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I Hiked a Mountain (And Lived to Tell the Tale)

Barely, I barely lived to tell the tale of my Mt. Baldy expedition. In fact, three days later and I'm still dealing with both the physical repercussions as well as the mental. The PTSD and nightmarish flashbacks have been REAL. This was no joke!

My boyfriend and I thoroughly enjoy a good weekend hike. We've explored Malibu, Temescal Canyon, Sandstone Peak and the Hollywood sign in our year together. It's been a great way to see our city from a different vantage point and enjoy the great outdoors while capturing some great photos with our new camera.

Most recently, we took on Sandstone Peak. As the highest point in the Santa Monica mountains, this hike was probably our longest to date and definitely our highest destination point. As someone who's DEATHLY afraid of heights, this one pushed me to my limit. I shed a few tears once we reached the top (not of joy) and I was frozen in fear. It took some serious coaxing for me to head back down the mountain.

However, looking back, that hike pales in comparison to Mt Baldy.

We spent the week leading up to our big hike doing some intense research. I knew snow was a factor considering the elevation so I wanted to ensure if we were hiking we were doing so at a safe time of year. Since I didn't see anything online that said otherwise, we were a go. We planned our departure time, our snacks and I even picked up some official hiking boots for the journey. This was happening.

I don't think any amount of internet research could have properly prepared me for the hike that was Mt. Baldy.

Our morning started at 7am when we left our apartment on the West side. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the town where we parked and located the trailhead. The trek officially began at 8:45am as we reached the sign that indicated "Bear Flats 1.5 miles" and "Mt. Baldy 6 miles." That distance didn't seem so bad staring back at us from that tiny wooden sign. Six miles was nothing.

The first mile and a half went by without a hitch. The path was a little narrow and the drop off had me keeping my eyes straight ahead but it was shaded and flat so I was gaining confidence with every step. It seemed to take no time at all to reach Bear Flats a mile and a half in so I immediately felt like this whole hiking a mountain thing wasn't going to be as bad as I imagined.

Then it went from a brisk walk to a HIKE. The path turned from a forest floor to small rocks and pebbles covering the dirt ground. The walk went from moderately paced and flat to strenuous and uphill. My breathing went from even to strained. The sun went from hiding to full blast. And my confidence went from high to non-existant as the drop was no longer off a slight hill into a creek but off the side of a mountain into the abyss below.

I quickly learned that this hike was not going to be like the others. The ones we've enjoyed walking and talking, stopping at random points to take out the camera and enjoy the view. No, this was more like keep your head down, eyes on the ground and the rocks you're stepping on and wait for wider surface area before daring to sit down and rest.

The miles did not go by as quickly as the first couple and I found myself second guessing everything about the decision to spend my Saturday on a mountain. I mean really, WHAT WAS I THINKING!?

While I tried with all my might to keep myself from looking down, sometimes my peripheral vision has a mind of its own and it does what it wants (it's an independent woman, what can I say). What I'm really trying to say is yes, I cried. Multiple times.

As we climbed higher and higher up the mountain I felt more and more trapped. I didn't want to turn around and go back because I was so scared but I also didn't want to push forward because I was so scared. It was quite the predicament.

In addition, it was one of those "I've come this far" situations where I felt like my pride kept my feet moving forward. And for about four hours that's exactly what we did, kept moving forward.

At every rest point we looked at each other and said "it can't be that much longer," or "we have to be getting close," only to look up and see the mountain still looming ahead of us and the path still winding around and around with no end in sight.

We rounded a corner about 3 1/2 hours in and my expletive matched the drop in my stomach as well as the drop off the mountain. At that point we were past 8,000 ft. in elevation and while the path had been fairly protected up until then, suddenly it just dropped. The view was beautiful but wow. We were truly amongst the clouds. One wrong move or even the slightest slip and we were goners.

Needless to say I didn't want to stay there longer than necessary so we continued onward. At this point our bodies were reaching their breaking point and I truly feared not being able to get back down the mountain which I knew was going to be just as daunting as going up given the rocky terrain.

With the wind whipping at our backs and more snow appearing on the ground before us, we made the decision to head back.

Ultimately we ran into a fellow hiker on the way back who indicated the the Hollows (the scary drop off point), was where most hikers made it for the day. The wind grew too strong and the ground too icy the closer you got to the peak which made me feel a lot better about myself and us deciding to head back to flatter ground.

Four hours later and multiple tumbles (thankfully none off the mountain), we were back on flat ground and our legs nor our grumbling stomachs couldn't be happier.

Without a doubt climbing Mt. Baldy is the hardest thing I've done in my twenty-three years of life. Not only did it test me physically but it tested me emotionally as well.

Sure every part of my body was hurting (and still is) as we made the expedition, but more than anything, my heart and mind were racing the entire time knowing I was looking my greatest fear in the face and laughing at it (well attempting to, more like crying in my case).

We've both decided we're going to stick to our five mile hikes with ocean overlooks for the time being however I don't regret our Saturday expedition climbing Mt. Baldy.

Would I recommend the hike? If you have proper hiking boots, a good backpack, are prepare to slip and sometimes even fall, don't mind hiking uphill the majority of the time, can handle the effects of a change in elevation on your breathing, have little to no fear of heights, enjoy a good challenge (physically and mentally) and don't mind spending an entire day (I'm talking eight hours) hiking, then I say go for it.

We'll be sticking to flatter ground and less mountainous terrain for the time being.

(Originally posted April 4, 2017)

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