Being alone on the trail is a soothing, grounding experience. It forces a level of comfort with the self and the here-and-now that the distraction of company doesn’t offer. Getting comfortable with that is, however, a whole different matter.
It’s high time I introduce my son to a trail that means so much to me – Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel National Monument mountains, CA. It’s where I cut my hiking and backpacking teeth; it’s the first place I’ve witnessed the changing of the seasons and come to know as a second home on the trail. He naps as I maneuver the winding mountain roads and wakes with anticipation when I finally pull into the familiar parking lot. There are few cars and even fewer people on the trail; we have it to ourselves in its rugged beauty.
I wrangle precious cargo onto my chest and back. In front my wide-eyed son, on my back 40 liters of painting and baby hiking gear. I have an emergency shelter and extra formula packed away, a personal locator beacon just in case of emergencies, my hands full of trekking poles and bear spray at the ready. It all weighs heavily on my shoulders, but the weight is nothing compared to the one on my psyche.
Inspiration strikes everywhere on the trail – on the summit of a mountain or in the depths of a canyon, in the middle of the day or when the sun is quickly setting. A painting kit that’s light enough to carry, tough enough to endure the trail and quick enough to deploy on snack breaks or when the light is fading is essential for plein air painting on the trail! Here is my set-up:
Not every adventure can be an isolated multiday far away from civilization. I’ve been extremely lucky to have a plethora of hiking trails newly discovered in my part-time residence here in the San Diego area. These trails are little hidden gems in the midst of urban sprawl. The climbs may have buildings marring the view but the climbs themselves give a taste of the wilderness, the herons are just as graceful here as they are in the backcountry and the views of the distant ocean are breathtaking from the peak of a local park as they are in the early morning mist of northern California’s rugged sealine trails.
The smallest dormant volcano in North America requires some short but rugged climbs to get to the top. A reservoir at the foot of this fascinating geological structure is home to fish, waterfowl and attracts an assortment of local wildlife. Behind the volcano is a network of trails sprawling across the rolling hills.
Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve
Forest meets chaparral through this network of trails exploring the bubbling rush of a creek and up upon a peak overlooking the land onto the ocean in the distance. The trails offer the rocky, rough terrain hikers crave and the ease of proximity in San Diego county. There are easy walks and tough climbs as the trail network creates fascinating out-and-back hikes or can be linked together for a slightly longer loop.
In complete honesty I crave the expansive backcountry of long trails with nary another soul in sight. In the interim, these little tastes of wild home tides my wanderlust and sooths the soul until the next big adventure.
I dreamed of traction spikes crunching into ice and snow gracing the soaring geology of the Grand Canyon in winter. It was a dream we rush into reality as my pregnancy moves along into the fifth month. The frigid air nips at our unacclimated faces on the porch of the Yavapai Lodge as we disembark to the South Kaibab trail. Herds of elk meander along the rim while condors freewheel overhead, striking the clear blue sky through with their imposing black wingspan. There is no snow despite the cold. The brutal series of switchbacks decending into the canyon peals away layer after layer of breathtaking scenery of the Grand Canyon’s interior.
They cut my abdomen open and gave me cabin fever when I birthed my son. A c-section is major abdominal surgery. Combined with the residual pregnancy-complication related back and hip pain, I spent the first few weeks of my son’s life teetering around with a cane. I was a postpartum wobbly tornado of stir-crazy eagerness.
Needless to say I wasn’t in the most reasonable mindframe when I swore that I was going to solo trek the Trans-Catalina Trail at three months postpartum.
I’ve done this trail a few times before. There really is no excuse for not knowing better. The trail traverses the length of Catalina Island just off the coast of southern California. Its unmaintained, meandering singletrack follows the coastline and diverts deep into the interior of the island where there is no refuge from the unrelenting sun and arid conditions. The harsh climbs and off-trail wanderings around bison are the price paid for beautiful campsites on the beach.
I’ve seen this trail wreck athletes with ultralight packs and trail runners with support.
I board the boat and set off for Catalina Island anyway.
I’m back! A very complicated and rough pregnancy forced me to take a break from painting on the trails. It was all worth it because now I have a little buddy to take with me. This is Dakota Tayag-Jerz’s official welcome to the world post here on ArtXAdventure!
I just got back from wheeling, rafting, camping and hiking in Moab and Arches National Park, UT. Dakota’s three month birthday was on the 19th and he’s already been to Big Sur CA, Sedona AZ, Moab UT, Joshua Tree National Park CA, and the plethora of trails available here in the San Gabriel National Monuments.
Hiking and adventuring with my son has been an experience I can’t even put into words, although I will try soon. In the meantime here are some photos and you can check out my other blog about raising a wild little one to love the outdoors at foxnkitadventures.com
I have a trans-catalina trail solo coming up soon, so stay tuned for more adventure and art!
Introducing my good friends to the Bridge to Nowhere trail was something I anticipated with great joy. I knew they’d fall in love with its calming waters, riparian greenery and imposing geology. The weather was warm and the hike itself was simple as we cooled off in the river and found one of the many small camps where we put up the hammock and enjoyed the peace offered by the San Gabriel Mountains.
The brutal summers take a toll on the river. The sunken levels mildly reroute the trail and expose banks of sand and granite that would be otherwise hidden. I painted as my friends skipped rocks across the shallows. I’ve been hiking and painting this trail for years, but this particular season was disconcerting. I have never seen the river so low. This painting is aptly titled “The River Survives”, done in oil on 10 x 8″ canvas panel.
Still and quiet is not something familiar to a person who battles anxiety, depression and PTSD daily. Half of my mind is running on the toxic nitro fuel of fight-or-flight fear. The other half enduring the contortions of a mind that wants to die in a body that fights to live. It was spring break, my companions and I standing at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, our pent up road trip energy quieted at the edge of such splendor. Just one day ago I was a stressed out, lapsed ex-artist, over-achieving college student, an abuse survivor, an alcoholic, dependent on a dangerous combination of pills and booze for three or four hours of sleep, and tediously suicidal.
There, staring down through layers of strata and time, following the blue-green ribbon of the Colorado River, I was only human. The chaos of my mind stilled for a moment and allowed me to be a person instead of an illness. I think that was my first time really knowing peace.
featuring Granite Gear’s super simple, super sturdy 60 liter backpacking pack.