In honor of Halloween, this is the first in a series of lists of hikes based on common fears. One of Gary Larson’s “Far Side” cartoons showed a man trapped in a darkened cage filled with snakes suspended from a building. The caption described the doctor’s “controversial cure for fear of heights, snakes and the dark.” The hikes on these lists will not only help Angelenos get exercise and fresh air—but they may even conquer their own personal demons in the bargain.
According to Wikipedia, the term “agoraphobia” is derived from the Greek word for marketplace. While the anxieties of those who suffer from agoraphobia can be triggered by being in any unfamiliar situation, such as a crowded place, the condition is often associated with a fear of open spaces.
While many L.A. residents who feel overwhelmed by the city might crave being able to spend time in wide open spaces, such hikes can present their own challenges—for those with or without agoraphobia. Don’t expect any shade, for starters. Navigation can also be tricky, because while hikes in canyons and up mountains usually have obvious routes even when the trails are vague, in open fields, there are usually fewer landmarks to reference.
There’s no place to hide, either.
Bommer Canyon – one of Orange County’s newer natural areas, Bommer Canyon is really a vast valley in the San Joaquin Hills. While many hikers will enjoy this pocket of open land in Orange County, others may find themselves wondering who is watching them.
Charmlee Natural Area – Malibu’s city park, high on the bluffs above the ocean, is known for its springtime wildflowers, and also its confusing signage. Enjoy the meadow…but don’t get lost on the network of trails, and make sure you’re back to the parking lot before dark. Oh, and don’t think twice about Malibu’s infamous history of wildfires.
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve –best known for the famous Vernal Pools that occur in the spring, the 8,000-acre reserve has great views of San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and more. As you’re exploring the area, imagine what it may have been like back in the 1800s, when bandits such as the notorious Joaquin Murrieta – namesake of the nearby town – roamed the land.
White Point Nature Preserve – two abandoned military bunkers preside over this hillside open space in the South Bay, providing a touch of mystery.
Wildwood Canyon Park – nestled on a hillside just past Yucaipa, Wildwood Canyon State Park treats hikers to great views of the San Jacintos, Santa Anas and more. There is, however, a lot of guesswork involved: the layout of the trails here makes Charmlee Park look like a master-planned community. Just remember what hikes up must hike down—and watch out for the coyotes.
Of course, whatever fears of the outdoors one may have, most hikers are likely to find these trails far more inspiring than frightening. Even if the idea of spending time in a vast open space is a little intimidating, give it a shot anyways; go with your friends. Safety in numbers is always a good idea, even for the fearless.
Stay tuned for the next installment: Claustrophobia!