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Humor March 2015

Ernie's World

In Search of the Pygmies

By Ernie Witham

Still, we were determined to see the pygmies so we trudged on...and on...and on... We finally ran into another couple who were also checking out a banana slug. There must have been a slimy yellow slug convention near by.

My idea of a good hike is going to the mailbox and back or getting my own beer from the fridge. Or, occasionally, walking on the golf course when I get the cart stuck between two trees.

That is unless we are on vacation in wine country. Then I feel a little trek is helpful in offsetting the 37 tastings and five square meals per day average. I especially like the opportunity to see unusual flora and fauna.

"Check it out," I whispered.

My wife stopped and quietly looked around for a fox or a deer. "Where?"

I pointed down at the ground. "It's a banana slug," I said excitedly. "Must be almost three-inches long!"

We were on the Mendocino coast and my wife had found a place in the guidebook called Jughead State Reserve, which I thought was really cool because I have always been a fan of Jughead in the Archie comics.

"It's Jughandle State Reserve, not Jughead."

I was bummed but we stopped anyway. That's when I found out the reserve had pygmies, which I thought was really cool because I have always been a fan of jungle movies.

"It's a pygmy forest, not a pygmy tribe."

I love small trees! I have almost 50 bonsais on our back patio and I figured maybe I could find another one or two in the wild.

"How do we get there?" I asked.

"We have to follow the trail to the fourth terrace."

"They terraced the forest? Man, these Mendocitans have way too much time on their hands."

"Actually, the terraces were formed during the Pleistocene epoch by rising seas. Each one is about a hundred thousand years older than the last. A new one is forming under the ocean right now."

"Hm, if we wait for that one we are going to miss lunch."

So we started hiking. First we went out on a spectacular bluff, which is the first terrace and would have made a really nice condominium project. Then we had to go through some brush and under Route 1, down some wooden stairs that must have also been built during the Pleistocene epoch.

"My foot's stuck again!"

"Try to step lightly on the rotting ones."

Stepping lightly is not one of my strong suits.

Still, we were determined to see the pygmies so we trudged on...and on...and on... We finally ran into another couple who were also checking out a banana slug. There must have been a slimy yellow slug convention near by.

The couple knew a lot about pygmy forests. "The stunting of vascular vegetation can be attributed largely to two environmental factors, the Blacklock podsol and moisture availability," the man said.

"The surface of the soil is extremely acidic, having a pH of 2.8-3.9. It is also low in available nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and micronutrients," she added. "So they can't grow normally."

I think they might have been professors. We felt like we couldn't quit advancing now without flunking, so we bid them adieu and trekked along. There were little markers along the trail – 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, etc. We finally figured out that they were tenth-of-a-mile markers. At marker 2.2 we ran into more hikers who told us the pygmy forest was at marker 3.1. We decided nature was way overrated and headed back.

We ran into the first couple again. They hadn't made much forward progress. I think they were hiking "with" the banana slug now.

"We didn't make it," I said, apologetically.

"Well, there is another pygmy forest further south. It's a nine-mile hike in."

I guess she saw "fugeddaboutit" in my eyes because she told us there was a back way and you could drive right up to it, plus it had a boardwalk with signs, explaining everything.

So, we took the Little River-Airport Road off Route 1 and sure enough, there it was.

"This is it? Where are the bonsais?"

Turns out the cypress trees grow to about six feet, which is a lot shorter than their normal 80-100 feet, but way taller than human pygmies. Still, it was a lot easier walking and we did learn about rainfall and runoff and stuff. We checked the time.

"Wineries close in about an hour," I said.

We picked up our pace considerably.

 

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