Thursday, December 31, 2009
Yesterday evening, on New Years' Eve-Eve, I joined an esteemed group under the well-heeled leadership of Captain Kirk (Kolby Kirk, that is) in summitting Echo Mountain, completing Kolby's mission of enjoying 100 hikes before the year's end.
It also marked my last hike of 2009, which gave cause for reflection as I submerged myself in a tub full of steaming hot mentholated eucalyptusized bathwater afterwards.
I've always been a little nutty for the outdoors, thanks to summers spent at gloriously pine-laden Camp Whitcomb/Mason, but it metastasized this year into a full-blown love affair. I bought actual hiking boots and a Camelbak. I carefully crafted weekend itineraries packed with trails and cloud-skimming elevations. I built up a small arsenal of SmartWool socks.
I mean, I own a headlamp now, for chrissakes.
These mountains have become my church, my sanctuary, my gymnasium, my backyard. I cried when they burned. I drive out-of-towners to see them up close. I trace familiar peaks from airplane windows.
I trudged up the ass-kicking Chumash Trail to the La Jolla Valley; got lost in the Verdugo Mountains; raced to the top of Mt. Hollywood; broke a sweat at Temescal Canyon; found a cave en route to the Santa Ynez Waterfall; wrecked my knees and discovered creepy concentric stone circles on the 14-mile Bulldog-Backbone Loop at Malibu Creek SP; took friends old and new for waterlogged adventures in Solstice Canyon; enjoyed boulder-fed confusion at The Grotto; barely mustered the strength on a blisteringly hot day to earn a stunning ocean view atop the Leo Carillo SP Ocean Vista; felt sweat turn to awe on the Serrano-Big Sycamore Loop at Pt. Mugu SP; dug deeper into Bear Canyon, past Switzer Falls; nearly burst a lung reaching the fly-swarmed San Gabriel Peak; delighted in the tree-filled high mountain topography of the Silver Moccasin Trail from Charleton Flats; spent several weekends becoming intimately acquainted with Icehouse Canyon and her never-ending switchbacks, eventually leading to summits of both Timber Mtn. and later, the queen ass-buster herself, Cucamonga Peak.
Oh, and there was that also that one time on the Tom Sloan Hell-Trail....
But perhaps most surprising - and most fulfilling to a girl who has a lifelong intimate acquaintance with vertigo - I climbed my very first peak, Sandstone (3111'), earned my first breathtaking panorama of the Yosemite Valley atop Yosemite Falls (6740'), and summitted the highest peak in Southern California on my first non-summer-camp-related backpacking trip (San Gorgonio, 11,500').
Didn't know I had it in me. Never would have dreamed.
So here's to you, o gorgeous chunks of canyon-gouged, summit-strewn earth. Thank you for opening my eyes, testing my thighs, and blistering my feet.
Can't wait to see what 2010 has in store.
What Would Ed Do?
Keep going, aim higher, keep dreaming.
And above all else, remember that getting to the top is only half the climb.