The Writing

02 October, 2011

seeking quiet places

Not an easy trick in Los Angeles. There are hiking trails, certainly--a lot of them. But many/most are close enough to populated areas that you hear traffic. I, unlike Nous, can handle seeing/hearing people on the trail (He grouses. Mr. Curmudgeon). But cars? Seriously? Bah.

Anyway, in our ever expanding quest for hiking trails with trees (because that's the other thing, out here. The hills are scrubby, not foresty. We're about 5k feet lower here than we were in Boulder, so big shock! The arboreal inhabitants are different. But yeah. Not a lot of shade on these pacific coastal mountain hikes), we ended up an hour north and east, in the San Gabriels. We did find trees. They were not towering pine, but they were taller than we were. A plus. And we got away from the road. Glory! Rocks and roots and steep and running water and people, but whatever, and canyons and... it was nice. Hot, because October in Los Angeles is like that, but nice. I have the world's best hiking shoes, these magenta/purple/grey Merrell's, meant to go in and out of water. This means I don't stress crossing the streams. I just splash through. Cool feet for the win!

But anyway. The coolest part, for me, was the little break we took at a rocky little pool off the main trail. The stream, which was moving downhill with some determination, took a break here. Lots of rocks, not a lot of watery movement. The sun was over the canyon by this point, so it was shady and cool. And there were little tiny toads on the rocks. The biggest was the size of my thumb joint. The other two were smaller than my finger tips. You could just pick them out, these little patches of not-matching grey, on the river rocks.

I love toads. My first pet ever was a garden toad named Josephine. I kept her in a dad-made screen-in hutch and caught her fresh bugs every day. The day I graduated high school, I found a (cold, unhappy) toad in the gutter while I was walking the dog and brought it home. To my mother's horror and my aunt's delight, the toad warmed up in my pocket and leapt out, right into the middle of the kitchen table. I couldn't plan this stuff if I tried.

These little Angelino toads were cold, on their sunless rocks. They didn't react when you touched them (which of course I did, very gently, because toad!). I coaxed one--carefully! because they were so, so tiny!-- into crawling onto my hand, where it marched up and down my thumb and palm. I could just feel its little sticky toes gripping my skin, and its chilly skin, and the surprising strength in its toes as it hauled itself around this warm, unrocky surface on which it found itself. I don't know how much of me it could actually see, when I held it up to eye level. Then of course I let it go. It was reluctant. I think it liked the heat from my hand. But once it realized that no, it had to go, it jumped into the pool and vanished. Shortly thereafter we stood up, and the other toads noticed omg!wtf! Big Shapes! and also vacated. Just as well for the toads, because a family with very small children was on its way down.

But for ten minutes, there was no one at all except me, Nous, and these toads. And that was awesome.