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GREAT HIKES: What? Me Lead?:

It doesn’t happen very often, just the luck of the draw, but last week’s hike at Capri started off as a lonely affair. I was there on time, waiting for the usual crowd of regulars until the realization slowly sank in that this was going to be a solo trek.

At first, I thought I’d make the best of it and try out a little side trail that appeared to link Capri to Rustic Canyon. It is a rickety wooden-step descent across from the huge, boxy water storage structure now under construction on Capri. I had been curious about it for a long time but no one else expressed interest in exploring the eccentric course.

However, as I walked toward the trailhead, there was one newbie, patiently looking for our fabled hiking group to guide her into the wilderness. She had read this little column, donned her boots and water toting fanny-pack and was ready for adventure.

Of course, she didn’t know that I hadn’t actually led a hike for seasons. I write about them, usually from the perspective of sweep, my confidence bolstered by a troop of folks ahead of me. Following a train of experienced hikers is a very different mind-set than the responsibility of leading an inexperienced hiker.

I couldn’t disappoint her and I couldn’t, in good conscience, take a newbie on an unexplored trail. But, she was fit and game, so we descended a more familiar down trail into Rustic, which proved to be remarkably over-grown with a number of treacherous drop-offs. It was a slow descent (all the better to disguise my poor conditioning) with a few course decisions that I luckily guessed correctly.

Rustic is especially beautiful now, with a healthy stream, lots of green, and abundant wildflowers. The broken down horse stalls and other abandoned buildings are always a curiosity. Just beyond the “boarded up barn” we took the uptrail back to Capri, pausing by the hidden but massive old water tank, and exited around the stone entrance gates to the paved road.

I wasn’t happy about the several face-fulls of spider webs, but it was otherwise a warm and pleasant trek. Plus, we didn’t get lost once and made it back to the Capri Traihead exactly on time. The newbie either thought that I knew what I was doing or she was politely grateful to get back unscathed. Now, if I can just explore those old wooden steps…Fearless readers interested in free Monday and Wednesday night hikes may contact Scott Regberg at (310) 475-5735.

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