Mt. Madonna NN

Sat, Oct 10, 2009

With: Cheryl Macaraeg
Jackie Burd

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I was in the Santa Cruz Mtns with the family on a campout with Jackie's fifth grade class. It was a large, boisterous gathering of some 20 adults and 24 kids brought together with a minimum of oversight by one of the parents. It was in direct opposition to the recent Boy Scout outing I had been on, where activities were strictly regulated, timetables held to, and bed times prompt. Here, there was no Scoutmaster in overall charge of things, yet food got served and camp erected and cleaned up in acceptable fashion without strict adherence to protocol. True, at times the lively gathering began to closely resemble scenes from Lord of the Flies, but there were no serious injuries and the forest was kept safe despite numerous unintentional attempts to burn it to the ground. Thank God for moisture-bearing fog and relatively difficult to burn redwood trees.

As part of this outing I was tasked with taking the Girl Scouts from the class on a hike (so they could earn a patch that says "Hiking" or similar - they have patches for everything in Girl Scouts). The planned hour-long hike turned out to be almost twice that, but (almost) no one was complaining. We circled around on a patchwork of trails that are numerous in the county park, visiting the archery range, the white fallow deer, and the highpoint of Mt. Madonna. The summit is a short one or two minute walk from the nearest parking location near the ranger station.

On our way back to camp I gave the girls the option of taking the trail back or the more adventurous "Jungle Route". They voted for the jungle route which was a quarter mile assault through the eucalyptus and redwood forest sans trail. The forest floor was littered with years of blowdown and required much stepping over and ducking under and weaving about to find our way through. The young ladies thought this was the best part of the whole hike despite several scratches and brushbacks from branches, some so serious as to nearly cause bloodshed. The several moms that were along for the hike, including Jackie's, thought somewhat less of this adventure. Fortunately we managed to find our way back to camp before losing a single hiker and without running into any large predatory animals. I suspect this was due to the professional competence of the hike leader. Others chocked it up to sheer luck.

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