Monday, August 25, 2008

Acceptable Devices While Camping

The packing list did not include an MP3 player, nor did it list any electronic gadgets. I brought my iPod because I am an adult and can make that decision on my own. Plus I will be alone in my tent and I have ear buds. I do have the Bible, Focus and Hillsong sermons occupying a few gigs on my device so that must count for something…

I ended up only listening a few minutes while going to sleep the first night (and not to any of the three selections above). I woke the next morning feeling refreshed and enjoying the sounds of birds and kids splashing in the many trout ponds. Campers in nearby sites stood over their stoves flipping bacon and making coffee. This is camping.

Walking towards the restrooms, a blue glow radiated from one of the camp site tables. A family brought their TV and the kids were playing games at 7:30am. I marveled at the nerve of those people bringing a TV camping with them—especially when there is no signal, cable or satellite dish. They could not go a weekend without their games?


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lessons Learned at Summer Camp

Not all my memories of camp were happy. My first experience was a boy’s camp; there were no girls. At eight years old, girls were not supposed to matter, but they did. Nevertheless, my first day at Green Oak Boys Ranch I rode a horse and quickly learned I was highly allergic. Soon after, I lost my Bible and discovered my best friend found a new buddy and I was on my own. I bought a rabbit pelt for 25 cents and it became my muse for the weekend.

When I was a little older, I went to a camp that finally had girls! There was a pool with cold water and bathrooms below in a "dungeon," under the pool.

As a day-camp, we brought our own lunches, lovingly prepared by our Moms. One morning, one of the boys didn’t bring his lunch and Mary Ann, our leader, made an announcement at the front of the bus: she asked if someone would share their lunch. I remember a cold wave of selfishness engulfed me as I slipped down below the sweaty, green seats of the bus. I didn’t want to share. I remember one of the not-so-cool kids offering her lunch and I immediately felt convicted. Some how, and for some reason, that skinny little girl with glasses became “cool” in my eyes and equally as cute! I later offered my apple to the lunch-less boy, making sure that she noticed.

Big Rock Creek Camp , I believe, is that same camp. It has been over 30 years since I was a camper there. I remember many of the camp’s features, especially the pool and the “dungeon.” This weekend I was very content being alone, at least in my tent. Although I know many of you, I did enjoy meeting new people and making new friends. No need for a rabbit fur, I had my camera!

Now that we are all back from the weekend, I can’t help but reflect on my days as a kid at camp and what a wonderful time I had this weekend.

I brought back with me a conviction, much like the one I had from not sharing my sandwich. There was no shortage of lunches or material supplies; rather, there were missed opportunities to give of myself. I choose to spend time with people I knew; one might say my “best friends” for that weekend. I probably missed out on meeting more people, learning their stories and making both of our camp experiences more enjoyable.

In some ways I wish I could get a “do-over,” and spend time with those who kindly introduced themselves to me. The good news is I will see them again, most likely this Sunday. There is no reason why camp cannot continue.

Another lesson I think we all learned: leave your food in the car because “Mama” and her cubs are watching....

Thank you everyone for a great experience. I look forward to next time!

Photos from the weekend Click here

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Hour Now Serving Vino

Although the Happy Hour Backpacking group is not even six-months old, its history is rooted in Heineken. Each Wednesday night, our fearless leader would haul up a mini keg and graciously distributed foamy plastic cups of brew to the well-deserved hikers.

Over time, people began bringing other forms of spirits to help compliment the miscellaneous finger foods atop Echo Mountain.

Recently, the beer was replaced by wine. The selection of wines sparked a new
enthusiasm for both newbie’s and connoisseurs alike.

Last night, people began bringing their own favorite wines. Jubilant trekkers toasted to friendship and the sunset with the sound of acrylic wine glasses clashing in the warm August air. Talks of varietals, regions and makers engaged many as they stood overlooking the twinkling lights of Pasadena.

The ambiance of tradition is real, yet each week there are different people and serendipitous experiences. Like the wines we take pleasure in, our group is an ideal example of diversity, complexity and good taste.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stiff Competition

Mannequins fascinate me. Like clowns, they rarely imitate reality. Why then do they demand our attention, especially the female mannequin not wearing a..., you know. It must be a guy thing.

LA's garment district is littered with those female mannequins cut off at the waist; the ones with long legs and the J. Lo back sides. They look forged but they are quite effective. What woman wouldn’t want one of those behinds?

Then there are the plaster dummies that inspire us; they encourage passersby to purchase their outfits, go on that vacation or at least start working out again. Are we supposed to measure ourselves by them? Oh, and you know those sexy mannequins in the window at Victoria’s…? Come on guys, you know it's weird but you still look.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Happy Hour Hikes

For years, if I didn’t have a buddy to hike with me, I went by myself. I have hundreds of miles logged solo, mostly because I couldn’t find anyone to pack up at the "11th hour."

A few months ago I was hiking up Sam Merrill Trail—alone—and came across a group of enthusiastic hikers. The group of about 20 were sharing food and drink on the ruins of the “White City” hotel on Echo Mountain. It was sunset. As a joke, I pretended to be part of the group by throwing up my arms and announcing, “I made it.” I was immediately offered a beer, a glass of wine and aged cheddar. Within minutes, I was taken in and officially one of them.

The weeks following, I attended a few of the’s “Happy Hour Backpacking”. They meet at the top of Lake Avenue, about two hours before sunset each Wednesday night. They hike three miles to the top of Echo Mountain and share food and drink. After an evening of conversation with the city's lights as a backdrop, the Happy Hour group packs up, switches on their headlamps and in single file, march down the hill.

The Zion Loop

Today, we did a ten-mile loop into Big Santa Anita Canyon via the historic Gabrielino Trail to Sturtevant Camp, Mt. Zion and Heogees Camp.

Like always, the group is as diverse as it is fun. Good people who truly enjoy the out of doors.

We met at the bottom of the hill and car-pooled up to Chantry. There, we met up with Dana and we began our hike down into the canyon. Our first stop was Sturtevant Falls, then on up the trail, past a couple miles of cascading streams to Stuertevant Camp.

Chris, the camp host, took us on a tour of the 100-year old retreat center. His friends, Dennis, joined us as we toured the kitchen as well as the old ranger station; one of the first and oldest in the USA.

After lunch, and after a little exposition from the personal trainers, we packed our bags and headed up and over Mt. Zion to Hoegees Camp where we took

off our shoes and cooled our feet in the crystal-clear water of Winter Creek.

Three miles back to where we started nearly six hours earlier!

So, it looks like my solo hiking days are thwarted….

Photos from the hike