Of all six peaks in this challenge, I would have to say this hike was the most unpleasant.
Starting off - which was our fault - we had to get the permit the morning of at the ranger’s station. Having two busy schedules to make it work before the end of September, we didn’t have many other weekends to move the hike to.
So, we were sleeping in front of the ranger’s station at 5:30AM to make sure we were able to obtain one of the three permits given out on the day of. The ranger station opened at 7, which also put us at a later start time than we normally do. San Bernardino Peak is a longer hike, about 17 miles for us, and we wanted to start as early as possible in order to be finished and get home at a decent time.
While we were waiting for the station to open, I checked their online calendar and it looked like the weekend we had planned on hiking the last peak - San Gorgonio - was all booked up for permits. Talking to the ranger while securing our Bernardino permit, I asked if they had any openings for Gorgonio - at this time it was still required. BY AN AMAZING CHANCE, someone had cancelled and there was one permit open for the day we wanted during Labor Day weekend. Someone was looking out for us.
As a lover of plants - indoor and outdoor - the landscape of the San Bernardino Forest is beautiful. One thing I do love about hiking is seeing all the different wildlife and plants along the trail - colors and shapes can vary everywhere, even just in different areas of Southern California!
One particular bush I was not fond of had SO MANY BEES. I have a really hard time with insects & bugs, particularly those that fly. This has always been an issue for me, since I was a toddler (as I am told). At home, when I have to kill something larger than a dime, sometimes I stress myself out so much I see black spots and feel like I might pass out. I know, I should really get a hold on this.
I also feel like I have been stung more often than the average person. As a child, my best friend’s home had a lot of wasp nests - terrifying. I was stung once by just walking outside while my parents were landscaping. Those are just a couple. It’s not just the fear of being stung, but also the buzzing noise really eats away at me.
Anyways, these bushes were everywhere. As we would walk through them I would hurry by and not pay attention, since they were relatively short bushes. HOWEVER, we reached a patch in the lower forest where the bushes went over my head and the trail narrowed.
I have never experienced a more real panic attack in my life.
I tried to go around the bushes, didn’t want to go off trail and step on a snake. So, I went back and just stood there, staring at the bushes. Ultimately, I knew I couldn’t go through so I ended up running as fast as I could around them. As soon as I hit the trail on the other side, I kept running, trying to control my breathing and sobs.
You may think I am exaggerating, or tell me, ‘They’re just bugs, you need to calm down.’ You may not understand what that felt like in my body or my mind, and I don’t expect you to. But, don’t you dare tell me to calm down.
As humans, we all have our own fears and anxieties that we struggle with - whether it’s every once and a while or everyday. Another thing that makes us human.
Once I got passed that point, everything was okay. We made it to the top, and because it was later than we normally summit, we took our photos, snacked some, and started back down.
One of my favorite things about the top of San Bernardino was the box of notes and polaroids from those who had reached the peak before. I love seeing how many others had made it to the top, left their mark and encouraging words, and how far back some of the notes were dated.
Another lesson from this (wonderful) hike - don’t ever underestimate your water supply. My friend was down to the last drop and I know I could’ve used more along the route back.
As a late birthday gift, I was given a Sawyer Water Filtration System - so if there’s an emergency or I don’t want to carry as much water (and I know there’s substantial water supply on the hike) I can always bring this! Can’t wait to try it out! :)
Six Pack of Peaks, San Bernardino - (barely) conquered!