4 Hiking Guides That Are Honest About Why People Go Hiking
In a desperate effort to stay afloat in a dying industry, trail guidebooks have attacked niche markets, aiming for people who only want to hike with babies, or trek through haunted forests, or who, inexplicably, want to watch birds be birds in miserable states. But in their race to capture small pockets of travelers, they have completely ignored the primary groups that buy their hiking guides in the first place. If they were just willing to take an honest look at their audience, they could easily rake in tens of dollars more each year, which, in the book industry, is a small fortune.
As soon as you save enough for some office furniture, you'll be living the dream.
Below, I've created four honest sample trail guides for the people who actually need them the most. Like a heroic mountain rescue volunteer, I'm not doing it for the money. I'm doing it because I see people in need of help on both sides of each guidebook. However, if the explorers who pen those guides, and whose careers I've surely saved, wanted to name a snow-capped mountain after me, I certainly couldn't stop them. Particularly one that's unclimbable and has killed anyone bold enough to try. I think that would be a nice gesture.
Horseshoe Indian Loop: A Guide to Sex in the Wilderness
Distance: 4.3 miles round trip.
Time: It's different for everyone. Don't get down on yourself if it seems quick.
Starting Elevation: 4,801 feet.
Highest Point: 5,003 feet.
Difficulty Rating: Moderate to extremely challenging during summer holiday weekends.
Trail Description and Directions
Though ponds and lakes keep the soil soft and damp throughout the summer, this valley wasn't carved by runoff from the surrounding mountains. Instead, the valley owes its existence to thick, solid glaciers that, while at first seemed too large to fit, slowly drove their way into the Earth over millions of years, creating a deep and satisfying gorge. Today, the swelling mountains on either side and the soft grasses of the shadowy meadows all work in unison to create a setting that metaphorically cries out to be humped in. Specifically by you, and one or three of your closest friends.
In the first 0.6 miles of the trail, you may notice a natural pool to your left surrounded by thick vegetation. Despite first impressions, this is a terrible place to do each other. Horseback riders often stop to let their horses drink and rest by this pool and, while occasionally they will shout words of encouragement, more often than not, they are unwilling to embrace body slapping as a fundamental part of nature. The area is also surrounded by poison oak, which is proven to be terrible for genitals.
"I want to hurt you!"
Instead, head a mile and a half down the trail until you see a tributary stream climbing the side of the valley. Follow the water until it reaches a short, vertical climb up a slab of limestone. At the top you will find a clearing. The climb is steep enough that you won't have to worry about curious dogs or exploring children. Here you can enjoy some interruption-free intercourse out in the open air like wild beasts surrounded by untamed wilderness. Like an eagle or a cow or something.
Incidentally, in the spring months, cows graze in the same clearing. They will watch you. It's just what they do. Try to ignore them.
Mount Hollywood Trail, Griffith Park: A Guide for Rituals of the Occult
Distance: 3.7 miles.
Trail Type: Dirt, then off-trail hiking for last mile.
Difficulty Rating: Easy (unless you are leading animals for sacrifice).
Maps: No. Anyone caught making a map will be punished.
Trail Description and Directions
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, even at night without a headlamp. The dirt is soft enough that a party of up to 13 people can hike it silently. Goats and pigs will need to be carried through the steep sections.
Griffith Park is technically closed after sunset, but those are arbitrary rules created by the true deceivers of humanity and the masters of lies in order to incite fear to maintain some semblance of control. They have no authority over you, as they are willfully blind to the one true lord of men and arbiter of darkness. Though please do adhere to the signs at the trail head suggesting you bring extra bottles of water; there are some steep sections and it's easy to get dehydrated.
After a mile and a half, turn left off the trail and traverse west. Robes are likely to collect burs from the local vegetation, so we recommend hiking in shorts and carrying any ceremonial clothing in a day pack, as well as additional socks.
"I don't know about you, but I could really go for a cool bath in blood right about now."
Now, you will likely encounter several other creatures of the night exulting in the honor you bestow on the cloven-hoofed creator. So if you are particularly sensitive to insects, maybe carry some bug spray, as well as some hydrocortisone topical cream for bites. There's a good chance that no one else in your legion of death walkers will think to bring them and they will thank you for it.
When you reach the site of the sacrifice, fulfill your sacred duty, slaking the thirst of your sublime ruler, but don't forget to also take in the city lights! The views of Capitol Records and the Hollywood Hotel from this perspective are not to be missed.
Following your rite, coyotes will likely be drawn to the smell of freshly killed animals. While they are your allies in the army of the dark forces, they are also kind of creepy in packs, so it's really in your best interest to get down the hill as quickly as possible.
