A Balcony View: Missing the Crest

Dear Neighbor, I was thinking about you this weekend and wanted to drop a line to tell you how much I miss you.

I remember the first time we met. I was about 3 or 4. We went up to play in the snow. I remember my dad getting our toboggans and snow clothes out of the garage loft. I remember the drive up to see you.

My mom would fill thermoses with cream of mushroom soup. And when we sipped it, the soup was so hot we'd burn our mouths. But the taste of the soup combined with the smell of that crisp winter air is something I'll never forget.

Then there were the weekend camping trips. We'd drive up to Chilao or Charlton Flats in my cousin's 1964 Mustang playing cassettes of Boston and James Taylor. Back then we didn't need overnight camping passes. We'd just go whenever we wanted.

I still remember the condensation that would gather inside the nylon tent, making my little world soggy even on the clearest of evenings. There were the hikes we took to gather firewood and our feasts of Top Ramen, canned chili and hot dogs. When you're 14, you don't need much more.

Then came my senior year of high school and our regular after-school trips up to Switzer's. We'd hike all afternoon after school, pushing ourselves to climb over and around things I wouldn't even dream of attempting these days. Our ultimate reward for risking life and limb was a cold dip in the stream.

In my late 20s, I drove my own car up to Kratka Ridge and Mt. Waterman for a day of skiing. It was always such a beautiful drive, and I loved how I could go from home to mogul run in about an hour. I vividly remember the single-chair ski lift. The crazy little runs. Sometimes icy. Sometimes slushy. And always a blast.

Then came 1999, when I had kids of my own. I remember taking them up for their first day in the snow to the same spot where my dad had taken me 30 years prior. This time it was my turn to fill the thermoses with soup and cool it down with a tiny handful of snow. While they hurled snowballs at one another, I played my rummage-sale accordion.

And then there was last summer, when I was between jobs. I'd spend my mornings looking for work, and in the afternoon, I'd ride my motorcycle up to see you — the smell of wildflowers filling Little Tujunga Canyon. People in cars don't get to experience that with their windows up and air conditioners on. But on a bike, it's one of the bigger perks.

I recall the last time I saw you. I grabbed a sandwich and soda from Mario's and got on my Suzuki. I rode past Switzer's. Beyond the Charlton Flats and Chilao campgrounds. Past the spot where my parents had let me romp around in the snow. Beyond Newcombs Ranch, and farther along the highway than I had ever gone.

The road to Dawson's Saddle had been open for only a few months. And so I rode over the top of your crest and down a few more miles, stopping at a vista where I could see the Mojave Desert in the distance.

I sat alone under one of your enormous tree, eating my sandwich, listening to the birds and wind. Every few minutes another motorcycle would ride by. But for the most part it was just me and you.

Looking back, it's been almost a year since we saw each other. Had I known we'd be apart for so long, I would have stayed longer.

I want you to know that I felt your absence this weekend. I miss my weekend rides. I miss your snow. I miss the fragrance of your flowers and the breeze that sways your giant pines.

I heard you are on the mend. That's music to my ears. Although I'm not quite sure what I'll find when I am able to visit you, one thing is for sure: I can't wait to see my Angeles Crest again.

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