You would think the recent succession of gray mornings would be a signal for the few hikers who go out early into the local mountains to pull the bedclothes over their heads. Instead, they are an eye-opener. And with more June glooming looming, there should be more to come.
It's true that when, at six o'clock, you drive up Angeles Crest Highway, your mood often reflects the thickening drabness. For most of the time you are on your own but, peering through the mist, from time to time you see, coming toward you, strings of cars, headlights on — five, 10 at a time — bumper-to-bumper. Since places to overtake are few and far between on this winding, two-lane road, you might wonder if they have kept in that formation, staring at that same license plate in front of them, all 40 miles from Palmdale.
But then a wonderful thing happens. In the space of perhaps a hundred yards the mist thins and disappears and in front of you the whole bowl of mountains is bathed in sunlight: from black-and-white to Technicolor in a few seconds. That point marks the very end of June gloom. From here on you could travel north or east for hundreds of miles without seeing a wisp.
A couple of miles from Foothill you come to the first trailhead in the national forest. Usually there's no need to go further. Below you, clouds are still surging up the Arroyo, but here the sun is warm. Or, as Robert Browning put it about just such a day, "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world." And for a while it certainly seems so.
After a mile of hiking up the fire road, surrounded by sunlit peaks, you come to the first long view south. On some days the entire view, from east to west, and into the ocean, is covered in fleecy clouds, depressing when seen from underneath (even the fish are snuggled under their bedclothes) but gold-streaked gossamer looked at from above. In the far distance a few peaks or Catalina Island may stick out — more magic.
On less cloudy days the mist, blown about by a soft breeze, makes swift-changing patterns — the 4500 block of Commonwealth Avenue socked in, maybe, the 4900 block clear — a family in the first block saying, "When is this weather going to end?" and one in the second, "Don't forget the sunscreen!"
Occasionally I am overtaken by one or two cyclists who, I calculate, travel about 50% faster uphill than I do and come down at the speed of light. We exchange a few words and they move on and are soon swallowed up in the emptiness. To them, I think, I am Man Friday, trudging slowly but steadily up the hill; but to me, I am reliving every time the liberation that being high up and alone in the mountains brings.
REG GREEN (firstname.lastname@example.org) and his wife, Maggie, who live in La Cañada, were the subject of the Jamie Lee Curtis made-for-TV movie, "Nicholas' Gift."