During lunch I was sharing hiking stories with Manny, a biology teacher at the school I was teaching at. He suggested we take a trek after work. The only problem was the sun set at 5:15 and the school day was over at 3:15. When the bell rang I followed his van to his house in the Valley. He wanted to pick up some supplies including his three year old son, Liam. He filled up his backpack and we took off.
Los Angeles is weird in many ways, but none more so in that you can be neck deep in urban sprawl only to find a trailhead. We parked in an alley behind the Warner Brothers lot and started walking up a steep incline. I hiked in tennis shoes with no traction, but I would not complain for I did not have a thirty five pound squirming human being strapped to my back.
We reached a plateau and Liam was allowed to run free. He loved picking up sticks and throwing them into the abyss. Manny and I commented on this. He thought it was a sign of the hunter gatherer trait we carry in our essential being. I could tell he was a good teacher as every conversation we have has a science lesson somewhere in it. This is a positive quality. I have hiked with poor conversationalists. Nothing makes bores seem more vapid than being surrounded by beauty. I’d rather hear the crickets then how they’re underappreciated at work.
We had one more peak to climb and not a moment too soon. The sky was beginning to color itself with pinks and oranges. This was a very nice trail. It challenged your fitness on the way up. There were adventurous moments with elements of danger to them. There was also solitude as we did not see another person even though we could see a city far below us.
We made it to the peak which allowed a panoramic view of both the basin and the valley. On a clearer day you could see the ocean, but that evening I could make out the highrises of Santa Monica. We were directly above Lake Hollywood and one mountain away from the famous Hollywood sign. Now we had nowhere to go, but down.
The sun was about to set behind the Hollywood Hills. Everything had long shadows and the coloring made me think we were in a movie. We were banditos looking for a way into the border. The law was on our backs and we had to watch our footprints. But no, our lives were less glamorous. Our only mission was to get down the mountain safely. This was more difficult than it sounds. The night was coming out and there was no moon to save us. We had a single barely luminescent flashlight and the city lights beneath us, but we also had a three year old.
I was the first casualty and the second and the third. My hands were aching from constantly breaking my falls. But I was glad to see Manny and his passenger stayed upright. It was hard to see where exactly the trail was. There was a giant power line we used as a landmark. Getting to the electricity meant we were more then halfway down. I found a sturdy branch to use as a walking stick Moses style. This allowed me to keep my balance and part rivers, but if I fell again my hand could get really cut up. Sure enough I fell. I began sliding down the dirt. This is why I do not ski. When I fall I am never sure if the right move is to continue tumbling all the way down the mountain or if I should find a way to stop. I grabbed a root as I did not have a jacket to pad the landing, but I was already at the bottom. I shook the dirt off and we got in the car with another hiking story.