I wanted to take a walk along the water and watch the sunset, so I went to the Oursan Trail on Saturday afternoon. I knew it was a great place to hike, contemplate, and capture the light and colors of the fall sunset. I thought a walk along the Briones Reservoir might be a nice and quiet experience.
I saw the goats from the road as I was approaching the trailhead. You could see them rampaging the brush as they fed. I parked and hiked about a quarter mile up the trail. They were right around the first bend.
East Bay Mud, our local water utility, uses the goats for weed abatement, instead of poisons or weed whackers. The goats were curious about me, but after they posed for a few shots, they went back to their chomping and grinding. Then, they made a quick migration across the hillside.
They were surrounded by an electrical fence, which was being tended by a herder. His little helper was quietly resting in the shade.
The sun was setting, and the light started to become more intense and direct. Up on the hills were little clusters of boulders, nestled under some dusty oaks. The grasses were a dry brown, and little tufts of thistle sprung up like periscopes along the hillside.
As I walked along this fire road trail I was heading west, in the direction of the setting sun. Occasionally, I turned around to capture the hills and clouds behind me.
On the right side of the trail, facing north, the ridges were dotted with oaks, which were lit up by the direct light of the setting sun.
Along the trail, the clouds beautifully and mysteriously seemed to mirror the slope of the trees and hills.
Just off the trail, clusters of oaks covered in moss and lichen seemed ghostly as the light danced across their leaves.
I reached a graceful setting of oaks stretching and bending to capture the last atom of sunlight for the day. The elegance and beauty of this little scene was the gift of this hike. Value and treasure the light in your life, and reach out and take it in as long as it lasts.
Just past this grove, I reached a point where the sun lit up the whole hillside. The bright, direct light brought out the glow in the leaves.
I was in the golden hour, when the last touch of evening sunlight comes in warm and mellow. I realized how far I had hiked, and that I still had to return before I lost all light. I just didn't want to turn around, it was too spectacular.
The Oursan Trail is a part of a big loop around the reservoir. If I had started earlier, I might have been able to circle the whole reservoir. It's about 12 miles total, but I started later to focus on the afternoon sun. I turned around at about 3 miles in, just as the lines and shadows in the darkness became more mysterious and haunting.
The clouds, oaks and hillside made a layer cake for me, and it was a sweet scene. The sun was already slipping below the horizon, but was sending a last burst of light and energy.
In the retreating reservoir, white pelicans slumbered lazily in the cool breeze as evening shadows took over.
On my way back, the light slipped away quickly. I captured a few more pictures with long exposures, but by now the trees were fading in to the darkness.
Rounding a corner, I turned to see what I had come for...the sunset over the reservoir. The distant hills made a little heart shaped dip, and the light on the water sparkled with a golden glaze.
On the way back, approaching the goats, I heard a chorus of coyotes across the hillside. Then, the owls accompanied me through the rest of the hike, who who'ing each other as I walked by quickly in the darkness. I passed the still eating goats and made it back to the trailhead about 20 minutes after sunset.