We passed under a rust-colored steel bridge. A grove of Pacific Live Oak ushers us onto the trail. Their branches are interlocked above us forming a canopy. Some of the trees lining the sides of the trail have numbered round metal tags attached to their trunks. These trees are protected even as they protect the trail, as they sequester carbon and lay shade on the dry leafy soil underfoot. One tree made me laugh…it was a funny oak!
As we emerge from the embrace of the twisted trees, the canyon opens up a little and the sky above the rust-colored ridges greets us like a blue docent. The trail is less organic, mostly sand now.
On our left we see a two room rock cave, plenty of interior space with simple rustic charm. A great place for travelers to hide from the summer sun, or perhaps a convention center for ancient villagers. Bone fragments from thirty-two grave sites were unearthed by archeologists before the developer started moving earth on a large scale.
To the right of the trail is a dry creek bed. Hard sandstone, scrubbed smooth from floods that cut into the caves and deposited topsoil down by the oaks, lines the bottom and sides. The rocks are like exposed muscles from the eroded body of Mother Earth.
“So, where did this place get its name,” asks the daughter.
“Well, back in the day, the local Chatsworth kids would bring their dates up to Dayton Canyon, not a lot to do in town, and didn’t cost much.”
“No,” says the wife.
“From a bee keeper named Clyde Dayton, actually,” I stated.
Buckwheat is thick on the slopes. We start hiking up the canyon, then up and around a hill, leaving the dry river bed down on the canyon floor.
“Yeah, he was all about red honey and raw vegetables. He loved his bees more than his two wives. Old Clyde owned over a hundred acres up here, and hundreds of bee hives. His home was a 12×12 shack with a corrugated metal roof. After his first wife died of TB he married her nurse, Lulu. He had plenty of money. The local farmers used his bees to pollinate their fruit trees. Clyde sold his red honey, in mason jars, at the Owensmouth Town Center and also shipped it by the barrel across the country. By age sixty, Clyde had consumed quite a bit of red honey.”
“Lulu wanted a vacation. She wanted to move to town. She wanted a bigger house. Clyde didn’t want to hear about it. He preferred the sound of bees buzzing. He told Lulu to be quiet.”
We reach a plateau with amazing, yet familiar, rocks and caves and a long view of the Valley. I have seen these rocks in Western movies. The sun is starting to set. Some clouds are turning pinkish.
“One night the shack burned up with Lulu and Clyde inside. They may have been shot. Most people thought it was murder-suicide. It was another case of that age old question, first posed by Hamlet – to bee or not to bee.”
Then the sky turned a rusty red, like Clyde’s honey, seen through the prism of time.