Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A step toward impulsion

There’s inertia to overcome, running day in and day out, and sometimes no energy to drive anywhere for variety. This morning, for example, I headed out on the good old Conway Ranch Loop (how quickly it’s aged!). The circuit’s quite nice, especially the middle five miles of dirt road that passes the tumbled boulders of Rattlesnake Gulch (I’ll try to have pictures soon), before climbing up and over a rise for views of the islets and the White Mountains in Nevada.

The run joins Highway 167 eventually, which crosses Wilson Creek on the way back to Mono City. It’s not a natural creek, but a once-upon-a-time ephemeral wash that, for a long time, has served as a return ditch, more or less, for Mill Creek’s water, after it’s siphoned through the Southern Edison power plant (on the other side of 395). The water has steadily cut (or “incised”) into the sandy soil, producing a soft canyon, maybe 50 feet deep in places, that might look natural to the untrained eye, but is far from it. Willows fill the bottom of this long winding trough, and do provide habitat. Running on 167 where it dips across Wilson, I’ve flushed black-crowned night herons and, I’ve seen them spiral down to that spot from afar, as well.

Every time I jog over the creek, I peer longing at the rippling water, about the width of a healthy sidewalk, as it flows under the road. On the downstream side, a culvert jets water into a roiling mound-of-a-pool, and a little dirt cul-de-sac blocked by three large rocks leads right down to its weedy lip. Today, I couldn’t resist. I ran over the creek and away, but u-turned eventually—actually, I turned a few circles, making up my mind—and ran at a clip back to Wilson Creek, where I tore off my socks, shoes, and shirt (stretched my hamstrings and calves, briefly), and waded in.

Quite, the, shock. The current strong, the water sweeping into and around a row of willows. I was worried about my feet getting painfully lodged between stones, so I lowered myself in and scuttled like a crab across the swiftest part to a quieter spot on the other side. Paintbrush stood at the edge of the pool, a dash of red matching my shorts. I was hidden from the highway (which was high indeed, for once) and couldn’t hear a thing, except for the motoring water.

Why was I indecisive in the first place? Well, it’s a long walk back. Took me about a half hour to trek home along 167, and then through the sage, to Mono City. Along the way a tiny convertible brimming with four smiling Japanese tourists pulled up, not to offer me a ride, but to ask, “Mono Hot Springs?” Ain’t any, I said. They were searching for the Dechambeau Ponds, which does have a fount of hot water (let loose by a search for oil), but it may be scalding, and it runs into a reedy, yellow-headed-blackbird-infested pond.

I told them to go to Travertine. Twenty-two miles North. Take a right after the Ranger Station. One of the women wearing a broad-brimmed, floppy hat lifted her hand and waved from the backseat as they blew past me going the other way.

12 mi, 85 min; Conway Ranch Loop, doubling back, finally, to Wilson Creek

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