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.
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.
As I prepare for this upcoming school year, I know that the Trailmixers will go on many more hikes. I hope that every USC student takes the opportunity to witness and appreciate nature. There are many excellent resources to get you started, like the AllTrails app to help plan trips, Airbnb or Recreation.gov for housing/campsites, the REI store for camping gear, and “Peaks and Professors,” an outdoors club at USC. All the resources are listed below. If you have any questions about hiking or need help planning trips, I would love to help you out as well! You can find my information on the USC One-On-One Conversation Partner program website here.
Peaks and Professors: https://www.peaksandprofessors.org/
Recreation (for booking camp sites): https://www.recreation.gov/
Leah King is an Occupational Therapy graduate student at USC. She has been a conversation partner since 2017 and loves meeting and talking to international students about their cultures as well as sharing her own. Leah was a double major in Cognitive Science and East Asian Area Studies as an undergraduate and has studied and worked all over the world including Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel. Some hobbies she engages in are hiking, trying new foods, participating in USC’s OT Global Initiatives, traveling to national parks, and training for a triathlon.