Monday, May 26, 2014

Photo Essay: Crashing & Bleeding on the Trails at Sage Ranch

I haven't been hiking very much lately. Between the physical pain in the aftermath of the car accident, and my pre-existing fibromyalgia which has now been exacerbated, I haven't felt like doing much more physically other than swimming.

Besides, my brains are so scrambled by the post-traumatic head syndrome, I don't quite trust my navigational skills yet – at least, not while out there on my own. If I could leave my contact lenses back in NYC and somehow lose my car's first aid kit, who knows where I'd end up out on the trail all alone?

But the outdoors still call to me, so if I can't experience nature in solitude, I figured I'd better join up with a group.

On Saturday, I met up with one of my hiking groups to explore Sage Ranch.



Located amongst the sandstone formations of Simi Valley in the Simi Hills – not far from Corriganville or Garden of the Gods – Sage Ranch is one of the many former working ranches of the Santa Monica Mountains...



...whose owners must've had to work hard to work around all of those rock outcroppings.



I'd joined this hike with the promise of it being easy....



...but I found myself having joined a small group of hikers who were all friends, who all knew each other...



...who'd all gone hiking together that morning, and who'd just come from a group lunch.



Although I knew that I would be safe from getting lost by joining them...



...I wasn't quite up to their skill level...



...and felt like I was crashing their party.



I let them lead the way around a makeshift loop trail on the eastern end of the park, encouraging me to climb rocks I had no business climbing...



...and inevitably slipped and scraped up my legs and elbow, leaving some blood on the rocks.



When the group proceeded towards the "ledge of death," I abdicated, staying behind with one other hiker...



...who I urged, "You don't have to stay back here just for me."



She insisted that wasn't the reason.



I'm not sure I believed her.



Once we completed the east loop, we headed to the main Loop Trail...



...which takes hikers past (and through) some small caves...



...and other climbing opportunities with less altitude...



...but more poison oak.



Past Turtle Rock...



...we saw plenty of wildflowers...



...and even passed through some orange and avocado groves, left over from the original ranching days...



...but we were urged not to snack on anything...



...given the park's proximity to the Boeing Rocketdyne testing area immediately next door...



...which is notoriously contaminated with radiation and exotic chemical seepage.



The wildflowers seem to have resisted any negative impacts from the contamination...



...in fact, seeming to flourish.



The Boeing site is no longer an active testing ground, so once you pass the rusty fences and scary "No Trespassing" and "Danger" signs...



...you can just enjoy the sandstone, the yucca, the yerba santa, and the sage.

I don't know if I'll ever get over my sense of not belonging, that if I'm with other people, I'm merely borrowing their experiences from them and not creating new ones together with them. I go to parties where everyone knows each other, and instead of being grateful to meet lots of new people, I feel like I'm infringing. I'd rather be in a room full of people who are all strangers to each other rather than be the sole outlier.

But then again, I don't make a very good attendee. I'm not an adept follower. I feel much better when I can lead the pack.

Stay tuned for more from the Boeing Rocketdyne site, a compound that also includes top security lands managed by NASA and the Department of Energy.


Related Posts:
The Steep Climb Through the Cave of Munits to Castle Peak
Photo Essay: On Shaky Legs Down to the Grotto