The days in San Francisco had been hot to cloudy to hot again. I was tired of the stop lights, the people the smells, I needed to get away, but I didn’t want to waste my time away from the City.
So I booked a bed at the hostel at Point Reyes, and that’s where I would spend the next 3 days.
From the ocean, to the bay’s, to the beaches, to the estero’s, to the cliffs, to the lakes, to the lagoons, and to the forest, Point Reyes is a wilderness. It is however locked in by an ocean and roads, so eventually I believe you’d run into either if you ever got lost.
I discovered Point Reyes over 10 years ago while on a day trip with my partner. She showed me Point Reyes, she knew that land could be my equal. She told me “You’re going to love this place!” And she was right.
I go to Point Reyes at least 6 times a year. I have reported on, through my citizen journalism the plight of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which is now shut down. But I used to go there, on each visit and buy and eat raw oysters. It was a real treat going there.
There are many hiking options in Point Reyes, but my newly discovered best hikes are at night. I’ve done night hiking before in the Point Reyes wilderness, but never an 11 mile one.
Time was slowly ticking by, I’m at the hostel in Point Reyes, and I got a small nap before 11pm, so I was sort of rested. I was still not 100% rehydrated from the hike onto Limantour Spit from earlier that day. But I had plenty of fluids, and I had some food and some energy chews.
I was nervous, I felt my first sense of apprehension, am I being stupid? Is this immature and thus too dangerous? I wasn’t sure, all I knew is that I had to do it. I had to night hike 11 miles through the Point Reyes wilderness by myself. I wasn’t prepared with my cameras because I was a bit nervous, but I did have on my GoPro and I took my Canon DSLR. I had a 170 lumen headlamp and a 120 lumen handheld flash light. I also had a strobe light, and I had glow sticks. I had a knife and pepper spray. I put on insect repellant and taped up my pants leg.
…..Wow, I was scared.
I got on the trail around 11:30pm, there was nothing on the roadway leading to the path.
It was quiet, foggy, cloudy, and drizzly, but not too cold.
No sounds, just quietness, until I got to the trailhead. As soon as I stepped two feet past the trailhead, the sounds, those sounds, they came on strong, no fade in, sounds you’d expect to hear from a wilderness. I stopped, listened, gasped. Then I just did it, I put one foot in front of the other, and soon I was committed to that trail at night. I had 11 miles to go.
I kept taking breaths, until I became aware, there were beings around me. Lots of them. Black hulks moving around me, away from me and some towards me. Then I felt something cover my face, something thread like and popping like strings when they break. Then I felt crawling, something was on my face, they just kept coming at me until I STOPPED. When I started walking again they threads kept hitting me in my face. I then realized I was walking through spider webs. Webs so big they crossed a 5 foot wide trail. I felt things crawling on my face, but I wiped it off and came up with a plan. I picked up a loose branch and used it to knock down any webs that are ahead. It worked for a while. I was now second guessing my hike. Shall I retreat or shall I go forward?
I once again put one foot in front of the other and was now hiking again. I kept beating down the webs. Then I heard a buzzing sound like bees only louder, I could see bugs, but how? It was foggy. I just kept moving forward. The buzzing grew louder as I walked on then suddenly about 60 feet later the buzzing stopped. I froze, and when I looked around with my light, I noticed everything was a big hulking black mass. Some moving, some not. That’s when I got my first adrenaline rush, I knew something was watching me, there had to be some animal out here.
After about a mile I stopped for a minute, to think about where I was? I saw shiny things on the ground, it was pitch black, but the things I saw, shined in the light of my flashlight. So I decided to sit. Going through my backpack looking for some food, I heard rustling, thumping, stomping then a yipe, then a growl, then a yipe then a growl, I looked up, 4 dogs(first thought’s in my mind), actually Coyotes were looking at me, I saw teeth, heard growls, got up, and f_ckin ran, ran down a hill, stepping on Coyote scat, running down, amongst gopher holes, sink holes, uneven terrain, scat, lots of scat, down a hill, in the dark, scared, unknowing, until I slammed into a white gate?
