Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mildred Kanipe Park

It's happened to all of us. You bump into an old friend, one you haven't seen in a while, and the friend begins to talk to you about a new found religion, eyes burning with the crazed zeal of a true believer as you silently cross him or her off the Christmas card list. Well, it happened to me recently, with more than one friend announcing they have become a Kanipian, joining the church of Our Lady Mildred of the Sacred Park. Probably, a picture of a haloed and beatific looking Mildred Kanipe hangs in their respective living rooms. Being an open-minded heretic, I just had to visit Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park and see for myself what all the wild-eyed proselytizing was all about.
Here's my butt dance, now will you marry me?
My first impression of the park had more to do with peacocks than with hiking. These magnificent birds, feathered in iridescent and metallic blues and greens, ambled through the parking lot, either greeting hikers or asking for handouts, or maybe all of the above. As I was lacing up my boots, a group of peahens sashayed down the road, setting off a chorus of loud hoots from all the males gathered nearby. As the gals neared, the peacocks in turn displayed their magnificent plumage and then showed their backsides to the females while executing a stiff legged butt dance with little mincing steps. Presumably, the best plumage, loudest hoot, and the tightest little butt dance results in a happy mating. Similar mating rituals take place every Friday night in neighborhood taverns throughout the country but let's leave that alone and go hiking instead.

Trail through an oak glade
For my readers not from this area, Mildred Kanipe Park has been in the news a lot this year. Due to a lack of funds, the Douglas County Commissioners decreed that all county parks had to pay their own way, so to speak. The original plan for Kanipe Park was to log a stand of firs in the park, but within the Kanipian community that idea was about a welcome as a fart in church. The eventual solution was to instead construct a campground with the stipulation being that the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park had to raise the necessary funds for the campground construction. I'm glad to report that just several days ago, the monetary goal was attained.

Elegant cat's ear
Anyway, while several of my hiking friends had gotten religion about the park, the sad fact was I really didn't know that much about it. Since I had half a day to kill on Easter Sunday, the nearness of the park made for a convenient hiking quickie. And, since it was Easter, I had the entire park to myself as apparently I am the only person in all of Douglas County that hikes on holidays.

View from a small hill
Shortly after crossing an orchard and cow pasture, the trail headed straight up a hill, my punishment for sacrilegiously hiking on a religious holiday. A nice view of the flat lands of English Settlement and the rolling foothills surrounding the quaint and historical town of Oakland was enjoyed. Tall oak trees dotted the grassy slopes alongside the trail under a blue sky that got bluer as the morning mist burned off.

One of 764,289 oak tree pictures taken on the day
The oaks were just leafing out on a beautiful spring day but there were a couple of downers just off trail. One was English hawthorn, an invasive plant imported from England, of course. The meadows were dotted with the thorny bush which has a nasty habit of turning into a tree that makes many little thorny babies.  Piles of dead hawthorn showed where park volunteers attempted to eradicate the unwelcome invader from Europe like Aztecs fighting Spaniards, and probably with the same degree of success, too.

Get thee away, poison oak!
The other blot on this fine Kanipey day was poison oak. The stuff was growing everywhere and the new leaves colored bright red would have been very attractive were it not for the not so wonderful itch factor. I noticed there were no piles of dead poison oak probably because the rash-making plant is a native worthy of preservation and probably because nobody with at least half a brain cell volunteers for the poison oak work crew. I was wearing shorts and with all the fronds reaching for my bare legs, I gladly accepted the one dime-sized rash on my arm. It could easily have been worse!

Shooting star
At any rate, the trail climbed up a grassy ridge and through marvelously shaded oak glades. Life was good as the path wove its way through the trees and I didn't even mind the numerous evil deer spotted in the woods along the trail. Random thought: Why don't deer get poison oak rash? After topping out on a wooded ridge, the trail dropped down and intersected with the Fern Woods Trail, colored bright purple on my map.

A religious moment in the Kanipe church
The trail had several mudholes that got my boots mad at me but we soon left the mud behind as we climbed up into the woods that were the source of the political tempest.  The forest was comprised of fir with a rich understory of ferns and salal. Sunlight slanted through the branches and songbirds twittered melodically in the shrubbery. This is a special place and mellowness crept into my soul and I nearly became a Kanipian until the coarse cawing of crows disrupted the moment. It was then that I noticed all the poison oak vining up the trees and I became a hawkish proponent of logging the forest, provided they take the poison oak with them.

But I kid of course, the park is indeed a special place and worthy of preservation. But I stop short at hanging a picture of a haloed Mildred Kanipe in my living room although I may keep the butt dance.

Thank you!
For more pictures of this wonderful little park, stop by and visit the Flickr album.

Nice clothes!

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