ItÐ²Ð‚â„¢s two muddy miles from Highway 20, just past the north fork of Cache Creek, across the broad meadow, through blue oak woodland, up, up to the ridge, and back down to the creek bank, the crossing point, me striding with mud caking my old hiking boots.
For a millennia the Miwok people walked these canyons and ridges. Pomo, too. Gathering acorns to trade, the sweetest was said to be from the Coastal Live Oaks. Or bringing down a mule deer, a Tule elk, meat for everyone, garments or a drumskin from the hide, tools from the bones, a knife, a skewer, thanks given to the beastÐ²Ð‚â„¢s soul for its gift.
Once up on the ridge, the view takes me, Brushy Sky High Mountain looms above like an overanxious parent, the creek sings old songs for the valley oaks, for the deer grass. Less muddy, I kick my boots a little cleaner on a rock that is maybe as old as the earth.
I used to come up here and cut sage for burning, a smudge to carry my prayers to Her in smoke. I grow sage now at my home, but still I come, eating down by the creek, building a medicine wheel from creek stones, in winter spreading a small tarp across the mud to eat and sleep on. I make prayers for my mother, to fight the cancer inside her, for my children to know peace and plenty, prayers that I might find the right way.
The Pomo, the Miwok, the Patwin were all basket-weavers, makers of intricate designs from White Root, Willow, Oak sticks. Gathered here, at this crossing, century after century. Medicine too, from roots, bark, and nut, prayers and songs offered up, thanks given. Here. Medicine that healed the hurts the Earth caused, but could not ward off the diseases the Europeans brought. The people died by the thousands; where are their spirits now? At peace with the creek, I hope, and I send a little prayer to them, too.
I take an apple from my pack, bought at a Davis, California grocery store, where the Patwin village Poo-tah-toi once flourished. Children ran and played, families grew, all gone now. There is a little opening at the base of a Valley Oak, I imagine that it is a doorway to the Other World, and leave the apple, a snack for whatever may find it, a raccoon or deer, a lost spirit, or maybe even The Great She.
You can cross the creek here, but in winter I donÐ²Ð‚â„¢t. Two more miles through the Wilson Valley links you to the Judge Davis Trail, which snakes up the spine of a long ridge on an old fire road. Too much mud this day, so I just nap until I get cold, pack up, the friendly weight of my pack on my back, down to Highway 20, down to the other world. Redbud Trail. Winter.