Mecca Via Ropes & Ladders

My Favorite Niece (MFN) Tara invited me to join her hiking group on an easy hike out in the low desert near the Salton Sea. I was ambivalent about making the two-hour drive to get there, especially because she warned me that the dogs couldn’t go because the trail included some ladders. But, it was a dreary, overcast day here and I knew the desert would probably be warm and sunny and if I stayed home, I would just waste the day on cleaning the house.

Her hiking buddy, Gilbert, drove and the two-hour journey passed pleasantly with interesting conversation. The other hiker in our vehicle was a Frenchman, Jean Pierre, who went by his initials, J.P. because Americans can’t seem to pronounce his name. We met four other women at the trail head, exchanged introductions, and headed up a broad, gravel wash in search of Ladder Canyon.

Trail Marker for Ladder Canyon

Some reviewers of this hike had complained that the trails were poorly marked. We had no trouble finding this trail marker which pointed to the trail. The trail, however, was a little more obscure.

The entrance to Ladder Canyon

Ladder Canyon quickly slotted up and it became obvious how it got its name.

Jean Pierre showed us how the French descend a ladder
A view of San Jacinto Peak and San Gorgonio Peak in the distance
One of the many dramatically colored rocks
Snow white rocks
The easy walk down canyon

We thought the hike was over when we discovered Rope Canyon just before we reached the parking area. Scrawled on a rock at the entrance was a warning: “Danger!” That was all we needed to entice us to scramble up the canyon which immediately became so narrow that we had to take our packs off to squeeze through. Chock rocks of various sizes blocked our path, forcing us to either crawl under or scramble over. Thinking of Aaron Ralston’s ordeal of getting trapped by a chock rock that shifted under his weight, pinning his arm to the cliff, I was very careful about placing my trust in these unpredictable boulders.

Karen quickly gained confidence as she ascended the rope
My bright orange pack made a nice color splash
Kim scampers up like a spider…
while the rest of us await our turn
Tanya beams back at us
Making our way back down Ladder Canyon

Everyone made it through with nothing more than a little scrape and tired legs and all agreed it was probably the most fun hike we’d ever done.

Oh, Heck Yeah!

When the winter rains come to these parts, the riding gets interesting, and by interesting, I mean breathless, heart-pounding, white-knuckled FUN!

I’d pretty much given up riding the outlaw motorcycle trails in the local conservancy, not because they are illegal, but because since I fell and sprained my ankle, I was too chicken. Oh, I’d ridden some of the less terrifying sections, but I completely avoided the section that was my nemesis and some of the more technical ones as well. But after a rain, the traction was inspiring AND I was riding with “the boys”.

We climbed Three Hawks, a popular, hiking trail that demands enough technical skill to avoid piles of dog poop while navigating steep switchbacks. Being risk adverse when it comes to such hazards, I rode with extreme caution. The trail joins a fire road which climbs gently for a few miles and offers views of the motorcycle trail (MT) which follows the hog backs of the ridge. At each saddle where the trail drops down to the road, I examined the condition of the trail, looking for ruts that would make the steep descents too perilous for my skill level. It looked mostly good.

The bottom of “Backbreaker” looked mostly good.

The first section of the MT scares me. The climb just to get to the top of Zanja Peak is leg-burning, lung-busting, heart-breaking, steep. This terrifies me worse than a dog poop slalom. If that were the only thing against it, I might climb it, but the descent down the other side is commensurately treacherous. I decided to wait at the first intersection of the road and the MT while Mike, my husband, rode that section. This meant that I had to climb the second section with no momentum to assist in the effort. Joining Mike at the crest, I panted, “Whose idea WAS this?” And then the fun began.

Following Mike through the chest-high brush, the trail was rarely visible but at least I could trust that it was where I remembered it having been as indicated by Mike’s rapidly vanishing backside. All too soon, the trail, bisected by two axle-deep ruts plunged steeply back to the road. A really good rider, like Mike, would have released the brakes and allowed gravity to have its way, trusting the bike to ride the slick hump between the ruts to carry him safely to the bottom. I, being of weak faith, braked, which slid my rear wheel into the rut. I twisted my foot out of the grip of my Speedplay pedal, and dabbed my foot along the high side of the rut all the way to the bottom. “What a tourist!” I muttered to myself. And again, I had to climb the next hill with no assisting momentum. Mike was waiting at the top and kindly refrained from any disparaging comments about my lack of confidence.

The next section was my ankle-spraining nemesis. I approached the summit with some trepidation but Mike was already nearly to the bottom so I had little choice but to point the front tire down the rocky descent and keep my eyes trained as far ahead as possible. To my surprised delight, I found that there was a wide, fairly smooth (no rocks larger than a softball) rut in which I could comfortably track to the bottom. The traction was so sticky that speed control was easy peasy.

After such a boost to my confidence the subsequent hills, though steeper and probably more difficult, were only marginally thrilling until I came to the penultimate lock-em-up, slider descent to the road. I could see Mike waiting at the bottom and yelled down to him, “Where’s the line?”

