By Justin McDaniel
I grew up hiking a fair amount. In the summers I would accompany my family to Mammoth Lakes for a week or two. There was fishing (though I never caught a fish) and there was some golf (though I was even worse at that than fishing) and by the time I was nine I had seen every James Bond movie during those Mammoth vacations. But mostly I remember the hiking. The names were wonderfully illustrative to a small child: Crystal Lake, Dragon’s Back, Duck Pass, Devil’s Postpile. 25 years later they are still fun to say.
My favorite of all the hikes was Sky Meadows, a four-mile round trip of easy-to-moderate difficulty. It started in a dense forest where the sun only poked through occasionally, crossing a creek named Coldwater several times before arriving at Emerald Lake. Another mile or so brought you to the meadows, with a small stream running through. I was always there in summer though sometimes there were patches of snow. I’ve never been to the Swiss Alps but I cannot imagine any of their meadows are more pleasant than Sky Meadows.
But, despite those childhood memories at Mammoth, I remember one hike when I was even younger – I was probably five. It was a birthday party for a friend; I remember it was a girl but I do not remember her name or even who she was. The adults took us to the Eaton Canyon Nature Area and we walked the relatively flat trail to the waterfall. We had been told to look out for snakes and in my mind I imagined snakes being everywhere, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but in fact we never saw a single one. (Though this did not stop several of the boys from claiming they had seen rattlesnakes when the hike was over.) One kid threw a piece of trash onto the hill and everyone else started yelling “Litterer! Litterer!”
I don’t remember how long that hike lasted. In my mind it seems like it was all afternoon, but I realize it was probably less than an hour. I remember it more as snapshots – the things I mentioned above, the way the waterfall looked, the smell of nature. There have been hundreds of hikes since then but very few I have liked more.
Do you remember your first hike? Please share.
Justin McDaniel has been writing professionally for more than a decade and hiking the trails of the Angeles for almost three decades