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Nature Calling.

Bridget Connelly

Growing up as flatlander, the only “mountainous” terrains we encountered were at the Wilmot ski hills in Wisconsin. But to us, that was still a whole lot of fun. Skiing in the winters, sledding/flying/whipping down the somewhat steep, icey inclines – a rip roaring good time was always had by all. We rarely came away unscathed with bruises, battle wounds, and ice-cold, red faced grins. As I got older, my brothers and I were fortunate to see the real deal — big, bold, beautiful mountains. We ventured to Montana, Colorado and West Virginia, completely blown away by the immense, powerful structures we faced. We had the pleasure of hiking, exploring and skiing together with our friends and family. It left me wanting more.

 “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” This John Muir quote could not be more accurate. As I’ve said before, being surrounded by mountains fills me with good memories, reminds me of how beautiful this life is and brings me to a place of complete peace (and sometimes a hint of altitude sickness, ha!). I never thought I would be privileged to arise and see that view regularly.

When I made the move out west, I could not wait to take advantage of the backdrop surrounding me. It was love at first sight when I laid eyes on the majestic coast of California — the deep blue sea neighbored by a never ending stretch of imposing peaks and valleys. Swoon. The contrast between the strikingly cobalt waters, white sandy beaches, and rugged green terrain still never ceases to amaze me. That partnered with sunshine most every day— there are really no excuses for not utilizing the most of my surroundings. Whether it’s swimming in the ocean, running along the beaches, or hiking the coast – these are hobbies I actually love and cherish.  

While I’ve always enjoyed runnning, swimming and hiking have become new interests that have pushed me outside my comfort zone. They have enabled me to do and see more of this dream-like place, called California. When friends visit, I make it a point to take them on a hike. Seeing California from a new perspective, catching up with a loved one, and simultaneously burning off all the booze from the night before — a win, win really. Then of course, we treat ourselves to Acai bowls. Some of my favorite hikes in San Diego include Torrey Pines, Mount Woodson, and Cowles Mountain.  In Laguna Beach a short, stunning hike I enjoy is Top Of the Wold Park. In Los Angeles top hikes include the Greek Observatory trails, Temescal Canyon, and Runyon. And of course, last but certainly not least Big Sur hikes here and here. I mean the view though. Sigh. 

What I love about Torrey Pines is it isn’t too strenuous. I’ve seen people of all ages climbing and exploring the cliff sides. The hike paths end right at the ocean. As you can imagine, the view is spectacular — spanning all the way up to Los Angeles and down to Mexico. I fall deeper in love with San Diego, every time I find myself there. Cowles Mountain is a quick 3 mile hike. Perfect for a nice, hard workout. Plus the sweeping view of the city in the background adds it to my must-do list.  Mount Woodson is NOT for the faint of heart.  It is not ideal for someone who was out a little too late the night before and didn’t pack snacks or water. It is also not ideal to go in the middle of a 90+ degree day. The hike starts out at a quaint little lake in Poway. The path is long and difficult, but rewarding. The goal is to get to the top and see “potato chip rock.” While I am sure, it is a sight to be seen, about an hour in my girlfriend and I decided too many odds were working against us…. We made an executive decision to ditch the hike and grab sangria at a Beach Bar instead—a solid choice for us. Although I know it is worth it, if you are ready and willing to take on the challenge! 

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California never ceases to amaze me with it’s endless hidden gems of hiking paths throughout the coast line and  secret trails tucked away inland. I love what hiking does for me. It enables me to see the world from new heights. It gives me time to think on my own, or allows me to have deep meaningful conversations with someone I care about. It challenges me physically, yet sometimes I haven’t even realized I’ve worked out—still blown away by my surroundings or wrapped up deep in a conversation. I’m tremendously grateful to be able to take advantage of this.  While Wilmot and the flatlands, I call home, will forever hold a special place in my heart, it’s made room for these new special places, experiences and heights.

Being in nature and disconnecting from the world for a bit – it’s become vital for me, especially in an age where we are all so connected. Whether out in the mountains—hiking, wandering, getting lost. Or swimming deep into the ocean waters — not knowing what’s above or below me. Or running as the sun rises along the coast’s edge—these moments are what keep me grounded. They keep me balanced. They keep me grateful and hopeful. They keep me dreaming and wanting more. I hope to find these pockets of nature and beauty wherever I may go in this life. But I’ll always be thankful for my time in the California mountains. Jack Kerouac says it best, “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddam mountain.”