A Night Alone on San Bernadino Peak
Jenna Kuklinski

I just arrived home from hiking San Bernadino Peak, an intense 16.5 miles (out-and-back) trek with 4,702ft of elevation gain to the peak.

I took Dagger-my trusty four legged companion-with me and no one else. I went into it severely confident but as the sun was setting, I began to feel twinges of anxiety. I hid the anxious thoughts away in that little box I’ve conveniently developed in my head for thoughts to go that won’t do me any good, and continued settling into camp for the night. My phone had died on the way up (I mean died in the most final of ways. This thing is not turning on ever again), and I was being treated to one of the best sunsets I’ve seen so far in California. The only way I had to record it was with photos in my mind that I can try to translate into words. The colors were vibrant, saturated hues of orange, persimmon, deep lilac and dark navy that faded into black. It went on forever, hovering at the horizon for longer than I thought possible, drawing out what must have been at least half an hour of lingering rainbow that stretched lazily across all horizons. Finally, the last light slipped away, and I retreated to my tent with a book.

I had a foam Thermarest pad “seat” I was using as a pillow wrapped in a down vest. At one point, I woke up cold and decided to take the down vest off of the foam and use it as another blanket. The area I was in was very, very dry which mean that the small movement of the down vest against the foam pad was enough friction needed to spark the best static electricity show I’ve ever been responsible for in my life. I ran my fingers across the egg-carton and tendrils of electricity shot out across it’s surface. They feathered and fanned like blue-white roots that had burst into life from a static tree that I couldn’t see. Their tendrils stretched across so much of the foam that I couldn’t help but run my hands again across it, just to see the explosions of light and energy dance in front of my eyes. Nature is amazing.

I began reading a book; devoured the first 82 pages, then fell into a fitful sleep. Dagger would wake up every now and then, and when I felt him move I was certain he’d begin barking and I would discover a bear lumbering outside my tent. I made myself fall back asleep by thinking what could only be described as semi-zen thoughts, basically surrendering myself to The Fate that would have me. If I was going to get eaten by a bear, there was nothing I could do at this point. It wasn’t exactly comforting, but it was enough to get myself to fall asleep again.

I woke up fine, of course, and happy to see the sun back again. We forget what a large role the sun used to play in people’s lives. It’s scary when the sky is dark and you’re alone outside at night! No wonder there are so many stories and tales of terrible things happening to people at night.

Dagger and I finished the rest of the hike that day, reaching the San Bernadino peak early in the morning. After taking a short nap break (the puppy was exhausted) Dag and I made our decent back to the car.

Photo by Jenna Kuklinski

Part of me still can’t believe that I walked myself nearly 17 miles into the wilderness and back, with just a 9 month old puppy to call a companion. I guess that’s the confidence I’ve built up over the years. I’m not an extremely seasoned backpacker; in fact, I think I could count the number of backpacking trips I’ve taken on a single hand. But I’ve lived in and around the woods my whole life; camping in one form or another countless times. What I lack in individual trips I work to make up for with common sense and confidence- all with a healthy dose of caution of course, which is essential in any venture you make outside of the “safety” zone in which we live most of our lives.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I’m proud of what I did.

I can do anything I put my mind to.

. . . . .

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