Tuesday, June 04, 2013

A hike that had my GPS flummoxed…

By the time I completed my hike this morning, my GPS was telling me I had covered 30.85 miles.

My guess is that it was wrong.

This all started at about 7:30 this morning. I piled into my little Honda with a new set of hiking sticks, a new backpack, and even a new hat! I was ready for an adventure!

I wasn’t exactly sure where that adventure would happen but I knew it would start at the Maple Springs trailhead out in Silverado Canyon. Maple Springs starts a long service trail that winds in a seemingly endless journey through the Santa Ana Mountains. Plan A was to just hike that service trail for five or six miles before turning around, thus ensuring plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sore muscles.

But I didn’t go with Plan A.

Plan B presented itself almost immediately, in the form of an unmarked trail about a quarter of a mile up the road. I didn’t know where it went or where it went to – just the kind of adventure I was looking for!

I turned my body in the direction of the trail, fixed my new hiking sticks firmly in hand, and set off…

The trail was your typical, two-foot wide affair, winding around the hillsides, gaining elevation in a slow and steady manner. Fortunately, the morning was still young and the air still cool. The hiking was easy. Of course, after a while, the morning wasn’t so young and I had to remove my hoodie lest I sweat like a hog… which is what I ended up doing anyway.

Soon, I ran into an older gent coming down the hillside. He walked without sticks or packs or even a hat, completely at ease on the hill. He was surrounded by four large dogs, all affably just trotting along. When they saw me kneeling with my hands out and palm up, which is my way of greeting dogs these days, they came up and shared a friendly greeting. Then, the gent and I exchanged greetings and I asked him about the trail.

“Oh, it’s just about three miles to the top,” he said.

So, I kept going. Around and around the hillsides, I hiked, wondering how accurate the old gent’s estimate was. After a while, I knew I’d probably gone a couple of miles and I started looking for the top.

Instead, I saw another old guy heading down my way. This guy was wrapped head to toe in sweats and jeans and a hoodie – this guy was not going to get sunburned! He had the hiking sticks, pack, and hat; I didn’t feel quite so much like a novice.

When I asked him about the top, he said, “That’s about three and a half miles to go. You can’t miss it. There’s a bench there and everything.”

Okay, I thought. Just gotta keep going.

But the hours kept passing and, soon, it was approaching 11am. I’d been hiking for nearly three hours. I knew going down would be much fast than going up. Still, I figured that would be a good time to turn around. I’d hit the peak next time.

Then, I heard my GPS. The GPS app I use, Map My Hike, gives me audible updates on my progress and I heard it tell me how long I’d been hiking, more than two hours, and how far I’d gone. And that’s what threw me. Because it said, “9.5 miles.”

“What?” I muttered. That couldn’t be right. Could it?

Mind you, I’d never taken this trail before… but still…

If anything this just reinforced my decision to turn around, which I did. I ate a snack – a bag of graham crackers, half of which I put in my pocket – and set off.

Down the hill, I went.

Parts of the hillside were pretty steep and I paid attention to the trail as I went. On one straightaway, I noticed a tree branch laying across the trail. When I looked back, I noticed the branch had gotten smaller.

Hold on… I thought.

That’s no tree branch.

As I focused on the “branch”, I realized it was moving. At over two feet long, that “branch” was actually the end of a large snake, slithering across the trail. It wasn’t a rattler and I had no problems with it… but I wish I’d seen it sooner. It looked really cool!

Returning to the bottom of the hill, I came upon a nice, shady area by a dried-up creek bed. I’d seen this on the way up, of course, and had told myself that I could eat the rest of my graham crackers there, in the shade. So, once I got there, I pulled out my crackers, and tried to ignore the flies buzzing around.

Then, the buzzing grew much louder. These were some very loud flies.

But watching them fly around in front of me as their numbers grew, I realized that these were not flies.

I looked down at my arm and saw three fat bees walking on my arm… which was exactly the moment was panic set in. I yelped and shouted. I grabbed my hat off my head and swatted furiously at all the flies that had landed on me and I hauled ass down the trail.

After a bit, they were all gone. But I walked with purpose back to my car.

And my GPS said, “You have gone 30.85 miles.”

No. Not really… it just felt like it.

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