Get Fit! Get Smart!

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I was just invited to go on a two-night photographic backpacking trip to Ansel Adams wilderness. With basketball and walking the dogs, I’m usually in pretty good shape and can just pick up and go without any extra training. But the last two months have killed the basketball and the dogs are slowing down limiting the walks from any distance. So, I chose the Del Mar hike of six miles, previously blogged here,

The hike starts at the Torrey Pines Extension near Del Mar Highlands school. I figured the short cut through the schoolyard would be closed off, and I know there is a trail in the extension that stays on the south side, but I wasn’t sure where to pick it up at. I parked at a spot with a lot of other unoccupied, parked cars thinking maybe it was the access point I was looking for. It wasn’t. I walked around to another spot where I saw a trail going through a grove of Torrey Pines.

My first clue that this was a bad idea was the “No Public Access” sign that I ignored. My second clue was the sleeping bags laid out under a tree about a quarter-mile in. Still, I pushed on until the worn path ended but I saw a wooden bridge that I recognized as part of the trail that I was looking for. My third clue was the bushwacking I had to do get to it, paying the price with legs and arms full of scratches. My fourth clue was the twenty-foot bridge had a two-foot gap so I had to jump to get on to it and another two-foot gap on the other side so I had to jump to get off of it. My fifth clue was the tree that had fallen across the path so I had to bushwack around that. Finally, I found myself back on the main trail and hiked to the entrance at the bottom. My sixth clue was the fence I had to hop around to get out of the reserve with big signs on the other side saying “No Entrance. Park Closed.” Obviously, I’m not one to give up easily on a bad idea. I’m glad I did this part of the hike first because it would have sucked to come to the fence at the other side and discovered I had to walk around probably adding two miles or more to the hike.

The parking lot at Torrey Pines State Beach is closed but the beach is alive and well. As long as you are moving, you can hang out on the beach. No laying down towels and having little parties. I walked the stretch from North Torrey Pines Beach to the south side of the San Dieguito River. The beach is covered in a foul foam, my guess is that perhaps it is residue from the red tide, but I’m not sure. It’s a beautiful cloudless day and the low tide opens up the beach. I can’t blame so many people for being out. I didn’t have any trouble negotiating a path through the throngs at a safe distance, even at the most crowded point near Powerhouse Park in Del Mar. I only had one incident where a child ran by just missing me and the mom said so I could hear it, “Be careful sweetie, you have to watch out for the man because he isn’t looking where he is going.” (Not to pass judgment, but f**k her.)

I do this segment of the hike barefoot, walking in the very shallow surf, jumping over the nasty foam as the waves push it in and back out again. Brown Pelicans soar overhead taking advantage of the north-to-south wind. A woman in a thong bikini bends over in front of me to pick up a shell at an angle that makes it look like she is not wearing anything. The only thought that passes through my head is that I’m sure they are worn for comfort and not for show.

At the race track, I take the path along the south side of the river passing the lagoon and then over the train tracks, watching terns patrol the waters and kids fishing on its banks. I cross Jimmy Durante road at the Viewpoint Brewery company, which is open for takeout but not for sit down. There is a nature trail that leads to an observation pier. At low tide, fiddler crabs infest the exposed mud banks. They seem to keep a proper social distance from one another. I watch one do a little sidestep, lifting its big claw into the air, take a step to the left as if pulling itself along on an invisible rope, and stop. It repeated this movement several times. The whole mudflat was alive with the incomprehensible social signals of the asymmetric crabs.

I then followed the river road to the Crest Canyon North entrance. The Crest Canyon North entrance is fenced off for construction with nothing but heavy equipment and yellow trucks on the other side. I ask a lady walking by on the road if she knows of another access point. She thinks there is a path in the pines ahead but she offers that I can probably just go through the site by walking around the fence. She tells me, “It would be a little adventure.” I take her up on her offer, but I’m not sure it’s such a good idea. My first clue is that I have to breach a fence by squeezing through two sections and past the signs that say “Warning. Danger. Do Not Enter.” Clearly, these signs are more guidelines than rules. On the other side, is a yellow front loading shovel truck of the Caterpillar variety. My second clue that this wasn’t such a good idea is a second fence perpendicular to the trail. I find a spot where I can belly crawl under and do so. Based on my observation of a large section of rusted out pipe, it looks like they are digging out old sewer pipes that must have run down the length of the canyon. My third clue is the third fence. I part the makeshift gate slightly to squeeze through. My fourth clue is the fourth fence. This one I have climb over the top. It’s not staked into the ground so it is a little bit flimsy as I negotiate over the top and then leap to the ground. The whole thing reminds me of the different gates that Maxwell Smart had to negotiate to get into Control at the start of every “Get Smart!” episode. Lesson learned, never trust random ladies on the hiking trail.

The final stretch of the trail gets me back to Durango and back to my car. The highlights of this trip are not getting fined, arrested, or injured in a canyon with no other hikers for help. Oh yeah, and that girl back on the beach. I won’t be recommending this trail anytime soon, as for the moment, a good chunk of it is not actually a trail. Eight miles, twenty-seven floors, and some discomforts of age. A lot of work to do to be ready for the Sierras.