Sunday, August 7, 2016

Moon Rocks (Visiting Vasquez Rocks)

"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, 
bearing within him the image of a cathedral." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If I can't make exercise fun, I won't do it. Well, I will do it... but I might not enjoy it. That's not to say that I don't enjoy traditional forms of exercise - I love yoga and weight lifting, and enjoy running (when I have a goal in mind). Aerobics classes, pilates, zumba, etc, however, have no appeal to me. And let's not even talk about sports... I don't think I could be an athlete if I tried. So what's a girl to do? Hike!

Lucky for me, my niece loves hiking as much as I do! She and I planned to do several hikes while she visited this summer, and we really got excited when the Girls Who Hike LA event at Vasquez Rocks was scheduled. I knew we both would enjoy it - the rocks and desert-like landscape is reminiscent of the places back home I like to hike, and would be more familiar to Katie too. Plus, Vasquez Rocks Park is a filming location, so you know this movie fangirl just had to visit it one of these days!

The Girls Who Hike LA event was loosely based on the same loop described by Modern Hiker on his post here. The trail we actually took is located on AllTrails, although I still haven't figured out how to read their trails other than via GPS. I was excited to take this particular loop, however, because it included a brief stint on the Pacific Crest Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,600+ mile trail that runs from the Mexican/California border all the way to the US/Canada border in British Colombia. While mentioned often in literature, it's probably most famous for being the trail that Cheryl Strayed took in her autobiography, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I trusted that Kaitlyn would be up for the hike when I researched the trail before our adventure - the trail that Sharron planned covered a little under 5 miles total, and less than 1,000' foot elevation gain. I also figured that we were well prepared because I had been taking Kaitlyn with me for nightly 2-3 mile walks in the park after work every day. I knew it was going to be a hot one, so I made sure we had plenty of water for our hike too.

The hike was relatively easy/flat for the first mile or so. We could view the famous rocks throughout that first mile, and only saw one PCT hiker on the trail as we made our way out. We had a fairly steep-ish descent as we made our way down to the PCT junction, heading south towards the tunnel to experience that stretch of the infamous trail. This area was fairly rugged and overgrown, features that I really enjoy when I hike in the desert. Rocks, fossils, and other sediment were exposed in the sandstone, making for fun conversation between my niece and me.

After a brief break at the tunnel, we headed back the way we came and started our climb to the tops of the surrounding rocks of the park. This is where things started getting hairy for the less adventurous/experienced of our group. The only child on the trip fell during this portion of the trail, and my niece rolled her ankle shortly thereafter. I was glad to see I wasn't the only one breathing heavily during this portion of the trail, but a noticeable gap between the front of the pack and the back was starting to form. 

Somewhere around the famous rocks themselves, the front of the group left the back of the pack. It was better for all sides. As a back of the packer, I could sense the relief. The front group was more physically prepared for this hike, and I was worried about my niece and wanted to slow down too. Once the gap was realized, I noticed that we weren't alone in taking our time, taking pictures, and enjoying the stunning sky. Our back of the pack was around 1/4 of the total group, all determined to still enjoy the hike and fellowship with each other.

As we made our way back to the valley floor, however, some bit of panic set in. The path was not as obvious at the bottom as it was up top. Several of us tried to map the trail to see if we were still heading in the right direction. Two of the girls were very close to giving up. One girl sat down. We shouldn't have feared - our back of the pack leader was tremendous! She kept everyone calm, and cheered the group on to finish the hike back to our vehicles. (If you're reading this, Angela - THANK YOU!)

The temperature in my car read a very hot 95 degrees by the time we returned to it. My niece was hot, sore, and in pain, and as much as I wanted to join the girls for lunch, I knew it was best if we just headed back home. After the initial soreness died down, Kaitlyn and I talked about the hike. She actually really liked it! She was just woefully ill-prepared. That's my fault - I'm sorry Katie. (At least this experience helped me prepare for our much more strenuous hike at Pinnacles a few weeks later!)

As for me, this is a hike I really want to tackle again when it gets cooler in the fall. My hope is that the Sand Fire didn't destroy it - I'll have to do some research and see. This hike reminded me a lot of hiking back home, and that made me very happy. I'm not so sure that the giant group hikes are quite my speed, but it was fun meeting some of the other girls from GWHLA. I look forward to seeing them at the networking event in October. But for now... small group hikes are the hikes for me!

Take charge this week!

--- Becky

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