A Most Unremarkable Day

I haven’t been blogging much lately; I have been living a pretty busy life. Maybe I should have made my New Year’s resolution to blog more, but I have been wonderfully involved with family and friends. I also haven’t been hiking as much as I would like, but I am changing that now.

My hiking friend, Brian, recently discovered the Santa Ysabel Preserve and I was so excited to find a new part of the county that I had never seen. Inspired by Brian, I opened Jerry Schad’s book, A Foot & A Field in San Diego County, to see what else was out there that I was unaware of.

Somehow I ended up on page 115 – Mount Gower Open Space Preserve. I read the description and asked a few friends, and before we knew it we had a hike planned on a hazy but warm February Saturday morning. Mt. Gower is in Ramona, near San Diego Country Estates.  It is 1574 acres of typical Southern Californian chaparral. There are about ten miles of trails with two main branches. The western trail leads up to a 2300 foot viewpoint on top of a barren ridge. Schad’s book promises a view of “the Coronado Islands, Pt. Loma, Mt. San Antonio in Los Angles County and a long roster of San Diego County high points.” East of this trail is a more difficult six-mile trail that takes you through a canyon and up to a peak of 3100 feet.

My friends and I decided to start out with the western, easier trail and see how we felt afterwards. That simple two-mile hike up to a barren ridge was very difficult for me. I couldn’t keep up with the other hikers. It was very steep with sliding rocks, loose dirt, and did I mention steep? Some days are better than others. This was a slow day for me. I couldn’t blame it on the weather, or the width of the trail. The width of the trail is very adequate and well maintained, not overgrown or with deep holes. Just steep. Oh, did I mention steep? When I made it to the top, the views were awesome. It wasn’t clear so we were deprived of seeing the Pacific Ocean, but the view of the mountains throughout San Diego County and of the Ramona Valley was worth it. I was happy to walk downhill while I contemplated walking the “more difficult” eastern trail. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it; I was low-energy and a little light-headed. Would I ‘fess up to my fellow hikers or just keep plodding along?

View from the parking lot.

View from the parking lot.

Starting out at the beginning of the western trail. I am already behind.

Starting out at the beginning of the western trail. I am already behind.

Trail head, western trail.

Trail head, western trail.

Our view on the trail, unremarkable. We need rain.

Our view on the trail, unremarkable. We need rain.

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Well maintained trail.

View from the trail - rocks so familiar to Californians.

View from the trail – rocks so familiar to Californians.

Looking down at the houses below.

Looking down at the houses below.

View to the south.

View to the south.

Someone took the time to spell this out. What do you think it says?

Someone took the time to spell this out. What do you think it says?

View from the top on a cloudy day.

View from the top on a cloudy day.

Zooming in on the same view, see Mt. Woodson?

Zooming in on the same view, see Mt. Woodson?

Mt. Woodson and the town of Ramona

Mt. Woodson and the town of Ramona

Northeastern part of the Ramona Valley.

Northeastern part of the Ramona Valley.

Chaparral of Southern California.

Chaparral of Southern California.

And rocks.

And rocks.

The answer was made clear on my way “down” the hill. There were so many dips into little canyons that there was still much uphill trekking to get back to the trailhead.

Last steep climb out of a "dip" or canyon on the way back to the car.

Last steep climb out of a “dip” or canyon on the way back to the car.

I walked back accompanied by my 20-year-old niece, with our two male companions far ahead of us. When we got back to the car, Brian said he’d left his phone on the summit. Oh no! I politely encouraged him to go back and get it while I rested.

The two guys strapped on their backpacks and got ready to hike up for the phone, while my niece and I got comfortable. Just as I was contemplating an hour of peace among the chaparral, Brian found his phone on top of his car. We all had a good laugh that he found it before he drove off, and the incident was just enough to break our momentum for the day. Meaning no one wanted to hike the eastern trail. (Whew! Got out of that one.) I probably didn’t say two words on the drive home; I was thinking about my “poor performance.” We all agreed that the hike hadn’t been that exciting or impressive. We could have hiked Mission Trails, closer to home, and had a similar experience

Because we got back so early, I had a chance to run some errands and work in the yard, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of failure. I have been hiking three years now; when am I going to improve? Is my aging canceling my improvements? Or was my bad day the result of holiday inactivity?

Later that afternoon I had a conversation with a friend who is struggling with unemployment and health issues. Bu the time I got off the phone, my attitude was changed. The brown unremarkable hues of Mt. Gower Open Space Preserve with it’s challenging sliding trails reminded me that I “can” go out on that trail and do poorly. I “can” put one foot in front of the other and go up a steep grade slowly. “Today” I am not incapacitated with poor health. I am employed in a job that is challenging and fulfilling (31 years), where I want to go to work every day.

This most unremarkable day taught me once again to be grateful for what I have: a most remarkable life.

Enjoy the unremarkable slide show:

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