Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Hike in the San Gabriel's with the Wise Man of the Mountains

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Ed Young - Wise Man of the Mountains
Greeting an ancient Ponderosa pine

I had the immense honor recently of getting to hike with one my favorite people on the planet.  My friend Ed is a botanist, a tenth-grade science teacher (for 25 years - hero status right there) and a proud member of the Cherokee Nation.  How can you not admire a man that greets old trees like old friends? That's just how he rolls.

 Ed and I graduated from the same Oklahoma high school some 34 years ago but we did not really meet until the 30th reunion and amongst the flurry of Facebook friending that followed immediately after.  It was actually through Facebook that we quickly noticed we shared a mutual love for the outdoors and a reverence for nature likely not matched by many of our fellow '79 grads.

A "like" turned into a comment, a comment into a private message and the next thing you know it's two years later and we are hiking way up north in the holy land of the Sioux and Kiowa -- commemorating our 50th year around the sun with a journey to several sacred spots - Bear Butte, Devil's Tower and Medicine Wheel among them.  Another two years later - and a gig in California last week brought me within an hour's reach of Ed's backyard.   I took two extra days to explore the world that has been Ed's home for more than 20 years - the San Gabriel Mountains, the Angeles and San Bernadino National Forests, the Cucamonga Wilderness and the surrounding chaparral  foothills.   The photos that follow are of our 3.5 mile hike (one-way) to Ice House Saddle last week.

San Gabriel Forest overlook
Ice House Saddle trail canopy
A goodly part of the trail was in the forest deep - a perfect hike for an otherwise hot summer day.  The canopy was flush full of lifers for me - Douglas fir, incense cedar, mountain oak, a type of broadleaf maple.  And at every turn - another question for botanist Ed.  

Biologist, botanist, teacher, healer
Mr. Ed - he know his plants. I know nothing about plants.  I was just like a kid in a multihued candy shop wanting to know the name of every flavor.  Ed's encyclopedic knowledge of the local flora (which is entirely different than anything I lived with in Oklahoma, Ohio or New Mexico) was an incredible part of the trail experience. I recommend that everyone hike with their own private botanist.

Western Fence Lizard
These guys were everywhere and this particular one was very patient with me having to tenderly maneuver into his fight-or-flight space with only an i-Phone to take his portrait.  But forget the lizard, the real eye-catcher is that impossibly beautiful slab of metamorphic rock.  Just look at those swirls and ripples of rock and mineral.  I want this in my living room!

Douglas Fir
My first confirmed contact with a Douglas fir - this one fecund with seed cones and Steller's jays.  Douglas firs get big - some have been recorded at more than 14 feet wide and 400 feet tall.

Mystic Mountain
As often happens when you hang with mystics - nature never ceases to amaze with unexplained marvels.  This strange cloud was definitely putting on a show for two of its biggest disciples.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
The way of the peaceful warrior - a perfect description for Ed - he walks this planet with so much respect for its living things.

Columbine
What's not to love about a trail with a solid wall of columbine flowers.  Breathtaking.  And loving what my i-Phone 5 can do.  

Incense Cedar
Incense cedar trees vying for space among the pines and firs and maples and oaks.  Lifer!

Fuschia


Fuschia everywhere - deftly woven into the forest floor and beckoning the many hummingbirds we saw this day.
Mountain Oak?
Lifer oak!  But which one?  Mountain?  Ed where are you?


In order to survive in a modern world - we know to take the Obligatory Selfie.


Quickly followed by the celebratory herkie at the trail's end!  How many 52 year-olds can do this!
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