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.
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!