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Living On The Edge: an adventure story

June 25, 2011

As long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to adventure. Scaling furniture as a toddler, balance beams as a young kid, tying my climbing shoes the fastest in hopes of getting extra rock wall climbing time, tying my wrists to a rope 40 feet from the floor and spinning around (it’s called Spanish Web, and was my favorite “event” in the circus at summer camp), always having to be the first to jump off of the cliff into the icy flow of mountain river below, et cetera. I like the rush, I like being outside, I like being, literally, above other people (not figuratively, that’s just rude). As you grow up, your opportunity for adventure like this dies down. You have laundry to do, academic and professional goals that you’re told will further you more than tempting fate on the side of a rock face, so you abandon some of this adventure from your personality and channel that energy into jogging, or temper tantrums, or whatever it may be. But occasionally you get the chance to show the world what you’re made of again, and sometimes, you forget just how scary it really is.

Yesterday, I went for a little, early afternoon hike in the San Gabriel Mountains, about a half hour from Los Angeles. Veering off of the well-traveled path, we headed up and away from the swarms of families and overweight day hikers (because, let’s just be fair, if they’re on your trail, your trail isn’t going to be very challenging…no offense, fat families of America) and on to a steeper, more invigorating–if you will–trail. At a certain point it became fairly obvious that turning around and going back the way that we’d come was going to be…harrowing, so we pushed on, in hopes of finding an alternative way back, or a way up to a higher trail, or anything remotely easier than what we were faced with if we simply about-faced and climbed down the way we’d climbed up.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that way we did not find. Between, quite literally, a rock and a hard place, we decided to explore the option of climbing down into a ravine of sorts (any of you who’ve been hiking back routes will know that “exploring an option” is one way of saying, “if this doesn’t work I have no bloody idea how we’re going to get back down alive”). So there we were, clinging on to bits of crumbling mountain, testing footholds carefully, only to find them breaking under the rubber of pricey, old running sneakers. Have I yet mentioned that the mountain was, again, quite literally, crumbling? No? Well, it was. Most of the rock broke right off of the larger piece behind it upon direct impact, which doesn’t bode well for trying to rock climb down into a ravine, which we soon found was not so much a ravine as a place for rock slides to take place. After a few nasty slips, the brilliant idea to cling to flora rather than crumbling geological specimen, and many a “Oh man!”, a few “Holy Jesus”‘s, and even one “Dear God!” from me, the other branch that the other half of my party was grasping, snapped, and he fell. I don’t mean, “whoops, you guuuuyyssss! These heels are too high and now I spilled half of my ketel and soda, splash of cran on my brand new puuurrrse”, I mean tumbled down a rock slide, legs splayed in the air, me shaking and screaming “are you okay? are you okay?!”, kind of fall.

Shortly after this moment, we hit a point in our “afternoon hike” where the ravine path that we were on, or so we thought we were on, reached a drop-off, a drop-off that I refused to even look at. A well placed foot and a helping hand up and we were left only to contend with desert/mountain plant and insect life before climbing back up a different way, to the “harrowing” path that we came in on. Fifteen horse fly bites later (and those are just the ones that I can count right now, in my seated position, and ignoring my entire back side) we were back down at the stream, just in time to wash the bloody wounds out in the nice, cold water. Meanwhile, I had constructed beautiful goat cheese and tomato sandwiches to picnic on from the summit that went entirely to waste on shaking, blood-stained, hands in the car on the way to the pharmacy to buy gauze and hydrogen peroxide.

I am happy to report that all parties involved are safe and recovering quite nicely, although I could use some benedryl for these damn bites.

Near-death doesn't make me look happy

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