Growing up in Southern California, I was privileged enough to be driving distance away from many popular national parks. Every winter and summer break, my family would take a trip to a new national park. During the winter, we would stay in hotels or motels and explore the parks during the day and during the summer we would go camping. Camping and exploring national parks is a fun activity for families or friend groups to take part in over a long weekend or vacation, so here are my top three national park choices that I highly suggest you visit while you’re in California!
1. Yosemite National Park
This is one of the most popular national parks in California. It boasts beautiful mountains and waterfalls. The campsites in Yosemite fill up fast, so the best time to book them is in February or March if you want to camp around June. The best place to camp within Yosemite is in Yosemite Village because of its proximity to the best hiking trails and sightseeing locations. Some of their most beautiful hiking trails are the Vernal and Nevada Falls trails. These trails take you to a beautiful spot where you can get very close to the waterfall and if you go earlier in the summer, you will get soaked by the waterfall. The park is very family-friendly and has hiking trails suited for younger children.
2. Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is known for its gigantic trees. The biggest one yet is called the General Sherman Tree and it’s something that must be visited if you end up going to Sequoia. The park is about 3 to 4 hours away from Los Angeles. This place is also best to visit during the months of May to June because the weather is perfect for hiking. Sequoia is also home to various wildlife species and you might be able to see some bears and deer! If you want to get more done while you’re up there, Sequoia is also only an hour and a half away from Kings Canyon National Park, a park with mountains and waterfalls that are beautiful to visit at sunset.
Most people have little knowledge of sleep away camp aside from classic movies like “The Parent Trap” and “Meatballs”. The image that comes to mind when most people think about sleep away camp is of canoeing on a lake, tie-dying t-shirts, or making s’mores and telling stories around a campfire. The truth is, all of these things certainly exist at sleep away camp, but there is so much more that is involved in this American summertime tradition.
As a child growing up in the state of New York, my summers always took place at sleep away camp, where I’d spend my days in nature among friends. If you’ve never heard of sleep away camp, it’s a summer-long activity-driven community for children and teens. I have had my fair share of bracelet making and song singing, although my favorite part of camp is undoubtedly interacting with all of the people I’ve met over the years. Because there are about 100 girls at my camp, and 200 boys at the neighboring “brother” camp, it is safe to say I recognize every face I see. I can walk down the stunning lakefront path to the dining hall and see friends ranging in age from 8 to 21. There is a certain bond that forms between people who live together in an isolated, yet self-sufficient mini-world that is sleep away camp, and this made this a very memorable part of my childhood.
One of the strongest and most tight-knit communities I belong to is my sleep away camp. Tucked away in the serene Adirondack mountains, camp is home to a small group of kind, creative, and unique people. The sense of comfort is so strong in this small, lakeside oasis that every person feels like a member of a family. We admire each other’s passions, supporting one another in everything from sports to plays to painted masterpieces; I have never felt more at home in a place besides my own house. Growing up as a camper, I learned fun lessons from my counselors: how to french-braid hair, craft string bracelets, and effectively mouth words to songs that I was too young to memorize. They taught me the games, songs, and customs that bind our camp community together, making sure to promote camp spirit. Now that I am a counselor, I feel that it is my duty to highlight these traditions and pass down the skills I learned to my campers to demonstrate how special this place truly is.
For many people, quarantine has made it difficult to establish a regular routine that resembles a normal lifestyle. This can lead many of us, myself included, to feel overwhelmed by work. Finding time to spend in nature is of the utmost importance, but depending on where you live, it can be difficult to incorporate time outdoors into your everyday schedule. Two ALI Conversation Partners, Alyssa Delarosa and Elizabeth Goodman, reflect on ways to get outside during quarantine and list places to visit in Los Angeles that provide some peace and respite from Zoom and online classes.
