Those Who've Gone Before - kenkistler

The sun sets early in the canyons of Southern California. The breeze rustles the branches. The shadows grow long . . .

I parked my car in one of the dirt lots alongside Placerita Canyon. Two trails led away into the wilderness. The first wound its way up through the hills above Canyon Country and the 14. The second followed an old stream bed under some majestic oaks and disappeared from view.

With the afternoon light quickly fading, I decided to take what the trail map promised would be a shorter path under the oaks and beyond. The trail led across a footbridge then rose and dipped into an open meadow.

Across the stream bed at the base of a gently sloping hill sat the stone remains of an old homestead. Two stone pillars stood motionless in the light of the late afternoon, and a set of stairs led up to a dirt floor. I snapped a couple pictures, annoyed at the shadows creeping into the light in my frame. Then I stepped back and took in the whole scene.

Maybe it’s the history side of me. Maybe it’s the romantic side. I’m not sure which, but as I stood gazing across the peaceful meadow, I began to wonder about the house. Who lived there? What lives had enjoyed this quiet meadow nestled between the hills? What jokes had been told on this porch? What tears shed? What joys and sorrows, successes and tragedies had taken place here?

I often wonder as I walk the trails or hike the hills, I wonder who has gone before me. Who else has stood where I stand, seen these sights, or wandered this land? I wish I could meet them. I wish I could ask them about their lives. I wish I could thank them for blazing the trail for myself, my family, and countless others.

Maybe that’s why I love teaching history. Perhaps it’s my way of thanking those who’ve gone before.