From the Alta Trail to the Morning Sun Trail

Being out on the trails before 6:30 AM drastically alters your perception of the day, and your hope for the possibilities of that day. The world is just waking up; and by 9:00 AM, they’ve already woken up. That sense of rebirth that comes with each morning for some is already lost for others by mid-morning, if that’s when you decide to start the day. It’s 6:45 AM and I’ve been hiking for thirty minutes. (Yes oftentimes, I hike and write at the same time. It’s the only thing I can multi-task; and I believe doing so burns more calories. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.)

I’ve taken for granted the sounds of the morning since coming back three weeks ago. Birds chirping could be among the most melodic of sounds, and one of my favourites. They sure are on this particular morning. If I had waited till 8:00 AM, their conversations would have been long gone. I can hear Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” in my head, probably the most American composition ever, evoking every morning hike I’ve ever done, mimicking the sounds I hear on my adventures.

The climax of our hike takes us to the lookout point at the start of the Morning Sun Trail. Though we are late for the sunrise (being 7:30 AM), it’s still a gorgeous view of the Richardson Bay, with Belvedere and Tiburon to our left, Angel Island almost straight across, and Alcatraz as well as Treasure Island to our right, the view of the San Francisco skyline a bit further on clear days. Taylor knows this spot well. Almost three miles away from home, it usually proves to be a stretch for him, knowing he needs to walk back, he still loves it. I wonder if he enjoys the view as much as I do, or maybe it’s the smell of the eucalyptus trees and other scents that piques his nose? Whatever it is, and no matter how tired he may be by this point, he always pick up his pace when we near the trees and he always knows his way up to the bench and rocks where I normally sit to embrace the view.

The lookout point that marks the beginning of the Morning Sun Trail marks a good spot to turn around, but Taylor never lets me. The short walk thru the aforementioned eucalyptus trees proves too much of a temptation for Taylor and I to resist. So we walk it until the beginning of the SCA Trail, which marks the start of the trail that would take us directly to the Golden Gate Bridge, just a little over two more miles from the beginning of the trail. It’s worthwhile, and for most of it, you’re hugging the hill and tall precipices, while not dangerous, you still need to be careful. I have and probably never will take Taylor on this trail. I haven’t read the signs, but he may not even be invited or allowed. In any case, we make our way back. Taylor happily turns around; it just means another walk through the sweet smells of eucalyptus.

Copland flip flops with Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny. The lyrics and music of song bearing the same name as their band sometimes take over for “Appalachian Spring”, about men in control of themselves in an otherwise out-of-control world. My only source of focus and control this morning is stepping one foot after another, and letting nature run her magic through Taylor and I. This is my “other side”.

“I fly a starship
Across the Universe divide
And when I reach the other side
I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
And I’ll be back again, and again and again and again and again”

— “The Highway Man”

When it’s all said and done by the time we arrived back home, we had hiked 5.88 miles, through fairly easy terrain save for one hill located at the intersection between Alta and Orchard Fire Road. Generously naming it El Capitan, I have a hard time coming back on the downslope, its loose rocks ever a danger to slipping. Despite the entire hike’s relative ease, my hips and my feet today hurt, but I don’t mind so much. It’s not the good kind of hurt that comes from exerting your body into a good workout but rather the annoying kind from a body that hasn’t operated on all cylinders for eight years. Yet it still doesn’t bother me too much these days; I was rewarded with a nice workout and I get a tired dog. A tired dog is a happy dog.

Taylor ate splendidly when we arrived back home. I treated myself to a tasty smoothie, filled with a banana, strawberries, blueberries, mango pieces, ginger root, chia seeds, and freshly squeezed (real) orange juice.

Today is gonna be a good day.

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