Exercising inside makes me want to give up and die. Add an instructor hollering and bouncing around and I will jump out the gym window. “I need someone yelling at me to get my butt in gear!” is 100% the opposite of how I feel about it.
Here’s what I like: silence and being outside. But I don’t really like to jog, and walking for exercise takes more time than I usually have without kids screaming at me, which I also don’t like (see paragraph #1).
Then I got wise: hiking is walking outside where it’s quiet! In Japan, I thought of tourism as exercise, so I built that into my schedule as needed. I saw loads of interesting things, and it sure beat spending the same amount of time at the gym. And hiking is sort of the tourism of SoCal, right? I have found peace.
It is easy to hike to the Lake Ramona dam. First, I called my dad:
“Hey Dad, I’m going hiking alone and wanted to let you know so you can alert the authorities if I get eaten by a mountain lion.”
“If you see a mountain lion, you’ll be famous.”
“If I get eaten by a shark I’ll be famous too, but I’d rather not be famous.”
“Ok, where are you parking?”
I parked at the Blue Sky Reserve trailhead where Espola Road elbows and told my dad to expect to hear from me before I had to pick the kids up from preschool. The trail starts with just over a mile down a dirt road to the turn off for the Lake Poway loop trail. Then the trail departs the cool shade of the road and heads up the hills for the last mile or so. The recent rain storms had eroded parts of the road and turned everything brilliant green. Soon, Lake Poway glittered in the sun across the valley, and hawks circled below. Lake Ramona stretched out below the dam.
It was silent at the top of the dam except for the thick hum of bees. I hiked off the road to see if the air was clear enough to spot the Pacific. I crested a small saddle and there it was—more hills, and the ocean beyond. I could smell the sea air. It was cooler on this side of the hill, but the sun was warming up the rocks nicely. Should I scramble to the top of that ledge? I considered this for a bit, suddenly conscious of my exposed ankles and the prevalence of rattlesnake warnings. I picked some white sage (good for warding off bad luck, right?) and googled “snake bite hiking death.” The internet says you could hike your way out even with a rattlesnake bite, as long as emergency care was waiting, and that the real danger was freaking out after getting bit and flailing and slipping off a cliff. Well. I hadn’t even thought about that. I would totally flail.
So I hiked back down, which was good, because from the road I could see the ledge I was about to hike up to was actually a precipice. Although, now plenty of people were hiking up, so probably someone could have carried me if I got bit by a snake. Then I forgot all about snakes, because little orange flowers were opening up across the hill. Those weren’t there an hour ago! I grew up hearing about my mom’s favorite flower—wild California poppies, and here they were! It seems January showers bring February flowers in Poway! Wildflowers on a hillside will always beat out the gym.
Back at the car, it looked like all the hiking was about six miles round trip, and I texted my dad a selfie to establish I had not, in fact, become mountain lion lunch. But there’s always next time.
The Hike: Lake Ramona
The Distance: Just under five miles, plus sight seeing at the top (two or three hours, hiking slowly)
The Weather: sunny, mid-60s F — light jacket
The Verdict: Totally fun, bonus poppies!