About a month ago, I hiked the Los Liones trail to Parker Mesa Overlook in Topanga State Park in the Pacific Palisades - at night.
I couldn't see much but the city lights emerging from the Santa Monica seaside below.
It's apparently one of the more scenic trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, through the Los Liones canyon and up to the mesa, so I needed to go back and really see it.
At first, it looked familiar enough, because I'd started my last hike at dusk, with enough remaining light to get my bearings.
But soon, the trail became decidedly and excitingly unfamiliar, revealing the lush flora and fauna of the single track trail overgrowth.
Having hiked the trail before, it was easy enough to navigate - at first - especially with the aid of some state park signs that I could actually see this time.
But when I emerged and started to take the fire road trail up to Parker Mesa, I became disoriented.
Was this the way I had taken before?
Had I already passed the turnoff? Was it this far - and this steep - last time?
Stunned by the breathtaking view, I turned around and attempted to go back down the way I came.
Except I met a Y intersection, giving me a choice of two trails to take back down. I was pretty sure I had come up the trail now on my left, but I was pretty sure that in the dark, three weeks before, I had descended down the trail now on my right.
Both were labeled Topanga Fire Road East. Each bore signs to different destinations.
But ultimately, if they were both going downhill, wouldn't they lead me essentially to the same place? Or, at least, close?
As I was walking down, I kept thinking that I had both not been there before (on the way up) and that I had been there before (on the way down). I ran into a friend, who huffed his way up, asking, "Did you go all the way to the top?"
"Yeah but I'm not sure I remember coming up this way."
"I don't remember it being so steep this way," he laughed, and we parted ways.
Eventually, I ended up back on the familiar Los Liones trail, looking even more familiar now that the afternoon sun had waned and dusk approached, mimicking the light that I originally saw the trail by several weeks before.
And when it comes down to it, it doesn't even matter if I went up or down exactly the way I had before, because everything looks different in different lighting.
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