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.
I am a dancer. One of the greatest gifts that dance has given me that I apply to my everyday life is awareness of my physical body. Dance has given me the time and space to be fully aware of all of the possibilities my body holds. It has given me an understanding of what I can only corporeally know, creating space for me to listen to my body. For me, there is no separation between life and dance because we are constantly in motion even when we are still. There is choreography in our everyday life, whether we are continuing patterns or creating new ones. Therefore I find that listening to our bodies and being aware of our physical bodies should become a daily practice, especially in the difficult circumstances of the present time.
Our bodies are hyper-intelligent vessels that have the ability to hold and absorb an incredible amount of information. The body often understands things that are happening to us before we are consciously able to understand them. For example, as infants we enter into stages of crawling and walking through the intelligence of our bodies. Most of us can’t remember when we first started crawling or walking, but our bodies remember even when our memories forget. Before we learn how to speak or read, we first understand the world through our physical bodies. The intelligence of our bodies is limitless and when we allow our bodies to take over and find time to listen to our bodies, I believe we will be surprised by how much our bodies have to say.
So how do we go about listening to our bodies? Connecting to our bodies can happen in multiple ways. For me, I find time to connect through my daily practice in dance. However, I believe that listening to the body can happen whenever we consciously choose to do so. Physical activity might be a gateway to understanding how to listen to our bodies because we are constantly sending signals between our brain and body when we are moving. However, this connection can be lost if we are not conscious of how we move. Being distracted while moving is a significant problem of our generation. Treadmills and ellipticals in gyms have TV’s, we text and walk, or check our emails while commuting. These distractions, while engaging in any type of movement, make us skim through the process of listening to the body. Therefore, it’s important to understand that even in stillness, we have the ability to tune in to our bodies. A quick body scan at the beginning or end of the day can make a huge difference in our wellbeing. Try asking yourself the following questions:
This happened early on a Monday morning, around 7am. While most people at this hour are happily dreaming in their warm beds, I was crossing the street in LA’s downtown financial district, at 7th and Flower to be exact. See, I live in North Hollywood and I work at USC, a major distance for someone who does not drive and has to be on campus at 7:30 in the morning. However, as horrible as this situation sounds, this daily commute is actually thoroughly enjoyable. I take a 25 minute train ride down to the 7th St. Center Metro stop, usually wait about 5-10 minutes for the bus, and then ride the bus to campus for another 15 minutes (and then vice versa back home). With the bustle of a busy work day, this daily journey is usually the most relaxing part of my day. Instead of impatiently trudging through traffic, cursing the overpopulated freeways and lack of free parking around campus, I get to sit back and enjoy my favorite pastimes, reading novels or listening to music/intriguing podcasts, while scoping out my fellow commuters. Let me also note that I am an LA native who remembers a time when Los Angeles did not have a subway and when downtown was a dead zone infiltrated by the homeless. These days, when I ride the metro, I think about what a privilege it is to zoom to my destination, to bear witness to the growth of businesses in the downtown area, and to see more and more office workers, students, artists (and yes, even residents) reclaim the city.