle of the trail. I never felt so prissy, but I’ll prance through every trail in this book if it means avoiding Lyme Disease.
Along this bit we also started getting our first views, mostly of the canyon below, but a bit of the misty ocean in the distance. We passed the little path that would have led to the ranch house (another time, perhaps) and came to a literal crossroads, and a very poorly marked one, too. I had three maps this time, two from Charmlee websites and one from the, and with the power of deduction, went that-a-way. I wasn’t positive we were on the right path, luckily a nice lady walking her dog (and I’m assuming the owner of the one other car) reassured me that we were headed to our turnaround point, the reservoir. At that point, we came to the meadow. I wanted to make a “Bambi” joke, but I really had nothing…I had never been in a place so simple and so calm. It really was beautiful, and the fact that we were the only people in sight made it all the more peaceful. It was a special moment for me, and I tried to soak it all in. The fact that it was so plain, unembellished and largely untouched added to its beauty. Certainly one of those things that can’t be captured in a picture.
Just after my new favorite meadow was a bend leading up to the reservoir. I don’t know what I was expecting, but apparently it hasn’t been used in quite a while, and had a lovely collection of trees and shrubbery well at home in it. Also, this :
We paused here for a break and pictures, and, personally, secretly hoping that a large gust of wind would blow the marine layer out, because we could not see a drop of ocean. That was pretty disappointing, especially since part of the reason I chose this one was so Miss Della could see some ocean views. But no, we were just too early in the day.
After a few more minutes, we headed back across the meadow. We were supposed to take a different trail from that confusing crossroads, but realized we did something not-right when we found ourselves on the trail we came in on. After some backtracking and map-studying, I got us on the right path (yay me!) heading back towards our starting point. This path was called the Botany Trail, and was a really nice little path with patches of shade and an adorable tree that looked like it might throw apples at me if it had a mean branch in its body. There was a collection of picnic tables, some more large, shady trees, and a nice little sitting area where we came out right behind where we started.
Being the responsible hikers we are, we did a good tick check before getting in the car to head back. I’ll be honest, I did another one when I got home and promptly took a shower. I know, I probably overreacted to the whole tick thing, which I especially see in retrospect, but I would always rather be over-prepared, if I can help it. I’m very glad that I didn’t let it deter me from this trail or keep me from enjoying it. I’d do this one again in a heartbeat.
What I Learned:
- Ticks. Lots and lots about ticks.
- I need my own sunblock to keep in my pack so my daughter can’t “misplace” it
- I should also invest in a compass