There are only a small number of people I travel with because of the way they approach life and limb, they choose fun, adventure, the unknown and a little bit of danger. It’s the devil may care attitude that gets me in trouble every time, but it always garners a good story.
My friend John doesn’t like to read, he tells people he is allergic. He makes an exception for menus and on rare occasions my writing when it contains two things; it is light/funny and he is featured. I’m not so sure what he will think of this story but he was there so I hit the mark on one count.
Some days you need to just get out of dodge, skip town, hit the bricks and as you can see from my language I have been netflixing cop shows these days, but I digress. So John and I decide we are going to head out to Mt. Laguna one morning and hike around. What “hiking” generally looks like is we pack lots of snacks, beach chairs, and beverages and take a walk. After snacking at various woodsy locals we then go find a restaurant for lunch.
John is far more detail oriented about this type of day trips than I. One of the reasons is he is gluten intolerant and eats one meal a day. That meal lasts from the moment he opens his eyes till he shuts them again at bedtime. He grazes all damn day. So now with the gluten twist it raises his anxiety level that there is not enough non-gluteny food to eat at any given moment. Besides the fabulous array of snack foods he travels with he has all the fine accoutrement one might need to take care of a toddler when they travel, that would be me. An example of his supreme readiness would be last year on a day hike in the desert when it was too late in the season for sane people to be wandering in the hot desert. John had the where-with-all to bring cold packs, damp cold wash clothes in Ziplocs and frozen water in his thermos, which melted at the perfect rate to provide cool water to drink. I on the other hand brought one bottle of water which I finished in 15 minutes. I was beet red and near stroke when we stopped for lunch. During lunch John gave me the extra soda he packed for me, gave me the cold washcloth in the baggy to wipe down and let me play with the cold pack, which I promptly dropped on the dusty ground. In all fairness I was attempting to cool my neck when I dropped it in the red dirt. It made a cloud of grit when it hit and I just stared at its betrayal. I was also thinking I would be swabbing my neck with mud now as it was still cold and damp albeit grimy. John just laughed as he knows he is traveling with a toddler and expects these things to happen. He picked up the cold pack, wiped it clean and handed it back to me shaking his head. Hey for all the nuisance I cause I also give him hours of good stories to tell at cocktail parties.
What is funny to me is John is more hyper-vigilant than I am; he likes having addresses for points of destination on day trips so we can find gas stations, food etc. In traveling with another friend of mine I am the organized one because he is far less grounded than I. This guy is like the Underdog balloon at the Macy’s day parade on Thanksgiving. He is so floaty he is in need of adult supervision at any given moment but he is a hell of a lot of fun to travel with as you never know where you’ll end up. I was the one who did the crossing of the t’s and dotting of the i’s when we traveled. He would forget to eat until I pointed it out and by that time I was way past ‘hangry’, as my friend Heidi says, and needed to be fed for all of our safety. So the dynamics of travel is relative to whom you are with and what you are doing.
So, as I was saying, John and I head to the mountains all sun-screened and ready for adventure. The night before we both checked the weather. Not only might it get hot but there might be some thunderstorms in the afternoon, this seems like good fun. Summer in San Diego gives us little to no exposure to rain so the prospect of being in the Mountains for a storm was exciting for both of us. (If this was a movie there should have been a sound track from John Williams of some ominous music right back there.) I was also drawn to the mountain lion warning I saw on the parks website. Who doesn’t like a little lions, tigers and bears drama when they hike through the woods?
The drive was pleasant as we climbed up the winding road to Mt. Laguna. At one point of the drive on a twisty two-lane mountain road a chipmunk darts across the road and in a Darwinian manner chooses to rest mid-way and enjoy the view from the middle of our lane. John, knowing he cannot swerve, does what any kind hearted person would do, he honks. I burst into laughter, which was not appreciated by the driver or by the would-be target. My thought was that if the chipmunk did not pay mind to the 2,395lb car hurtling toward him at 50 mph he might not notice the toot of a Scion’s horn. I’m just saying is all… John likes squirrels, chipmunks and small creatures of that ilk, me, I think rabid, mobile, and flea hotel when they get close. For any kind hearted readers who don’t believe chipmunks are merely rats with good PR the varmint managed to stay still and make it off the road safely after we passed.
