Off The Map Week Three: Pick Your Poison

Editor’s Note: After a year's hiatus, the chronicle of Bryan Snyder's misadventures in the Western high country, "Off The Map", returns to the pages of The Evening Sun. Besides the usual tales of Rocky Mountain mischief, Bryan will report from the drought-afflicted backcountry of Southern California and the snow-capped, slumbering volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest.

That settled it. This trail had now broken into the ranks of the Top Five Worst Trails Ever. Congratulations, stupid trail. Anyone you would like to thank while accepting your trophy? Up until this point, I had been able to contort my body like a ninja, ducking and dodging the poison oak branches that arched menacingly over the path. But finally, two bushes on opposite sides of the trail had pooled their poisonous resources and closed the distance between them, making it impossible to pass without contamination. I could already predict that in about three days, when the itchiness began, I would find myself deeply regretting these next few footsteps.

This was supposed to have been a slightly-romantic vacation to the rugged stretch of California coastline known as Big Sur, where fog-enshrouded mountains drop straight down to the ocean shore, and where the coastal highway that clings to the cliffs is frequently shattered by landslides. The trip had begun so pleasantly, too. Kitty and I had witnessed a stunning sunset the night before, when the blanket of fog over the ocean glowed amber from the rays of subdued sunlight. But the next morning, bad advice led us to the unmarked trailhead for the Little Sur Trail, and bit by bit, our good fortune began to erode away.

We descended into a redwood forest - a landscape that warps one’s perspective so severely that I could see why George Lucas used it to represent the forest moon of Endor in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.” All we needed were a few diminutive, furry Ewoks glaring out of their hoods and jabbing spears at us to complete the otherworldly impression. The trees were so tall that they strained the neck as well as credulity. Even what passed for clover in these parts seemed oversized; the three-leafed redwood sorrel grew from the fallen needles of the forest floor, forming a dense, vibrant layer of shamrocks that mirrored the emerald ceiling of treetop branches high overhead.

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