For Martin Luther King Day 2012, while people all across the country choose to participate in a "day of service", those of us who have committed to a "year of service" with the Episcopal Service Corps got the day off. (I'll see if I can put my thoughts together eloquently enough to write about why the wording of "year of service" bothers me so much, though.) Since I've come home from Minnesota to a beautiful blooming Southern California, I've had my eyes on another blog http://nobodyhikesinla.com where I've been looking up different hikes to do throughout the LA area. I feel like I've gotten to a point of comfort in Los Angeles (keeping in mind of course that no one ever fully knows or understands the city of LA) where I feel like I've got my way around and started figuring it out here. I have been feeling itchy to get out of the city and see more of the surrounding area. This part of the country is part of what I want to explore, not just the city where I'm living.
Through Nobody Hikes in LA and some other sources, I came across the Sandstone Peak hike, which was unanimously called "the best hike in LA" everywhere I looked. With a perfectly sized group of other interns, I drove up to Malibu, into the Santa Monica Mountains to climb to the highest peak in the range, where we had 360 degree views of the Santa Monicas, the San Gabriels, the Pacific and the extended suburbs of Los Angeles. What an amazing hike! It was the perfect mix of challenge, leisure, length, diversity in landscape and beauty for a group of hikers with varied skill and physical ability. The weather was perfect, with a lovely breeze blowing off the ocean the whole time, and the sun shinning generously.
For anyone in Southern California, I would absolutley recommend this hike. The sites I explored in preparation warned about challenges and rated it as PG-13. Maybe this is tooting my own horn and I've just done crazy hikes in the past, but I don't feel at all like this hike was very challenging. It scared some of my fellow interns away from joining us, but it was by no means awful. If you don't live in Southern California, I guess you can look through the pictures and be a little envious of the weather (notice the shorts I'm wearing!)
Arriving towards the summit of the mountain. There were a lot of peaks on this low, wide mountain, Sandstone being the highest.
The sun makes it hard to tell, but that is the ocean in the distance of this picture, meeting the sky.
The other direction, where you can see the sprawl of LA. Mostly that's the city of Malibu and Thousand Oaks.
The peak from just a couple hundred feet down.
Doesn't seem so high after living in Boulder and in Canyon Village in Yellowstone.
Jazmine at the summit.
My dear friend Allison and I resting at the top.
The group of us at the top. Casey, Allison, Christy, Jazmine, me and Joey.
The only VERY steep part of the trail.
While hiking we had a lot of conversations about trips we'd love to do in the next few months - a week of backpacking in Yosemite for example, or a day of biking in the San Diego area . It was so refreshing to get out of the car and feel silence around me, and to smell the fresh air and blooming mountain plants. I forget what it's like after being in the city to too long (and I've only been there for about 3 weeks since Minnesota!) It's such a good feeling to have things planned out and to know that I'm around others who care to do the same sorts of activities as I do. Spend Saturday with some other folks who are also invested and interested in camping and it looks like if I play my cards right I can get out of this city once a month this spring and summer.
On a final note: we decided as a group that its a general rule that everyone looks more attractive while hiking. Someone who you may look over in a bar is REALLY good looking while wearing boots and a knapsack. I don't think this is just because there are less people around either. Maybe its a sense of shared interest or experience, or maybe its just the style of clothing you wear while hiking or camping, but it was agreed upon by the group that it tends to drive up someone's attractiveness by several points. All the more reason to spend time in the woods wherever I go!