I stopped by America’s newest National Park on my way back to Sacramento from The Channel Islands to do some astrophotography since I hadn’t gotten my fix the week prior. The parks location between a few small towns means there is very little light pollution at night allowing for a spectacular view of the stars.
After talking with the Rangers I found out that some of the trails and caves were closed due to roosting bats. I have always been fascinated with bats and with hopes of getting footage of a bat swarm I hastily packed a day bag and my camera gear and started racing up the trail to get a good vantage point as the sun was already getting low. As the trail became harder to distinguish I found myself scrambling which was pretty fun, it was like a pick-your-adventure to get up the side of the mountain opposite the pinnacles formation.
As it got darker I began to see a few bats but nothing like I had imagined (think scene from batman) and unfortunately they were way too fast to photograph with my Nikon and too dark to see with the GoPro. The view did get better though as I climbed higher:
As the sun sank behind the finger-like rock formations that the park is named for, I began setting up my camera and tripod. It was about this time I heard a low guttural growl that made the hair on my neck stand on end. I remember thinking to myself “well this is it, this is where you get eaten by a mountain lion” as I frantically searched with my flashlight in the direction the sound had come from. I barely got a glimpse of the rear-end of an animal moving behind a bush and though I couldn’t make out if it had a tail, it was enough for me to literally scramble up to the top of the mountainside. Placing a boulder between me and the creature my backside up against the cliff edge I yelled as loudly as I could for about 15 minutes. Some time later I heard the growl-ish noise again but this time much fainter and from a good distance away. Laughing at myself I set up my camera again and waited for the moon to set.
Once the moon was gone it was so dark it was hard to make out my own feet when I looked down. It turned out to be a perfect night as the sky was clear of clouds, giving way to the vast number of stars hidden from view in the proximity of large cities:
After collecting my fill of pictures I put away my camera, turned on my headlamp and started to head down. Only problem was in my panicked attempt to get away from the supposed mountain lion I had lost the trail! I was stuck and ended up spending the chilly night on the mountain side in just my shorts and t-shirt. I won’t go into the details here but for those interested there is a progression to “My Story” that goes along with this experience.