I started a correspondence course on how to be a Shaman. The first lesson told me to go to a sweat lodge or sauna. Sit there waiting and sweating. A vision of my animal guide or spirit would come to me. I am puzzled as to what I will learn from this.
With my hours of work and schedule of exercise classes I figure I already have a full plate. So the shaman lessons are filed away. Although, thoughts about animal guides stay in the back of my mind.
On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend I was to lead a guided nature hike on the Caspar Headlands Trail. The path of the trail runs right above the park at Caspar Beach where I live and work. It’s a two mile round trip through a dense coastal rain forest of redwoods, ferns, pines and a plethora of other flora and fauna.
An hour before the hike was to start the rain came down hard. At the appointed hour of 10AM it was still raining. I walked over to the Beach Store anyway. Maybe some diehard hikers would be there.
After fifteen minutes no one showed up. I decided to do the hike solo.
It was only my second time on the trail. The first time was a couple of weeks ago when I hiked it with Louisa, one of the trail’s builders. For me it was a great opportunity to learn the history of the area, and to identify the surrounding flowers, shrubs, and trees.
That day out we found the tail of a wild pig just laying on the trail. The tail was black and about 6 inches long. A half mile further on the trail we found animal scat with lots of black pig hair in it. Louisa remarked that now we knew what had eaten the pig: a mountain lion or bobcat.
We finished our hike without further evidence of carnivore activity. I had learned to identify wild mint, sorrel and Mendocino paintbrush. I knew the location of an osprey nest and a junked Volkswagen. I was ready to do my guided hikes.
So here I was on a rainy Saturday going back up the trail; hiking party of one! I had on sturdy hiking shoes and rain gear. Once up the switchback I got in under the tree canopy with little rain coming through.
As I walked along I could hear kids laughing in the campground below. Purple irises still bloomed; a bittersweet tree was laden with its bright orange clusters of berries. It was a perfect opportunity for me to review my mental notes on the trail’s highlights.
The rain increased once I left the tree cover. So I decided it was time to turn around and head back home. Going along at a quicker pace I was just coming off a side trail to the dirt road.
Thirty feet ahead, on the other side of the road, it was crouched low, a tawny golden color to its fur. As soon as it saw me, it turned away. Taking off into the deep forest. A mountain lion!
I was in awe! I walked home, thoughts dancing in my head: I’d gone for a hike. I met a wild and fearsome creature. I got to live to tell about it! Oh, and…… I also met my animal guide. Will wonders ever cease!
Joy! Tin Can Annie