You ever have one of those days when you wake up and find your fully charged phone has died, so your alarm never went off and you overslept. But! You still have 30 minutes until your phone interview. Phew. Except the interview has to be rescheduled by the interviewer. Wait…what kind of bug is that crawling across my foot? Is that a…a termite? Termites have wings, though. Not all termites have wings, you say?
You’ve never had one of those days? Me neither.
But if you did, I have the perfect prescription. And it’s not inaccessibly priced so you have to go to Canada or Mexico. You don’t even need insurance to get it. Hell, you don’t need a pharmacy. You need to simply step outside, and find something growing out of the ground.
Hike in a forest? Will there be gnomes?
I’m fortunate that I live in Southern California, where within an hour you can reach the beach, desert or mountains. But it took me over nine years to go for a hike. I think I was afraid I’d run into a rattlesnake (a legitimate fear) or mountain lion (unlikely, but possible). More likely, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the stamina, and would end up lost on some trail without cell phone reception, not be able to find my way back, be too tired to try, and get eaten by a little-known species of ants or – more likely – a club of hipster cannibals. (Eating animals? Unethical! Eating your neighbor? Come on over!)
But, in the spirit of being open to new things on the off chance that something unexpected could be a new favorite (as I discussed here), I replied with an enthusiastic “Sure!” when my friend Kristi invited me along for a hike.
Kristi promised not to put me in the path of danger. She assured me that the cannibals left the area long ago, once they realized the HIIT/TRX-ified LA meat was too tough. That even if we saw a snake, it probably wouldn’t harm us. On the subject of bears, she said, “I hope we see one!” Uh-oh.
We headed to Angeles National Forest, a quick drive north of where I live. Kristi chose a trail she felt I could navigate, that would also not be too tiring. “We can turn around at any time,” she offered.
This place looked mystical enough that I thought fairies might emerge from behind a rock at any moment. What we encountered was even more magical: a Corgi meet-up. The dogs’ stubby legs maneuvered the terrain with surprising ease. I figured if they could do it, I should be able to, even though with two fewer legs I’d be potentially less stable.
The only time I felt somewhat ambivalent was when we crossed the creek the first time. With Kristi navigating the unstable logs and slippery rocks tentatively, I was sure I’d have a butt soaked with the purest San Gabriel water shortly. Fortunately it was only my feet that got mildly wet, and that wasn’t at all unpleasant anyway.
We worked our way up the trail until we were on the mountain ledge, and then continued along it. I could barely believe that I – who as a child was afraid to walk on the balance beam (the one that is zero inches off the floor) – was now hundreds? thousands? of feet up, walking along a not terribly wide ledge, where we had to cling to the wall to allow others to pass.
Not only was I hiking, I was also enjoying it. I took in the amazing scent in the air. Was it a combination of mountain sage and rotting leaves? Or some kind of tree resin? Whatever it was smelled fresh, invigorating, and grounding. Even being way up there, I felt so in touch with the earth that I felt innately safe. Plus, I suddenly felt the urge to surround myself with crystals and start a metaphysical earth mother ritual.
Peace without mastery
After snacking on dried fruit, jerky, cheese and crackers, we got back in Kristi’s SUV and made our way back down the mountain. I felt accomplished, exhausted, and exhilarated, all at once. I conquered a fear, left technology behind for a few hours, and got some peace (beautiful sights, the sounds of birds and trickling water, the herbal scents…and corgis!). What’s not to like? I’m determined to join Kristi for another hike soon.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a beach, desert or mountains near you. Have a park? A neighborhood with grassy lawns (it doesn’t have to be your own)? Weeds creeping through a crack in the sidewalk? Find whatever nature you can. Then savor it. Corgi optional (but encouraged).