Guest Column: Confessions of a forest addict

Since it is the time of year for making resolutions to become a better person, I have decided to make a public confession. At the beginning of last summer I became an addict.

It began as an exploration for a new sensation, as so many wrecked lives do, and I thought I would have kicked the habit at least by the fall.

But it is winter already and I am caught in the toils of something much bigger than I am. That something is the Angeles National Forest. Going there every day has become as much of a compulsion as any fix.

One day, when the warm weather started, I decided to get up while it was still dark, take a hike and watch the sun come up. It was wonderful and I did it again the next day.

Six months later, it still is. A lot has changed, of course, but all the essentials are still there: the perfect quiet and the sense of having that entire ring of mountains to yourself, the long, long views and the glorious moment when the sun peeps over the horizon and floods the mountain tops in an orange glow.

It’s the Southern California version of Omar Khayyam’s verse:

“AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night

Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight.”

I had imagined that by this time of year it would be cold and damp up there, and some days, it is; though even then, the swirling clouds add a mysterious element to the scene.

But mostly it is mild and dry, even before the sun reaches you. Whenever I have doubts, I look up the weather forecast for Glossop, a town near where I was born, set on the edge of the Pennine Hills, the so-called backbone of England, which divides the wet and clammy eastern half of the country from the wetter and clammier west.

In winter, the Glossop seven-day forecast is likely to read something like this: scattered showers, light rain, rain, heavy rain, rain mixed with snow, snow, snow and fog. Since the trails there are where I first learned to love hiking, perhaps my daily surprise at the benignity of our mountains is understandable.

The hike I take most often is a one-hour roundtrip on the fire road up from the Forest Service fire station on Angeles Crest Highway, a mere mile inside the forest, and only a few minutes from anywhere in La Cañada. It too seems to be part of a benign plan. Unlike most mountain hikes, which save the toughest parts for the end, this one has its gentlest slope in the last few minutes. I’m guessing the whole elevation gain is a not-to-be-despised, but not-to-be-apprehensive-about, 500 ft.

I hope you will try it. There, at the turnaround point, the slugabeds in the whole of the Los Angeles basin, from Long Beach to the Santa Monica mountains, are stretched out before you. You will be delighted by the feeling of superiority that thought brings.

REG GREEN ( lives in La Cañada and is the author of The Nicholas Effect (

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