Monday, February 16, 2009

Crocodile Hunting at Mildred Falls

Me Captain and Skelmo and my girlfriend Ellie headed out to Mildred Falls. All the chaparral was green and lush from the rains but the trails were dry, and the day was bright and sunny.

The way down is a long steep dirt trail with several ways to go, along the way Captain and Skelmo kept leaping across cracks eroded in the trail, pretending they were jumping over gaping cracks in the earth.

And we make stops to make ourselves completely silent and we can hear frogs off in the distant little canyons.

Ellie marches along barefoot finding different mushrooms and the first California poppies in bloom.

Captain practices his footwork on steeper tricky sections of the trail and he runs faster and faster and skips over large gaps and slides without losing his footing and screeches to a halt.

Skelmo prefers to go slow and pick up every single rock and stick he comes across, he carries something around for 10 ft until he spots something better and trades it out, a big improvement over how he used to just fill his arms with more and more things without leaving anything behind and he was like a snail carrying his shell in his hands.

We get to the first stream crossing and take our shoes off and wade, we can hear frogs all around us and the kids hunt for them in the cattails.

From here on it was flat easy ground. We crossed the creek two more times before the falls, and each time Captain and Skelmo stop and look for crocodiles before they go into the water. I let them ford it by themselves and standby a few feet away in case of anything but they’re solid, they watch the water get up to their bellies and they wade on forth and get to feel they are beating a river. The water’s cold enough to shock them and shiver but its sunny enough outside so that they warm up immediately after.

We get to the waterfall and its flowing gorgeous and we have it entirely to ourselves. Two hawks circle over us for a while, eyeing the kids for lunch, then move on to look for smaller prey.

The kids go fishing and we hop up boulders and try to slide back down without falling into the water.

Now the hike back out, long and heavy. Skelmo had used himself all up and Captain was fine the way back himself until we had to start up on the steep dirt trail again and he could go no further.

Much slower going, a never-ending silent trudge carrying those two sleepy sacks of potatoes, but good training.

Quiet, exhausted, happy, the way the human animal is supposed to feel at the end of the day. Captain and Skelmo picked some yellow flowers to take to their mother, then fell asleep until we reached the trailhead again, where they sprung back to life at the end of their free ride and spoke dearly of the magic waterfall they had discovered and I had to promise that we would come back to hunt crocodiles again very soon.