Recently I went for a 7am hike with the boys at Red Rock Canyon Park in Old Topanga Canyon. I always think I can wing it and figure out what to bring without a problem. These days it seems I need a checklist to put together even day hiking gear. It seems like I always forget things. Even what I used to consider the basics.
I remember the easy gear:
- Day pack
- Something, anything, to eat. Usually this actually means scrounging around for any food, usually my kids’ snacks, that I can find in the pantry.
But the other gear I seem to forget:
- Gloves, possibly for warmth, but in Southern California I like to bring leather gloves for bushwhacking.
- Heavy duty pants…again, bushwhacking.
- Creative foods
- Baseball style hat with a brim
I showed up 20 minutes late due to a Waze mishap. The app was going to have me take a dirt road over a mountaintop to meet up with the guys at the trailhead. The park service metal bar across the entrance to the dirt road convinced me to drive around the mountain on the paved roads.
So I was 20 minutes late to meet the boys. They were standing around kicking their feet in the 38° weather. I felt bad and was trying to get going quickly. My backpack had a zip-lock full of goldfish crackers, a bottle of Perrier, and two small bottles of plain water. I was wearing a t-shirt, light down jacket, shorts, and athletic sweatpants over the shorts. Oh, and sneakers with gym socks. In rushing, I just grabbed the bag, paid the iron ranger, and then we started hiking. That means that my sunglasses and baseball hat stayed in the car. Patiently waiting for me to return from hiking. Every pair of gloves I own also waited patiently for me, in my garage.
We started out on a dirt fire road. An interesting side trail begged us to take a right turn and explore along a single track. It wound around a bit, eventually taking us to the top of a small hill. The trail seemed to be a dead-end. From the top of the we could see some ridges and corresponding valleys heading back down to the dirt fire road. We considered going back down the same trail we had ascended. But we also saw game trails heading down the way of the ridges and valleys. We went for it.
After a short bit down we sat down on a big rock and took in the amazing view below us. Some of the giant rocks looked like faces with a dozen mouths. Another monster rock looked like a giant SUV careening down a hillside. Sun gleamed off the top of a red-shouldered hawk as he soared below us, hunting.
I popped out some rice cakes that my boys shared unknowingly. I was able to shove them in my pack without much thought. In contrast, Tom pulled out a small container of scrambled eggs with sausage. Sausage! He also had a mix of macadamias and cashews were delicious. That kind of simple, but creative, food makes for such gustatory enjoyment in a beautiful setting. I just had rice cakes and memories of other hikes with crackers, cheese, and pepperoni. If only I had I thought ahead.
Oh well, this day I was lucky that we customarily share food with each other. I felt a bit like a freeloader though.
After snacking adjusting some gear (i.e., I had taken off my sweatpants) we continued to try to follow game trails back down to the main fire road. As we descended through the thickening brush my legs were getting scraped up. Nothing too bad, but annoying anyway. I didn’t want to don the nice sweats because I knew they’d get torn up. But, if I had had the foresight to bring my firehose pants then I wouldn’t have had a single scratch on my legs.
The descent got a little sketchier as we went. I found myself grabbing onto branches and rocks and whatnot. As a computer professional, I don’t have calluses or blisters on my hands. My leather work gloves would have been terrific. I used to bring them every single time I went hiking because I’m that guy who always tends to wander off the trail. Not today. Whoops. My hands got scuffed up a bit, including a little blood on the inside of my wrist. Good gloves give me a very nice feeling of security. I feel like I can grab onto any old branch and not worry about getting punctured in my palm. Not having gloves just means I have to be that much more cautious, and hopeful.
I’m kicking myself for not following my own advice and always put together a little list, even if it’s just for some day hiking gear.