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    The Upper Realm of the Palisades Trail

    The Palisades Trail to Oat Mine, which winds through the eastern portion of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park in the Mayacama Mountains above Calistoga, is one of the most stunning and challenging hiking experiences in the Sonoma/Napa area.  Earlier this month I hiked above the beaten path of the trail and explored the volcanic plateaus above the cliffs.   I climbed up a dry gully at a snail’s pace, taking cautious steps out of concern for encountering and disturbing any possible rattlesnakes.  Of greater concern was of running into a mountain lion, which I simultaneously wanted to see and did not want to see.  As I came across more and more mountain lion scat in the higher realms of the cliffs, my sentiments gravitated heavily toward the not wanting to see side of the mountain lion encountering spectrum.  The cliffs are comprised of volcanic rock which resemble muddy magma solidified in time; rock which has pancaked, buckled, and folded into itself to form a wrinkly, dense, and craterous crust.  That there was not another hiker in sight throughout this strange volcanic moonscape did not concern me, but the paranoia being attacked by a territorial predator did (thought the true threat was dehydration).   The cliffs plateaued out into arid plain with rock spires rising up like ziggurats or obelisks, and fault lines stretched out toward the peripheral cinder cones.   I sensed a moderately weird and spooky energy generating from that environment, though in retrospect I’m sure this was all in my head.   I’m disinclined toward believing in paranormal activities, but isolated in that alien hinterland amidst the surreal rock formations, a martian spacecraft landing or sasquatch sighting would have been understandable.  In the eerie desolation of tinderbox mountains, I felt as though I had embarked on a brief vision quest, only without the hallucinations or any ensuing epiphany.  I felt as though something ominous lurched just beyond the badlands, but perhaps that was just the sound of static electricity from the power lines, or the cognitive dissonance in my head. 

    Click the following hyperlinks for other Divided Core entires on the Palisades Trail and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

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