The plan for today was to explore the Secret Stairs in Hollywood. I had the PDF with instructions printed out and with me. I grabbed two small water bottles after inhaling a banana on my way out the door. I somehow ended up at Bronson Caves and was excited to head up to the Hollywood Sign from Camp Hollywoodland instead. This last minute change of heart is very typical of me and I always go with it. It usually ends up in an amazing transformative lesson happening. Or a really pretty view. I think I got both today.
At the car, I didn’t really plan to go all the way up to the sign. It looked daunting the first time I heard about the trail when I was exploring Bronson Caves with a friend. She made it seem entirely easy and doable because she’s done it with a 3 year old on her back. She’s pretty amazing. I should remind you, I’m not into exercise. I like pretty things and will do the crazy and sometimes the stupid to see it. After my trip to Sunken City in San Pedro and hiking to the water below it, a friend joked with me about seeing me on the news because I was one of those people willing to do stupid things because I wanted to see what it looked like. He teased me in love. There will always be love in this friendship.
As I was hiking up and ready to quit the first time, there was a family coming down, with children and a stroller. They made it to the halfway point pushing a stroller and told me to at least shoot for that. I made it my goal and it was easy. By this point, I was almost done with my first bottle of water and I had left the second bottle in the car. I sat on a bench. The only bench on the hike, and caught my breath. As I sat and thought about turning back, there were a couple of young women with their dog. I let my pride get to me. If a little dog could do it, why couldn’t I, right? I mean, I’ve driven down Sunset strip and I’ve seen enough of these little yappy things being carried in purses. Why shouldn’t I keep going if this little pooch had it in her? The girls encouraged me. They pointed out the last real incline and that the rest was relatively flat. I was doing okay, aside from the heat. I had just hiked Runyon Canyon the day before with far less water than I had today. I was energized and had a great experience by the end. I didn’t consider the fact that I left a few hours later today, or that it was considerably hotter. And a bit further. I just thought, if a dog can do it, and I feel good, why can’t I? Honestly, I held onto my empty bottle of water until I turned back because I hoped there was a fountain on the way somewhere. There wasn’t. I was getting closer to the water tower and that’s when the lethargy started to set in.
As a mom, I’m used to pushing through exhaustion. I’m used to going and going until I actually can stop and take a breather. I was pushing myself. When I got to the residential area before that last leg of the hike that takes you above the sign, I realized I could probably drive through the residential area and hike above the sign another time. It was time to head back. I sat and rested until I was cool and my heart wasn’t racing. I threw away my empty bottle and I started back.
As I was walking, only determination kept my pace up. I was determined to get back to my car and that one bottle of water. The thirst in my throat wasn’t burning. You read about vampires and burning throats, but I think that’s just authors in need of heartburn relief. There was a dry itch at the back of my throat. My mouth felt hot and dry. I’m usually fairly modest, but I became one of those women hiking in her yoga pants and sports bra today. I never imagined the day I would hike without a shirt again. The last time was 7 kids ago. I was so hot I didn’t care how visible my tattoo was. No one else cared either. I started planning each rest stop as the next shady spot or rock ahead of me. I would rest until my heart stopped racing and my body cooled down.
As I walked, and stopped, I would pay attention to what I felt. I would sit on a rock and lean forward and feel light headed. As I walked, my hands started swelling to the point where I had to put my class ring on smaller fingers. I had a hard time getting it off, and it’s normally fairly loose. (Dehydration was on the verge of getting scary.)
At one of my resting stops, three women asked me how to get to the Hollywood sign. I started explaining and had to pause for a moment because words were hard to get out. I excused myself and explained that I was in the mood to see something pretty but I really don’t exercise and I didn’t plan my water needs very well. I was offered some water and empathy. They got directions. A swallowed mouthful later and I kept going.
At another resting stop, I saw a man running back down. He ran past me on his way up and he was running past me again. He stopped and asked if I was okay. I must have looked terrible to break his stride, or he was just really a great guy. I told him I was already more than half way down, but taking it slow. He asked about my water. I admitted I was a little dehydrated. He offered his hydration pack, and I wasn’t too proud to accept. He apologized about the weird taste because he adds electrolytes but I wasn’t in a complaining mood. I was so grateful. Immediately, I could feel a difference. He walked with me a bit and asked if I wanted him to stay with me all the way down. I insisted he keep going on his run, but I regret not getting his name. He gave me one of his electrolyte powder packs and all I gave him was my gratitude.
I was almost at the bottom of the trail and remembered how excited I was at this point on the way up. I saw a group coming and I didn’t notice their backpacks. I told them I hoped that they had more water than what was visible. They said they did and I told them to have a great day, realizing I was mothering strangers. One of the girls in the group ran back to me and handed me a bottle of water. I was so thankful. I got to my car and had the second bottle after adding some electrolyte powder to it. Then I drove to Gelson’s for coconut water and more water.
There was a lesson in my day.
I’m fairly used to being on my own. Last night I was at a launch for a friend’s company at Club Couture in Hollywood. It was a red carpet event and I showed up alone. I invited people, but didn’t have any takers. I was still comfortable going to the event without an escort. I danced alone, and was asked to dance. (A yes to a dance request does not mean I will be okay with you touching my butt, and no matter how beautiful you are, if you are with a date, don’t waste your time on me because I don’t share.) Today was about learning that there is a community in human existence for a reason.
The kindness of strangers kept me going when I wanted to quit, and kept me hydrated. It could have been bad. It didn’t escape me that there were rescue helicopters flying around, watching all of us for the silly folks like myself that didn’t plan appropriately.
There is a reason there are buddy systems in hiking, and swimming and schools. Buddies are amazing gifts. The short time I walked with the man that stopped his run for me felt better. There is so much in the encouragement and companionship of someone else.
Research is brilliant. I’m committed to preparing for hikes I’ve done before, and researching for new places I want to explore. I should have connected with that friend that has done the hike. I should have checked out a map, and seen I could have made a short cut by driving through the residential neighborhood. (I don’t hike for exercise. It’s about seeing pretty things.) Going on a hike and making a really long detour yesterday was not brilliant. Going on a hike I wasn’t prepared for today could have been dangerous.
Planning is not overrated. Even though my plans shifted, it would have been a great idea to shift with those plans, and make sure I had the provisions I needed. My next hiking trip will include a backpack for water and coconut water. I may look for that electrolyte powder because it felt good. It will include insect repellent. I have bites. They suck. And sunblock that was already in my car should have made it to my face and arms. I am not red, and I won’t peel, but my skin is hot to the touch and I’m sure my makeup is now too light for my skin tone and that is quite a bit of foundation and concealer to replace and not wear. It was nice to hike really close to Gelson’s. Once I got to the parking lot I dozed off in my parked but running car, sleeping off my exhaustion in air conditioning.
I really could have made it to the top if I had been more gentle on myself. If my body wasn’t trying to shut down on me, I could have made it. I have sore muscles now and a slower walk. I also have a new appreciation for walking through air conditioned museums with restaurants and available drinks everywhere.
My thought Saturday was I can do this without company and Sunday I learned how essential company can be. And strangers are incredibly kind.