Saturday, July 05, 2008

How I found Intrigue! Carnage! Espionage! hiking in the Santa Monicas

In honor of the 4th, or because I wanted to sweat, I decided to go on a midday hike yesterday, beyond the usual Hollywood Hills fare.  A quick google led me to one that met my criteria:  local, kinda short so I could make it back before dark, of at least moderate difficulty, and ocean views.


I got on the road about 1:30, stopped at the Whole for my daily kombuch (more on this delight later!) and some water, and headed up the 101 towards Malibu Canyon.  Damn the Virgo rising in me, but 40 minutes later I found myself lost.  The directions said exit on Kanan Dune Road off the 101.  There is no exit for Kanan Dune.  There is, however, an exit for Kanan Road.  It turns out, probably four miles later, Kanan turns into Kanan Dune.   I didn't discover this until I'd turned around several times certain I'd passed my turn, and finally broke out the quasi-GPS on my phone.  

Eventually I found the small, fairly empty, dirt parking lot referenced in the guide.  I grabbed my water, locked my car, and walked towards the trailhead.   I grew up in Seattle, with the Green River running through my backyard.  Yes, THAT Green River -- the one of serial killer fame.  Sure, he was after prostitutes, but still -- the memory of his menace which went unsolved for such a long time has lingered -- I don't like to hike alone in woods or secluded trails.  Choosing mitigation over precaution, I texted Renee:  "Starting hike at Latigo Canyon."  If something happened to me, I wanted cops to be able to find my body later.  "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she texted back.   "So far so good," I responded stoically.  I was a 1/10th of a mile in.

Immediately the trail turned downhill.  That's right-- DOWN.  You know what this means?  When you begin a hike that promises ocean views but you start by winding *down* into a canyon, the way back will be UP.  Trekking uphill at the end of a hike sucks.  It just does.  But, by my own admission I wanted a sweat, so I forged on. 

I passed a woman panting, returning to her car.   We stopped to talk.  Did she see the ocean?  I wanted to know.  No, she told me, as far as she could tell, no ocean views.  Whaaaaa???  She said if I continued I'd run into her husband who had gone ahead on his mountain bike.  I kept on thinking that maybe she didn't just walk far enough.  

Basically hiking in the Santa Monicas is pretty similar to hiking Barton Creek except that if you're lucky, or just 8 feet tall,  you can catch a view of the Pacific.  After my second time hiking in Malibu Canyon I realized that I'd rather just go to the beach to see the ocean, you know?  I got to the fire road, the (disappointing) turn around point, so I continued on.  And by on, I mean down.  Way down.  I wasn't sure where I was going but there had to be something more than a dirt road and a cell phone tower to see.   

And then I saw it.  I had walked right into a murder scene.  Have you ever scene a lizard dead like this?
  
Me either.  This could only be the hand of foul play.  But how?  Why?  Without a forensics background to help, I had no idea how long it'd been there.  No chalk line suggested I'd beat the cops to the scene.  Oh no - this wasn't getting pinned on me.  I ran away as fast as I could.  

About a 1/2 mile later I slowed to a walk.  The coast was clear.  In my haste I had lost my footing and scratched my knee up.  I poured some precious water on the wound.  Hiking in the Santa Monicas was proving perilous.  If I wanted to make it back alive I'd have to be more careful.   I heard a faint buzz at my ears.   I kept walking and it got louder.   A huge black bumblebee was on my tail.  I walked faster and he flew -- or whatever bumblebees do (propel?) -- faster.  The bastard must've seen me at the lizard.  Once again I quickened my gait.   I ran down the trail until the buzzing stopped and I was out of breath, (about 30 feet).   I thought I shook him.

Over an hour in and no sight of anything cool.  I could keep going but fighting the perils of the jungle requires more planning.  Or at least a Snickers.   So on a non-descript part of the trail, I followed a monarch butterfly and turned back.  The bumblebee found me again as I passed by the remains of the lizard.  I had rationed my water but even now I was down to my last few swigs.  And more than the impending heat stroke and the killer bee,  I had seen enough adventure for one day.  

I climbed and climbed and climbed back up the trail until I had reached my car.  I texted Renee:  "I made it back alive."  No serial killers to contend with, but nature had its own seedy underworld that I'd narrowly escaped.  

On the way back I took PCH (which should be called the CPH -- Coastal Parkinglot Highway) where I got my ocean views, inch by inch.

5 comments:

A-Lo said...

I'm *pretty* sure someone poisoned that lizard.

vanessa said...

Elementary, my dear Watson! But *who*?

Anonymous said...

That lizard got what was comin' to him. Great story!

Angelo Portabello said...

You should write mystery novels.

John King said...

You are supposed to take wrong turns, get lost, etc, only while talking to me. And vice versa. Who were you talking to? Yourself?