He hollered back, “Follow my skid marks.” Sincerely hoping he wasn’t referring to any loss of bowel control, I let my bike roll over the lip of the granite outcrop, braking judiciously until it became obvious that braking was futile. I loosened my grip on the brakes, allowing the bike to straighten itself out, and I was instantly catapulted to warp speed. At the bottom of the short drop it was crucial to cut a quick turn to avoid running off the trail into the unknown. Self-preservation prevailed and I carved the turn and skidded breathlessly to a stop inches from Mike’s bike.

Next month I’ll be 67, but today I felt like a 10-year old.

My Kingdom for a Memory

Modern technology is daunting enough for those of us who were not raised with it, but when you combine a confusing array of terms that seem to germinate like weeds, with a post-menopausal memory, well things can get… well, let’s just say funny, for lack of a better word.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that my cell phone wasn’t speaking to me. Puzzled, I went through my settings, adjusted the volume, tried calling myself to check to see if anything I’d done had remedied the situation, and after three tries, lo and behold it rang. But shortly thereafter, my Fitbit vibrated telling me that I had an incoming call, but again the phone was giving me the silent treatment. Finally in desperation, I looked online for the solution and of course, found that the mute button is on the side of my phone and I had only to move it to un-mute. I gleefully told my husband how happy I was to have finally figured out what the problem was. At which point he said, “Oh, yeah, the other day your phone was making noise when you were outside, so I just started pushing buttons to get it to shut up”. He doesn’t even have a cell phone because he…well, I can’t explain his eccentricities, so I can’t imagine how he figured out how to mute mine, especially when it took me an hour to figure out how to un-mute it.

Here’s the “funny” part of the story: I now recall that I had accidentally hit the mute button several months ago and had to ask my great-nephew how to “fix” it. One would think I would have remembered that!

Rules of Civility

As I continue my journey into crabby-old-lady hood, I find more and more little things that people do that aggravate me. Many of these things are probably annoying only to me, but nonetheless, I feel compelled to share them with you that you may be aware of just how crabby we old ladies really are, even when we smile pleasantly and say, “Oh, no, honey, I don’t mind, not a bit.

So, here’s something you might never have guessed is annoying: fabric softener. Some folks clothes smell so strongly of chemically induced fragrance that I can barely stand to ride behind them on the trail. I wonder why anyone, but men in particular, would want to smell like that.

In that same vein is cologne. Fragrance is like music in that hardly anybody likes the same kind. So, play it safe and don’t inflict it on others. Have you ever heard somebody say, “Gee, you don’t smell like anything.”? Nope, they don’t notice; but I guarantee plenty of people have thought to themselves that you smell just awful when your cologne can be smelled across the room. Take a shower once in a while, wash your shirt now and then, and chances are you will smell just fine.

Music is another subjective taste. Don’t assume your neighbors like country western music just because you do. I happen to love classical but I recognize that I’m not in the majority on that. So, if you want to listen to music while working outside, wear earbuds. Same goes for in your car. Nobody wants to have their windows rattled by your car’s sound system. I know you think you sound cool, but you’re not. You’re just annoying.

And, you grown men riding around on loud motorcycles, pretending to be outlaws, you sound stupid. You look like attention seeking little boys yelling, “Mommy look at me!” Grow up.

In the noise department I think my neighbors who fire off mortars for the entire month before a holiday are inconsiderate jerks. It scares the beejeebers out of the neighborhood dogs and wakes crabby old ladies who have been in bed since 9:00, making them even crabbier!

And fireworks segue into barking dogs. People, if you ignore your dog when he barks, he’s not going to be a good watch dog. A good guard dog barks only to alert you to possible danger. If you ignore his barking, he grows anxious because he realizes that he needs his pack leader to back him up. This leads to more barking and even crabbier neighbors.

I walk a lot. I mostly walk on trails but sometimes I have to walk along the street to get to trails. I wonder as I walk, what kind of uncivilized creature tosses his trash on the ground. Even more puzzling is, who on earth thinks it’s okay to dump their old couch into the ditch? C’mon folks, you know better. You should be ashamed. In my county, trash service is mandatory and that service includes twice a year large item (4 items per trip) free pick up. Should that be too convenient to suit you, the county landfill is open six days a week, and for a small fee they will allow you to dump your crap in their ditch.

You would think I would lose steam but I just keep thinking of things, like people who say “like” twenty times in one sentence; or supposedly articulate pundits on the radio who say, “you know’ repeatedly. No, I don’t know; why would you be on the radio telling me if I did know?!?

Okay, now I’m just being petty and I welcome your petty grievances too. I’d be so gratified to learn of something annoying that I might be doing to irritate my own neighbors. The other day, I asked my neighbor if my cats using her yard as a litter box was annoying and she smiled sweetly and said, “No, not a bit”.

Image result for crabby maxine cartoons