Category Archives: Nature

Finding Tranquility on the Trails

By Leah King

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Recently I picked up a new hobby that I would love to share with others in the hopes that it could bring the same joy and peace that I feel from it to you: hiking. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I felt trapped in my home and anxious from spending so much time indoors. I needed an escape from what was going on for my mental health.

Growing up, I loved spending time outdoors. I would go camping and hiking around the Midwest regularly, but for some reason, I lost touch with that side of myself in high school and in my early undergraduate years because of my other athletic commitments. So when all the gyms were closed and I was tired of running around the same block over and over again, I started researching hiking trails around California. This was around my first year of my Master’s Program. In my search, I came across this app called “AllTrails.” This incredible app shows you all the hiking trails in the area, how difficult they are, and how long they are. It also has a navigation system to help you locate the start of the trail and people’s reviews. I used this app to help plan my first hiking trip to Yosemite.  

One of Yosemite’s most popular views

During spring break, a couple of friends and I drove up from LA to Yosemite to hike for a few days. I was immediately hooked. Firstly, Yosemite is so breathtaking with all its mountains, trees, and waterfalls. I used AllTrails to help me plan what hikes we wanted to do in terms of difficulty and popularity. We hiked over 15 miles during the three days we were there, and while I was hiking, I felt a sense of calmness and peace when I was surrounded by nature. When I came back to LA to resume classes, that calmness was gone and I was eagerly anticipating my next adventure in the outdoors.

Fast forward to the second year of my Master’s Program. The pandemic had calmed down a bit and my classes were fully in person. While in class, I overheard a couple of classmates talking about hiking in Santa Monica. I gravitated to the conversation and asked You guys are hiking? Could I possibly join?”. The two girls were so sweet and invited another classmate and me that weekend to hike. During that hike, we shared our love for the outdoors and discussed how many different hiking spots there are in California. We decided to try to hike every weekend and came up with the name “Trailmixers” for our hiking group! And that’s what the Trailmixers did. We hiked almost every weekend, and with some planning, most of those trips were very inexpensive. We’ve hiked Mount Baldy, Cucamonga, San Fan, Santa Barbra, Sedona, Pinnacles National Park, Zion, camped in Big Sur, and backpacked in Catalina Island.

Photo from my Catalina Island trip
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Suns Out Paws Out: Summer Safety Tips to Keep Our Furry Friends Safe

By Makesha Conzuelo

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

If you’ve ever been to Washington state (or if you’ve seen any of the Twilight franchise films) then you’ll know the state is well known for its constant rainy days. Just as Californians always expect sun, we always expect rain. Being from Washington, I can attest that when summer rolls around, everyone makes sure to take advantage of the sunny days. Now that we’ve added our corgi Benji to the family, that means I’ve had the chance to learn about what I should do to keep him safe while enjoying the sun with us. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned so far and what can help you as well if you’re a first time dog owner. 

While there are a lot of perks to summer, it also poses special risks to our dogs. More walks and longer outings can lead to an “…increased exposure to ticks and other insects, to sunburn, and even heatstroke.” (akc.org, 2019). A lot of tips can be applied to any pets you have in your household; making sure their water bowls are filled, providing shady spots to escape the sun. In particular, you want to make sure you open your car windows if there isn’t air conditioning-on a hot day, it can reach 100 degrees in just 20 minutes (akc.org, 2019). You can also research tips for your specific dog’s breed. 

 Family pet Benji 2yr, enjoying the sun at Lake Tapps

Since we commonly take our dogs out more than any other pet, there are more safety precautions we can take to make sure they are being safe in the sun. 

Going on walks

With the sun heating up asphalt and sand, prolonged exposure can burn their paws. If your schedule allows it, try walking them earlier in the day and later in the evening when temperatures will be cooler. If the ground is too hot for you to touch, then your dog probably shouldn’t be walking on it either. You may consider purchasing dog boots for them, however finding a brand that fits them well may be a challenge and your pet may not ever get used to them. As always, if in doubt, be sure to consult with your veterinarian.

If it’s not too hot out, then you might consider going for a hike.

Hiking may seem pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot of safety precautions to consider for both humans and dogs alike. For our furry friends, we want to make sure they 

  • Are up to date on their vaccinations
  • Have a good harness, not just their collar and leash combo 
  • Have a water bottle specifically for them 
  • Are a type of breed that will enjoy hikes 

Prefer the water? Grab that life jacket!

With it being cold and rainy most of the year, Washingtonians jump at the chance to go to the lakes and beaches to take a dive. 

Most dogs love it too, so make sure to get them a life jacket that fits them well so they too can enjoy the water in a safe manner.  It’s a good idea (once their life jackets are on) to introduce them to the water slowly and with positive reinforcement before having them hop onto a kayak or paddle board so they know what to expect in case they ever fall in.

My dog Benji sporting his life jacket enjoying a kayak ride with my sister at Lake Sammamish state park.
Continue reading Suns Out Paws Out: Summer Safety Tips to Keep Our Furry Friends Safe

Nature Outings Around LA

By Sarah Selke

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Every once in a while, a brief trip away from the bustle of metropolitan LA can be a much-needed respite for a USC student. While there are plenty of things to do in the city, there are just as many day trips one can take in the surrounding areas. Going for a hike or bike ride in some different scenery can be a refreshing and inexpensive option for weekends when you would like to spend some time away from campus. I have listed below some of my favorite hikes and nature expeditions you can take in the LA area that will make it feel like you are visiting a place far from the city!

Photo by Praveen Thotagamuwa on Unsplash

One of the more popular places to hike in the LA area is the Sturtevant Falls trail. Located in the Santa Anita Canyon, this approximately 3.5-mile hike is frequently crowded with Angelinos, and follows a steep descent into a lush valley that ends in a spectacular waterfall. There are several other side trails that branch off from the sometimes overly busy path, such as the Upper Winter Creek Trail, which leads into a very dense, green forest that hardly feels as if it were only half an hour from downtown LA. 

Another slightly further destination is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, which hosts large fields of the state’s flower each spring. This reserve is located about an hour and half away from USC, a few miles outside of Lancaster. Often crowded during peak season, it is highly advisable to visit the poppies early in the morning before parking gets too full. Another tip: bring an extra layer even when the temperature is high, as it gets particularly windy at this spot.

Photo by Pamela Heckel on Unsplash

Perhaps my favorite outdoor destination to visit in the area around LA is the Malibu Creek State Park, which is nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. This park is filled with miles of beautiful trails, and was also the sight for various feature films, including the MASH series. The Yearling Trail, which starts from Reagan Ranch and leads to Century Lake, is a gentle 4-mile hike that leads through green fields, a Redwood forest, and ends with a glimpse of the Century Lake dam. It is a personal favorite of mine that can be accessed all-year round. 

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