Posted by: GeekHiker | August 2, 2009

A Familiar Trail

(Written mostly in my head and on a scrap of paper in my pocket.  *shrug*  It’s an experiment.)

So, it’s Sunday morning, and I’m relaxing on the couch watching the Sunday Paper for Lazy People: CBS Sunday Morning.

Still, I think I need to go hiking.  It’s been a couple of weeks, and I suppose my feet are getting restless.  But I don’t really want to do a new trail, and I don’t want to blog about it.  Don’t want to take all those extra “marker” shots, don’t want to make sure the GPS is getting a good track, don’t want to take mental notes along the way.  I mean, I like doing that stuff, don’t get me wrong.  Today, though, I just want to hike on a trail I’ve done before.

Let me think… Ah, I’ve got it: Mt. Islip.

* * *

Okay, so the drive up here pretty much sucked.  Traffic through the city was in full on “aggressive” mode.  Heading up Highway 2 wasn’t too bad: I turned off the radio, rolled down the window to perfect weather, and crusied along the curves.

Until I got slowed down to 35 behind, oh irony-of-ironies, a pair of motorcyclists.

That was weird.  I mean, usually the cyclists are hanging a few inches off my bumper, swerving back and forth impatiently, waiting for me to find a spot to pull over.  In a complete reversal, I was following two bikers going very slowly (although I was much, much more than a few inches behind them).  At one point, they even slowed down to 20 mph to have a conversation.

Oh, well, I’m here now.

* * *

So far, the trail is not as peaceful as I’d hoped.

I’m about a mile from the trailhead, perhaps 750′ above the highway, standing under pines.  Sadly, I’m not listening to the wind in the needles; instead, it sounds like I’m sitting next to a motocross racetrack.

Car noises fall off pretty quickly, but I’ll be dammed if the noise of the bikes don’t just carry. I mean, it is a California State Highway, and everyone is free to do as they please, so on the one hand I don’t mind and can’t complain. On the other… it sounds like there’s a bloody convention going on down there.

The birds, bless them, are singing with all their might, but just can’t seem to compete with several hundred horsepower of motorcycle might.  (Reminds me of a study about how city birds sing louder than their country counterparts.)

This has definitely put a crimp in my day.

* * *

Little Jimmy Spring.  Finally, it’s quiet.

I can actually see down to the highway from here, and the motorcycles seem to have all gone.  Maybe it really was a convention.

Someone has thoughtfully brought up a half-barrel for the spring water to drop into.  Last time I camped at Little Jimmy, filtering was done from a mud puddle, so this is a great addition.

Islip2 01
New “bowl” at Little Jimmy Spring

All around the summer wildflowers are out.

Islip2 02
Flowers at Little Jimmy Spring

Islip2 03
Flowers above the spring, feeding on the underground water just before it emerges from the spring itself

I have to say, though, this bird, I think needs more than just a bath.  I’m thinking extreme makeover.  He does seem pretty happy, though.

* * *

Windy Gap is certainly living up to its name today.  I’m sitting a couple of tenths-of-a-mile past, eating a very juicy plum in the shelter of the ridge…

* * *

The summit!  Either I’m in better shape or I’ve hiked this trail too many times, but it seemed quicker than I ever remembered it being.

A couple of women asked me to take their picture, then headed down, so I’ve got the place to myself for however long it lasts.

* * *

Not sure why, but the butterflies just love the manzanita up here.  Go figure.

Islip2 05
Butterfly on manzanita

* * *

Just saw a small Cooper’s Hawk go over the summit from where I’m sitting and reading.  Low, too: only a few inches off the ground the whole way.  Damn, that looks like fun.

* * *

A Sherrif’s helicopter flew up along the crest a little while ago, landed somewhere up near Dawson Saddle.  He’s heading down now, having just cut through Windy Gap and making a beeline for the city.  Judging by rangers I’ve talked to and my own personal observations, I’m guessing it’s a motorcyclist who didn’t make the turn.

Whoever it is, hope they’re okay.

