Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

I walked more than 480 miles in 2013. Many of those miles were logged on mountains that were already familiar to me. The experience of becoming more deeply acquainted with these landscapes taught me about the importance of attention. Sameness can breed complacency, but alone on a mountain, the necessity of keeping one's mind engaged in the present is palpable. Things like turning my ankle many miles from a trailhead and sliding on scree to the edge of a trail with hundreds of feet of nothing a couple of inches from my toes proved that a wandering mind can be a dangerous thing. Or put another way, walking with attention can be a means of self-preservation. 

Walking for eleven days on the John Muir Trail put my ability to remain attendant to the test. Every day, I had experiences that reminded me to keep my mind on the task at hand, and I found that my best walking was done when my thoughts and feelings and motions were all one, without distinction. Achieving such harmony and sustaining it over many miles is a kind of meditation I had never experienced before. Now that I have, I endeavor to bring it into the other parts of my life so that I don't have to travel all the way into a remote wilderness to find that grounded, soaring peace. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mount Markham Summit Walk on KCHUNG Radio

For the KCHUNG Radio residency at the Hammer Museum, I produced an hour-long program that aired on December 6, 2013. I conceived of the broadcast as an audio version of the type of notes I post on this journal. To that end, I made a field recording of a short walk to the top of Mount Markham. The broadcast consists of a brief introduction and the unedited audio recording of the walk bookended by two songs, which can be found in order of play here and here in earlier posts. This post is a companion to the KCHUNG broadcast, which can be found on the KCHUNG archive, and includes the two photographs I took during the walk.

Mount Lowe trail marker

Mount Markham summit marker

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I've been out walking...

The other night, I was sitting and talking with some friends at a bar. A really cool girl who was playing records put on Jackson Browne's 1973 recording of his song "These Days", and it cut through everything in the room. It was first recorded by Nico in 1967, and her version is probably more commonly known. Browne's arrangement is on the warmer side, with a flat picked guitar and that perfect pitch of his. A couple of days later, as I climbed six thousand feet in the six miles from Baldy Village to the summit of Mount Baldy, the first three lines played over and over in my mind: "I've been out walking / I don't do too much talking these days / These days... "

I'm leaving soon to start my walk on the John Muir Trail. For the past few of months, I've been dutifully training, walking as much as I can with my full pack. I don't know if it's attributable to the anticipation of what's ahead or the monotony of the training, but I haven't been interested in documenting my walks in words this summer. Maybe things will change once I finish the John Muir Trail. I like the idea of writing about my time there, and I want to write about a few early summer walks that I still have not documented: a foggy morning on the Verdugo Range, a rim to rim to rim traverse of the Grand Canyon, camping and walking on Mount San Jacinto just a few weeks before the big fire up there, and a lovely day on Cucamonga Peak.

I didn't mind so much having "These Days" stuck in my head during such a long walk. The quiet acceptance of hard breaks described in the lyrics is tempered by an interplay between major and minor seventh chords that express melancholy so well: there is joy in this sadness, the acceptance is not resignation. That seems to be about right, these days. My favorite way to be in life is to be open enough to embrace all of its possibilities, emotional and otherwise. Walking seems to alleviate sadness and elevate joy and somehow allows for their perfect commingling, which seems like the most real state of grace. I'm glad I heard that song when I did because it reminded me some things about life and how to live it, and it also reminded me of why I go out walking. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mount Baldy and the Three T's, 26 May 2013

Mount Baldy
Bear Canyon Trail to summit, Devil's Backbone Trail to Baldy Bowl, Gold Ridge, Three T's Trail, to Icehouse Saddle, Icehouse Canyon Trail, Mt. Baldy Road to village
20 miles
5,700 feet of elevation gain

At a little after seven, I left my car next to the Mount Baldy Village Church and walked up Bear Canyon Drive to the Bear Canyon trailhead. It was cold in the canyon. Not far along the trail, I came upon a backpacker coming down in the opposite direction. He asked me if this was the only way to the summit. Thinking he had stayed overnight on the summit and begun his descent at dawn, I was confused. I told him there are several routes to the summit but that this is the only path in Bear Canyon. "Did you pass a few guys along your way?" I'd seen some people on the path following the creek down below a ways back, and their voices rose up to us on the trail, just then. They had taken a path that leads to a cabin on the creek rather than the summit trail. I learned that they were all training for a walk up Mount Whitney in a couple of weeks, and we joked that it might not bode well that they were getting lost only a mile into their last training hike.

