August 10, 2011 0 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

Hiking: Mount St. Helena & Robert Louis Stevenson

A Madrone Tree near the Summit of Mount St. Helena

“Let’s go hiking,” I said.
“That would be great,” said Daisy, my wife. (To protect her identity I’m calling her “Daisy”).
“Will you pack my copy of The Great Gatbsy?” I asked.
“No,” said Daisy. And just like that, we were off to the mountaintops.

If you’ve never hiked five miles up a mountain, you may not think about the fact that you’ll then hike five miles down the mountain. It is simply one of those thoughts that doesn’t set in until you realize no helicopter will be landing anytime soon on the summit to portal you down to champagne and caviar along, say, the Napa River. Okay. Fair enough. I’m still feeling the post-hike-ache as I type this, three days later.

On Sunday, I took a break from panning for gold out here in these here hills and Daisy and I packed a lunch (from the Oakville Grocery – we spent $234.45 on sandwiches, chips and water) and then drove north on Highway 29 toward Calistoga. Passing through the town, famous in the earlier part of the last century because of its springs – the wealthy consumed with consumption came to breathe in the fog and soak in the springs – we arrived about ten minutes later at a small clearing in the woods, a decent drive up Mount St. Helena where a plaque told us we were now in “Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.”

From there we locked the car and put our valuables in the trunk – a place no car thief would ‘er think to look! Onward!

Trail of the ages.

A brief lull at the place where (supposedly) Robert L. Stevenson and his faithful wife and entourage lived in an abandoned cabin that used to be living quarters for the mine-workers who were diligently digging for gold and such before Stevenson arrived in the valley. He too suffered from ailments of the mind, body and spirit and so the mountain was the right place for him. I cannot imagine how they trekked up there – though you can read about it in Silverado Squatters – still, seeing the terrain and thinking about the lack of freshly paved highway and easily navigable, well-trodden trails, must have been… interesting for them all.

On the site where RLS once lived.

The hike was reinvigorating. The air smelled sweet. The views were magnificent and I was humbly put in my place: we’re small people living in this big world and ya know what else? Our activities, our needs, our wants, our expectations are just as insignificant – at least they were for the twenty minutes Daisy and I peered out over the California landscape from atop a volcano that, at some point in time millennia ago spewed forth molten rock and left for us a mound to mine and climb. How thoughtful.

Daisy peers out over the California Landscape.

Jonny Cigar: a pensive man.

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