Glorious weather today, so perfect that I knew I needed to get and take a walk. I decided to hike in the Diablo foothills, starting at the Macedo Ranch trailhead. It was a nice 2.5-miler up to the China Wall and back, and only a couple hundred feet of elevation change.
I was surprised to find cattle on the trail. Around here there are vehement arguments about whether to let the local ranches graze cattle in open space. The hikers and bikers don't like it much, because the cattle rip up the trails. There are also more flies when cattle are near, and dogs often need to be on leash when cattle are around. And most open space trails around here are set up so that dogs can be off-leash. Mt. Diablo (and the foothills) are different - they don't allow dogs at all - so that wasn't an issue up on this particular trail. But I will say that the trail was in bad shape, though that could be due to our recent winter rains.
Also, many people think that cattle grazing makes it difficult for wildflowers to survive in the hills. One of my horticulture teachers, also an avid hiker, would strongly disagree. He said cattle have been here for centuries now, the ecosystem is used to having them graze, and the only thing that grows more when the cattle don't graze are weeds.
That's a discussion for another time. Mostly, I just wanted to talk about those ads we used to see. Do they still run them? The "Happy Cows" ads?
Ok, that one's pretty good, and they even show the grass the right color. Because, unless it's winter, around here it's dry. That's one of the reasons it's called "The Golden State." The cows aren't eating green pastures; they're basically eating hay.
That is, dry grass. Not the mustard, not the thistles, just the dead grass.
I wonder how happy that makes them? I guess they don't know any better. There are no dreams of luscious pasture for a cow, I would imagine. Think of how much milk and meat comes from California. Nine months of the year, those cattle are eating brown stuff. It just makes me kind of sad.
But, I suppose that's what cattle eat in the winter in other parts of the country.
It was a great hike, by the way. China Wall is one of my favorite places to walk - so impressive. I could see Castle Rock in the distance, which is closed this time of year due to nesting Peregrine Falcons. I swear I could see them flying around the rocks. Woulda been good if I had remembered the binoculars...
That sky, oh my heart! There are some benefits to living here.
I forgot to mention that last Friday when Tom and I took our sunset hike in Shell Ridge near here, the rangers had completely fenced off an area for cattle using electric fence. We didn't realize this, and headed up a familiar trail, only to find a bunch of barbed wire. We managed to crawl underneath and then realized our folly; we weren't sure we were going to be able to find a way out. We ended up hiking through a lot of cow muck but managed to exit ok. It was quite an adventure. I guess that is one way to control where the cows graze; just would have been nice to have a sign at the trailhead informing us of certain closed sections.
Anyway! Here's your yearly reminder to get out and see the world a little, if you can. It's always interesting to see what you'll find in the hills. (No rattlesnakes today, though I was expecting them.)