I did a little elevation running. My go-to spot is still closed – the Brown Mountain area (haven’t even written those two words in a while – I sure do miss it – only 6 more months ‘til it reopens – gahd!) So I went up to Sierra Madre to visit with the Mt Wilson trail (Home of the Mt Wilson Trail Race on Memorial Day Weekend. See you there!)
In my head, the Wilson trailhead is really far away and really high up there in the mountains compared to the Brown trailhead so it always feels like quite a trek to get up there on Mindful Mule. I checked it out on a map, though, and while it’s true that it is further (9.5mi vs. 6.5mi) it’s actually lower in elevation by about 150 feet (1150 vs. 1000). This doesn’t sound like much but it was enough to blow my mind. It just doesn’t seem possible. What’s more, even the top of Devil’s Gate Dam is 50 feet higher (1050) than the Wilson trailhead – crazy! If you’re standing at the bottom of the Devil’s Gate Dam, with your feet soaking in the river, under the 210 overpass (right where I couldn’t cross the high water last week), you’re at the same elevation as Wilson trailhead (1000). In my mind, I’d pegged Wilson trailhead at something like the Top o’ Lake, Echo Mtn trailhead which I now know is at about the 1800 foot elevation. No matter how many different ways I try to phrase this it never makes any sense to me.
On paper, riding to the two trailheads shouldn’t be that different. But the geography of my mind is clearly different from the geography of the topographical map. Still, I think there’s room to say that that doesn’t mean either geography is wrong/right or better/worse. I think they are just two very different ways of understanding the world around us. And while I do like maps (a lot) and knowing mileage to different places around town by heart, and elevations and geographical names of peaks, etc., occasionally putting that way of knowledge aside to sink into place, into earth seems ultimately of higher value.
Spend time with a landscape and you’ll get to know her, as she’ll get to know you. Distance and elevation fade. The four directions become: mountains, sunset, sunrise, downstream, shade, arroyo, cool, exposed, ridgeline, meadow… Journeys themselves start to become a part of the one doing the journeying. You become entrenched, inseparable from the land under your feet. Like going home. And while, as they say, you can never go home again, I think this is a realm in which we might look to find the way.