Red Rock Canyon, Suburban Myth
I had planned to sit and wallow that Tuesday afternoon. I had managed just enough chocolate ice cream left to fill my day with complaints about my lack of mobility, grumbling, as I was, at the local scene before me. I desperately wanted to get away, and as if on cue, the gods sent me the answer to all my troubles, and all the doubts of man:
I scoured the pages for hours trying to craft my local getaway until I came upon it: nestled in California suburbia, in a town overlooked like the many others nearby, there it lay – Red Rock Canyon, home to Lake Forest and all its Stepford inhabitants.
(Red Rock Canyon, Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Lake Forest, CA)
Yelp review after Yelp review pinned Red Rock Canyon as a SoCal gem, so, true to my 23-year-old-independent-college-grad self I leapt out of bed, slipped into my pair of 6-year old chucks, grabbed two bottles of water, 2 packs of pumpkin seeds (60 grams of protein per pack!) and headed off the beaten path toward the 241 S.
I was immediately transported into another land, some 100 yards north of the neighboring Ralph's parking lot entrenched in civilization. To the regular observer, nothing lay here save for mommy's best playdate and a Roth IRA. But 100 yards soon became 1 mile, and the boxes on the hillside soon gave way to uncharted territory: Cacti slept in multiple groves along the valley; lizards dove for cover as prairie squirrels galloped over bushes and broken branches. I was no longer at home, and no longer in bed. I was here, in my suburban oasis.
I kept moving then, eager to to follow the path of descending conglomerate to the origins of its sandstone path. Dirt turned gravel, turned beach sand as the path before me pinked arkosic, and the once calm stroll became a strenuous hike up a mammoth mountain.
I paused and took sight of what had become my day. Here I was, not even 5 miles out from my urban cage, and yet I had been set free. With my feet perched in between the groves of the land, dust on my knees and sand on my hands, here I sat, ready to take on anything if it meant breathing just a little bit longer again.
I climbed and climbed still, not yet satisfied with the height, or perhaps pushing my luck just a little bit further, until I came upon the end of the trail. The sign warned all who passed of the danger and loss of liability to anyone foolish enough to venture farther off the beaten path. But, as the warning settled, I remembered that the fool, in literature, often had the most insightful perspective, and thus my foolish behavior might actually bring me wisdom, if only I could travel, just... a little... bit... farther...
And when I did, the moment was spectacular.
I didn't have the shoes to climb, or the soles that gripped the land, but I had the will to see the sight on the other side. So, ignoring the warning signs — the actual sign itself and the hole on my right shoe, and the half-empty bottle of water and the setting sun — I made my way for the remarkable climb.
It wasn't until I nearly slipped to my death that I decided that further didn't necessarily mean farther if there was no point to come back from. So, as I stood at the top of the cliff, the sand slipping from underneath my Converse, I chuckled. Because how quickly my view had changed, from simply owning my place and exploring it.
And all it took was a Yelp review and a destination.