I wish we were here under better circumstances. I wish we were here to talk about some crazy summit reach, or about some girl who’s blown my mind. Maybe we could be here to talk about this great wonderful weather we’re having, or about some adventure I took to some far off place in the nether worlds of California. I wish all that but it isn’t true. Instead I’m here to make a confession. Not a very big one. I mean, I’m not dead or anything. I didn’t dehydrate myself or starve myself or break an ankle. Listen, nothing terrible happened at all. But I still feel like an asshole. Let me tell you why.
The Dawn Mine hike isn’t a very difficult hike. The Robinson book tells me it’s five miles round trip–medium on his difficulty scale. I did it once with my ex-girlfriend Tawny a million years ago. I remember that back then we thought it would be a simple hike and we could get back in time to see her grandmother. The Station Fire had just happened a few months back though and much of the road was closed so we had to park a mile or so back adding to the hike.
Memory can do some tricky things. So can being an idiot. Having done the hike before and remembering–somewhat–how hard it was, I wasn’t very concerned. So I made a late start. I didn’t double check the directions, I simply headed towards Pasadena. My GPA took me to the JPL headquarters. The security guard said, “This is JPL. It’s private.” “I don’t want to be here,” I said. “This is JPL. It’s private,” he said. He was a nice guy. I re-read the Robinson directions–not very good I’d say–double checked my map, and picked the spot I wanted to go to. I stopped at a park next to a gymnasium–it all looked familiar enough–and headed out.
Usually I’m a little nutso when I go on a hike. I have a three liter water bladder and I’ll either take that or two liter and a half water bottles and maybe a little more. I’ll eat a big breakfast. I’ll drink a bunch of coffee. I’ll pack Cliff bars and a sandwich and some fruit and enough trail mix to last me three days if I get stranded. I do that for the same reason I pack three or four books in my backpack whenever I head out for the day. Be prepared was the Boyscout motto I was taught. Be slightly neurotic when nobody is watching is what I learned instead.
So what did I do today? I didn’t bring the water bladder. I forget it entirely. I didn’t bring any trail mix. I didn’t even eat breakfast. I purchased one bottle of water, a cup of coffee and one–yes one–Cliff bar from the gas station. I actually left it in the car before I set out. I’m just glad I remembered to fill up my tank.
I knew pretty quickly that I had parked in the wrong spot. My Bill Simmons podcast ended and I hadn’t yet reached the trail. This was bad news. He was supposed to be a good friend in my ear. By the podcast’s estimate I had hiked at least two miles. The Dawn Mine trail travels through a canyon underneath some woods. There is sun, but not much of it. So I didn’t bring sunscreen either. The Bill Simmons hike was entirely under the sun. If you could see my shoulders right now you’d laugh and if you were the jerk that I think you are you’d slap said shoulders and run off squealing.
I have a weird metabolism. I starve at work and tend to gorge myself but on my days off I don’t need as much to get by. I can eat a ton during a hike but for the first half of the day I can get by without a breakfast. (I don’t like to do this I’m just saying that I can. Right now I’m eating ice cream with a glass of wine.)
I think the bad decisions happened precisely because I was hungry. And the hungrier I got the faster I wanted the entire hike to be over with so I could go home and feast. When I finally reached the START of the hike I realized that Tawny and I had not begun at the actual start. Tack on another mile. The road that had been closed? Reopened. I could have figured this out if I had decided not to assume, but what’s the fun in that?
The Robinson book said to hike 400 yards after a closed gate and then turn left at an unmarked trail. I did that. Then I walked a mile down to a campsite where some workers were cutting down trees and I knew–right down to my hungry belly–that I was in the wrong spot. I hiked back up, found the correct turn–the turn off is not unmarked but marked (thanks a lot Robinson)–and began the hike in full.
By my count I hiked five miles off course today. The hike itself is five miles so what was supposed to be a leisurely jaunt through the woods in search for a creepy abandoned mine, turned into a ten mile slog that left me tired and hungry and pissy and sunburned and damn well thirsty after I downed my water bottle. I could list you more mistakes but you could look them up in any survival manual under what-not-to-do when heading out into the wilderness. Looking back I did three things right. I told one person where I was going, I wore boots with good socks, and when I reached Dawn Mine I resisted the evil voice in my head and I did NOT go inside. Though afterwards I did lookup a few videos of people who have. Anyone up for spelunking?
© 2013 Christopher Dart