Monday, July 15, 2013

San Gorgonio Mountain, 18-19 May 2013

San Gorgonio Mountain
Vivian Creek Trail, out and back
Made camp at High Creek and continued to summit Saturday afternoon; walked to summit again Sunday morning before breaking camp and returning to Forest Falls
30 miles
5,600 feet of elevation gain from Forest Falls to summit

Not even a hundred yards out of the paved picnic grounds at Vivian Falls, and I was lost. I heard footfalls behind me. "Looking for Vivian Creek Trail? I'm headed there, too." As we crossed the rubble in the dry wash, we got acquainted. Mike was a podiatrist in Redlands whose church is San Gorgonio Mountain.

The Vivian Creek Trail is the shortest way to the mountain's summit. The first mile is a homely stretch of desert landscape covered by steep switchbacks made even worse by scree and rocks. At the San Gorgonio Wilderness sign, we found Rob. Without a wilderness permit authorizing him to walk any further, he was resigned to making this his turn-around spot. Mike suggested that Rob continue along with us since both he and I had permits. A retiree and veteran Boy Scout, Rob holds a distance record for peak to peak mirror signaling. Mike stopped to rest at Vivian Creek Camp, and Rob and I continued on, talking over gear selection and the best backpacking spots in southern California.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mount Baldy, 4 May 2013

Mount Baldy
Manker Flat to Ski Hut Trail, Devil's Backbone Trail, Mount Baldy fire roads
12 miles
4,000 feet of elevation gain
4 hours

Manker Flat was almost full by the time I arrived, but I managed to squeeze into a tiny spot near the gated access road, pulled all of my things together, and set out. After winding up the access road, I climbed the steep entry to the Ski Hut Trail (also known as the Baldy Bowl Trail) and started into the tight switchbacks that make quick work of a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. I passed several people with full backpacking kits and chatted with some who were training for upcoming Mount Whitney bids.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Willet Hot Springs, 27-28 April 2013

Willet Hot Springs
Sespe River Trail, out and back
20 miles
Roughly 500 feet of elevation loss
Peter, Jennifer, and Ariel West, Lucie Birnie, and Corrina Peipon

I finally left for Ojai around half past seven in the morning. I hadn't been out walking much during the winter, and I'd been wanting to take this backpack to Willet and Sespe Hot Springs for two years. I was raring to go, but I got bogged down in odds and ends. Before I knew it, I'd already been awake nearly two hours and still wasn't in the car. There was no traffic leaving Los Angeles, and I pulled into a spot in front of The Farmer and The Cook at half past eight. I was finished with my huevos rancheros by the time the West cohort arrived and considered ordering a second helping while I watched them eat their breakfast. I made do with a fresh vegetable juice and a couple of fig pumpkin seed and banana walnut spelt muffins to take along on our walk.

After a stop at the Los Padres National Forest ranger station for a fire permit, we wound our way up route 33, a quiet, scenic road that climbs around 2,000 feet via gentle curves and long switchbacks with a couple of dramatic hairpin turns. At the Piedra Blanca trailhead, the parking lot was full, so we improvised a couple of spots along the side of a horse corral. With all of our fussing over gear and clothing, it was at least another hour before we set out, and the temperature was already in the high seventies.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cheeseboro Canyon, 21 April 2013

Cheeseboro Canyon
Cheeseboro Canyon Trail, out and back
9 miles
800 feet of elevation gain
4 hours
Chelsea Beck, Kurt Mueller, Virgil Mueller-Beck, Mona, and Corrina Peipon

From the Chesebro Road exit off of the 101 freeway in Old Agoura, it's only a couple of turns before the road narrows and a long, lazy curve in the country road leads to the Cheeseboro and Palo Comado Canyon Park entrance. A small parking lot with timber fencing marks the entrance to the park.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mount Zion and Mount Wilson: 31 March 2013

