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:
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.
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.
At Point Reyes National Seashore we hiked vast open spaces, towering trees, wooded meadows and sundrenched chaparral with an amazing view of the rugged shoreline.
Out of the boundaries of Avalon and Two Harbors, the mostly isolated Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) travels along exposed mountain ridgelines, deep into canyons, and leads to cliffs that meet the emerald and sapphire ocean far below.