Baby Owls Made Us Do It

When we talk about pursuing kairos, that perfect, pivotal moment of exhilarating opportunity, I’m positive we think of three baby owls. Owls that are so baby still that their feathers make them look like little puffballs. Owls so baby that you almost walk right past them.

That’s a moment. One that makes you forget how sore you are, in an instant.

It had been a brutal day. And we can use the word brutal, because we had just completed a Spartan Super race near Monterrey, California. We’d flown in the day before, had a sandwich at the Golden Gate bridge, unknowingly spectated at a kite-surfing competition (which was badass), drove 35 hours to Modesto (okay, it was three, but it felt like forever in traffic), had a spectacular dinner on a unicorn blanket, and then busted out an eight-mile uphill obstacle race.

No. Big. Deal.

golden gate kite surfing
We gladly traded sand in our sandwiches for this view of the iconic bridge and a kite-surfing competition.

So, the race wasn’t entirely uphill, because that wouldn’t make sense. But my ankles estimated that 95-percent of the race was at a 60-degree incline. We knew it would be hard, and we signed up for the challenge in an attempt to capture the Spartan Trifecta medal, which requires finishing a sprint, super and beast in one year.

The best part about the inclines?  The summits.

spartan views
One of many summits along the 8-mile race, because we climbed. A lot.

Since we went into the race with a mindset to finish, not with our hearts set on pace, we stopped at some of the lookouts and grabbed a few photos of the views. It was a cool payoff, even as our shins were on fire. The other payoff was the winding, lower elevation trails that twisted through and under canopies of trees that we don’t get to see when we’re running in Arizona.

spartan canopies
Brief reprieves from inclines gave us this: breezy canopies of shaded trails.

So when we crossed that finish line, beat but jacked, it only made sense that we’d go find another hike. Before we ate. Or showered. I mean, we already had eight miles in the books.  What’s four more?

spartan finish
Jacked. And goofy. With our medals. Because, we finished!

We used bananas, recovery drinks and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos to carry us through the ride to Pinnacles National Park, an insanely beautiful and mountainous park established about 80 miles from San Jose by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. And we followed our map, which at one point took us down a rutted, dirt road that can only be described as some sort of perceived shortcut by Google, but showed us just what our little rental could do.  It also brought us through an area populated by wild turkeys and pine cones as big as our heads.

The park itself was other-worldly. After driving through a dry landscape, we were suddenly surrounded by lush greens, massive boulders and shaded trails. The park felt like this kind of romantic secret, even though it’s not.

pinnacles canopy
Pinnacles National Park exploded with greenery and general amazingness, like this sweet spot.

When we went, at the end of the day, we had it to ourselves, with the exception of one other couple and one other family we saw along the way. Oh, and we did see some dudes rock climbing towards the entrance.

pinnacles path
A snapshot of Pinnacles paths.

Despite dwindling daylight, and overextended muscle groups, we were able to reach the top of a mountain trail that put us in a sweet spot for the setting sun – and we were able to tackle a second trail that led us through a cave (with a bat!) to a staircase to a breathtaking reservoir.  It’s one of those parks where moss covers rocks, water trickles beneath them and vibrant ferns hug smooth boulders that are so big you wonder how they got there. How they fell. Or rolled. Or broke.

pinnacles overlook 2
A pretty amazing overlook, save for the ratty braid, which proves how wrecked we were from Spartan.

More than once we made reference to both Indiana Jones and The Goonies, because of the boulders and the caves. And as we hiked out, beating dusk, it seemed everything started to take the shape of food.  We were that hungry – like, Madagascar hungry, where the lion looks at the zebra and sees a steak.

pinnacles ron overlook
Pinnacles overflows with ginormous boulders that jut out or pile on top of each other.

So it really is no wonder we almost cruised past that tiny silhouette perched upon a branch that was right in front of our faces. We had our minds on burgers, not baby owls. But that changed, quick.

And that was the moment. The one where our hungry stomachs and exhausted muscles said, “Yep. We get it. All good. We can wait.”

Because, three baby owls. And not only that, three baby owls that gave us this choreographed greeting.

That’s why you go on the hike after running uphill for eight miles. Because those babies are waiting for their moment with you.