Itching to strap my pack back on, I decided to hike an overnight trip up Mount Baden-Powell, a gorgeous climb located in the San Gabriel Mountains. A roundtrip journey slightly under 9 miles, I deemed it a great escape from the Los Angeles hustle I had found myself once again a part of. Zooming (at a snails pace due to traffic) out of West LA from work on a Friday in late September, I made it to the Vincent Gap trailhead much later than expected. Close to Wrightwood, I spent too much time in traffic watching the sun go down.
Decidedly unafraid of anything, I parked at the empty trailhead in complete darkness. With slight trepidation, I bedecked myself with a warm jacket and headlamp. I came too far to just turn around with these newly sprouting fears. Confused by my consternation, I started up the endless switchbacks that led to the top, about 25 in total. After 15 minutes, I began to relax under the blanket of stars and hypnotic sound of my footsteps. All of a sudden, I stop to take a drink of water and peer down towards the parking lot with my headlamp. To my bewilderment, I see 6 pairs of eyes staring back at me. I couldn't see anything but the eyes, and with a booming heart rate I strained harder to see heads that looked like coyotes...or wolves.
Paralyzed without ideas, I stood silent for a few minutes before deciding to return to my car, forgetting the fact that I was heading TOWARDS the luminous eyes that stopped me in my tracks. One switchback away from the lot, I hear two hikers below me, chatting away. Once I reached them, I told them what I saw and we discussed whether it was safe to continue. After much back and forth, we decided we're safe in a pack and I joined them on their ascent.
This was the most unusual experience I've ever had hiking, but once I let the fearful start to my night fall away, I had the joy of hiking a mountain with two lovely strangers from San Diego. As we reached the top I could see lights from every direction: Los Angeles, Wrightwood, Palm Springs, all of it. It's surreal to feast your eyes on so much life in the distance while so removed from it. The wind was surprisingly wild at the top, but after reaching the peak at 9,399 ft I tucked myself under a tree to setup camp.
After the windiest night I've ever experienced, I woke to the beaming sun and distant blue mountains surrounding me. I relaxed with coffee and breakfast before breaking camp to return to my car. It was odd walking through what I had passed the night before since I hadn't really seen it and I savored the sun the whole way down, passing the day-hiking weekend crowds.
I have to say that although I enjoyed my time on Mount Baden-Powell I don't think I plan to solo night hike again in that area. Whatever creatures I saw that night made it clear that I was invading and I'd prefer to encroach on their land when the sun is shining and the coyotes are hiding. Three cheers for still being alive!