Temescal Canyon is nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, 15 minutes North of Venice. Instead of imitating locals who constantly tan and surf, I stuck with my Pacific Northwest roots and spent most of my free time running there. As an avid trail runner, Temescal Canyon is my favorite loop: fours miles of uphill/downhill action with a climb of 1000 feet.
On the evening of the summer solstice, I left my job at 7. I'd missed my usual morning run that day, so I was eager to get outside and do something physical. With the solstice, I figured there was plenty of daylight to work with. So, I jumped on my beat-up trail bike then rode seven miles along the Venice Beach bike path, until I reached Temescal Canyon Road. I could've taken my car, but why when the sun was still out?
I locked my bike against a wooden sign post in the park below the mountain path. I started down the trail and entered the tree-sheltered bliss of my nature escape. Four miles of evening splendor lay ahead of me. The first mile was a gradual climb through the hills. I ran it at a moderate pace, breathing in the salty ocean air. The light was fading fast. A few lizards made their last crossings over the trail as I passed and rabbits huddled in the bushes along the way.
The light was disappearing faster than I could run. Soon, I could barely see one foot in front of the other. I relied on the feel of my feet grasping the earth more than sight. My heartbeat began to thump in my ears as I felt a flight instinct kick in. Bushes started to look like animals. From the corner of my eye, I thought I saw movement.
Going downhill rapidly, I stepped on some rocks that I normally would've avoided. Pain flooded the balls of my feet, but I kept going, somehow managing not to stumble. When I reached the canyon floor, the darkness was complete. Feeling grateful, I approached my bike, fumbled my lock off and rode the seven miles back home on a pitch black beach path. Along the way, I nearly crashed several times, thanks to a perpetually loose bicycle chain and patches of sand that blotted the pavement.
Back home in the light, I took a hot shower. Afterwards, I walked up the street to my regular hangout The Canal Club. Their happy hour menu sports things like tacos, fries, sushi and miso soup all under five dollars. With my usual glass of wine in hand, I sat at the bar, laughing about my nocturnal adventure. Safe in the light and warmth of the Canal Club, being scared of the dark seemed silly.
What was I so afraid of? Mountain lions and other wild creatures don't frighten me, thanks to my upbringing in the backcountry of central Oregon. Tripping and falling hadn't even crossed my mind as I hurried down the slope. To be completely honest with myself, I have to admit that my true fear was a basic one. Aimee Conner is still afraid of the boogeyman. Are you?