Hidden things

There’s a trail behind our house called the Hidden Pond trail. You reach it by first going downhill, past a creek that only runs in the winter and otherwise lays white and parched as a bone. At the bridge over that creek, a dusty footpath heads off to the right. It goes up, into dry scrub and chaparral.

We’ve taken that trail a few times, but only for a little ways, because it’s desolate. It’s often stiflingly hot on that trail, and I think we never really wanted to find the ‘hidden pond’ suggested by the name. We suspected it would be a cracked and barren depression, no water at all. Such a sight would be sad.

So, for a quarter century we’ve lived here, and for one reason or another never hiked the entirety of the Hidden Pond trail, Now and then we’d ask mountain-biking friends if there was actually a pond ‘up there’ in the dry hills, because the idea bordered on the unbelievable. They’d say yes, but there was always something hesitant in the answer, as though they weren’t certain they’d found it.

Anyway, my friend and I got lost on the trails the other day. We did not take the Hidden Pond trail (again, it’s exposed and brambly, good rattlesnake habitat), but instead took a nearby trail–possibly the Wood Canyon trail, if it matters, though we didn’t pay attention–and on a lark we turned off that trail onto a barely visible one that might have been an animal trail. This went through a massive field of blooming wild mustard (a beautiful sea of yellow reminiscent of the poppies in Oz, and oh, the scent! the pollen!). Then we passed a rusty old barbed wire fence (were we on private land? We may never know) and then past something that looked like an old abandoned hot tub … in the middle of the Santa Monica wilderness. No idea what the story was there.

Then this unnamed trail started going up. And up and up. We probably got a thousand feet gain at that stretch, and on the ridge we hoped to find a way to loop home, but another fence blocked that direction. Somewhere around in here my friend got a signal, and her phone said we had ended up on Hidden Pond trail.

This puzzled us! And it went opposite the way we needed (away from home) and we’d been out for a while now (with afternoon meetings pressing upon us to get back), but still it seemed the quickest way for us to finish our hike lay ahead, not back.

So we kept on, alongside the second old rusty fence. And then, lo and behold, we saw it. A pond, on the top of the ridge. A hidden pond, way up high, somewhere you wouldn’t often go, but it was there. And it was wet, and shiny, and surrounded by more mustard and a dozen different wildflowers. Hummingbird sage, blue-eyed grass, golden flax, poppies. Mount Boney and the Tri Peaks in the background.

After twenty-five years, this was nice to stumble upon.

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