We spent the last two days crossing the San Joaquin Valley, from Faith Home Road in Irwin to Bloss Road in Delhi, walking along the canal's service roads. For the most part these roads were hard packed sand; so walking was easy on our feet. We have found that after walking six or eight miles on pavement the bottoms of our feet begin to get a bit sore, but we could walk ten on these with no problem. In fact, we walked about 15 on Monday and 10 on Tuesday (and on Tuesday we also gave a presentation to the Delhi Historical Society).
The canals have been a real pleasure to walk along. They are not spectacular, like the creeks and rivers of Henry Coe Park, but they have interesting locks and little falls. We passed picturesque old farm buildings, orchards of almonds and orchards of peaches (sometimes the roads were paved in peach pits). We passed fields of grain, and couldn't figure out what was growing.
"Silage," a farmer told us.
It was a mix of oats, barley and wheat that is used to feed the cattle, and used to be stored in silos, but now is stored under white tarps that are held in place by sliced in half tires tied together with a spider web of twine. We passed dairy farms with cattle in muddy fields, dairy farms with cattle in metal pens lined up to be milked and a cattle farm that grew cow embryos. The things you see and the things you learn about when you travel.
We followed the canal right up to Hwy 99, thought we would be able to go under it, and the water did go under, but the road ended. We had to backtrack and walk an extra two miles to get over the highway. "If I didn't take some risks you'd just be walking on paved roads the whole time." So instead, we ended up going over 99 on an overpass. As we watched the trucks fly under us we realized it was a moment to celebrate. We had crossed the San Joaquin from 5 to 99 - not land marks that Muir would recognize, but ones I am sure you all will know well - and were soon to enter the foothills.
(A John Muir footnote: today, when we got off the canal, we saw lots of native wildflowers by the roadsides. Not the profusion we saw in Coe, but enough to brag about: the ever present fiddleneck, lupine, poppy, downingia, small yellow evening primroses and even some large white evening primroses. We saw lots of flowering weeds too.)
(A birder's note: This evening while cooking dinner in the van, Donna saw her first western bluebirds; handsome azure colored birds with coffee brown vests.)