By Mary Forgione
Design and illustrations by Micah Fluellen
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The trail bug bit Erin Ton hard. The Colorado native was homesick when she attended Cornell University in upstate New York. “Hiking was my way of connecting back with Colorado,” the 22-year-old graduate said. Two years ago she started hiking Colorado’s 14ers, peaks above 14,000 feet. In August, Ton completed 57 of them, some several times. (The 58th, Culebra Peak, is on private land and hikers are charged $150 for a permit. Game hunting is offered, something Ton doesn’t support.)
And this is where things get interesting. To celebrate her milestone, Ton hiked up Mt. Elbert — the state’s highest peak at 14,440 feet and the first peak she did a few years earlier — in a dress and high heels. The heels were about 1 to 2 inches high. Reactions on the trail? “Some people were like ‘That’s badass’; other people just stare and don’t say anything,” she said. “And a lot of people are confused and ask why.” She’s done a couple of “easier” 14ers in heels and is contemplating doing all 57.
Why? Um, does there need to be a reason? Ton received ugly comments — calling her “dumb,” “pretty stupid” and “desperately needing attention for accomplishing absolutely nothing” — after a local newspaper did a story on her. All this because a woman wears heels on a mountain? “People should just lighten up and take it for what it is,” she said.
(Let’s not forget “extreme ironing,” the onetime fad in which male climbers took an iron and ironing board to impossibly high places. The sport claims to combine “the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt,” according to its Facebook page.)
Others accused Ton of being irresponsible and putting search-and-rescue volunteers at risk. Ton assured me she feels sure-footed and safe; the heels allow her to dig in, much the way snowshoes grab the snow’s surface. She switches to boots on the downhill. Hiking in heels, she says, forces her to slow down and appreciate the views (“After doing so many, you start to take them for granted”), but she doesn’t recommend it for inexperienced hikers.
The more people goad her on social media, the more she thinks about continuing her stylish ascents when hiking season returns. But it hasn’t all been negative. “I’ve had women write to me saying that it inspired them to feel more comfortable wearing makeup and having their nails done and wearing a dress in the outdoors,” Ton says. “I never intended to make a feminist statement. I do think it demonstrates that being feminine and [being] outdoors aren’t mutually exclusive.”
3 things to plan this week
1. Go on a Halloween scavenger hunt to find plants lurking at this garden
“Along the west path where wildflowers bloom, is where I release my fragrant perfume” Intrigued? That’s one of the clues kids and families can follow on the Things That Go Bump in the Night Scavenger Hunt at the California Botanic Garden in Claremont. It’s simple: Print out the seven clues (which are in rhyme form) and bonus finds and then set out on your adventure. The hunt is on 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Saturday ($10 for adults; $4 for children ages 3 to 12); you must buy tickets in advance here. You can also buy Bump activity boxes for kids that include things such as an owl pellet, dissection kit, activity book, bat puppet, native seeds and more ($65 to $90). Info here.
2. Try out a new biking and hiking trail in Big Bear Lake
Ever been to an official trail opening? There will be a noon ribbon-cutting followed by guided bike tours when a 3.2-mile trail called the High School Loop opens Saturday in Big Bear Lake. It’s part of a larger three-trail network being built. Wear a mask and social distance at the Treats and Trails opening (yes, there will be candy) hosted by the Southern California Mountains Foundation. Park at Big Bear High School; you’ll find the trailhead at a water tower behind the school.
3. Pedal a water bike on a night glow ride in Long Beach
Here’s a workout you can do on the water and under the stars. Long Beach Waterbikes hosts evening glow rides from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. around the Naples area in Los Alamitos Bay. You provide the pedal power; it provides the water bikes. “Exercise disguised as fun!” one reviewer wrote. Hey, is that a bad thing? The night ride costs $30 per person (daytime rides are $25). You must buy timed tickets in advance; masks are required in the dock area. More info and order tickets here.
“Warren Miller, rest in pow.” That’s what fans and loved ones said when the famed ski filmmaker died two years ago. Miller started making adventure-style ski movies in the 1950s, which became an annual tradition and the high-adrenaline kickoff for the winter ski season. Fortunately his legacy lives on.
Warren Miller Entertainment will premiere the movie “Future Retro” virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than touring it around the country.
Narrated by Olympic freestyle skier Jonny Moseley, the movie shows off free-skiing in Iceland, young women skiers on traditional Swiss slopes and snowboarders in Antarctica watching the effects of climate change. You’ll see classic shots of Vermont, Montana, Alaska and Utah as well as a look at the extreme-ski set from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Each $30 ticket provides access to the film and extras (a virtual red carpet event with Moseley and behind-the-scenes interviews) for 48 hours on a single streaming device. Your ticket allows up to four people to enter to win sweepstakes and door prizes. The West Coast film premieres at 7 p.m. Nov. 21. Here’s the film’s trailer and info on tickets.
The red flag
In August, my Times colleague Kelcie Pegher wrote about Sturtevant Camp in Big Santa Anita Canyon, the “perfect pandemic getaway” in the Angeles National Forest. What a difference a few months makes. The Bobcat fire in September swept through the canyon north of Sierra Madre, destroying some of the cabins. Here are photos posted on Facebook of what volunteers saw when they hiked the trail into the camp last Saturday . In all, the fire, almost completely contained, torched 116,000 acres.
It’s unusual when someone who is lost for 12 days turns up well enough to be released to family members. That was the fortunate outcome for Holly Suzanne Courtier of Woodland Hills, who went missing in Zion National Park in Utah. The family says her survival was a miracle. At least one search-and-rescue team member raised questions about how Courtier survived so long with no gear and no food. Also, family members say she had been fasting when she set off on a hike Oct. 6 and was reported missing two days later. Read the full story here.
Just what we need to take our minds off these anxious times: a snow-guessing contest. The Palm Springs aerial tram, which has reopened, challenges anyone to accurately predict when the first “measurable inch of snow” will hit the ground at the 8,516-foot Mountain Station. The first 10 entries to get the correct date win four tram tickets, which usually cost $26.95 for adults and $16.95 for kids ages 3 to 10. Want to enter? Submit a postcard with your best guess (you’ll find rules and mailing address here) and hope for snow. The tram, now operating at less than 25% capacity, takes visitors on a 10-minute ride from sea level up to the station, where you can grab a bite to eat and hike on backcountry trails.
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Click here to view the web version of this newsletter and share with others. I’m Mary Forgione and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.