One of my favorite extra curricular activities is hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains up the coast in and around Malibu. I've hiked in Topanga Canyon, Solstice Canyon, Upper and Lower Zuma Canyon, and Malibu Creek State Park.
My favorite hiking spot has to be Point Mugu State Park all the way up near Oxnard (pronounced like Ox-Lard). It's big and wild. According to the map, there are over 70 miles of hiking trails winding from mountains to valley to forest.
There is one trail that skirts around the side of some mountains looking out at the Pacific, so there's just you and then a lot of air and then ocean. Even though the Pacific Coast Highway (all two lanes) sits between you and ocean, you stand up there and feel like you're on the edge of the land. This is it. No more land beyond this point. No more US. Just a lot of air and water.
One time I was hiking that trail, and a hawk flew by maybe twenty feet away from me. It rode the air currents looking for little furry things to eat. It was so quiet, so smooth.
Yesterday, I went up to Point Mugu because I hadn't been there in awhile and needed my hiking fix. I had planned ahead of time to go. I had done all my errands and shopping on Saturday, so I was ready for Sunday.
When I arrived early Sunday afternoon, the parking lot was full of cars. A lot of people had the same idea I had. It was a nice sunny day but still a little cool to be going to the beach.
I decided to try some different trails just for the fun of it. At the trailhead, I waited for a group of two men and one woman to come off the trail. The woman had two hiking sticks and wide brimmed cotton hat. She definitely needed to get off the trail faster than I needed to get on it. As they passed me, the intrepid group of hikers told me they had just seen three snakes over the last hundred yards. Two of them had been rattlers.
‘Okey Dokey, thanks for the info.' I said and started down the trail. The Woman seemed shocked by my casualness. Didn't I realize that I was going into a very dangerous situation filled with very dangerous animals? The Woman seemed to make drama out of very natural situations.
Snakes. I don't fear snakes. I respect snakes. Snakes want two things: heat and food. Biting Jen is not part of their daily plans, so why would I piss them off and force them to do so.
I walked several hundred yards down the path but saw no snakes. I figured the last group probably scared them off. I did see a lot of little lizards. All of the little lizards looked at me and seemed to say ‘oh here comes another one' before scurrying off the path.
I got into my hiking rhythm as the trail followed the ridge line with most excellent views of ocean and mountains. I could hear and smell the salt water slamming into the shore below. Yes, this was good. I noticed several yellow flowers were in bloom.
Two women came down the path towards me. They asked if this was the trail to the parking lot. I told them they were going the right way and it was all down hill for them from here.
I saw more people on the trail. Even though it wasn't Grand Central Station, it was still crowded for a trail. I guess because Point Mugu was in bloom.
There weren't just yellows. There were reds and purples, and all the greens were lush. All the flowers were coming out and showing off.
When I was a little girl, I played with Barbie and her Malibu dream house, so I always pictured Malibu as a very pink place. When I started hiking out there, I realized that Malibu wasn't pink at all. It was brown and dark green and the steel blue ocean pounding into rocks and sand. Yesterday's colors at Point Mugu would have done Barbie proud.
I walked on and on and on. I got on a Multi-Use trail for bicycles, horses, and people. There were a lot of squashed black beetles and bicycle tire marks on this trail. Imagine being a beetle and you have to cross this dirt trail (for some reason unknown even to you) and then splat. The bicycle doesn't even see you, but your whole day and lifetime is completely ruined. I would even call it depressing, but I don't think beetles get depressed.
I walked into a valley, and suddenly all around me were trees. The trunks of the big trees were black from being burnt out, but it was growing new branches and new leaves. These Mountains had some terrible fires, but all the green stuff was coming back. Where there was destruction is now alive. Oh how very Cycle of Life.
I think at this point the coyotes started howling. Maybe they wanted to remind each other to set their clocks one hour forward. Spring ahead, guys! Spring ahead.
But then there were the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes suck. They fly around and bother people. Walking through a mossie convention, I waved my hands out in front of me in a girlie manner. I don't know if this was very effective, but it made me feel better.
I walked on the fire road. I started gradually ascending and ascending and ascending, and I turned a corner and ascended. Okay, this was a hill. I was on a mile long hill that only went up. I held an apple in my hand. When I reach the top, I will eat the apple.
I kept chugging up the hill. This hill was nothing. I remembered the time I hiked in Point Mugu when the temperature was in the nineties and my water got hot and everything was so dry. The key to the hill was not stopping. If you stopped, you will lose your rhythm and your focus.
I reached the top of the hill which was also a junction of four trails. I ate the apple as I walked down into the valley. I have learned more through error than trial to bring fruit and power bars with me on long hikes. I was three solid miles from the parking lot, and the apple gave me just the zip I needed. Yeah fruit. Fruit rocks.
I walked on. I've always been a walker. When I was a kid, I walked to school. When I was a poor student in New York, I walked from Washington Square up to around 100th Street. I like walking. It doesn't clean out my head. It just rearranges things into a better perspective.
Walking that day I thought about endurance. Is endurance just like walking? Not a big flash of glory but one step and then another? I'm not the fastest walker, but I keep going and I get there. My legs may feel like rubber, but I get there.
As the sun started setting out over the Pacific, I put on my clogs and started up my car. There were only three or four cars in the parking lot now. I was leaving later than I thought I would. That was fine. I didn't have anything else I had to do.