Friday, September 3, 2010

A Short Hike in the San Gabriels

Courtney and I went for a hike up in the San Gabriel mountains near her sister's home in Arcadia. We packed some snacks, plenty of water and lathered ourselves in sun block. It was a short drive to the start of the mountain road, which is itself a fantastically winding and scenic route. We parked the car near the pack station and headed off uphill.
We didn't know any of the trails but figured that they would be clearly marked so not having a map wouldn't be an issue. At the start of our ascent we passed a small gaggle of Koreans. Easily identified by their twin carbon-fibre hiking poles, belt bags, rucksacks and clothing made from ultra modern materials. Courtney seemed quite thrilled to see them. I however was happy to be away from the winy vowel sounds of Hangul. Still, Courtney shouted out a cheery 'Anyeonghaseyo' (Be at peace) which was warmly received. We sped past them and entered the quiet shade of the mountain side. The trail itself was an evenly tarmacked path, smelling of sweet vanilla thanks to the abundance of Ponderosa pines. As we headed up trail, we sent sleepy lizards sunning themselves scuttling off into the leafy verges.
We came to a fork in the road just as the Koreans behind us caught up. I decided that whichever route they weren't taking looked the best. As it happens the Koreans took the steeper, rockier route, leaving us with the gently sloping paved road on which to explore the mountain.
The warm, still air was perfect for the swarms of insects that were adamant on seeking refuge up our nostrils or in our ears. We quickly learnt that stopping to admire the view gave them ample time to get to know us a little better than we liked. Still, the sights and smells of the mountain made the bugs a tolerable nuisance.
A little further up the path we came across some mountain lion scat. Fortunately, it was very old and dry, filled with the fur of whatever it had eaten last (good to see that it was eating well). Mountain lions tend to poop in open areas like the middle of paths as a way of marking their territory. The reminder that their was a large predator in the area put us a little on edge. I know that mountain lions are nocturnal and avoid human contact, but being from a country whose largest predator is the almost blind badger, it was a potent reminder of my potential position in the food chain.
The rest of our walk was uneventful with regards to large predatory mammals. What did drive us off the mountain happened to be the swarms of insects. On our descent we passed a couple of people who were obviously regular visitors to the range. The clue; overhead mosquito nets. Smart move.
We drove down the mountain road listening to Jack Johnson telling us to slow down. Not bad advise for such a high and winding road. Just as we exited the park we had our closest encounter with a large native mammal: a trio of mule deer. We spied them happily hopping across the road, munching on the cultivated roadside plant life. From our seats in the car, one passed within three meters of us. I managed to snap away oblivious to them until a car came around the bend behind us and we had to move on.

1 comment:

  1. What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do -- especially in other people's minds. When you're travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.

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