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K Robinson

K Robinson

3:38 PM on Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FOR REAL

"I grew up in East LA...The hood is for real, brother. I got profiled for the first time at age 13: thrown up against a wall by the cops as I was walking to the store," a mysterious dude I'd only known as @el.venado told me as we headed from a trailhead on the east side of Hashamongna Watershed. "The thing that saved me was my brother: he was a cop. He made sure I stayed out of trouble. Plus he did track and field in school, so of course, I wanted to be just like him."

This was the start of a 2h18 trail session with 2133ft gain in midafternoon temps close to 100F. "Sorry if the we're going a little fast, brother," he said as we threaded through a landscape that still bears scars from the Station Fire of 2009. "I'm not used to running with other people. So when I hear footsteps behind me, I pick up the pace."

Swept along by dry brush that hadn't burned in over 150 years, the The Station Fire lasted for two months and ultimately charred a massive 25% of Angeles National Forest. The blaze was the worst in LA County history, displacing wildlife, destroying close to 100 homes and other structures and claiming the life of two firefighters—a human cost that led authorities to open homicide charges as they searched for the suspected arson who started the fire.

After climbing for over an hour, it was impossible not to open up on the descent. The last time I saw @el.venado he was delicately carrying a long sprig of dry grass. "I like to high-five the plants as I go by," he explained. "This one just stuck with me."

For my part, the heat and climbing had hammered me into a sort of reverie; bombing downhill I ended up missing a turn in the trail and found myself running right into a cool mountain spring that improbably appeared at just the right time. Spent 10 minutes there cooling off and regrouping, but afterwards I wondered if it was a mirage. All of it.

Hashamogna Watershed / La Cañada Flintridge 4 July 2017