The park was beautiful and we wandered around the campgrounds exploring, breathing in the green and waiting for the rain. We decided to hike some, and then have a snack on the edge of a canyon we found and watch the sky. There had been a drop or two as we walked around but no real rain, we wanted to stay long enough to see if there were more drops. There were. They came after we walked down the trail and found a great picnic table at the edge of the outcropping. They came in fat cold drops that after a hike felt wonderful. It was a slow lazy rain so instead of standing back under a pine, like John, I stepped out to feel it. It had been at least 6-8 months since I had been rained on much less in the middle of the woods. It was glorious, which turned to a little nippily when the volume increased as the sky opened up. I was getting soaked. We went down further on the trail to a denser outcropping of trees and another picnic table. Here we sat on the low slung branches and ate chips and drank soda watching it all. The rain lightened so we moved to the table chatting and laughing. We stopped laughing when the lighting and thunder started. We looked at each other with an “uh-oh” look. John looked down at the table and pointed saying one word, “metal”.
We stood back from the table as the thunder and lightning cracked very close. We went down to a crouch, then even lower, sitting on gnarled tree roots. We smelled the ozone and felt the electricity in the air like people talk about on the weather channel after their watches melt to their arms. John was hanging tight to his Pepsi can and I moved away from him as I pointed it out. I asked where exactly his keys were so I could pull them from the charred remains if he chose not to put the conductor down. I also pointed out that his best-case scenario would be the can melted to his hand, the worst he would be a crispy critter.
Just then John stopped laughing and was looking off in the distance. The rain was steady but the lighting was moving off some so we felt safer, or I did. I watched him a minute trying to figure out what was up.
“What’s wrong?” I asked after another minute of watching him watch something.
“Those leaves over there are moving but I can’t see what is moving them.” He said, still staring.
We both stood up and looked over, I could see where he was talking about and it was low branches on a tree.
“Mountain lion?” I said.
“Don’t know, something…” he murmured, squinting.
With that I started waving my hands over my head reminding him about the data we saw that morning at the Information Office about mountain lions. It said we had to look bigger than we were and not to run. Just as I was waving my hands manically there was another flash and crack from the sky.
“And not get hit by lightening; put your hands down for god-sakes.”
“Oh yea” I shrugged looking between the sky and the suspicious shrubbery off to our left.
We agreed the hiking part of the day was over and that we should move to the car and watch the show from there. We carefully, watchfully stumbled up to the parking lot to the car and dried off. We decided since the rain stopped and the sun was peeking out we would try one more short walk before heading down the hill to find lunch. We drove to another trail site as not to tempt fate and began to walk. After 20 minutes it started to rain lightly again so we chose to sit at the base of a giant pine on the bank of the road. We could hear a squirrel barking up the tree from us but paid it no mind. That was till it dropped some chips from a pinecone about 3 feet from us. I pointed out to John that his woodland friend was not happy with us being in his hood. He shrugged and we talked on about nothing and everything. Suddenly a huge stripped pinecone came crashing down and scraped John’s shin, impaling itself in his foot before falling over. Then came the blood. The little furry bastard wanted us gone and I guess figured John was a safer target since I would have chain sawed the tree or shot him out of it just to make a point. John was stunned, how could his little fiefdom turn on him in such an ugly way? It was my turn to shake my head as we moved up the trail to the safety of the car.
“Better a squirrel than a mountain lion attack” I said and had to add, “I told you they are nasty little bastards!”
We managed to get up the trail without further damage or danger from lions, tigers, bears, squirrels, chipmunks, lightening, pestilence, flood or god forbid famine. On the drive home we laughed about our adventures as we focused on finding our next meal. We had succeeded in laughing through everything that could have been a threat, a danger, or nuisances. None of these things made us cranky or impatient with the other or the situation. We chose laughter, wonder and to enjoy spending time with crazy people. Each of us not only accepting but delighting in the others person’s foibles and oddities. So here is the deal folks, choose your co-pilots carefully. I highly recommend the ones who make everything an adventure and rainy days fun!