Weakly Peakly Volume 18
Or: Conversations with Eagles
Hey there, Peakers! I hope everybody got what they wanted out of this recent American holiday weekend. I hope you ate as much or as little prehistoric devil-bird as you wanted and participated in capitalistic consumer rituals as much as pleased your moral standings on such things.
What I’m saying is, I hope you all had a rad Thanksgiving.
My hike took place on Thanksgiving morning, a brisk and cold day that held all the promise of feasting later in the afternoon, which made it ideal for going out and getting my blood pumping a bit beforehand. I was heading north a bit, to the start of the Centennial Trail, the trailhead commencing on the historic site for the Nakashima Farm.
Now, I had intended to get a good, solid 4-mile hike out of the morning. I left obscenely early to give myself enough time to meander through whatever this trail would have to offer without having to rush in one direction or the other to get back. I would need to leave with enough time to get home and frost a dozen or so cupcakes for my Thanksgiving party, so I didn’t have all day to cram in this trek. Unfortunately, the GPS marker that I got from the WTA website was woefully inaccurate. Like, fam, it’s way, WAY the fuck off. It’s not even on a different point on the Centennial Trail, it’s like smack dab in the middle of somebody’s back yard.
The directions on the page were correct, but I am…very bad at following directions. I did eventually manage to navigate my way to the right trail head, but it took me a total of 2.5 hours to do it. Which meant I only had about an hour or so that I could hike.
Still, that was an hour of hike, and I wasn’t about to turn it down after expending all that energy to find the place.
The barn in question is interesting to walk around. I took the time to stroll around the full circumference, pondering the story of the location. Apparently, the Nakashima family had worked the farm for some thirty years before they had been forced into a concentration camp during WWII. I was very somber looking over what remained of their land, keeping in mind what it had used to be and what it still should have been had we not committed such an atrocity against this family.
Currently, the area is well-kept. This was far different terrain than I’m used to on most my hikes. The parking lot was well marked, the grass along the edges of the trail was mowed, and the trail itself was paved. There were benches and clear markers indicating which direction you were headed and what each path was for. It was all very…tamed. And aside from making for a very, very boring hike, I found myself somewhat incensed with it all. The whole place had been turned into what could only be called a tourist attraction, and while the historic markers and information was a nice nod towards an apology, what it all amounted to was this land had been taken from the Nakashima family and was then turned into a paved trail for white people to gawk at in their leisure time but feel less guilty about the past because it’s got a monument stamped into the ground at the head of the trail.
And I do stress it’s for white people, because of all the individuals I saw on this trail, only one was not white. He was a delightful man with a Spanish accent who drew me to the gravel area behind the barn so that I could take photographs of “his creature”. Which, now that I’m typing it out, sounds like the start of a murder story, but I assure you he had zero ill intent. The “creature” in question was a small salamander hanging out in the shade, and after we had both taken several good pictures, he very carefully guided it away from the barn, which he deemed too dangerous for the little thing, and into the bushes where it would be safer. He was nice, and kind, and we both remarked about how it was really sad that this was just a park now and not somebody’s farm. Then he got on his bike and headed back to wherever he had come from while I explored the trail at my own pace.
Anyways, justified racial guilt aside, the trail itself was not what I would have considered a “hiking” trail. I don’t think I would recommend it much to someone who was looking to commune with a mountain. The Centennial is a trail that spans 30 miles of forest and brush, with the entire thing being paved and passing through or near a handful of towns, so it’s all very domesticated. There were a handful of bikers, a few rollerbladers, and a lot of joggers and dog-walkers hanging around. I would have been over the moon if I were looking for a nice, quiet place to go running and perhaps train for a marathon. As someone who likes to clamber up and down mountains, though (and who hates running), I was utterly bored.
The salamander started things out at a high point, then I dipped into disappointment. Following that, the most interesting thing on the hike was a run-in with a bald eagle. I’d heard them calling out here and there a couple of times, glancing skyward each time to see if I could find them, but it wasn’t until I was almost back at the parking lot that I spotted them hanging out in a tree right above the path, as chill as can be. I stopped beneath its bough, and since there was nobody anywhere around me, I opted to say hello.
“Why, hi there, friend. Aren’t you a big, pretty thing?” I called up to it.
The eagle tilted its head to the side, eying me with one big, round eye.
I extended my hand up and waved. “You’re the most exciting part of the trail, don’t you know.”
It ruffled its feathers and looked confused. It seemed to say, with the sway of its head, “What the fuck is this lady talking about? Does she know I’m a bird? LADY, I NO HABLA WHITE PEOPLE.”
“Well, I’m going to go. Thanks for hanging out.” I waved, then made my way back to the car. The eagle watched me go, as perplexed as I have ever seen a large, predatory bird look.
Listen, this hike might have been boring, and I may have spent a good bit of time wishing it was still farmland to the Nakashima family, but I confused the fuck out a bald eagle, and I’m gonna say that’s an achievement that was worth the two hours it took me to find the place. #America
Mistakes and R E G R E T S:
1. Not reading the directions below the map. I mean, this seemed to have lots of roads going to it, and to be honest I haven’t read the actual directions on any of my other hikes, but good lord the GPS was wack as hell on this one and those directions became absolutely necessary. I think in the future I’m going to be printing or writing down the directions to have with me. I was lucky this time, there was plenty of cell signal around, but if I had been lost without signal I would have had no other option than to turn around and backtrack who knows how far until I could find some again. Not the most convenient. And I know, a lot of you might roll your eyes and think, Of course you should have the directions on hand, you absolute fool, but you’re forgetting that I’m an idiot who never knows what I’m doing, so no, I didn’t think about that ahead of time.
Honestly, it’s a miracle I’ve survived this long.
Hot Takes for Hikers:
Converse with the Fauna
Bored with trees? Tired of grass? Try yelling at the wildlife. I mean, don’t yell, that’s just rude. But I think that it pays off to interact with animals in a verbal way. They can keep their distance and observe the absolute weirdness of a human trying to communicate with them, and you can see the reaction to that and be endlessly amused. I think being regarded curiously by a bald eagle is one of the highlights of my year, and if I hadn’t spoken to it, the bird would have totally ignored me. So, talk to the wildlife. Tell woodpeckers to fuck off, tell eagles they are rad and thank them for hanging out. Flip off a deer and share a cracker with a chipmunk, I dunno, commune with nature, man. It’s like, cool, or something.
Song of the Hike: Comfort Eagle, by Cake
Animals Seen: one “creature” (a salamander), one eagle, and several very good dogs.
Mood: Bored White Girl Feels Bad and Yells at Bird, News at 11
Trail Rank: Very boring, but with very confused animals, would hike again if I didn’t want to hike at all.