I have a book called “Afoot and Afield in Los Angeles County” and I love the sheer number of trails it lists. It is quite comprehensive and I can find several local hikes of various mileage for just about any area of town I happen to be in. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it says my edition was updated in 2010, the trail descriptions seem to be crushingly out of date causing me to start from old, now non-existent, trailheads and try to guess at how to connect to trails that aren’t even listed on the trail junction signage. My son and I were joking over dinner about what the author may have actually updated in this edition. We decided that he changed one of the pictures on the cover art, specifically the one of the trail approaching a tree. We decided that the original edition had the same trail and the same tree, but in this edition the photo features the trail approaching the tree from the opposite direction. (We laughed for a long time over that one.)
Armed with my trusty no-help guide I set off today in Cheseboro Canyon to hike what I thought would be a 6.7 mile hike. I couldn’t find one of the trails I was supposed to connect to. When I asked a group of horsewomen how to get to the “Baleen Trail” one of the women said I live here and ride in here all the time and I’ve never even heard of that trail. Great. I soldiered on and tried to make my best guesses as to where to turn. Of course I guessed wrong and ended up on some high fire road that undulated over all of the tallest hills over the canyon. Finally, I panicked my way back down to where I was supposed to be, but the unintended consequence was that I got an extra 3 miles of training in today that I hadn’t budgeted for.
I emerged from the wilderness at noon in 100 degree heat. I’d run out of water three miles ago. Fortunately, I had packed trail snacks so my energy level stayed consistent. I hiked 10 miles in just over 3 hours in a new pair of Merrell “Mix Master Glide” shoes I was trying to break in. So all in all I felt pretty good about the results of my outing, but BOY was I THIRSTY!
This was the view as I ascended the trail — during the first half of the trip when I was still in a good mood. It looks to me like the back and tail of an enormous whale. (No, I don’t think I was yet on the Baleen Trail. It was too early up the trail. And if this was the Baleen Trail, it wasn’t labeled as such. Anyway…) Seeing this made me go a little weak in the knees. To start, the movie Jaws and the Loch Ness Monster ruined me for life. I am irrationally afraid of large creatures lurking under any form of fresh or salt water, so when I saw this enormous whale embedded as part of the landscape it made me feel a little woozy. But it also called to mind Native American legends of animals that they imagined formed landscapes. It was very clear to me, looking at this, how such a legend could take root in a local culture.
I will continue to use my Afoot and Afield guide often, but I’m going to use it more for ideas of where to start hiking rather than exact paths to follow. It is still a really great book if I don’t take its instructions too literally.