I then felt safer, but I learned the shiny things on the ground were bones.
I entered through the white gate, but up ahead was another large black mass, three of them to be exact. I stepped slowly, step by step one foot in front of the other. It is pitch black, and I was learning that my eyes had a difficult time focusing between super bright flashlights to the darkness, so I decided to keep walking without the lights on. I had only hiked 3 miles thus far and had 7 more to go.
The sounds, oh those sounds, so close and in stereo? The Coyote yelps, barks, and howls were in stereo. I knew I was surrounded by Coyotes, and every now and then I would see them run off the path in front of me into the bushes I was walking along side. Every now and then I would hear a growl, but I felt the Coyotes were more afraid of me than I was them.
At this point in my hike I could hear the Tule elk. If you have never heard the sound of the Tule elk you could assume there are children screaming in the wilderness. Every now and then their calls can be horse like. Tule elk will keep themselves at least a 100 feet from people, unless you happen to walk up on them.
I kept walking, but I now realized I am going to have to go around the three large black masses that were up ahead of me. Yup, there were 3 cows in the pitch black that I had to reckon with. They did not like seeing me out there in the dark on their trail, but they had the trail blocked.
I stopped, strategized and made my move, I walked right through the 3 cows, and they didn’t even care. So now I had a long walk ahead of me, I was on the Estero trail in Point Reyes, and I was hell bent on making it to Drakes Head. So I walked and walked and walked and I started sweating, and it was colder out, so I bundled up.
One hour later I made it to Drakes Head, but I couldn’t see a thing because it was very dark, cloudy or foggy. I could see whimpers of light coming from the lifeboat station in Drakes Bay.
So I sat for a minute ate some food and started walking again. It was now 2:30a.m. And I realized that maybe I can make it back before first light. I started walking again, but this time off trail a bit. 15 minutes later, something started jumping on me and hitting my pants legs, and of course I freaked out, but when I turned on my lights I noticed there were hundreds of grasshoppers all around me. So I went back on the trail. 30 minutes later I realized the area I was in was really warm, and humid. I never figured that out, suddenly I was walking along and it’s nighttime in an area known for fog and changing weather patterns, but the area was really warm.
I continued on, the sounds really started scaring me, so I stopped messed around with my cameras a bit, and kept on going.
I was now off Drakes Head and walking along feeling kind of weird, but then suddenly 3 large black masses walked in front of me, going downhill, missing me by mere feet, they stirred up dust and they all screamed. I then concluded I almost got run over by Tule elk. They didn’t know I was there and vice versa. They kept going downhill and I kept walking straight ahead.
About 30 minutes later on the path in front of me I saw a low lying animal I thought it was a raccoon, but it was much more aggressive than a raccoon, and ran towards me for a second until I turned on my lights. Skunk? Oh crap, a skunk, a really large skunk. It ran towards me until I retreated about a ¼ mile. I waited a minute then proceeded to walk again in the same direction. The skunk was gone, but not it’s smell.
I was now in an area that flanks an estero, a path with large bushes and or shrubbery or undergrowth that towers over a person. Spider webs were in abundance, and I was starting to itch.
During the last 4.7 mile stretch I saw animals on the path in front of me and I could tell there are animals all around me. I guess I was never a threat to them because not one animal came after me. They were all tolerant.
I kept walking, the noises on all sides of me were intimidating. They would have scared the toughest person on the planet. You don’t if you’re going to be attacked and you don’t know if something out there will jump you and eat you.
Hiking at night is very surreal experience. I do not recommend it for people who get scared easily and or have bad hearts. Hiking during the day, you have a huge safety zone, you can see things coming and or going, you can identify other beings easily, and you can always see where you’re going. But hiking at night the only safety zone is your immediate area. I like to hike at night for the challenge, but it is not for everyone.