September 15, 2011

Photo Essay: On My Nerves, In the Forest

I don't remember ever feeling trepidatious in Los Angeles - as a business visitor, tourist, housesitter, or resident - until this weekend. Sure, I've been started by rattlesnakes lazily strewn across the trail, and scurried in the dark to try to find my way back to my car, one ear listening for mountain lions, but even in the so-called "scary" neighborhoods (Watts, Compton, etc.), I've always felt pretty darn safe.

I got a little creeped out this weekend upon my return to the Angeles National Forest, which I had such fond memories of. I returned to it in its westernmost reaches to hike the Oak Springs Trail, not remote at all (comparatively at least to the rest of the Forest), and not far removed from the foothill communities just south of it.

Maybe it was the rusty, rumbling pickup truck that looped slowly through the parking lot and then exited without stopping.

Maybe it was the weather-worn black compact two-door that pulled up alongside my car and just sat there, radio blaring, passenger side window rolled all the way down, air conditioning cycling.

Or maybe it was the compact parked in the trailer section, all four of its doors open, as though someone were camping (or living) out of it.

I was nervous to even leave my car there unattended.

But I did anyway because it is, after all, just a car.

And I had a trail to hike.

The Oak Springs Trail begins with seven immediate switchbacks up a canyon wall.

It is steep, eroded, and, in places, rocky.

After only a mile or two - which seem to take forever - it takes you along a ridge with a view of the nearby mountains...

...and then spills out into a grassy basin...

...that dips into a forested area where Oak Spring lies hidden beneath a grove of huge oak trees.

When I arrived to the oak grove, I immediately felt nervous again.

I decided then what I'd suspected for some time: I don't like the forest. I need wide open spaces.

Maybe it's because I'm convinced I'll get kidnapped or worse when under cover of so many trees, shaded from the light, enshrouded by leaves and twigs and shrubs and poison oak, tiptoeing over creeks and streams and puddles and mudslides.

Maybe I just don't like the mosquitoes.

Maybe I just don't like the dark.

But once I got to Oak Spring, even though the trail could've taken me farther, I turned around and went back the way I came, back to my car, which was still parked in the lot, next to the black car that was still running with the window rolled down and the radio on.

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