Alone on the Sespe, 10/14-15/2011
This was a fast, after work getaway that proved to be just what I needed after what felt like a long, stressful week. I left work at around 2:15, reached the Piedras Blancas trailhead in Los Padres at around 4:45, and hiked in on the river as far as I could before dark. Nightfall caught me still walking, but I found a nice anonymous site near the river about an hour after dark. I probably made it in about 8-9 miles before stopping.
The night was spent in typical Bastard Zen fashion; sitting alone, sipping beer, listening to wind in trees, stirring bare feet in the cool sand. A few IPAs and a sip or two of scotch later and I found myself contentedly drumming and singing well into the night.
I was peeing in the dark was when I heard it- a horrible, guttural, grunting and screaming drifting up the canyon. At first I thought it was human…but no human I’ve met makes noises like that. It was a sort of snarling and barking, followed by screams, almost very ape-like. Needless to say, it froze me in my tracks, adrenaline shooting down my spine. I stood in the darkness listening intently; it continued for at least 5-10 minutes and then died down. It ended all sense of fun pretty quickly.
I was gripped with fear and a pretty strong fight or flight urge; part of me considering wandering down the canyon to confront the source of the noise with my knife and a headlamp, the other half strongly considering an all-out running, midnight escape. Fortunately, both urges quickly passed, primarily due to too much drink. I bought two 22oz. bottles of Ranger IPA, planning on only drinking those…but found that I left a half-full 8oz. flask of scotch in my pack from the last trip…and well… I was able to fairly quickly forget the horrid noises and return to song and drumming before bed.
On my new Exped Synmat UL7 air mattress: I’ve been out with it three nights since getting it this October, every one of them filled with comfort I’ve rarely experienced sleeping on dirt. Worth every ounce.
I was up well before light, packed and well-coffeed (in a feeble attempt to erase my excesses of the previous night), and on the trail before light. I ran the majority of the way out.
Crisp, cold morning air, running at sunrise in a sweet valley. What more can I say?