Friday morning was a sad time because we all had to say goodbye to each other, and leave our beautiful Arizona Airbnb home. It was a signal to the kids that Spring Break was coming to an end. Tanner and Laurie had to go home and go back to work. I had to go home and continue my retirement (hee hee).
The quickest route back for me would be to cut directly west into Los Angeles, pick up Interstate 5, and make the many many many many miles drive home on I-5. Boring. (I just checked and of my 1,385 mile – 2,229 km – trip home to Oregon, 981.4 of those miles would be on I-5!) Considering that I began by heading south through Idaho and Utah, then returning through California made a loop.
My route was direct, and clear, and there was nothing to do but settle back and let the miles roll past me. I saw beautiful mountains, and a couple of nice spots with saguaro cacti and a few Joshua Trees, but it was all freeway with no good places to stop except one nice rest stop.
Going west meant I would be heading directly for Los Angeles! Yuck. Who wants to drive there? Not me. So I found a place to camp outside of Altadena, California. Instead of heading all the way into the city of LA, I turned off the main road early and headed for the mountains.
I managed to get to Altadena in seven hours, and since I didn’t start driving until 11:00, that was perfect timing. It was still light out when I got to town and stopped for something to eat.
I did a search on my phone for restaurants nearby. I got SO lucky and found the greatest little bar called The Altadena Ale & Wine House. I drove past it and didn’t even see it. So I parked, and walked to it. It seemed tiny inside, with room for only a bar and stools, and a couple of tables for two. I spotted a doorway to another room, but no one was in there, maybe because the weather was too nice and they sat in the patio instead. The friendly bartender (owner?) asked me for proof of vaccination (that is so reassuring to me), then happily served me a wine and told me about their custom handmade pizzas. She was the only one there, so she said it would take a while, but the pizza would be delicious. It was! And there wasn’t much of a wait.
While waiting for service, and then waiting for pizza, I observed the other customers. I sat outside, after scooting past the bar, out to a storage area, and through a doorway to the patio, which was large enough to accommodate four tables. It was clear that most of the customers knew each other, and most of them knew the bartender; they may as well have walked here from their homes – it felt like that. The place felt easy and comfortable, and there was conversation between tables. The bartender spotted my hiking boots and asked if I had just got off the trail. I told her I was heading out there, and would hike in the morning, and she was eager to tell me about all her favourite trails that begin at the trail head I would be camping at.
I wrapped the leftover pizza (it would be a good breakfast) and headed the final couple of miles to the trailhead. It suddenly became magical like a Hollywood movie, as my road twisted directly up the mountainside. I passed groups of cars parked precariously at every curve with a view of the valley. I followed their example and pulled over for a couple of photographs.
I got to the parking area and discovered to my surprise that I had to hike in to the camp sites. Well, I was prepared for that (remember a week earlier when I brought my backpack to hike into my camp at Petrified Forest NP?). I parked next to a couple who had parked a few minutes before I arrived, and began to load up my pack. When I was done I walked the way they had gone.
By the time I got to the campsites, it was completely dark. It was also warm and quiet and pleasant and I was in a great mood due to the perfect bar I had just left and the absolutely darling and friendly town of Altadena. I knew there were six available spots here, as described on the trailhead website. I could see a few campfires, and more than six tents scattered through the trees already. I suspected this would be the case, since it was a Friday night outside one of the largest metro areas in the world (at 15.7 million, LA is in the top 20, but not top 10).
My plan B was to keep on walking! I knew I was in a National Forest, and since I am a citizen and a taxpayer, that forest belongs to me. So I walked happily along the trail that continued up the hill. I spotted a flat area that turned out to be access to a water tower (maybe water for Altadena?). It seemed as good as any spot, so I set up my tent and gratefully climbed into my sleeping bag. With one occasional bar of cell service, I was able to have a stuttered conversation and eventually let Pedro know I was safe and warm and goodnight.