It finally happened. After years of thrashing my way through life, believing no physical harm would ever come my way, I have at last realized it can happen to me.
(I know, insert dramatic music here)
What bothers me the most is where it happened — out exploring Los Monos Canyon in Carlsbad, which isn’t exactly an isolated spot. Los Monos is within reach of a vast suburban area, in sight of cars whizzing along Palomar Airport Road, past a row of sleek office buildings. Small, annoying airplanes make a grand U-turn overhead, from the ocean to the airport.
I thought I’d be in the bush, alone and facing certain death, when this realization came about. That was the old me.
Because of its proximity to the concrete jungle, one might assume this particular corridor would be about as lifeless as a Republican bingo party (sorry). Not so, it seems. Flocks of birds dotted the sky. A big cat took a walk this way not long ago, its paws imprinted in the dirt. And if the guy on the radio during my drive to the canyon was right, the rattlesnakes were awake, irritated and hungry.
So it occurred to me after several minutes of bushwhacking along a particularly steep section of the canyon carpeted in poison oak that I could indeed twist my ankle, lose my balance, smash my skull against a jagged rock, and begin the slow process of decomposition (if the cat didn’t get to me first).
So I stopped, leashed the dog, then did what any intrepid man my age would do: I freaked out. Something didn’t feel right. For once, I wasn’t invincible. All those stories I heard about people tumbling down cliffs, being attacked by wild creatures, croaking from an untold number of outdoor related ailments — none of it fazed me in my younger years.
But on this day, I realized it can happen to me (brilliant!). I’ve come close to falling off a cliff.
I’ve walked by a snake unknowingly, only realizing so after my buddy pointed it out. I’ve been within a hundred feet of a black bear. I’ve been stuck underneath a submerged canoe. I’ve camped when it was -25 degrees outside. None of it fazed me. OK, except for the submerged canoe. I’m not a fan of drowning.
I’m at an age (27) when a man’s perspective on life is somehow altered. Gone are the all-night benders and murky, Bloody Mary afternoons; the lackluster attempts at collegiate bookwork and low-wage job hunts. It’s an age when a man slows down a bit; an age when you let go of your rock star demeanor (come on, a boy can dream can’t he?). Jimmy and Janis didn’t make it past 27 for a reason.
I’m not implying my risk-taking days are numbered. Oh no. It’s that now my risks will be calculated, more thought out. There are numerous ways to meet your death, and I’m hoping mine will come while I’m old and grumpy, preferably aboard my yacht sailing the French Riveria.
But I can’t help but wonder if I was just being a sissy that day at Los Monos. As I stood admiring Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s statue at the tip of Point Loma one fine afternoon, overlooking the ocean blue, I thought “here is a man who sailed from continent to continent, and here I am worrying about exploring an urban canyon.” Cabrillo pulled his ship the San Salvador into the current San Diego Harbor, dropped anchor, and immediately went to work on shore. Snakes? Cats? Poison oak? Steep cliffs? No problem. Now that’s a “can do” attitude.
Brief biography about this author