#360 Spend the Night in the Wilderness Alone Part 2

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Yesterday I went up to the Angeles Forest to spend the night there all by myself. I’d just settled into my tent for the night when I realized I still had my contacts in. I got my contact lens solution and holder from my bag and took them out. Then I reached for my glasses case and opened it. No glasses. Fuuuck.

I was going to sleep but I thought I should be able to see in case something scary and creepy came up to my tent to devour me alive. I considered my options and probably went with the worst one which was attempt to put my contacts back in with only a small flash light and my iPhone front facing camera as a mirror.

The problem was if I lost a contact, I was screwed. I can’t see very well at all without them and I still had to hike 3.5 miles up a mountain and drive 40 miles home tomorrow.

Luckily, 20 years of putting in my contacts drunk/stoned/hallucinating etc. paid off. I did drop one but I found it quickly. Once they were in, I felt relieved knowing I would be able to see whatever horror was out there in the darkness, waiting for me to fall asleep.

It took a good five minutes of maneuvering to zip up my sleeping bag and get everything positioned just so. Then I closed my eyes…

I started to drift off but then I heard a noise outside and I bolted awake. I waited and listened carefully. There it was again. Something moving in the brush outside. I opened my tent and tried to cut through the night with my flashlight. Then, the rustling. Unmistakable.

I jumped out of my tent, grabbed a giant rock nearby and heaved it into the brush, hoping to scare away whatever it was that was advancing toward me. I waited. Then I heard it again from somewhere else. As I walked in the direction of the noise, I stepped on something. I looked down. A pinecone. They must’ve been dropping off the trees above me and making the noise. Much like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, I was trolled by mother nature.

Back in the tent, I attempted to go to sleep but I was wide awake. I tried reading a book for a bit but couldn’t concentrate. I looked at the time. 9pm. The Oscars were probably still on. I thought about everyone at their Oscar parties and started to feel very lonely. This tent was suddenly the last place I wanted to be.

I turned on my phone to see if by some miracle I could get a signal. Then I could call somebody and talk to them. But predictably, there was no service.

I laid down again but couldn’t turn my brain off. I kept thinking about the blog ending. The things I didn’t get to do. Whether I had done enough scary things. Whether it would ever become a book. I thought about the party on Saturday and how it wasn’t turning out at all like I wanted. I thought about all the turning points in my life. Graduating high school then college. Breaking up with my various girlfriends. Moving. Changing jobs. What was going to happen to me now?

Eventually, I drifted off into some kind of sleep. It wasn’t great but I was sleeping. The next thing I knew I woke up completely freezing. Colder than I’d ever been sleeping. I’d only worn a pair of shorts and a tshirt to sleep since my sleeping bag was 0 degree rated, which meant it could keep you warm in 0 degree weather. I was fine when I went to sleep but now I was unbearably cold.

The wind had picked up and I could hear it howling through the trees outside. It was whipping around the rain fly on my tent which did an admirable job of helping deflect most of it. But it was still freezing in the tent.

I quickly threw on my pants and fleece. I laid back down but that wasn’t doing the trick. I put on my North Face jacket, gloves and cap and finally, I began to get warm. The sleeping bag was a liar, I tell you. A LIAR!

Eventually I fell back “asleep” again. I just remember dozing off, waking up freezing cold, trying to curl into a ball to get warm then dozing off again. That happened more times than I could count.

Then the rain started. My pack was outside so I had to get it and bring it in so it wouldn’t get wet. Back inside the tent, I tried to sleep yet again.

It was the longest night in my life. Everything hurt. The sleeping pad helped but I was still sleeping on rock hard earth. 5am couldn’t come soon enough. I packed up my things in complete darkness with only my small flashlight. Then I began the hike back.

Thankfully, I only hiked in complete darkness for an hour before the sun began lighting everything up. Still it was cloudy and rainy and I was hiking uphill. It was pretty miserable.

It was colder at the top of the mountain where I parked. I jumped in my car, blasted the heater and headed home. I made it in time for work, though I struggled to stay awake the whole day.

This was one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve done so far. It took a lot of preparation and required a great deal of physical and mental endurance. I always thought I was fine by myself but being alone, truly alone like being in the middle of the forest with no communication is extremely difficult. It may not be big and flashy, but it was a very personal thing for me.

I’m glad I was able to finally do it. Getting lost up there all those years ago was traumatic. It was good to go back and conquer that lingering fear. And I have to admit, I do kinda feel like a bad ass now.

Self portrait by fire light.

2 Comments to “#360 Spend the Night in the Wilderness Alone Part 2”

  1. Alice 20 March 2012 at 7:29 am #

    You ARE a bad ass.

    • Greg 28 March 2012 at 7:17 am #

      Thanks!