My boarding time had inched close enough to the present that I began to sweat a little. It was only after I had to remove a pair of shoes from my oversized travel bag at the check-in counter that I became nervous.
“See, I told you taking out the boots would help cut enough weight,” my dad said as he grabbed the pair of shoes I removed from the large purple bag. I rolled my now 50-pound bag through that little section of the airport check-in counter. I just kept throwing in extra stuff that I thought I would need during the summer abroad without thinking about the overage charges. Nearly everything in my room was able to fit in that mobile monstrosity. I had just enough time to get rid of a perfectly good water bottle and take a deep breath before stepping into the back of the airport security line.
It took literally getting hit by a small boulder in my left leg to check back into the “real” world mentally. You know, the one where people live indoors and are accustomed to interacting in spaces with more than two other people in them. The amount of time I had spent on my own in the outdoors allowed me to nearly escape the pandemic entirely. The hiking buff that covered my face reverted to its intended summer use as a shield between my mouth and nature’s most annoying flying insects (sorry entomologists). However, a recent hike with a friend helped knocked me back to reality.
I grew up in a predominantly white, rural town. Some people identified as Latino or Hispanic, but in every single class that I was in, whether it be dance, school, gymnastics, or karate, I was always the darkest one. There would be another Black person occasionally, and it wouldn’t be until I was able to explore more around town that I finally saw the rest of the community. The ones with darker skin like mine were, quite literally, segregated on the other side of town. None of the people I hung out with even knew about it. My classmates would even freak out when we got another Black boy in class.
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.
A Mountain Woman’s Thoughts On Getting Laid Off During A Pandemic
It happened slowly, and then all at once. One moment I was completely fine hiking with my friends in the woods after weeks of recovering from a bout of actual flu and pneumonia, and then the next I’m stuck in the house again for fear of dying from a new illness—Covid-19. I had started a new job the week of the beginning of the stay at home order in the middle of March in California.
I was completely fine that week, but then something happened when they closed the hiking trails to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus. I couldn’t think or figure anything out until they opened them up again with social distancing guidelines. It all clicked again when I went back out into the woods, this time with a mask on my face. When many offices planned to reopen their doors and end working from home, I was laid off.
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.
I lowered my window but didn’t remove the sunglasses that I had picked up from the local target before the trip. The sun’s rays were beating down on the Chevy Silverado truck that my coworker had reserved for me a few days before. So I decided I rather protect my eyes than remove them for the law enforcement officer that was waiting just outside of my window. Everything about the entire trip up to that point had been so last minute, and I continued the trend by picking up the truck after the meeting and heading straight for the coast.
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.
Four years ago, I found myself sitting in the driver’s seat of my brand-new car with my best friend in the passenger seat. We drove from Southern California to Oregon, camping and visiting with friends along the way. What started as some sort of cheesy rom-com where a friend tried their best to reunite two old friends with a bit of history became a cheesy story of friendship that we still talk about until this day.
My best friend and I found ourselves, once again, traveling by car across the country. However, instead of heading north, we traveled east so that my best friend could move the last of her things to her new place in Texas. We traveled with two well-behaved dogs in the back seat of her newer truck next to our luggage piled off on to one side and a trailer full of nearly everything my best friend owned with her new husband. I didn’t need to, but I jumped in the car to spend the last few days that I will have for a while with my best friend. I was also craving adventure, and I knew that we were planning on seeing the Grand Canyon. Continue reading “The Road Trip From California to Texas”→