I dropped off my beans at Pat & Art's this afternoon, and stopped to talk a while. I left for Ragged Point at about 4:20, getting to the trailhead at about 4:50. Art said it's a pretty steep hike to take, and he wouldn't want to hear about my skeleton being found months later. The way I see it now, the vultures would have found me first, and then people or dogs would have started to look more closely. Might have only been a few days.
The hiking guide estimated the trail time to be about 30 minutes. I thought that was a good number. But then I remembered that this particular insane guide assumes 30 minutes for every mile, regardless of terrain. So I figured it would take longer. There seemed to be enough light for the hike, even though it was late afternoon.
The trail drops steeply and is slippery. Probably slippery in the dry season as well, maybe more so. When I got to one of the more tricky spots, especially for someone with bad knees, a guy came along just behind me. He said something about the difficulty, and I let him pass, saying I had to tread carefully because of my knees. He offered me his hand on the tough part, and I actually used it. He was a photographer, thirty-something, heading down the trail for the late afternoon shots of the waterfall and elsewhere. He mentioned he'd been down earlier in the day as well. It wasn't long before he was gone, and I saw him sitting on a rock across small stream from the falls, intently angling for the right position.
It reminded me that when I am looking for the right picture comfort means nothing to me. I think of myself as a creature who always seeks comfort, but I have walked in wet puddles in the cold and felt as exhilarated and happy as I think is possible for me.
A little family followed me. Mom, dad, little girl, and little dog. The little girl clambered down the last high rock to the beach, then her parents let the dog off the leash and he found his way down to her. Astute, that little guy. The parents followed, and I turned to go up after taking some shots of the waterfall and the photographer and the beach. I didn't have a tripod with me so chances are the light will not have been adequate and the shots will be blurry.
Not very far from the bottom I saw what seemed to be two trails. I took the rougher-looking one. I had scrambled uphill a little while on this path when I realized it wasn't a path at all. If anything, it was a drainage path some times of the year. More often, it was the briar patch Brer Rabbit loves so much. I had to grab the stronger stems of plants and find rocks, precious few of those, to pull myself up what sometimes seemed like a pure vertical slope.
Now, when I realized I had made a mistake I could have returned, I could have slid down to the path and headed up the right way. But I thought 1) I could do it this way, would come across the path soon enough, and 2) I didn't want to mess up my nice off-white jeans by sliding down.
That second thing, well, went quickly. I found myself on my knees, struggling to get a grip, at times, and gradually pulling myself back to my feet, which had difficulty getting good places to perch. I heard the little girl above me after a while and realized the trail was straight above, quite a ways up. I kept climbing, at least knowing there was a path there eventually. By the time I got to the path I almost didn't get to it. There is a bridge type structure there, and I grabbed a metal post that was helping hold it in place and tried to pull myself up. Reminded me of those movies when the hero pulls someone up entirely with his arms. JUST IMPOSSIBLE. At least it would take superhuman strength to pull me up like that - I am no small person. My energy was just enough drained that getting my feet to find a spot and pulling, pulling, seemed a tad too difficult. I've had harder times but this wasn't one I want to repeat. I did get up and finish the climb. The rest was easy.
When I got to the top I met someone there, smoking. A guy who asked if I had just taken the trail. I admitted it. I admitted I took a wrong turn and ended up grabbling up, blazing my own trail, as he put it. He kindly took my picture so I can show folks how really lovely I looked after that hike. I hope it turns out reasonably well. Those mud stains on my knees were really spectacular.
I got to the top at about 6:00 p.m. So the hike took just 70 minutes, not long enough to cause *that* much suffering, but I do make a point of creating adventure beyond what is really needed. I know that if I had stayed on the trail I would have been perfectly happy with having done so. And yet...after dark...a trail with nobody else on it...the ocean beckoning beyond, the clouds barely visible over the horizon...moments I loved.