“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads
or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild.
With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason
other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows,
mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets.
The experience was powerful and fundamental.
It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild,
and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
Copyright © 2017
by Ralph F. Couey
I haven't written about hiking for some time, mainly because all those posts began to sound the same. It is still difficult for me as a writer to adequately translate into words what these wilderness wanderings do for my spirit. So I thought I'd just summarize my trail activities for the last few months.
In June, we went to Casa Grande, Arizona for three months. Yeah. Arizona in the Summer. I know. Anyway, we stayed in a nice home in a retirement community a few miles south of town. The community was kind of isolated, with miles of nearly-empty desert in all directions. That was my first target. Starting out just after sunup, I was able to explore those sand-covered roads. That particular area contained little wildlife, which was okay because that desert is liberally populated with rattlesnakes and scorpions. To the northeast of the community were the four Toltec Buttes, a couple of hundred feet high, which made for a nice quick climb. There are canals that run here and there, carrying that substance without which life would not be possible there. I alternated those hikes with walks around and through the rather large community. Three weeks in, I felt I had acclimated enough to the heat to try something a little more ambitious.
Despite the drawbacks, there is an innate beauty to the desert. It is rugged, and hazardous, but that's part of the charm. Walking among the Saguaro, you feel like a pioneer.
Around Labor Day, we left Arizona for Colorado, and after a quick three-week turnaround, were on the road again, this time for San Dimas, California. And after winter in Colorado and summer in Arizona, we finally got the seasonal thing right. Well, almost. The second week here, we were caught in an historically ferocious Santa Ana, which drove the temperatures into the low 100's. Locals complained, but after Arizona, we found it to be almost pleasant.
Where we're located along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, is home to several quaint and attractive communities. San Dimas, La Verne, Glendora, and a few others are fun to walk and very easy on the eye. Walking these streets, I understand those innate qualities that make up a physical community. Then, just about the time you begin to think how nice it would be to live there, you look up the real estate and are saddened to see that a small craftsman-style bungalow, about 1,100 square feet will set you back about three-quarters of a million.
I had to take a week off when my knee started acting up. After seven days of rest and advil, I was ready to head back to dirt.
There are two types of trails here. Canyons and mountains. I did two of the former, the Antonovich Trail, and the Marshall Canyon Trail before tackling two San Gabriel trails, Claremont Wilderness, and Cobal Canyon Mountainway. The latter actually climbs into the mountains, and not into a canyon. These trails consist of two halves, a steep, tough climb of 800 to 1,000 feet, and then a faster descent where the biggest hazard is executing a face plant on the wide dirt track.
We've enjoyed our time here, and I've reveled in the joyful hiking possibilities which abound in this area. But we're just past the halfway point on this contract, and will be on the road again after the holidays. Our next stop won't be known for awhile, but hopefully it'll be someplace with plenty of dirt trails.