I don’t make it a habit to wake up at 6 am on the weekends. Especially Sunday! I mean, who does that?? Crazy people! That’s who!!
But this Sunday would be unique. It would be something really special; an exhausting, exhilarating, challenging adventure.
As I lay in bed, rudely awakened by my iPhone alarm, I had to decide if I was going to do this or not. I was supposed to go with a group, but in the end. I would be taking on this adventure, all by myself!
I was actually a little nervous that morning. Sure, I’d been on hikes before, but hikes I knew, and typically no more than a couple of miles. This would be a 6 mile trail with a pretty solid incline.
Being overweight doesn’t help. Having shortness of breath due to mild asthma doesn’t help either. And having flat arches is the worse, especially when you’re packing extra weight. When your feet get tired you get these extremely sharp pains right in the middle of your arch that feels like you’re being stabbed right in the middle of your foot!! But when you’re determined to do something, you find a way to do it, no matter how much your body fights you!
So I got up, packed some snacks, a large water bottle, my sunscreen and off I went. I would have to drive deep into one of the mountains to access the trailhead. As I drove out there, finding the location pointed to by my iPhone’s GPS, it seemed like a dead end, not a trail head. I was about to turn back around and go home gleefully! But, I’m a MexiCAN, not a MexiCAN’t. So I drove about 500 feet and finally ran into the trail head.
I removed all my valuables from my car, as the warning sign stated, locked my car and off I went. I wasn’t sure just where i was going, but the entrance to the trail was well marked.
My nerves were a lot calmer now and I was taking in the beauty that is the Santa Monica Mountains. A breathtaking, 7am view due East.
I wasn’t actually sure if the trail was 6 miles in and 6 miles out, or 6 miles altogether. But by that time it didn’t really matter. Time to keep on keepin on!
I trekked for what seem to be an eternity. I looked at my watch, and it had only been an hour. At that pace, I figured it would take me at least 2 more hours to get to the top of this beautiful hike.
I pressed on, little by little, taking breaks often to let my flat feet and my weak lungs a rest. Lucky for me there was plenty of shade along the way because this was a HOT day!
California had been having these ridiculously global warmed days this summer that were blistering with a smoldering of humidity!
I must have reached several plateaus on the way up and every time I thought, am I there yet? Am I there yet?? My feet aching, my lungs burning, and my water running out. I knew I should have brought 2 bottles! Nonetheless, I couldn’t give up. I had to push myself.
I saw the signs, stating the peak was about 2 more miles. I cringed, but I collected myself and moved forward. The scenery was beautiful. The stillness of the air, exquisite. Nature, I felt, could cure almost anything!
I finally made it to the top, out of breath and nearly out of water, but I made it!! And it was all worth it.
If i had to do it all over again, I would do it.
I climbed onto the precarious large set of rocks at the top, managed to perch myself into a spot and took in the beauty of looking down at the Conejo Valley from 3000 feet above ground. Spectacular doesn’t even seem like a justified word to use; magnificent maybe.
I would use extraordinary, but I think that word has lost it’s meaning from overuse. Whatever it was, it was one of those once in a lifetime moments where you feel like you’re on top of the world and you kind of sort of are!
Time slows down up there. You take it all in, relax, and sit still with your thoughts and feelings. You let go of everything. This is the place of where epiphanies happen.
There were others there, but less than a handful at a time. I made some small talk before signing the Sandstone Peak log book. After about an hour of calmly relaxing with the wind at my back, the Pacific Ocean at my fingertips and dozens of mountains across the way, I was ready to descend.
I had ran out of water by this time, and the weather was starting to get a little brutal. The way down proved to have no shade and was steeper, with a lot of loose gravel. It was challenging heading down. I had to watch every step carefully all while trying to maintain my thirst at bay.
Fortunately the way down was shorter, because it was steeper.
Although I didn’t feel ill, I kept kicking myself for not bringing sufficient water and becoming parched most of the way down the hill.
After what seemed like an eternity (a different eternity), I saw the parking lot within site. I sprinted down the trail and tried reaching my car as fast as possible. I had to get to it, and head somewhere to buy some water. I had none left in my car.
I finally arrived at my visor-less protected car, relieved, exhausted, uber-parched. Yeah, but did you die??? No, not really!
I headed off to the nearest gas station 10 miles away. Grabbed multiple cans of various non-carbonated drinks, and proceeded to pound them like a college student at Oktoberfest.
My legs were weak, my body tight, my feet exhausted. But my mind was operating at 100%.
There’s nothing like the feeling of overcoming something you thought you couldn’t. It’s empowering. I believe it increases your willpower and your intestinal fortitude to pursue what most people won’t. I prove to myself once again, that I’m not a quitter. I prove to myself that I CAN do it, and that in the end, it is ALL worth it!
Frank Barragan has been hiking on and off for about 5 years. He lives in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles) where he owns a small Web Design business. He loves to hike, meet new people, and volunteer his time to various non-profit organizations. Frank is also a member of Toastmasters where he has honed his public speaking skills and is working towards becoming a professional speaker.