by Kyle Pinjuv
“Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves ..."
— Henry David Thoreau
Corby Hines, Sonoma Land Trust’s outings guide, had given me one instruction before beginning the 15.2-mile ascent to the summit of Pole Mountain …
Fast-forward two hours, when I thought to myself, “We should have passed over Russian Gulch by now.” On our field map, the creek crossing was at mile four, but we were the “fast” group and it had been well over an hour since mile three! The ever-familiar, brown metal arrow signs fastened to the sturdy wooden posts confidently pointed the way onward.
But something felt wrong about our place on the mountain. I had been here before … hadn’t I? It was foggy last time … surely I didn’t remember these views because they were obscured by clouds during last year’s hike and not because I actually hadn’t been there before, right? The anxiety grew in me as I tried to distract myself with pleasant conversation with my hiking companions, yet the reality was beginning to sink in that we had missed our turn leading us to the summit of Pole Mountain ... four miles ago!
The route from the Jenner Headlands to the summit of Pole Mountain is a challenging and spectacular one through vast stretches of coastal prairie, oak woodland, chaparral, and redwood and Douglas fir forests. Hiking the 15.2 miles out and back is hard enough without an added eight-mile detour. Not to worry, though — this is not a story fraught with danger. Our hikers and hike leaders were well-prepared in every way. We worked with one another, we radioed back and forth, we discussed our options and, ultimately, we figured out a plan to get everyone to the desired destination, despite the added miles. When we reached the summit, we were greeted by the smiling faces of the rest of our hiking group, enjoying a well-deserved rest, some cold lemonade, salty potato chips and one incredible view.
As I sat there on the top of Pole Mountain with my peers and colleagues, overlooking the breathtaking view of the Sonoma coastline, I reflected on the day’s directional mishap and laughed to myself about the irony of the compass rose tattooed on my upper arm. Losing your way every once in a while is important for one’s humility and for understanding where we are — or where we think we are — in the world. It is important to feel that anxiety, work through solutions and come out on the other end grateful for your companions, colleagues and friends, and their abilities to problem-solve and adapt.
This trip gave us the opportunity to see parts of the Jenner Headlands we hadn’t seen before; an unforeseen adventure that may take me a while to live down here at the office, but a successful and noteworthy adventure, nonetheless.
Kyle Pinjuv is an assistant stewardship project manager (and talented photographer) at Sonoma Land Trust.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.