October 26, 2011

The Lost Trail to Mission Point

One of my greatest fears is getting lost. I constantly dream about it - driving my car, riding my bike, walking the halls of my school which suddenly turns in to the mall...

But I rarely actually get lost.

Just sometimes when I'm hiking, I get disoriented. I don't have a good map. I forget to bring directions. And I have a horrible sense of direction on my own.

But I'm never really lost.

It just feels that way.

This weekend I had to be in Granada Hills for a meeting, and true to form I checked the map to see if there were any good parks nearby to hike afterwards, discovering O'Melveny Park, second only to Griffith Park in terms of size for urban Los Angeles parks.

Reportedly there are several ways to get to its scenic overlook, Mission Point. I tried to find a couple of the trailheads, to no avail, so I hopped on the equestrian trail, figuring if I kept climbing upwards, I'd find it eventually. But, as per usual, it was late afternoon, and I was in a race against time.

And I am not one of those desert rats that likes to just set out and get lost and then figure their way back. I like knowing where I'm going.

As I tried to navigate my way, I was surrounded by plenty of hills, facing the late afternoon sun, shadows cast with the ending day.

And it wasn't long before I was making the steady climb upwards towards the sunny sky.

The view was beautiful. It felt like I could see everything, so much so that with every overlook, I kept thinking I was at the top.

But as high as I got, I knew I still hadn't reached Mission Point (nor its marker). So I kept walking, trying to take note of the direction I was heading in (generally west, facing the sun), hoping to make a loop back down to the parking lot. I used the sight of the Los Angeles Reservoir as a beacon to keep oriented.

I kept walking and walking, until I hit the westernmost boundary of the park, fenced off.

So I headed downwards.

I kind of thought if I walked all this way west, facing the setting sun, then I should make my way back heading east, with the sun behind me. But the problem with hiking hills and mountains and canyons is that you are hardly ever walking in a straight line. You are twisting and turning to gain elevation, with switchbacks and loops and intersecting trail junctions.

At one point, I had no idea what trail I was on. I suspected I had taken the Grasslands Trail to get to the western fence, but after that, I was pretty sure I wasn't even on a real trail anymore, but rather a fire break or a excavated gas line. A real trail wouldn't be this narrow, right?

And why was I still walking west?

So instead of choosing east versus west, I chose down versus up. I remember once visiting a friend in the labyrinthine Hollywood Hills, when upon leaving, he said, "Don't worry, you'll find your way, as long as you keep going down." So I kept repeating to myself, "Just keep heading downhill," hoping I'd find my way back.

By this point, I had no idea where my car was, or where I'd end up once I was at the bottom of the hill.

When I finally did reach the bottom, it was not at the parking lot trailhead, but rather a cul-de-sac at the end of Neon Way, a residential street.

Where was my car? I knew the address of where I'd parked it, but I hadn't brought my GPS with me on the hike, so I didn't know how to get there on the city streets. And there was no way I was going back into the park to tackle those trails again.

Ask a neighbor? There was no one around.

Call a cab? I tried finding a local taxi company with my Blackberry but only found limo services in towns that seemed far away.

Hitchhike? This seemed my best option, so I walked a couple of blocks towards a busy cross-street I saw in the distance. A cross-street with the same name as the one I'd punched into my GPS to find the park.

Thankfully, it turns out I was only a couple of (long, highway-sized) blocks away from my car, adding probably only another mile or so to my hike.

I found my car, but I never found Mission Point. I still have no idea where it is, or how I missed it up there.

Maybe I'll go back one day and find it.

Related Reading:
Lost Vegas
The Lost Road to Glendale Peak
Out and Back
The Wrong Trail?

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