I decided to do the Poly "P" loop, a hike about 2.7 miles long but quite steep. The trail guide calls it "moderate" with good reason. The rain had backed off to light by the time I started off but the drops were enough to get my copy of the guide wet and for the ink to start running.
The hike is on Cal Poly land, starting on the campus, on the same road that leads to Poly Canyon, a popular walking and hiking trail. It quickly starts to ascend and before I knew it I was climbing a rocky narrow path seemingly straight uphill. Although I know many people use these trails to walk, run, hike, I suspect nobody actually runs on this one. It would be dangerous. I climbed for quite a while, the ridge all the time looking the same distance from me. Finally I reached it, having taken a few shots of the ever-increasing fog-covered views. By the time I reached the ridge line, where all of San Luis Obispo and beyond out to Morro Bay could be viewed, I could, of course, see nothing. I took a photo of that nothing too.
This was a great training hike for me. I am trying to work my way up to steeper and longer hikes, and this was definitely in the steep category, and long enough to make it count. It also humbled me a little bit because I found it a little tough going. I was glad I did it in the rain for one reason: nobody else was on the trail. I could easily imagine being passed by lithe energetic Poly students and other community stalwarts, while I grabbed onto the occasional fence post and took many deep breaths. I learned about deep breathing when I first started riding my bike. I don't hold it back, I let myself breathe. If I don't, I get tired more quickly.
I ate up there on top, sitting on a lichen-covered rock. The food and short rest rejuvenated me. The way down was different, thank heaven. I was very glad this was a loop. The trail, though, had more plain dirt, which is clay, which was mud, which stuck to my shoes. I carried a couple of pounds around for much of the way down, and it made me walk funny.
The fun of the hike is that it goes right to the "P" on the hillside, erected by Poly students many years ago and maintained fairly regularly, I believe. This is the first time I have been to see it close up. It is constructed of some sort of wood frame with an odd kind of plaster material over it. I was not surprised to see that a corner of the P had been painted with blue with white stars, and next to that was written a tribute to "those whose innocent lives were lost". What did surprise me was that there was a lot else written on the P that was clearly anti-war, pro-peace, and pointed out that innocent people are still being killed. For conservative Poly this seemed unusual. However, we may assume that rather unconservative hikers could have written those words.
On the descent I noticed signs of upturned mud, indicating someone else had been on the trail today. I examined the marks more closely and figured out it was a horse. I had seen the suspect horse in the grass beyond. When I got up close to it, I tossed it my apple but it didn't go for it. Later I looked up and the horse was rummaging in the grass, I hope for the apple.
I made it back to my car more than two hours after I had started out. My shoes were caked with mud and my jeans were well-splattered as well. I had slipped a few times and there were some places I had been afraid I would fall - more a throwback to times when I was much heavier, I think, when a fall would have been far more disastrous - so I cannot recommend this hike in the rain, much as I liked it overall. I loved the solitude, the difference in the sky, the fog creeping in and out - there was a moment when it lifted and suddenly there was life below. I felt strong to have done this but not strong enough to attempt something like it only longer. I think the next few hikes will be on more level ground, until I get my orthotics.