May 14, 2011

Out and Back

I had to go pick up my personal things from the office on Wednesday.

I wasn't looking forward to that, but I wanted to get it over with.

I thought I would capitalize on being on the westside by taking a hike out there (since in LA you can plan your hikes around your days), so I headed back to Topanga State Park, where I'd already hiked Temescal Gateway Park, this time picking up a trailhead in Will Rogers State Historic Park.

Most people go to Will Rogers SHP to check out his old ranch house and stables...

...but you can take a nice loop trail to Inspiration Point (another overlook where you can see the beach and, on a clear day, Catalina) and actually head up the Backbone Trail into the main part of Topanga State Park, down the Rustic Canyon Trail, and then back into Will Rogers.

Supposedly, you can.

I, of course, got lost.

I couldn't even find the trailhead in the first place, so I secured the help of a park ranger named Carlos who pointed me in the direction of the Inspiration Loop Trail.

Unfortunately, it being a loop, he pointed me in the direction opposite of where I wanted to go.

I discovered this a bit too late to turn around, but since the route was scenic enough, with the wildflowers in full bloom, I stayed the course.

I wasn't sure how much extra time doing the extra part of the loop had added to my trip, but when I reached the Backbone Trail, I decided to try to take it anyway.

Parts were quite steep...

...and other parts quite narrow, making it pretty obvious why this trail, in the Chicken Ridge area of the state park, got its name.

I knew I was still on track when I reached the bridge...

and the really steep part with the welcome railing...

...but shortly thereafter, I couldn't find the turnoff for Rustic Canyon, one I was warned would be narrow and easy to miss. I paced back and forth through a stretch of the trail trying to find it, asking a fellow hiker, and not wanting to go much farther into Topanga for nothing. And then I finally relented, saying, "OK, it's not a loop anymore. It's an out and back."

I'm sometimes reticent to do out and back hikes because I don't love retracing my steps. I'd rather see new things along the entire way. But it's actually a mistake because most trails look incredibly different when you're facing the other direction. Unless you turn around frequently to look behind you (which I do), you usually miss out on half of the hike's view.

So I headed back down the Backbone Trail and picked the Inspiration Point Loop Trail back up, taking it back through Will Rogers, where the scenery actually was quite different than where I began.

As I headed back to my car, I thought about the repeated themes in my life - layoffs, unemployment, heartbreaks, abandonment, poverty, and loneliness, but also serendipity, fortune, passion, travel, music - and realized that although I often have to retrace my steps, and sometimes veer off the main trail onto a little spur that takes me nowhere but out and back, the path is never exactly the same. It always looks a little bit different, and takes me somewhere not exactly the same as where I started.

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