Posted by: GeekHiker | June 29, 2008


(If you’re not familiar with the Secret Spot, read these posts (in order) first: Gone, Burnt, Coming Back, and Good Memories, New and Old.)

“Hello, my old friend.”

It’s been almost a year since I last spoke those words. On a hike that was, while not quite ruined per-se, came much closer to it than I would have liked.

Then life got busy, as it often does, with activities and hikes and backpacks and traveling, in addition to the mundane things like work and cleaning and running errands and getting the oil changed in the car. And all the time I thought “I should really get back out to the Secret Spot.” But didn’t.

And so it was that, on a day riding my bike along the Bay Trail, I saw the smoke in the mountains and heard the news on the radio.

The Secret Spot was burning.

After the fires were out, I yearned to return. I stopped by on the occasional drives up the coast and photographed what I could, but resisted the temptation to pass the gates and closure signs while the Park Service worked on restoration.

I waited. And waited.

They re-opened the park last weekend, appropriately on the longest day of the year. I was backpacking, so it was today that I returned.

And here I sit, Tevas on, next to a burbling stream, writing in a notebook for later transcription. A breeze blows up the canyon, cicadas (or something) are buzzing in the bushes nearby.

The birds, and there are seemingly hundreds of them, chirp in the trees and chase each other, calling out for mates. Butterflys are everywhere. In front of me, a bright red dragonfly cruises back-and-forth, upstream-and-down, patrolling his territory and seeking his prey.

There’s life everywhere.

I’m only a mile from the parking lot. It took me two hours to get here. There’s that much to see.

I’ve seen fire damage before, but the randomness of it still surprises me. One tree is burnt to the ground, nothing but a blackened stump, yet next to it is one who was merely singed.

There is damage, to be sure. The original trail, once so shady with the canopy overhead, is much more open now. The hillsides, previously thick with chaparral, is now wide open, with only the short green and tan growth that sprang up after the spring rains.

Some old, familiar trees and logs are gone now. Sadly, too, are the old houses, reduced to shells. I’d always sort of dreamed of maybe living in one of those houses one day, but it’s not to be. I only hope the families that were living there, the ones who lost everything, have recovered well.

(The red dragonfly has just landed on a rock nearby facing me. I suspect he’s none too happy that I am in his territory, interloper that I am.)

The funny thing about wildfire is that only sometimes does it leave a charred, blacked landscape behind. Other times it leaves what I see here: a mixture of green and brown, of old and new.

(Another dragonfly with a black and yellow tail just flew by, and the red was after him like a shot out of a cannon. Amazing how fast they can fly.)

This place will be fine. My history with this place, of broken legs and happy times, of solitude and respite when the spirits were down, is merely changed, but not so gone as I had originally feared. It’s simply a new chapter.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s salami and pretzels and cookies in my pack. And couple of books to read. And a flowing stream to lull me to sleep under a warm summer sun.

I’d better get going on that.




  1. SOOOO glad that it is all coming back. You are right, it might be changed, but from what you wrote here, it sounds like it isn’t gone. But it’s like all good things in life, it must change over the years, but all those changes just make the attachment that much deeper.

    Glad you had a fab afternoon.

  2. ooooh, the secret spot! how exciting. i think that an unintended benefit of the fire, is that it won’t be as crowded as it had gotten to be prior to the fire damage. just you and tons of dragonflies.

  3. Reading this makes me so happy for you.

  4. one more thing: what kind of cookies? Because, you know, I love the nature descriptions but you can’t just mention “cookies” and expect me to let it go at that.

  5. sounds like a positively beautiful day. The regeneration after fire never ceases to amaze me.

  6. I want to go to the secret spot! ๐Ÿ™‚ It sounds beautiful – your description was great. Noticing the details around you is one of the best parts about hiking.

    Oh and it warmed my heart that you had salami with you. That truly makes for a perfect day!

  7. J.E.A.L.O.U.S. Yes. That spells me.

  8. Whoa. Some (good) envy going on over here after reading this!

  9. Lea – Thanks! It was nice to be back, so much so I can’t really put it into words.

    Dingo – I suspect the crowds won’t be away too long… unfortunately…

    Just A Girl – Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Dingo – Chocolate Animal ones. One of those 100-calorie packs that are perfect for the pack.

    Aly – So true, so very very true..

    Mel Heth – I’m sure you can figure out where it is. But going with me is reserved for someone I haven’t met yet.

    Backpackermomma – ๐Ÿ™‚ Just like I feel when I look at some of your pictures!

    Narami – I’m glad it’s good envy!

  10. Welcome Home, GH.

  11. Homer-Dog – Thanks HD. Good to be back. ๐Ÿ™‚

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