-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor
[7 minute read]
THE IMPORTANCE OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES DURING QUARANTINE
By Alyssa Delarosa
During this time of quarantine where zoom calls, Netflix binges, and a non-existent sleep schedule threaten to take over our lives, there are many wonderful resources and guides on activities to keep us busy on the internet. Some of these resources recommend completing at-home workouts, recipes, meditation, and other hobbies that are beneficial for your mental health. Out of all these wonderful resources and guides, I want to specifically highlight sources that encourage outdoor activities, as I believe that outdoor activities are vital to our mental health, physical health, and general well-being.
While there are plenty of activities to do indoors that can prove very effective for our mental and physical health, we are doing these activities in the exact same environment each time.At the start of quarantine this was not necessarily a bad thing, but in the long-run this practice can prove somewhat damaging for our mental health. We are being constantly exposed to the same environment for hours and days on end, which can have a “prison-like” effect on our minds and make us feel trapped and gradually begin to lose interest in finding meaning and enjoyment in our lives. This is why I do not simply recommend outdoor activities, I strongly encourage them as a necessity.
The complete and total change of scenery that outdoor activities provide can be blissful beyond imagination. I currently reside in Ventura, California (a rural beach town about an hour North of the USC campus) and I am always sure to allot some time to make the ten minute drive to the beach, where I can spend the whole day surfing, walking, or merely observing the beauty around me. I often find myself standing in complete awe with my feet in the sand, the wind caressing my cheek, the sound of the waves swelling and breaking, and the smell of the salt in the air. The restlessness I may feel indoors does not matter as long as I escape the clutches of my house and run into the embrace of nature.
When you’re done reading this, I want you to go to your calendar or planner, digital or physical, and start marking the time(s) within your schedule that you are able to engage in any outdoor activities. It does not matter your location; the main objective here is to simply get outside! If you live in the city, this could look like simply taking a walk in the streets nearby your house or apartment. You also do not necessarily need to leave your home or dorm area, as you can relax with a good book in hand on your porch, patio, balcony, or any other accessible outdoor area.
The USC campus itself is a beautiful place to take walks outdoors, with numerous parks located on campus such as Alumni Park and the EF Hutton Park. If you do not live near or on USC campus and do not have access to any parks or trails, keep in mind that the objective is to simply produce a short change in your environment so when you leave your everyday desk and living space, you can re-enter more recharged and refreshed than you were when you left.
Just because we’re in quarantine does not mean that life has to lose color, meaning, and enjoyment. Exchanging our daily home scenery for the beauty outside can help encourage all of us to live happier lives. One day our lives will resume but in the meanwhile, let’s appreciate the time we have now and continue to live and thrive in the nature surrounding us.
FOUR OF THE BEST PANORAMIC VIEWS OF LOS ANGELES
By Elizabeth Goodman
From the skylines of Downtown and Century City, to the Santa Monica Mountains, to the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the views from atop the city of Los Angeles are hard to beat. When city life, crowds, and traffic get you down, take some time to rejuvenate by visiting some of LA’s most breathtaking panoramic views without a long hike. Here are some of my favorite scenic views from various lookouts in LA, all of which are accessible to students and most of which are free (although you might have to pay for parking if you drive). All of these outdoor spots also provide a great escape for anyone seeking some time outdoors during quarantine! Go on your own or with a friend for a socially distanced hike to a great view.
“Top of the World” – Pacific Palisades
This lookout in Pacific Palisades has rightly earned its name with views that stretch from Downtown Los Angeles to the left, to Catalina Island on the right. It is unique to be able to see where the sand meets the sea while enjoying the immediate surrounding greenery and mountains. An easy less-than-five-minute walk after parking will lead you to this stunning view, and there are many other hiking trails to explore in this area if you want to spend more time here.
Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel– Santa Monica
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant at the top floor of the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica offers an unparalleled dining experience. The rooftop on the 18th floor boasts a panoramic ocean view from every table in the restaurant. Between the gourmet cuisine and superb view, this is an exclusive experience you won’t want to miss out on. Note that this restaurant is currently closed due to recent quarantine mandates, but when restaurants begin reopening, be sure to include this one on your bucket list!