Mount Zion and Mount Wilson
From Chantry Flat: Upper Winter Creek Trail, Zion Trail, Sturtevant Trail, Mount Wilson Observatory, Old Toll Road, Lower Winter Creek Trail
14 miles
5,710 feet with 4,000 feet of elevation gain
5 hours

I went to Mount Wilson in search of winter. I had no prior memory of wanting to hold on to winter. Now, at the very end of March, spring had signalled its arrival, and I couldn't get the hang of it just yet. Earlier in the month, the vernal equinox caught me off guard. Cast in a haze of semi-winter light, the days grew longer but somehow lacked the full promise of spring. The warmth of the sun was interrupted by a meager fog that never quite burned off, giving the impression that the weather was experiencing a mild existential ambivalence. I wasn't ready to accept this flimsy brightness. I wanted the grey winter chill to hang around for a little longer to match some kind of mood I was in.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Verdugo Range, 17 February 2013

The Verdugo Range
Verdugo Motorway from Village Avenue (Burbank), Beaudry South, Los Flores Motorway at Sunshine Drive (Glendale)
13 miles
1,900 feet of elevation gain
7 Hours
Olivia Booth, Jennifer and Peter West, Finn West and friends, Corrina Peipon

The city of Los Angeles is bordered to the north by two transverse ranges: the San Gabriels and the Verdugos. The San Gabriel Mountains stretch from the Santa Monica Mountains in the west to the San Bernardinos in the east. The Verdugo Range, tucked into a graceful curve in the footprint of the San Gabriels, floats like an island between the rushing tributaries of the 210 and 5 freeways, to the north and south, respectively. The north end of the range is in Burbank, and the south end is in Glendale, separated from the San Rafael Hills to the southeast by the 2 freeway. At just eight miles in length, the Verdugo Range is the smallest in the group of transverse ranges that divide southern California from the Central Valley. When I learned of the network of trails and fire roads that made it possible to cross the range from end to end, it seemed suddenly very necessary to walk its entirety. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

John Muir Trail

This confirms your reservation, made on 03/19/2013, for a wilderness permit for the following trip.  
Permit ID: XXXXX
Entry Date: 09/02/2013
Entry Trailhead: Happy Isles->Little Yosemite Valley
Exit Date: 09/15/2013
Exit Trailhead: Whitney Portal
Number in Party: 2

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Arizona Diaries: 13-21 October 2012, Part VI

In October of 2012, I spent ten days on a road trip that traced a loop. Starting in Los Angeles, I went through Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back to Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert.

As the stars faded, I dressed, made tea, and walked over to the little beach where I'd stopped the day before. I stared out at the Colorado River and thought that I'd never been in a place where the stillness was so complete. Sitting there next to the powerful river, feeling the energy of its never-ending movement, I felt outside of time. The river speaks of what it knows, and the present moment is its eternal story.

By the time I returned to my campsite, the Canadians were packed up and ready to go. I was trying to light my stove when Rainy came over the retrieve Joe's tent peg. While pitching my tent the day before, I managed to break a titanium peg. I didn't have an extra one and was lucky that Joe was willing to let me borrow his. When Rainy saw that I had run out of fuel, she offered me her stove. I had already benefited so much from my new friends' hospitality, and I was staunch in my refusal. I had enough other food and didn't really need to make oatmeal. I wrote down my contact information and said goodbye to the Canadians. Rainy invited me to come with them on a different route than I was planning to take, but I was worried that I would be too slow to keep up with them and wanted to see the whole Bright Angel Trail. Rainy insisted that this would not be the end; she predicted we would meet again at Indian Garden Campground, on the way back up to the South Rim. At the very least, we would surely meet up in the Backcountry Office parking lot.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Arizona Diaries: 13-21 October 2012, Part V

In October of 2012, I spent ten days on a road trip that traced a loop. Starting in Los Angeles, I went through Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back to Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert.

