I love my job and have a hard time taking a day off. There’s always a dog who needs walking at 2pm or a yogi who wants a private class at 10am. But this past Saturday I only had two doggie daycares in the book, so I loaded up those pups and my husband, extra water and treats and we headed east for Julian, a high elevation town in Southern California. Julian is only 90 minutes from my house but the scenery is so exquisite that a trip requires the whole day.
People generally disagree with me if I call myself lazy so instead I’ll call myself tired. The dogwalking, the yoga, the dancing- it all makes my body tired. So I wanted a flat hike. I wanted to amble about in the trees and enjoy standing still while the dogs smelled coyote poop. I learned that Cuyamaca State Park has only one hike that allows dogs, called Lookout Fire Road, that ironically leads up to the highest peak in the park. So we did that hike and it was beautiful. I don’t see snow on a regular basis anymore (since moving from the East Coast) and the ice clinging to tree branches made for some natural bling. The views exemplified the diversity of California’s landscape, which I had never thought about as a kid or young adult. “California” was a concept or a feeling that signified freedom and wildness more than it was a physical place.
Julian (really the mountains and trails surrounding it) were part of my first trip to SoCal back in 2007 (ish.) I was unhappily living with my then-boyfriend in the Bay Area. We were both too lazy to initiate a breakup (in retrospect because our rent was unbeatable) so when my friend Niki invited me to road trip to San Diego for Thanksgiving, I readily accepted.
On Thanksgiving morning, while our host juggled the preparation of a buffet feast for 25 people, we met up with Niki’s friend from back in the day when girls wore XXL cargo pants. She warned me that Mike doesn’t censor his speech and I shouldn’t take anything he says seriously. When he pulled up in a small black hatchback, I noticed that he was bald and it looked like his big nose had been broken a few times.
We drove an hour east into Julian and wound up hiking a trail where the trees were blackened and bare from a fire in 2003. The color contrasts were dramatic- black trees, blue sky, mint green grasses. We would hike for a while, then all stand still and listen to the silence.
There in the middle of nowhere, Niki got that holiday call from her mother where the phone gets passed around the room so each family member can say hello. She glued her feet to one spot for fear of losing the delicate reception so Mike and I kept moseying along the trail. Somewhere in those 15 minutes talking to him alone, I noticed him.
By the time we arrived back at our host’s house, strangers with heaping plates were sitting on every cushioned surface. When it was dark and half the guests were gone, a singer/songwriter broke out her guitar and did a mini-performance in the living room. Mike and I cuddled in the corner of the maroon couch and didn’t care who saw.
We progressed from emailing each other to him showing up for random weekends in the Bay (I was no longer with my boyfriend.) Within a few months I moved to LA so his weekend commute to visit me would be shorter, then I moved to San Diego. Our lives could’ve unfolded any number of ways but a major unfolding happened in the mountains near Julian.