Hike Gone Wrong

Miles and I decided to try hiking down from Inspiration Point (Wildcat Canyon) to San Pablo Dam today. Looked easy enough on the map – a nice wide trail curved its way right on down. Less than two miles, ending in a nice waterside retreat, so only packed one liter of water for the two of us (thought I’d refill at the bottom before the climb back up).

But when we arrived, there were two trail options, neither of them marked. Thinking “They all lead down,” we headed left. After a while, realized we were going parallel to the mountain, not down it, so bushwhacked the rest of the way down through dry grass and brambles, where we found a decomposing cow, with skull still attached to the spine – very cool.

1/4 mile from the dam, our progress was blocked by a barbed wire fence. Clambered under it only to face a steep, slippery hill covered in poison oak – Miles is super sensitive to p.o., so that was a definite no-go. Found a drainage tunnel as a possible alternate route through, but after getting part way in, felt it was just too scary and backed out.

At this point, our progress was totally blocked and we had no idea where the mapped trail was. Heat was approaching 80 degrees, water was running out, and M just wanted to go home. Stopped to eat some beef jerky, and almost immediately M started to complain that he felt sick. So there I was with a sick, overheated kid, with limited water and no clear idea how to get back up the mountain except to bushwhack the entire way. Told him it was going to be tough, but it was time to stand up and make it happen. He was brave about it, and willing.

Had to stop every couple hundred feet for him to rest, trying to find a bit of shade here and there. If I could have carried him I would have, but he’s just too big for that now. Rationed out the water sip by sip.

About halfway up the hill, we finally found the trail we should have been on to begin with, and things got a bit easier. Got home, slathered him with Tecnu, and showered. All is well, but it was scary for a bit there.

I know it probably sounds crazy, but this is how we roll most of the time, making it up as we go along. We’ve been hiking like this since he was a baby, never completely sure what the next step will be until it happens. Most of the time, it works out fantastic – there’s no better way to discover than to discover by accident. But every now and then, things get a bit dicey. This was one of those days.

In retrospect, the only two things I could have done differently would have been to A) Pack more water than I thought we needed and B) Asked around or done more to figure out which trail was the right one before starting (though, again, we do like to try trails just to see what happens).

Anyway, great adventure day, and I’m proud of M for soldiering through.

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