At the South Kaibab trailhead, I took one last look at the view and shouldered my backpack. From above, I could see the first tight switchbacks winding down the cliff and watched as each walker tried to find a footing. It was sweet, really. All of these grown folks as keyed up as little kids at recess, lots of slipping and sliding in the dust and scree. I made quick work of the switchbacks, and it wasn't long before I reached a rest. I had read that there was no water on the South Kaibab Trail, and I guess I had just assumed there wouldn't be any toilets, either. But here was a nice triple outhouse with the cleanest chemical toilets I'd ever seen. It was only eight o'clock, but it was already warm, so I took a break in the shade, removed a few layers, and adjusted my backpack.

Setting out again, it wasn't long before I was all alone. Twenty or thirty of us had all started on the same trail at the same time, but in a matter of three short miles, we were all walking our own walks. I also noticed that I wasn't hitting a stride. I was stopping every few paces to take a picture. Each turn offers up come new marvel, and it's hard to resist taking a picture of every view. But I was realizing that I wasn't able to truly capture what I was seeing and decided to put my camera away. Mostly.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Arizona Diaries: 13-21 October 2012, Part IV

In October of 2012, I spent ten days on a road trip that traced a loop. Starting in Los Angeles, I went through Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back to Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert.

Assured of a campsite at the bottom of the canyon in two nights' time, I abandoned all thought of the North Rim, paid for four nights at Desert View, and set up my new camp: site 46. It was already late into the afternoon by then, so I went back to the village to walk some more of the Rim Trail and visit all of the Mary Colter buildings. As the sun began to set, I pulled up to the Desert View lookout. Climbing up its spiral stairs past faux petroglyphs along the walls to the very top, I wondered what it was like for Mary Colter to design her buildings, what her process was like and what obstacles she faced as a female architect in the early 1900s. I peered through the tiny windows that frame the panoramic views and admired her imagination. The pink cliffs and lavender sky were gilded with dusky gold as I turned back down the short road to my campsite.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Arizona Diaries: 13-21 October 2012, Part III

In October of 2012, I spent ten days on a road trip that traced a loop. Starting in Los Angeles, I went through Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back to Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert.

I woke at dawn, put on running clothes, and stepped out into the cold morning air. I ran down the hill out to where I saw one of the residents' flashlights disappear into the darkness the night before. There, I found a camp running along the edge of the property. A rooster crowed. I ran through the jumble of temporary and semi-permanent shelters to the edge of a field and down a jeep trail to the main dirt road. When the road ended at a fence, I turned around, ran up the hill and out the approach road, then back down to the guest quarters, straight into the sunrise.

When I got out of the shower, I heard voices outside my door and the grinding chords of black metal blaring from portable speakers. Workshop participants were working on the construction project underway on the embankment below the guest quarters. If the room had cost more than forty dollars, I may have complained about the early morning noise. But really, I was more charmed than anything else by the whole situation. After breakfast, I put some laundry in to wash and met up with a tour at the ceramics studio. We watched a bronze pour and learned all about how the artisans make the beautiful Arcosanti bells. Over lunch, I wrote out postcards and watched the residents eating and talking together. I gathered my laundry, left my key, and walked up to my car. I wanted so much to stay on there. It felt like some kind of home, and I was sad to leave.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Arizona Diaries: 13-21 October 2012, Part II

In October of 2012, I spent ten days on a road trip that traced a loop. Starting in Los Angeles, I went through Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back to Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert.

Lighting out from Los Angeles, I settled into the speed and the scenery. The last time I'd made that drive was over a year ago when my then-boyfriend was moving across the country. Memories of that trip and that relationship were inevitable; they were strangely humorous and comforting, and I wanted to share them with him. It was only the first day of a ten-day journey, and the high lonesome had already taken hold. But then again, that's just kind of my natural way. Maybe I was made for this empty, wide-open country...

