Finding Courage

How Briefly Getting Lost In The Wilderness Made Me Realize We Should Be More Like Ron Weasley

I heard rustling from the freely growing shrubbery that lined the dirt trail, and then I saw it crash from seemingly nowhere about 20 feet ahead of my trekking poles. The crash sounded like the moment a riding horse shifts from a trot to a full gallop. I could hear the sheer power of the hooves and the weight of the large animal as it slammed onto the narrow ledge of the rock face several thousand feet above the last human I saw. The doe quickly rolled from where it landed on its side and shot up before staring in my direction. I froze. The deer froze, and we made eye contact for what seemed like a full 20 seconds.

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The Need For Mindfulness And Therapy

“Wait, you have anxiety?” One of the hikers from the group that I was socially distancing with turned to look at me.

“Yeah,” I said, readjusting the supplies in my bag to adjust for the camel pack’s shift in weight. “I actually have terrible anxiety.”

It was true, and if I weren’t so insanely stubborn, my anxiety would be debilitating. I suffered from constant panic attacks that hit full swing at the height of California’s stay at home order. I had been getting by with hiking and camping and doing all sorts of very random things (like that one time I tried Capoeira) for so long that I hadn’t dealt with my anxiety. That was until COVID-19.

The pandemic shook things up and made me face myself. There was literally nowhere else to go but inward to take up a journey of reflection. Stripped of everything else, I got to see who I truly was as a person. My personality isn’t 80 percent anxiety and 20 percent the outdoors. I never realized how much more than that I was.

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How To Be Alone On Top Of A Mountain

I was alone for the first time in the woods. I went onto the trail without a sign from anyone around, but on the way back, I saw a pile of fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail. I first heard noises behind the trees off to the distance and then saw the bushes move. “Of course I would get mauled by a bear the very first time I decided to hike by myself,” or so I thought, and so I picked up my hiking pace three-fold and made it out of the heavily-bear-populated mountains with a story. That was a little over a year ago.

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The Extroverted Introvert In The Springtime

I didn’t realize how social I really was until the order was passed down by California’s state Governor to stay home. Stay home? I didn’t remember two consecutive days in my entire life, except for the times I was really sick when I stayed inside of a building. I was always outside, either running, driving, or hiking. When I got bored, I went outdoors until the day that I couldn’t.

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How I Lost My Mind In The Desert

Me at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, CA

I suppose there’s a component in my DNA that has programmed me to become obsessed with the desert. It was two generations before me when my bloodline found solace among like-minded people in the same situation out in the desert. I wrote before about how my grandmother felt a little closer to God while looking out into the sunrise over a clear Arizona sky. It was after that moment over the phone that I told her that I understood and felt the same way.

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The Leap Year Timeline

Mobius Arch, Inyo County, California
Mobius Arch, Inyo Canyon, California

My life makes sense when you look at it in Leap Years. It’s more confusing to look at my life when you look at every year in between. It’s as if I’ve only ever hit the correct axis of time if you scrunched up the detailed map of my journey to get here—the day before the day that only exists every four years.

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The Importance of Communication In Different Spaces

Why understanding a group before joining is so important

Not everyone who joins a specific group falls under the descriptive category. In fact, I occasionally invite non-people of color to Black Girl Trekkin hikes. Some tag along excitedly, while others may shy away from the invitation. I love including people in spaces, but I make sure that the people I invite on hikes are respectful and take the time to learn about the group and the people who are in it.

I try to check my new messages and requests across all the social media accounts that I regularly manage for the groups and organizations I lead at least once a day. I watch as reaction emoji’s trickle in like the babbling brooks I love to post on my own Instagram stories. The majority of the time the messages are very positive. I’ll usually see polite questions about upcoming outdoor events and comments on how beautiful the images that I have shared from the hiking community. However, sometimes, I’ll get questions about whether people who identify as men can join the hikes that I lead for the Los Angeles chapter of the women’s group, Hiker Babes and I have to pause for a moment.

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Why I Became The Leader Of A Hiking Group

If you asked me a year ago if I would be the ambassador for the Los Angeles chapter of the international hiking group, Hiker Babes, whose mission is to unite women who share a passion for the outdoors into a community, I would have laughed. It’s not as though I haven’t led such as groups of writers, students, coworkers, and such before. However, I always left trail scouting and leading hikes up to the other hiking groups that I am also a member — especially the group, Black Girls Trekkin.’

It was with the group Black Girls Trekkin that I first attempted to do the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. Before I was hiking with a team of badass women who climb mountains, I never would have thought that I would have been able to hike as long and as far as we have on some of these hikes. I think the two biggest lessons I learned was that, one: AllTrails is a tool to use, and two: with the help and advice of my wonderful and very supportive friends at Black Girls Trekkin’ I can totally lead a group of women out into nature safely.

It was also all my other outdoorsy friends that have motivated to do incredibly creative and intricate things such as a podcast. It was by first getting back into running outdoors and ultimately just returning to nature in college and hiking with other nature-loving people that have led me into this life of a wild mountain woman.  

So, when people ask me how, or why, did you become the leader of L.A. Chapter Hiker Babes, I try to give a short answer. I usually just say I did it because I love hiking and I was offered the role, but what I really want to tell them is how I started running so I could drink more at bars and eat street burritos, and it lead me to be in a national online campaign for an amazing shoe company and a hiking leader for an international community. I know better that it would take too long, though.

Update: Why I Left Hiker Babes

Jazzed About Nature Podcast | Episode 2: Black Girls Trekkin

I decided to sit down and chat with the founders of Black Girls Trekkin about diversity in outdoor communities and how they started their group.

ACCESSIBILITY

You can turn the Closed Captioning on the YouTube video of the podcast below.

Nature And The Outdoors

Me at the Grand Canyon
Making my parents nervous since 1990.
  • I would give them no choice in the matter, and just picked them up and took them somewhere. Especially, the friends who came from that tiny rural town.
  • I paused for a moment and glanced up to see if I would need to dodge any more animals falling from the sky. I was already 13 miles into the 17-mile hike I had planned to do the day before my trek. ‘Damn. I really am out here,’ I thought to myself.
  • I went to see a therapist about my anxiety, and it helped. I started rolling out my yoga mat again and practicing mindfulness meditation. I began paying closer attention to the advice from people I trusted, and while I worked to help educate others and help uplift the voices of the minority, I also worked […]
  • I was already halfway up the mountain when I briefly thought about turning back in my head that made no sense. I was already here on the mountain. I quickly and confidently checked my bag for my throwing knives and figured that I would be alright. I was already in the middle of doing something […]
  • It seems like every year around this time; I take off to help or visit someone. This is the second time I spontaneously decided to drive to Texas, planned a trip overnight, and then flawlessly executed it without skipping a beat.
  • I realized through exploring historical literature from people from all walks of life that there are so many sides to a story. None of them are completely right because each account is told with an inherent bias. No one news source can give you the full picture, and no one person can tell you what […]