Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday August 16th, 4:00 PM

After a quite morning of emailing and eating a health campfire breakfast with Shannon, we headed to town for some emailing and then did a 1:00 hike just the two of us. Shannon hadn't actually been on the Song Path and it was quite relaxing and a nice chance to spend some quality time together. We then tore down our campsite and headed back to the trail for a 4:00 hike that was booked for two families with children ages 2-13. I was prepared.

At around 4:03, a mini-van containing two adult men comes tearing into the parking lot and a head sticks out of a rolled down window, "are you the nature tour guy?". They get out and explain that the tour was going to be 9 people but they had just done a long hike with all the kids and they were not having another hike just after so the two decided to go it alone.

Under normal circumstances, I would insist that a hike with adults be totally silent, or at least attempt to do so, but the two asked if they could chat along the way and for some reason I thought it wouldn't ruin the experience with the two of them so agreed to a chatting tour. I did point out that the experience would be best if they allowed themselves to listen in particular places. This actually made the tour quite interesting as I learned along the way that one of the hikers was also a composer and cellist named Aaron Kerr who performed his own works and as it turned out, had recorded in my friend Brad's studio in St Paul called Essential Sessions. I also learned that the other hiker Dean was involved with charter schools and knew a lot about acoustics as he had been in charge of a project in which they measured the acoustics of the rooms at their charter schools and got recommendations on how to improve them. Apparently, the acoustics of a room have been proven to effect the performance of students in a given class as certain places in a room make the teacher hard to hear and muddled. He was often commenting on the hike that a certain location would be great to work in.

Though I feel we might have missed some interesting transitions along the way, I also realized that allowing them to chat and ask questions along the way allowed us to reflect on particular features as we walked. I also felt more free to go off trail in places that I had not ventured with other groups and we made some amazing sonic discoveries. After the first and second dripping walls, there are a stack of rocks left over from the quarry mines. Rocks that were still there after the last train pulled out of Banning. We spent quite a bit of time walking between these rocks as they noticed the very dry acoustic that part of the path makes but then we ventured behind them, a somewhat more difficult area where uneven rocks have moss growing on them where I am disinclined to take people normally. Behind these rocks, after carefully scaling some larger rock faces- and being careful not to trample some small fern like plants growing on the rocks- we emerged in a small chamber created by the quarry miners as rock was piled up on one side and sheer cliff walls surrounded it on the other two. This was perhaps the quietest place I had been in the park and even the very slow trickle of water down the walls seemed quite dramatic.

Later in the hike, stopping to hear the sounds of cicadas, Aaron actually went off path himself to follow the sound to its source so Dean and I followed to great reward as we were surrounded and enveloped as we walked with their texture slowly changing and deepening as we turned one way and another while walking of shards of left over sandstone from the stone cutters near the south west leg of the trail. I we then hit the river overlook which was the most spectacular I had heard it yet and we actually again stayed off trail longer than I normally do braving a section of trail that is a bit more narrow and overgrown and very close to the river's edge. Normally I would avoid this part as it seems a bit dangerous for kids and maybe older folks which my two brave hikers confirmed "yeah, we wouldn't have tried this with the kids!"

The stone crusher and powerhouse were also extra interesting as I asked the two of them if they would care to join me in a little jam session in the strange reverb chambers. They were more than happy to oblige and we ended up doing kind of slow rhythmic improvisations in each with the drum punctuating our playing. Fun!

I ended this tour earlier than normal as the sound of the bubbling and lapping against the sandstone at the river near where the quarry loop and spur trail split off was so spectacular. It just seemed like an appropriate place to stop and reflect.

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