On a recent cool afternoon, I decided to do some hike-exploring in Encino, near San Vicente Mountain Peak. Most of my new hikes now are intersecting hikes I've already done, helping me map out LA metro mentally, and understand how one place relates to another.
Most times, I kind of know what to expect.
Usually, in the Santa Monica Mountains, the trailhead is at a fire gate, sometimes yellow.
Signage confirms your location at the entrances and exits.
Watch for rattlesnakes...
...as a wide, dirt fire road winds around the mountain, overlooking a canyon, with a view of the city beyond.
In this case, it's Sullivan Canyon.
Day use trails lead wanderers up dusty knolls...
...while the fire road leads to a gate that marks the boundary of something long-gone...
...and the official end of the park, though the trail continues...
...until it abruptly ends at another fence, marking the start of a residential neighborhood.
And then a surprise: bright white blooming flowers inside the fence, a rarity in the middle of summer, though perhaps because of our record-wet July.
On the way back came the real surprise, which shouldn't have been a surprise at all: it was really uphill.
I didn't remember walking downhill so much on the way out, the path seeming unremarkably undulating with the usual amount of ups and downs that you get in these mountains.
But on the way back, the uphill climb seemed relentless.
Maybe I was just tired. Maybe the sun exposure of the shadeless trail finally got to me, the late afternoon rays beating down on my sweating forehead and tanktopped skin. Maybe I haven't been hiking enough, my calves still sore from climbing only partway up Mt. Washington (in non-athletic shoes).
I think we never really notice when things are easy, when the slope of our journey angles downward, just slightly enough to be comfortable (and not the extreme incline that sends me slipping and has me reaching for my hiking poles). Instead, we notice when things go wrong, when the elevation cuts our breath short, and the pangs of muscle fatigue set in.
We bemoan insomnia, but do not celebrate a good night's sleep.
I am guilty of this in particular. I am not satisfied when things are just "fine." I don't even really acknowledge those moments. Only that which is spectacular - or, spectacularly difficult, traumatic, challenging, heartbreaking - grabs my attention.
I need to learn how to appreciate the easy walks, embrace the expected, and relish in the reality of life's ups and downs, and everything in between.
What Goes Up, Must Come Down