I roll over and ponder the dim blue light turning shadows into shapes outside. I think to myself, "I could sleep a few more hours and just run scenic." I've been tossing and turning all night, having strange dreams of being alone in the wilderness.
It's been four weeks since I've done a high country dawn patrol. It's been four weeks since I stood face to face with Mt. San Jacinto's largest wild predator. There's not much snow left, all the access roads are open and the weather's been excellent. Still, I've managed to find excuses for not going up high, not getting up early, and not being far from home.
Fear is a survival instinct that enhances our awareness, sharpens our senses and creates an overwhelming desire to abandon the situation causing it. All of these characteristics are extremely beneficial if fear is rational, and some fear is rational. What about irrational fear?
How many times have I seen a Mountain Lion? Once. That would make the odds pretty low that I would run into one again, right? How many medium-sized male trail runners have been attacked in Southern California? None. That would make the odds pretty low that I would get attacked, right?
With this thought process, I rationalize my fear as being irrational. I crawl out of bed, pound a cup of coffee, chase it with two heaping tablespoons of honey, lace up my shoes, throw my hydration pack over my shoulders and move silently out the door.
It's light, but the sun's not over the horizon yet. There are no clouds anywhere in the sky, and the moon is setting just above the western horizon. The only way to truly face this irrational fear of encountering another Mountain Lion is to head up the trail I was on four weeks ago. I climb quickly and the air warms as a slow breeze moves over South Ridge.
I summit Tahquitz Peak and enjoy the silence, scan the high country, distant ridges, valleys and coastal fog. I move on, looping my way through meadows and streams on trails that still have winter's fallen trees lying across them. I'm out for almost four hours and I encounter no wild predators, at least none that I could see!
Text and Photos by Daniel