Islip2 04
Helicopter heading back to the city

* * *

It’s almost 5, and I don’t want to leave.  All I’ve done for the last couple of hours is sit and read and drink in the views.  In short: it’s been great.

But the wind is getting cooler.  Perhaps it’s time to go.

* * *

Dammit, my glasses are scratched, on the right lens. Somehow.  I’d like to think they could polish it, but how much you wanna bet it’ll require a new lens?

* * *

Is this guy giving me stink-eye?

Islip2 06

* * *

Back at Little Jimmy Campground.  It’s empty, everyone is gone.

It’s peaceful too.  The wind here is non-existent, the sun has almost dropped behind the ridge, you can just feel dusk starting to wrap itself around you.

Strange how in the wild, without building lights and street lights and everything else that invades the night, how close-in the dark feels.  Backpacking, I’ve often put my food canister what I thought was “far away” at night, only to climb out of the tent the next morning to realize that it wasn’t as far as I thought.

Probably another 45 minutes downhill to the car.  I love hiking this time of day, with the sun low in the sky and the trees just topped by the light.  The wind gone, a few birds still conversing but, mostly, it’s quiet.

Islip2 07
Evening shadows on the trail

* * *

Back at the car now.  My dogs are ‘killin me.  Damn, I really need some new boots.

Later than I thought, past 6:30.  Think I’ll get dinner on the way home.

* * *

Stopped, out of sheer curiosity, at a picnic area I’d never stopped at before.  It’s actually pretty nice.

Kinda makes me wish I had the grill in the back, or fixings for sandwiches, and someone to have a picnic with.

Oh, well.

* * *

In-n-Out in Glendale.  Crowded like all In-n-Out’s are.

The drive down was much more relaxing than the drive up.  Or maybe I was simply more relaxed than I was on the drive up.  Only stressor was a mini-van that pulled right in front of me at Switzer’s then proceeded to do 20 mph in a 45 zone.  They figured it out, though, and pulled over to let me by.

Can’t complain much, though, sitting outside here with my burger and fries (well done, thanks).  This evening reminds me of evenings growing up in Sacramento: that perfect temperature at the end of a hot day, warm enough to be comfortable, but just cool enough that you’re not hot.

Maybe I miss those hot summer days more than I want to admit.

Better hit the road.  Work tomorrow.

Wish it weren’t so, I’d rather be back at Islip’s summit tomorrow instead.

I’m a lot more at peace there, if you know what I mean.



  1. Little Jimmy was the first place I ever went backpack-camping about 10 years ago. What a treat that you profiled it here. As always, your pictures are gorgeous. I love the butterfly one. Glad you enjoyed your day, despite the traffic noise and slow drivers. The motorcyclists and bicyclists always make me SO nervous up there! Ah and In N Out – what a perfect cap to it all! You make me homesick!

  2. I really like the stream-of-consciousness post.

    Sounds like you had a great day, GH – glad to hear it 🙂

  3. I like the way you wrote this one! It felt more like going with you, rather than hearing about it later.

    Where I live on the east side of things, the bikers do not really zoom about either. And it’s summer so they tend to vroom sans zoom in large packs.

  4. Well done. Makes me miss hiking. It’s been too long.

    The little Jimmy Flower picture is incredible.

  5. Felt like I was there with you too, really nice post. I swear I heard that roar of motorcycles right when you wrote about it!

  6. I enjoyed your post today – I needed that. I’m ready to get out, but can’t for a while. Long story. So, I’m living vicariously thru your stories. Thanks.

  7. Mel Heth – Yeah, they make me nervous too. Don’t be too homesick, you’re in Europe!

    ECT – Yeah, wish more days were like it!

    MissMcCracken – *blush* Thanks. They don’t treat the highway as a racetrack? Really?

    Homer-Dog – Hope you get back out on the trail soon!

    Spleeness – LOL, sorry about the noise. 😉

    SoCalMike – Welcome to the blog. Like HD, hope you get out on the trail soon too!

  8. I love these day in the life on the trail posts. And that chipmunk is the cutest thing!

  9. Love the trail shot. Reminds me of a trail i did in the rockies. Beautiful.

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