I made it to the “Top of the World.” It wasn’t as high as I thought it would be, just 4,500 feet. And amazingly, getting there only took 2 hours. All kidding aside, hiking in the Sierras was like a deep sigh; my mind relaxed, my eyes opened wide, my breath grew deep and my muscles stretched out long. While much of the US was relaxing for the Labor Day weekend in backyards with friends, bbqs and beers, I decided to head out on a solo hike to rejuvenate my body and soul.
Just two hours outside of Sacramento, California I landed in White Pines, a tiny neighbor to the small town of Arnold.
Just beyond the White Pines lake, I parked at the Logging Museum and headed out on what turned out to be a near 12 mile round trip hike along the Arnold Rim Trail to the lookout at the “Top of the World.”
I so hope you have had the opportunity to have walked alone on a path in the woods, with trees over 200 feet tall, dappled sunlight filtering through and a whisper of a breeze at your back. The quiet just grounds me. Then to hear a rustle, almost see some movement, and to realize you are sharing this gorgeous space with birds and lizards and all sorts of wild creatures. I may be waxing too poetically – but it does fill me up with such joy that I wonder why I live in a city.
The Wild One
After about an hour of hiking, I heard crashing sounds as if something were falling – like large branches – behind me and off to my left. I stopped and tried to see what was causing the disturbance, but the small undergrowth blocked my view. I didn’t think much of it. Then I turned back around and 20 feet in front of me a young Black Bear scampered across my path (from left to right). A few feet off the path it stopped and looked back to check me out. Stunned and thrilled at seeing a bear in the wild (my first!), I just stood there and smiled. I was so excited.
Then my “when you see a bear in the wild” training kicked in and I slowly brought my backpack above my head to make myself look bigger. The cub didn’t move. If it had stood on its hind legs it would have been taller than me. But standing there on all four, it was closer to the size of a very large, hairy dog.
After a few minutes it became bored with me and started to wander off. I was tempted to follow. Crazy I know. But I would have loved to get a picture. Then I remembered the loud sounds that had come from behind me. Thinking momma might have made them, I realized I was possibly now directly between her and her cub. So I walked away quickly, with my backpack over my head. Five minutes later my adrenaline started to come down and I texted a bunch of folks to tell them where I was…just in case.
Hiking Along the Meandering Trail
For the majority of the time, hiking along the Arnold Rim Trail was sinuous and full of gradual ups and downs. Sometimes I could hear the rushing of a creek nearby, but mostly I was slowly going up in elevation at an easy pace through a peaceful forest. At one point, four mountain bikers whizzed by smiling, enjoying the curves of the trail. Then came the last mile or so. The trail itself became filled with small and large rocks. The pitch became quite steep. The path turned into short switchbacks and I soon found myself caught up to the mountain bikers pushing their bikes.
The Top of the World
There have been a lot of fires all over California and Oregon this summer. So, while the vista was beautiful, it was tempered by the haze of smoke from the fires still burning.
5.8 miles down, I decided it was a perfect time and spot for lunch. My frozen Camelback water bottle had now melted, my etee wrap had perfectly kept my pb&j sandwich crisp and I finished off with a sweet mandarin while enjoying my view and the fabulous breeze. Knowing I had another 5.8 miles to go, I saved my KIND bar for the return journey.
After a lovely break, I did a bit of yoga to stretch myself out and then packed up and started hiking back towards White Pines. While normally I prefer doing a loop rather than an out-and-back, returning on this same path was lovely and all seemed new. I obviously had a different perspective, but also because the sun was now high in the sky. Either way, the return was nearly as enjoyable. I came upon a fox leaping into the air from her hiding place attempting to catch a squirrel unawares – but to no avail – and to lots of angry chatter. Later a gorgeous garter snake slithered out and alongside me for a few feet.
When I eventually returned to the Logging Museum, I was exhausted, dusty and thoroughly happy. Another great day in the wilderness.
Interested in heading out to hike the Arnold Rim Trail? Click here for more info.