I made it to Tucson in six hours. Being at the Hotel Congress was like going back to 1995. I would have fit in so well there back then. It made me think of playing music in college town bars. I missed my Doc Martin wingtips and my cropped, dyed hair. But in 2012, rather than do a soundcheck, find a cheap supper, and drink beers until the show, I took a little nap, had a shower, and put on a nice outfit for the rehearsal dinner. On my way, I saw a Miata up ahead of me on the freeway. At the end of the offramp, I pulled up next to the little convertible and shouted a greeting across my empty passenger seat to Lucy and Alex in the adjacent lane. I followed them the rest of the way out to the old barbeque spot where we ate ribs and roast chicken and stewed beans and garlic toast while a band wearing matching fringed cowboy shirts played old time country music.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Arizona Diaries: 13-21 October 2012, Part I

In October of 2012, I spent ten days on a road trip that traced a loop. Starting in Los Angeles, I went through Tucson, Arizona to the Grand Canyon and back to Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert.

When Lucy told me her wedding party would take place in Tucson over an October weekend, I knew that I would want to spend more than just a couple of days in Arizona. I had been so close to the Grand Canyon a number of times but had yet to go there. I started looking into camping and hiking in and around the area. That's when I learned about walking from the South Rim to the North Rim (or vice versa) in a day, or "R2R", as the trek is sometimes known. I became so preoccupied with the idea of taking this walk that I noticed myself mentioning it in conversations that were otherwise unrelated to hiking and frequently found myself searching the internet for walkers' and runners' accounts of making the trip. As a beginning long-distance walker who hadn't even yet taken a backpacking trip at that point, my heart raced at the thought of doing the R2R: Was I strong enough? What if I sprained my ankle? Would I run out of water? But my visceral reaction to the very idea of this walk wasn't fueled by fear or doubt alone; it was springing from the thrill of a challenge and the excitement derived from knowing that I would surely do it some day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mount Wilson, 6 January 2013

Mount Wilson
Chantry Flat Trailhead to Sturtevant Falls Trail, Lower Falls Trail, Gabrielino Trail, Mount Wilson Observatory, Old Toll Road, Upper Winter Creek Trail
13 miles
5,710 feet with 4,000 feet of elevation gain
5 1/2 Hours
Corrina Peipon and Chris Young

In anticipation of longer backpacking outings, I want to learn more about walking with a full pack. I intended to take this walk alone with my whole kit, but Chris sent an email saying he wanted to walk. I invited him along and decided to leave my backpacking gear at home. The night before, I checked the weather: 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms in Los Angeles, 90% chance of snow on Mount Wilson. Chris's response: "I'm always up for weather." Left to my own devices with a weather report like that, I would have skipped it, but Chris is a life-long mountaineer who hails from the Seattle area. I guess a little rain in the forecast is no deterrent for the likes of him. So, I told him I would pick him up at 6:30 A.M.

By the time we wound up the Big Santa Anita Canyon road, the clouds were breaking up, and the sun was shining, but the portent of foul weather had apparently kept other folks at home. The parking lot was nearly empty. It was cold, but once we started walking, I warmed up quickly, and by the time we were up above Sturtevant Falls, I felt a million miles away, too. I was so grateful that Chris had been undeterred by the prospect of bad weather. It wasn't until we were really in the woods that I realized how much I needed to be out there.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hiking Blog Directory

Walk On is now listed on the Hiking Blog Directory. I am so honored to be included. Philip Werner of Section Hiker conceived of and maintains the site, wrangling hundreds of personal blogs, trail association websites, small gear producers, and trail guides into a simple, reliable directory of hiking and backpacking resources. I hope you will click through and show your support for Walk On by clicking the "vote" button on the left side of the screen.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I walked more than 275 miles in 2012. Over the past year, walking and backpacking have transformed my life, connecting me to myself and the world in ways that I never could have planned or expected. All of the people I have met on the trails, even to just say "hello", have impacted my life in small and large ways, and I am grateful to them. Organizing friends to walk together has also been more rewarding than I could have imagined. It's so much fun to walk together, and it makes me glad to know that so many new friendships have been formed along the way. I started this journal to document the group walks and to log miles and observations from my solo outings. What was intended to be nothing more than a digital notebook has become an essential part of my walking. A walk just isn't complete for me until I've posted something here. Walking and writing have become intertwined for me, making both endeavors all the richer. Here's to many more miles in 2013.

Feeling Good, Nina Simone by mrfnk