March 23, 2013

Lost in the Mountains

I get lost all the time.

I dream about getting lost. It's my most common recurring dream.

Right now, I feel like I'm lost in life. And worse yet, lost in my career.

I've lost myself more than once in my life.

I've lost many memories.

But more often than not, I lose my way.

But I don't think the success of my life can be measured by how many times I get lost, but rather, how I find my way back.

Now that I'm back in my hiking routine (something else I've recently lost), I've been looking for new trails to discover, and I found myself back in the Verdugo Mountains, where I've hiked gloriously in the past.

Only this time, I embarked at its western boundary... complete a loop that would take me through Burbank's winding neighborhood streets...

...past some horse stables... a dead end...

...behind a school...

...up a loose fire break... a fire road...

...puncutated by a cross...

...flanked by benches at a scenic overlook.

And there, I got lost.

The hiking blog I was following advised of a four-way intersection, at which point one should take the middle trail (of the three trails presented, not counting that which had just been climbed). When the trail splits, one should go to the right.

I did that, and walked in a circle back to the bench.

I kept returning to the same spot at the cross, rereading the hiking blog, and trying to imagine various scenarios in which some other trail was the middle trail. I tried another option. Clearly wrong, in the wrong direction and at the wrong altitude. I tried another trail, which was promising. I encountered an equestrian, whose advice I sought to get back to the Chandler Fire Road. When I took it, I didn't trust it.

As the sun started to set, I spotted a lone coyote, coming out to feed. A raven circled overhead.

I was lost, save for that cross, and those benches. As long as I could still see those, I knew (approximately) where I was. And I could get back.

But the trail was supposed to be a loop, not an out and back. I didn't want to go back the way I'd come, through all those city streets, past all those houses.

But as it got darker, and my sense of direction was lost entirely, I knew I had to turn back. I could practically see my car down below, which my GPS indicated was a half mile away, but I couldn't descend the steep fire breaks into which the trails had turned, and I couldn't see any other way down. People die this way.

So, add another failed hike to the list.

What does it matter?

I can go back, and try the loop starting in the other direction, up the Chandler Fire Road, and see where it is that I got lost. At least if I can reach the cross and benches from that direction, I'll know where I am, and - finally - where I'm going.

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  1. I figure you mean it metaphorically, but, more literally, I think hiking is like landing a plane: Any hike you're able to walk away from is a good hike. You're still out and about and able to enjoy nature and contemplate what ever it is you wish to contemplate when there's an absence of voices and other distractions.

  2. Places on a map come to life thanks to your photoessays.