“This is what you wanted, right?” I asked Kirk.

For just twenty minutes of hiking, this would do. A vantage point with a view of a sweeping vista. All Kirk had wanted was to ‘get up high.’ (Just so there’s no confusion, he was referring to his physical location.)

But we weren’t calling it quits yet. Onward.

Already 3 p.m., it was definitely late in the day by hiking standards. Smart hikers get up at the crack of dawn (or at least before 10 a.m.) and hit the trail early. It wasn’t as if we didn’t try. We really did.

“Do you wanna run for a bit?” asked Kirk.

“Sure. I could use a little cardio. We’ll get some more trail under our feet too.”

~ ~ ~

After an hour and a half drive (due to 5 miles of bumper-to-bumper through San Clemente) and a stop at Subway to pick up lunch to eat at the top of the mountain, we pulled into the entrance of Caspers Regional Park. We were excited to get into some nature! To breath cool, fresh air! To feel our legs burn! To conquer some altitude! The nine-mile hike we decided to trek would take us up 1100 feet – a decent view, no doubt.

Alas. A sign hanging on the park ranger’s booth dropped a guillotine on our apparently-not-so-thoroughly-researched plan:


“Aww man. Come on. Seriously?

Because of all the rain we had the last few days, the trails were impassable. So said the ranger lady.

Near defeat. We drove to a turn-off farther down the road, and ate our Subway sandwiches in the back of the Passat with the hatch open. It was getting late and rather chilly, and the sun seemed to have completely written the day off. We had dressed for 65 degrees and hiking up a mountain, not 50 degrees and sitting in the back of the wagon. “Can we salvage this day?” I asked.

After finishing our sandwiches, we drove deeper into the Cleveland National Forest. Lo and behold, we found another park with more trails (and better rain drainage): San Mateo Wilderness Canyon. At this point, I now bring you back to Kirk and I on the trail. Running.

We passed a couple of nice folks with their dog, the pedigree of which I concluded to be part Australian Blue Heeler and part Cute Brown Canine. I stopped to lavish this adorable pup with lots of petting and ear scratching. The woman saw my shoes and we jumped right into spirited conversation.

Oh you have the Vibram shoes, how do you like them? I love them! I was worried at first about trying to use them with my flat feet, but I actually think they’re strengthening my arches! Really?! That’s incredible! Say, have you heard of the book Born to Run? I have! I’ve actually been meaning to read that one! Oh really? It’s a fantastic book… It talks about minimalist footwear, like your Vibrams… it’s really great, you’ll have to put it on the top of your reading list!”

And on, and on.

We parted ways. The smile wouldn’t leave my face. Such a lovely interaction with total strangers. But yet, they didn’t feel like strangers. The two of them, the two of us… we all shared a love for an active lifestyle, the outdoors, adventure. We were part of a community.

The more we hiked, the more I wanted to hike. I want to backpack. To trek somewhere, to somewhere. I wanted a tent. A campfire. A crisp night with bright stars hanging in the sky. To be in the wilderness. To be in nature.

We pressed on for a while longer, reaching more notable elevation points:

Yes, atop boulders.

You wouldn’t believe the rock climbing skills it took to scale this lofty perch. Just grueling.

This short two-hour hike only served to whet my appetite for outdoor adventure. I’ve always wanted to spend time hiking and exploring our national parks. Why not start in California? ☼

(Author’s note: I just ordered a sleeping bag from Amazon. There’s no time to waste!)

All photos shot with an iPhone 4. (We were lazy photographers on this expedition.)