A few weeks ago, my friend Mel B. asked me to go hiking. She is an aficionado of the sport, traveling long distances to beautiful places just to walk all over them. Mel loves hiking to the extent that she often quotes hiking blogs and carries a snake bite kit in her purse – even if she’s only going to Starbucks. Stadler and I are not in her league, but we do love walking, especially if we can hunt Pokémon while we’re doing it. Too often, I imagine myself and my dog wearing pith helmets and parting tall savannah grasses in pursuit of a duck in a wizard hat. “Shhhhh, we’re hunting purple ghosty things,” I whisper to Stadler, channeling Elmer Fudd. Stadler usually expresses her disdain by attempting to jerk my arm out of its socket to fake pee on a suspicious blade of grass. We do not always share the same objectives. I happily agreed to the trip.
In my excitement for the trip, I even downloaded a hiking app to find the best/closest trails. This app is now known as the Liar Liar Pants on Fire Application (L.L.P.F.A.), for reasons that will soon become crystal clear.
Mel B. and I are very different types of early risers. Mel awakens chipper and happy – one pictures small birds and big-eyed forest critters helping her with her morning ablutions while she sings nonsense syllables at them in a warbling soprano. At my house, I have to set the alarm on my phone to fog horn/gunshot/horror movie scream/falling over drum kit/tornado siren in order to dislodge myself from sleep. Anything less (like lovely harp or babbling brook) and I’ll just snuggle up until it’s time for dinner. Stadler is no help. The dog might love to stay in bed even more than I do, and is immune to the morning cacophony, responding by rolling over onto her back, all four paws in the air, so she can hog the breeze from the box fan. I head, one eye begrudgingly open, directly to the coffee, grumbling the entire way… “Lazy ass dog…gets to stay in bed…gonna sleep all day…dumb dog,” and am Ab the Terrible until the caffeine kicks in. People have grown to fear morning me, giving me the wide, careful berth normally reserved for hand grenades and trapped badgers.
Mel wanted to head out early – at 7 a.m. to be precise. I was halfway through my coffee when she breezed through my front door, brandishing her snake bite kit as though it could cure everything from acne to Zika. Off we went, following the directions of the L.L.P.F.A. to Port A, where the app insisted there was a beautiful five mile trail. The Google Lady took us straight to a parking lot that boasted no less than 25 small mobile homes in various states of disrepair and a few tents. This seemed wrong. “I haven’t heard of any hiking around here,” replied clerk at the Stripes after being cheerfully interrogated by Mel, and sourly stared at by me. L.L.P.F.A. indicated that we were standing a mile down the trail when we were clearly in the potato-chip-and-weird-jerky aisle at the Stripes. The only nature photographs we’d capture on this “trail” would feature beach goers rooting through the beer cooler. “Let’s go to P.I.N.S.,” I suggested. “There’s at least one trail out there. The L.L.P.F.A. says it’s 9 miles long! That’s a great hike.” A dark thundercloud of rage rolled across Mel’s beautiful brow. “I. HATE. SAND.” She said, enunciating each word like her tongue was a gavel. “The trail isn’t on the beach,” I replied, turning back on to the highway. Mel’s eyes shot daggers.
Luckily, Mel was too excited to stay mad for long. We got to P.I.N.S. and bought our day pass at the visitor’s center. “Is there anything we should know about the trail,” I asked a ranger, concerned because 9 miles out and back is a pretty long hike. He looked at me like I was a congressional level idiot and said, “It’s a little windy today. You shouldn’t have any problems, though.” Pride puffed out my chest as I strutted back to the car. “He could tell we have hiking experience, Mel. Otherwise, he totally would have told us to be careful. We are MIGHTY HIKERS!”
We arrived at the well-marked trail head a scant ten minutes later. It seemed that many people had the same idea, including an assortment of elderly folks with walkers and one guy in a wheelchair. The beginning of the walk was neatly paved, and we set off in high spirits. With 9 miles to go it had to get harder! We strolled for 20 minutes, pausing frequently so that Mel could take pictures of cacti, and then rounded a corner. The sign that marked the trail head was clearly visible. We’d hiked in a loop for less than a mile. There was nowhere else to go.
Furious (and feeling pretty stupid) we slammed into the car, driving until we saw a barbed wire gate with a sign. It marked the last vestige of the great old cattle ranching on the Island. We hiked in, only to find a rough trail surrounded by patches of strange and beautiful wild flowers. As we walked further, I let Stadler off leash. She tried to join a herd of white tailed deer – happily dog bouncing right along with them. They turned her down so forcibly that she sped back to us as though she was equipped with turbo. Don’t buck with white tailed deer.
After the hike, which was still shorter than we preferred, but wilder than we dared hope, we drove home, cautiously content. The second we passed the water tower, returning to the land of cell signal, I stopped and deleted the L.L.P.F.A., angrily stabbing it into nonexistence with my index finger. “Are you done?” asked Mel, back to her normal, optimistic self. “Yes,” I pouted, marginally humiliated by my phone rage. “Good,” she said. “Let’s fry up some snapper.” And we did. All’s well that ends with a good lunch.