Miners Gulch Campgrounds: A Guide for Fathers Reconnecting With Their Teenage Sons
Location: Ashley National Forest
Facilities: Picnic tables, fire pits, a patch of grass for that forgotten game of catch.
Permit Fee: $30-$45. But really, what's the price you pay for not doing it?
Activities: Fishing, archery, hiking, pushing dirt around with a stick in silence.
Campground Description and Directions
Heading north on Highway 191, turn onto a dirt road (Forest Road 134) at mile marker 56, which will lead directly to the campground. Warning: It's easy to miss if you're not paying attention, or if you are distracted by someone else in the car listening to his industrial hard rock or whatever the hell it's called instead of just enjoying the sounds of nature for God's sake.
The campground is divided up into five campsites, each distant enough from the next that, should you and your son have a real breakthrough together, no one else will hear you cry. You are allowed to collect your own wood and tinder, giving you the chance to show your son how to build a fire, just as every father has done throughout the history of civilization. And when you fail, there are also Duraflame logs and newspaper available at the ranger station.
"Can you at least fucking pretend to have a good time for one picture?"
Anglers can expect to catch rainbow and brown trout in Rock Creek, hikers can enjoy winding trails through ponderosa pine and quaking aspen forests, and if someone was willing to get up before noon for once in his goddamn life, there's also a spectacular viewing point just north of camp for sunrises. It's guaranteed to steal the breath of anyone who's lucky enough to see it, or at the very least, provide enough glare to the screen of a Nintendo Game Gear or whatever to make it temporarily unusable.
And, for first-time stepfathers, the ranger carries a full first-aid kit for treating bruises, lacerations and BB puncture wounds. Also, there is a direct line in the ranger station to local authorities if for some reason your car disappears.
Backbone Trail: A Psilocybin Adventure Guide
Distance: 0.4 miles round trip.
Starting Elevation: 2,331 feet.
Highest Point: When you pry open that dead tree and find another universe inside.
Difficulty rating: Gentle to deeply problematical.
Trail Type: Crunchy. Like it makes that "crch, crch, crch" noise.
Trail Description and Directions
Even though the Backbone Trail stretches across the Santa Monica Mountains for over 60 miles, your personal exploration will reach far beyond any metric humanity has arrogantly attached to the movement of objects and beings. Your adventure cannot be calculated in inches, yards or miles because you have achieved motion beyond advancing toward or receding from a fixed point. Though if you had to saddle your journey with the units of a deficient measurement system, it would probably be about 80 feet from the car. This hike will take you six to eight hours. Good luck.
As you explore, keep an eye on the juniper trees to the left of the parking lot. They act as a boundary between the good, living side of the wilderness and the side lost to festering decay. There was a dead squirrel on the other side of those trees last June, and even after Kevin the ranger removed the carcass with a shovel, the space remains ominous. Everybody says so.
His soul has cursed this land. From the trash can to the picnic table.
As you step from the parking lot to the dirt of the trail head, take a minute to greet the path that will, quite literally, lead you into the future. Allow it to sense you. Follow it as far as it wants you to go while letting the wind breathe you in, the sun examine you with its critical eye. These elements are not angry, just curious, curious how you fit into the greater narrative of the Earth. Gradually, you will come across a knotted stump that is shaped like an elephant fetus.
You're probably going to want to sit on the ground here and just think about some things.
It's a lot to take in all at once, but there is learning hidden everywhere, the thesis of nature written in the latticework of branches overhead and knitted in the veins of each fallen leaf. The language is foreign, but you instinctually know it. It says that life is all made up of the same pieces, and those pieces will continue to make up life over and over again. In fact, you will quickly realize you've been here before, long before you were even born. You have been and will be in this exact spot sitting on the ground infinity times over infinity lives.
At this point, there's a good chance you will accidentally break time.
"I can hear it screaming. It's in pain and I am living backwards."
Maybe head back toward the parking lot. Try to stay calm. Along the way you will likely see trees, plants and rocks you remember, but it will be impossible to tell whether you remember them from the past or from the future because your accident has changed everything. Don't worry, if you want to throw up now, that's OK. Back at the start of the trail there is a public restroom. The toilets do not flush, but there is a mirror over the sinks. You can spend the rest of your journey having epiphanies that are specific to your own reflection in an outhouse mirror. The trail, after all, isn't just out there in the wild, it's also inside you. Maybe. Who really knows what the hell is going on.
For more from Soren, check out The Most Appropriately Endangered Species on the Planet and Kidnapped by Drug Lords: My 3rd Worst Vacation in Mexico.