Every day, people come and go in and out of our lives, often only for brief encounters. Yet when those brief encounters are approached without pretense or condition and are instead met with levity, compassion, and a relaxed good nature, everybody wins, and brief moments linger in our memories much longer than we could have anticipated. Even when the weather and the trail combine for scandalous brutality!
Such was my experience last Saturday meeting a foursome from Palm Springs.
The Coachella Valley Masochist’s Society, as they irreverently called themselves, had headed north to Napa, ostensibly to escape the blast furnace at home. No small surprise – Friday’s high temperature in Palm Springs had registered 120 degrees. And yet somehow, they had brought the heat with them to the town of Napa, where they had made arrangements to stay at the Adorable Purple Victorian for four days of wine country fun.
So while the local bird population in Palm Springs was using oven mitts to pull worms out of the ground, our foursome was enjoying a drive in a ’49 Packard convertible along the Silverado Trail, enjoying the Stag’s Leap District’s Robinson Family Winery and an interesting lesson in barrel tasting at Del Dotto Vineyards.
I showed up early the following morning to guide our foursome along the Mount St. Helena Trail at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, above Calistoga, California. Our plan was to hike a 10-mile out-and-back to the top of the mountain for a broad look-see, as well as stop to admire the remains of Stevenson’s honeymoon cabin (where he purportedly sowed the seeds for his later novel, “The Silverado Squatters”). Later, after the hike, we would stop for a picnic lunch and a tasting at Cuvaison Winery.
But boy, was it hot. We joked about the heat as we drove up the Valley in our air-conditioned Crown Victoria, as if the heat were merely an innocuous quintessence. We knew better, however, and hydrated a-plenty during the drive. And we got to know ourselves a little. We talked about wine and told tall tales from the trail. Then, we laced on our boots and, floating uphill in the heat, in flagrante delicto, we told some more. Despite the impetuous inferno and my need for more than two handkerchiefs, I was having quite a fun day. We all were – four desert rats and one wannabe desert rat.
And that’s how it turned out, too – just plain fun. It didn’t matter that the trail was exposed and the rock was too hot to sit on and we lost five pounds of valuable sweat and the sun was the devil incarnate and we really couldn’t taste wine ’cause it was too darn hot. No, what really mattered was that goodness in people just naturally shows through even when Nature throws the high-heat fastball at ‘em.
Dori, Bob, Becky, and Ware: you folks are the best. May I hike your path again someday. Heck, I’ll even bring a (highly chilled) bottle along next time.
[Editor’s note: I arranged a custom tour for this foursome via my tour business, California Wine Hikes. I can do the same for you – hopefully on a cooler day! Just click here.]