Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Great Outdoors

I am an avid walker, but do not consider myself a hiker. I don't own a good pair of hiking boots or trail shoes. Because of this, I didn't intend to hike at Rancho La Puerta, but I tried it, ended up loving it - and wanting to do more.

Hikes at the ranch start out between 6:10 and 7:00 A.M. I thought that I would want to sleep in on this trip, but after one hike, I found myself waking before my alarm each day, because I was so excited to do it again!
We always met in the cozy lounge (above) where coffee and tea are available around the clock. Before the hikes, staff would have thoughtfully prepared trays of freshly cut oranges, grapefruit and bananas so that you didn't have to go out on an empty stomach. The ranch also provided pedometers and re-usable water bottles. Wearing a pedometer can be very motivating, especially if you keep a log of your steps (avg. 2,000 steps = a mile).
As a beginner, I started with a super-easy two-mile hike called "Woodlands." We walked past the labyrinth and set out through the woodlands a good pace. It was fun, and I saw that I could easily do more.

 The next day, I went a little further with the "Quail 2" hike, and after that, tried "Alex's Oak Tree."
Alex's Oak can be seen in this photo, standing by itself at the top of the hill behind the vineyard.
It is named for the founders' son, Alex Szekely, who was president of the ranch before his death.
  Another view of Alex's oak tree, a mile's hike above the ranch. This hike was so pretty and enjoyable that I did it twice.
 The oak tree at the top.
 View of the ranch from the top.
 More of the ranch from the top.
Yours truly, under Alex's Oak Tree.
I was advised not to miss the four-mile round-trip breakfast hike to Rancho Tres Estrellas (Rancho La Puerta's six-acre organic farm), including a gourmet meal served at La Cocina Que Canta (the ranch's cooking school) and a short tour of the garden. This was indeed a special treat.
Because we set out at 6:10 AM, we were able to see the dawn light as it touched Mt. Kuchumaa.
Our guide, Maya (also a wonderful yoga instructor) told us how the local Kumiai indians used the large stones (like the one on which she is standing) as metates. They ground grain and nuts in the natural bowl shapes in the rocks, making the hollows larger over time.
When we arrived at La Cocina, we saw artwork and crafts in blazing colors - more examples of ways in which the ranch addresses all of the senses.
The head gardener who usually leads the tours was away at a conference - I think he was receiving an award - but I could have listened to the ecological specialist (handsome Enrique), for hours. He seemed lit from within as he explained his approach to – and his obvious joy in, and love for - organic farming. His talk had me enthralled, and made me want to learn more.
On the hike back to the ranch, we saw the same landscape, but in a different light. The ranch has a way of inviting one to see many things in a new light. 

In response to a question in yesterday's comments about the labyrinth, here are a couple of links to more information:  


Elizabeth said...

I confess that despite being thrilled and thankful that you had this fantastic time at this beautiful place, I'm also a bit jealous. Ok. Not a bit. A lot! :)

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh my natureness. This is a gorgeous part of our world and I want to go. :) I do love a nice hike....the ups and downs make my heart work and I like that. I'm so glad you were able to enjoy SO much in your visit. Did your Mom do any of the hikes with you?
Ok, lets just say that Maya's legs made me gasp. So....she does yoga and hikes daily?? Yikes.

Ann said...

I love, love, love hiking! Living in Phoenix, there are many hiking trails both in the city limits and throughout the state of Arizona - not the least of which is the Grand Canyon.

What beautiful trails you were able to hike along. I say, go out and buy a pair of good hiking shoes! If you ever find yourself in the Phoenix area, let me know. I'd love to go hiking with you.

Karen Gerstenberger said...

No, my mom is not a hiker, Suz, but she did more walking than usual, due to the way the ranch is laid out. We chose a centrally located casita and she loved it.
Yes, Maya teaches yoga and leads hikes, yes. She is a fantastic teacher and has a gentle, sweetly humorous spirit. I loved taking her class!
Ann, I just ordered a pair of trail runners and can't wait to try them. I'd love to hear about your hiking adventures.
Elizabeth, it's not too far for you to go - just south of San Diego. Maybe Caregifted would send you?