Canyon Days - Part 3
Across the road and up into the meadow. I take a trail I've done a couple times before, but follow it further now to see where it goes.
Eric has arrived, and for the first time I'm not constrained by getting home to hungry children who've been allowed to lie in bed and watch cartoons if they wake before I get home. I can take my time. I got a late start though, as we picked Eric up at the airport at almost midnight.
When I woke this morning, the sky over the canyon was dark, not with the usual foggy marine layer, but with heavy, charcoal colored clouds that definitely portended rain. I lounged about with coffee and morning pages, the kids took an early swim, Eric read Don Quixote in the hammock. Somewhere down toward the ocean there was thunder that echoed up through canyon, but it was more of a mumble than a rumble. A little rain finally came, and then the sky brightened. I thought I'd better hit the trail before it got hot.
It's already 8:30 but the familiar trail is fresh after the little sprinkle, not so dusty. I too feel fairly fresh as I start out; I'm surprised my legs aren't very sore from the tough climbs of yesterday's run.
I pass a white-tailed rabbit with very tall, pert, close-set ears who looks at me over his shoulder before darting into the brush; I wonder if he wants me to follow, like Alice. A hummingbird chases me, and, then in the meadow, I have to dodge a large number of jurassic looking, dive bombing dragon flies. Tiny lizards zig zag across the path and disappear down deep cracks in the dirt. The variety and decibel of birdsong is amazing.
I take the trail as far as I've gone before, up to a private property sign, and a beautiful, seemingly lone house at the top of a hill, with an astonishing view east across the canyon. I turn right and follow the path down a hill where, I now see, it emerges in a neighborhood. Here the path grows wide and well-tended, wood-chipped and manicured, with little covered benches for a rest, and carefully curated vista points.
The paved road of the community simply ends and becomes this trail. It's almost impossible to tell what parcels belong to individual homes, and what belongs to the canyon itself, to its visitors. I wonder what it's like to literally have Topanga Canyon as your backyard, where the lines between home and the wild are blurred.
I wind back up to the trail; I've come a ways downhill and turning around, my legs suddenly start to feel the fatigue - the shock of sudden daily trail running after a year of city streets and treadmills... (not to mention a recent 6-week break after a minor Citibike ding-up that messed up my left knee). I've probably got only a mile and a half or so to go from where I am now, but it's mostly uphill running to get out of here and back to the house.
The sun is on me, it's getting hot and I need water. But I might get it in a form I wasn't expecting... in the few minutes I've been running the opposite direction, the sky over the next crest to the east -- I think it's east, how far away is it? I have no sense of how to gauge direction or distance looking over the canyon -- has turned an ominous midnight blue-black, and I can see the broad vertical shaft of rain it's bringing with it. The mumble is now distinctly a rumble, legitimate thunder. Suddenly a sharp bolt of lightning stabs down into the canyon just on the other side of that hill. It occurs to me that I don't know exactly what the proper safety protocol would be on a Santa Monica Mountain trail should the storm catch up with me.
At the road where I cross back onto my "home base" trail, I meet a merry band of mountain bikers coming down out of the path I'm re-entering . Probably twenty in all, they're mostly middle aged bearded fellows, obviously in hearty hill-going condition, if a little paunchy. Before we speak, I have a moment where I wonder if I should feel slightly weird about this -- a woman, alone, headed into a network of narrow trails, some of which are frequented, and some not. But there's no choice, rain is coming and I have to get home; this is the only way I know. Anyhow, they turn out to be very friendly, chatty chaps, a hippie-dippie Hell's Angels, who, as they pass me, each nod or say good morning, and tell me how many more are coming along behind -- which, because I can do basic subtraction, is overkill, but kindly meant.
The second to last rider comes along; he's older than the others, with a gray beard and more of a tummy, sort of the uncle of the group, trying to keep up with the younger set, and pantingly says to me, "Mornin'. Just one more after me and then we're done. It's time for coffee and banana bread."
Nothing says badass like banana bread.
I mean to visit the labyrinth on the way back, but somehow miss the turnoff. It's just as well, because shortly after I get home and take a quick dip in the pool, the rain begins. It rains and rains, all day and far into the evening. No storm comes our way, just endless downpour. I write for hours, Eric and the kids read and play chess on the covered lanai. We have dinner on the patio too, and then, with the dishes still on the table, we all get naked, run screaming and laughing through the cool, streaming rain and jump into the pool. We don't even wait 20 minutes.
When was the last time it rained like this here? Never while I was here last summer. And I only remember a couple times in the whole year we lived here that it poured this long and hard. It's the kind of day that makes you want to stay in and bake banana bread. It's like a summer storm at my grandparents' cottage on Lake Erie. This is east coast rain. Maybe we brought it from New York, where we've so far had a an unusual number of chilly wet summer days. You're welcome, Topanga. Just my small way of giving back.