I was greeted by a cool breeze that rustled the green leaves of the towering trees that surrounded me as I stepped out of my mid-sized SUV. I went around to the back and popped open the trunk and used the space as a seat while I laced up my hiking boots. It was nearing the time that my hiking group should have arrived, but as I glanced around the park near the mouth of several trailheads, I saw no one around.
“Hey, good morning,” I texted my hiking leader. “I parked inside of the park. Where were we supposed to meet again?”
“Inside of the park?” She responded almost immediately. “It should be a residential street.”
I heavy weight of dread had dropped into my chest. I knew I had made a grave mistake. I was in the middle of a densely wooded mountainside. Somehow the address saved in my calendar took me an hour away from my real hiking destination. I let my hiking leader know that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the actual location in time, but that I decided I was going to hike some of the trails where I was anyway.
“Ugh, okay,” she texted back. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know if the calendar took you to an old spot. We did that hike there before, but please be safe there, okay.”
Never in all my years of going anywhere had my calendar or map apps taking me so far off course to an entirely different location. I had no idea how it happened, and I knew it was no one’s fault. However, I still really wanted to hike that day, and I was too stubborn to wait until I had a hiking partner. So, I tightened the straps of my camel pack around me, thanked God I overpacked and brought extra water and snacks, and I started walking towards the mouth of one of the trails.
To be completely honest, I was incredibly nervous walking into the woods alone. I sent a text to my sister with my location and let her know that I was hiking by myself. She texted back with panicked-looking emojis and nothing else. As I passed by a large sign that warned hikers that they were entering a bear habitat, all I could about was how it was probably up to my sister to send a search and rescue team to come and find my mangled body if I encountered any dangerous wildlife in the woods. I had never hiked alone before, but I decided that day would be the day I changed that fact.
I stayed the course and paid extra attention to my surroundings. I realized how much I had to trust myself in the woods and that I had to know where I was going and how I would be getting back to my car. I relaxed a little knowing that if I followed the trail closest to the rushing stream of water that I would be able to see the waterfall in Monrovia Canyon Park.
As the trail climbed, I grew more confident in my ability to remember where I had been and where I was going. I began taking photos of the beautiful nature that surrounded me as my nerves subsided. My accidental hike alone made me understand the appeal of solitude in nature. I had no one else in my head, but I was able to take the time to learn more about who I was and reflect on things in my life.
I’ve always said that nature is my church. I go there to reset, reconnect, and to reflect on everything. However, I never had the chance to do that by myself until that hike alone in Monrovia Canyon. I took my time exploring new paths, using actual sticks and my timer for selfies, and admiring the beauty of the lavish greenery and the sizeable statuesque rock formations that surrounded me.
I realized that I needed this unplanned hike. I briefly wondered if I was making the right decision to live on my own before the hike. My sister asked if I would be scared of living alone the night before. I didn’t know the answer to that question until I found myself feeling okay about my solo hike.
I knew I would be okay living on my own. It would give me another chance to learn more about myself, to grow as a person, and to have more time to myself to get projects done. If anything, I believe the unknown force, or happy accident, that led me to the woods was planned all along. Like the start of a lengthy book chapter, it has allowed me a chance to breathe and look forward to a new adventure that will happen not too far ahead in my story.