Having grown up on the prairies of the Midwest, living in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains is a treat. Their looming presence is such a constant, anchoring beauty. They turn green with the winter rain, sometimes wear the clouds like a blanket in the early morning hours, and reflect the sunset colors in rosy shades of evening.
But I still don’t love hiking.
I want to love it. I mean, I like to walk. I love a gorgeous vista. For some reason though, hiking always feels like plodding to me. One foot in front of the other, wondering how much further to the summit or the destination.
I’ve done some epic hikes in my day. Steep climbs to glacier views in New Zealand. An all-night, frigid misery up Mount Fuji. A few hours that felt like eternity with a two-month-old strapped to my husband’s chest, as he doggedly chanted “we’re almost there” like a mantra.
If anything will get me to grow more affection toward hiking as a pastime, it will be that now-4-year-old baby. He begs to go to the canyons nearby, and when we do he gets this undeniably thrilled inflection in his voice. Utter delight. I can vaguely recall feeling similarly exploring the ravines and creeks of Illinois as a child. It all comes flooding back in his excitement to see what’s around the corner further down the path.
Last weekend we stopped on our quick road trip to San Diego to explore a neat little canyon in San Elijo Lagoon. It was well worth it. The half-mile of gently sloping path to the base of the canyon, followed by the short quarter-mile loop through the sandstone canyon itself was just the perfect amount for little kids. (There was still a fair amount of “Are we there yet?”, to be sure.) Thankfully, chatty Eddie helped pass the time as we plodded along the path.
“Look at that dead tree,” I commented.
“You could buy that tree for 14 cents,” he informed me. Oh, the randomness! Where does he come up with this stuff?
“How would you get it home?” I wondered, playing his game.
“You’d need a refrigerator. And then it would get pretty cold.”
Okay, now he’s lost me. He grins, fully knowing he’s being ridiculous and loving it.
Soon enough we reached the turn off to Annie’s Canyon Trail. Only a few meters in the naturally eroding sandstone walls tower over the narrow trail creating a scene of mysterious wonder.
It’s steep, but majestic, almost eerie. We were all “oohs” and “ahhs” as we squeezed between the steep rock sides.
At one point we let Xander down to walk, and he could even manage the steep incline because of the close canyon walls to lean on.
The view after the short ascent is panoramic with the lagoon stretching out below all the way to the ocean in the near distance. Our family selfie with the vista for a backdrop was unsuccessful. Ah well, captured in our mind’s eye and memory is even better sometimes. And that’s the part of hiking I do like: making memories together in the outdoors is something I can get excited about!