Friday, August 26, 2011

The Blue Ridge Trail

The Blue Ridge Trail
11" X 14"

Most call the crest to the south of town Blue Ridge. I've always loved that name. Maybe people call it that because from a distance it appears blue, but I believe it comes from the way it looks in late afternoon when the ridge and valley tumble into shadow; casting cool, calm, blue shadows that whisk the heat out of even the hottest day. I've studied that shade of blue for many years now, calling it Wrightwood Shadow—which if you've seen it—you know that blue. If not, you must see it some day. The dark blue-gray trim on our house is that color, or used to be, before the sun beat on it for a few years.

One of my favorite short walks is the trail that starts at Big Pines and moseys its way upward snaking in and out a deep canyon that creases Blue Ridge. Secret lush folds filled with greens of every shade. In the fall, it is especially beautiful as the oak leaves shift to golds and russet reds; the poison oak turns scarlet, and the currant bushes become school bus yellow, dotted with shriveled fruit overlooked by the birds.

The trail begins with a couple of whoop-dee-doos and curves around to drop you into a drainage where a stout, but short wood bridge crosses a little stream. I mean really little. Most folks would call it a dribble, except for those rare periods after one of our torrential downpours. That’s why the bridge is stout, to withstand the storms that transform our dry and serene mountain to a beast that spews mud and rock—and raging rivers into every low spot that might hint at being a gully.

After the bridge the trail climbs steadily, winding in and out of the ridge folds until it opens up to a broad view of the valley to the east. After one last steep stretch, the trees shade the trail once again. So it’s always a surprise when you pop out onto the shoulder of the ridge, suddenly in a shady campground next to a site usually occupied by a family munching breakfast around the campfire. You get the wide-eyed look as they wonder where you came from and if they are about to be robbed (city folk—all strangers are scary until proven otherwise).

We like to cross the campground and sit on the south side of the ridge where you can see Mt. Baden Powell and the basin, often covered in an ocean of clouds. It’s a nice place to sit and cool down while enjoying a hand full of gorp before heading back down the trail—always as pretty going down as it is going up.

This painting is the view from one of my favorite places on the trail, where you look up into a fisheye bowl of green topped with pines that tower over you. It’s difficult to grasp the scale of this spot unless you are there in person. The trees are huge, the canyon vast and steep; you are a mere spec, dwarfed by the landscape on this simple trail.

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