The day a storm clears is the day to be outside in Los Angeles. Rain and wind clear the skies, sharpen colors, and show off the landscape from sea to mountain peaks.
Kona and I hit the trailhead just before dawn to get a jump on our post-storm run. Three lights glided across the trail, several switchbacks above us. I could tell from the smooth movement that cyclist were up ahead. I welcomed their presence to scare away the pre-sun spookies and enjoyed the changing light.
The chill in the air numbed my fingers and stung my nose, sensations you fully appreciate living in always toasty Southern California.
As we rounded a switchback, Kona froze. I jumped as a man suddenly appeared around the bend of the trail. I looked for a spot to give Kona space from the hiker. As we stumbled to find a safe place the man asked if Kona was friendly.
"Not really," I replied.
I've found this answer to be effective in making strangers give my girl the space she needs. "She's not aggressive, but fearful, and you're a back-lit, hooded, big man," just doesn't seem to work.
Though spooked by the back-lit, big man, Kona recovered quickly, inviting me to take the path of the animals.
Back on the human trail, the sky put on a show as we shuffled along.
I wished the uneven terrain didn't require my attention, knowing I was missing the quickly changing morning.
As we zigzagged up the trail, the steady breeze picked up to a forceful wind. When we reached our peak, a gust took off through the small grove of pines like a fighter jet. I ducked reflexively, certain the invisible plane would crash land on our path.
We made a stop at our vista point where I always take a picture of Kona. You can tell from her expression what she thought of the high winds.
As we darted past the tree grove to start our descent, we ran into a hiker we see often on the trail. The white-haired man greeted us, nearly shouting to be heard above the wind.
As we headed back down the trail, I pulled off the breaks, told my legs to behave, and let gravity work magic. Kona and I bounced off rocks, shimmied around switchbacks, and paused briefly, because the views were still spectacular.
As we flew down the trail, I looked down at Kona, her tail high and tongue hanging, and remembered what our fellow hiker shouted at our peak.
"Your dog must really like it out here."
Yes. Yes she does. And I do too.