Tainted [Oak] Trail Love

Father’s Day dawned with not a clue of what was to transpire. The Original Plan was to drive up into the mountains, and extract a meaningful run from the trails. And thus I would honor the Billions of Unborn that had sprung from my loins into the aether.

However, Fate intervened. CalTrans had closed Highway 2 just above the sleeping and complacent exurb of La Pinata. A blinking sign notified the hordes of suicidal rice-rocketeers that there was a brush fire in progress, so kindly go elsewhere. But as not to discriminate, this aviso was extended to the general public as well.

I put the Squirrel into a 180-drift, and lost only one of the 40” spinnies I’d put on last week, and continued down to the Windsor/Arroyo parking lot. I wedged in amongst all the agitated Velo-Bobs, and began my Final Preparations.

And so were they, anticipating a crankin’ drive up to Mt Wilson-Phillips, and then to hurl themselves off the top from Red Box, and like be ragin’and shit down through Switzer’s Camp, and then down the Arroyo. I was not one to shatter their young eggshell minds on dawn’s highway with any bad news.

Proceeding up the Arroyo was a bucolic ramble up the well-worn trail. My shoes had not gotten wet more than four times. Just before Oakwilde the trail was a complete washout, and I freestyled up the streambed until the trail came back into view.

At Oakwilde there are two choices—continue up to Switzer’s Camp, or take the shortened uphill Ken Burton Trail to the Brown Mountain Road.

The taste of adventure and enchanting madness calls. Cross the stream, and marvel at the cool gray rocks and stream, as yet untainted by fat Velo-Bobs hurtling down the trail from Red Box on their one-way sprint to Altadena.

The first clue that this outing was going to be different was that 50 vertical feet of trail were washed out. So far, so good. The bugs were happy to see me, and tried to tell me what delights awaited.

The first Poison Oak Tunnel was a fun transit of about 10'. On my hands and knees, scooting through an emerald green canopy, I saw the world from a feral pig’s point of view. Reaching a clearing and standing up, I was congratulating myself for getting through without getting swiped.

Almost. I realized my fannypack and waist bottles had gotten the Green Touch. Shit! Rolling the dice here, I grubbed up a handful of trail dirt, rubbed into the nipples, then squirted water to rinse. Hopefully, goodbye poison oak. I began my wait.

Climbing up the Ken Burton, I was blessed with a view of the Angeles Crest that was completely devoid of the hornet-whine of motorcyclists. And also the wail of ambulances, and whumpa-whumpa of medevac choppers hauling the living remains down to Huntington General in the San Gabriel Valley. Tucked into the browning hillsides was the ash-grey wedge remains of a brush fire, looking for all the world like a carbonized pubic thatch.

I thrashed through overgrown weeds and shrubbery, feeling smug that Mr Poison Oak was a receding memory. Not so fast, Little Squirrel! Here, not even a short quarter mile from the junction of the Brown Mt Road, was a veritable grove of the Oak! Shiny, green, and waving sinuously in the breeze. I paused, and pondered my next move.

Facing the inevitable, I plowed forward--no escape. The Oak swished my narrow ass from all sides—from ankles to elbows.

Grim-faced and on the clock, I made the trail junction. Every move now has to be calculated on the basis that the Oak Is Everywhere. You want to take a leak? Touching it with what? Think about it.

Then I remembered a solution. I saw drifts of pulverized dirt in the ruts from run-off. Scooping up double handfuls, I poured it on my shorts and legs, as much as I could cover. I’d read that this would draw off the oils. Now was the time to find out.

Now I'm running down the road, getting lots of strange looks and periodic comments from uphill Sunday cyclists. I was the original Mud Man. Fine. I wasn’t going to have The Oak camp out on my Dick.

The further I got down towards the trailhead, the larger and tidier the hiking groups. I’m sure many decided after seeing my dirtballed self, replete in mud-colored socks, where the elastic had finally collapsed entirely, that the whole REI Outdoors Experience was a scam. But hey! You’re the ones with the lizard-stabbin’ Leki poles, not me.

The Squirrel was waiting for me. Planning my moves to minimize Oak Transmission, I unlock, extract the shower, and start to peel out of tainted skankwear. The scrubdown commences, going over the whole mess twice. And then, changing into fresh duds, with all nastiness quarantined in grocery bags, I go off to the Green & White Satan in La Piñata to read the NY Times in translation.

That was 3 days ago. I only have 2 small dots of the Oak. None on pie-hole or Love-Gun. I’m eternally grateful to the local Grizzly Adams who gifted anyone who bothered to read the article with info on dealing with the Oak.


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