1. Rattlesnake Peak
They had called it Rattlesnake Peak. Truth be told, my grandpa and I had trouble finding the mountain. If I knew I could have told you where the trailhead was but in all honesty if I were to ever return the location would have been lost to me. I was nine years old then and about the only thing I remember is that the day was very hot and we had been hiking for some hours when we finally disappeared.
My brother can tell the story. He had seen us in the distance trudging along when suddenly, we twisted at 45 degree angles and descended into darkness. When he made it to the end of the trail he saw nothing but trees and abyss. But me, now I see it clearly. I see now how the mountain cut this way and that and here were footprints traced gently over roots and sand and gravel.
We slid on two feet down into the belly of the snake. It was dark and you could hardly see the sky above. Maybe there was conversation. We talked about how we had left them all behind. Here was the congo line. There was us and there was my brother behind and there was everyone else. It was nothing cruel. They would all turn back in the end.
But us — not us. It might have been early afternoon when we emerged. On the ground, there might have been a sundial and emerging from the sundial might have been a signpost. I know there was a box with hinges and in the box there was a notebook. We wrote two names. Closed the book. Closed the box. All but memories.
2. Mount Hollywood
When I was 18 and still a freshman, I drove down with my friends to LA and took them around to visit. I wanted to take them somewhere fun like Baldy or Mt. Wilson or maybe even Rattlesnake Peak and they had this look on their face that said that they didn’t so we settled for hiking around Hollywood instead. It was a painfully hot day and we only had a bottle of water each. By the time we got to the top we were sweating and I think someone had a sunburn. The hardest part was probably the last. None of us had the right shoes and at points I felt like I was rock climbing.
But when we scrambled up there it felt like I had done something I hadn’t done in years. We took a photo at the top and when we went back down I jumped as hard as I could. I flew down the mountain and bounced this way and that like a pinball machine and at the very end I nearly smashed my face into a rock. But I twisted at the last minute and when I landed on my two feet, unharmed and still steady, I felt good.
I had missed this, I thought. The feeling of giving yourself up to the mountain and not knowing if you would make it out the other end. Of taking a wrong turn and finding yourself some thousand feet off of the trail and wondering if you would need to call for help. I was thinking all of these things for a good while until my friends came down and clapped me on the back and suddenly I was myself again. Like nothing had ever happened. All I was, all I am: someone who has tried to live and is somehow alive for it.
3. Half Moon Bay
One time my roommate and I woke up at four in the morning and drove to Half Moon Bay to see the sunrise. It was dark and cold and when I got in the car I was still shivering. We drove for what seemed like hours in that endless darkness but by the time we got there the clock said it was only thirty minutes. Sometimes it is like that.
My roommate went to the trunk to get out his tripod because he was shooting a video for a class project. In the meantime I went for a walk along the coast. I just kept walking and at some point I stopped and watched because in this place the waves were so big that they were almost leaping onto the sidewalk. Sometimes I would get scared because of how big the waves were and once I thought I would even be washed away.
But I was safe, always safe, and I stood there for a while looking at the ocean waiting for the sun to rise. It was only maybe half an hour later that we realized we were on the wrong side of the continent. The sun rises in the east, not the west, and here we were standing on some Californian beach waiting for a beautiful sunrise that would never come.
And yet it was still worth it. The sky got lighter and the ocean got louder and at some point we were standing beneath it all. This is it, I thought. This is what I’ve been waiting for. But it could only last so long, that wonderful moment, and eventually it all passed and we packed up everything and went back home. I have had many adventures like this, many short moments, and all we can ever do is pick through the good ones.