A few weekends ago we hiked San Diego’s Iron Mountain. To my peak chasing friends, this one is doable in their sleep, but for us, it was only the second time around. It took less time to make it to the top, the wind didn’t blow us over the edge, and my asthmatic little lungs made it without the assistance of an inhaler. The path took us on a winding journey through nature’s beauty and continued to entice us all the way to the top. Up there, where the air is clear, the horizon endless and the birds close enough to touch – up there is where we stopped for a moment of contemplation, refreshment and pure joy.
Before moving west, I never knew how much I enjoyed hiking. Growing up as a kid with allergies on the east coast of the United States, the perfect hiking seasons came equipped with all things histamine that (no matter what) made it through every blockade I managed to put up. With no desert setting in sight, the allergen inducing trees, grass and flowers made enjoying any pathway an excruciating journey and one I quickly dismissed. This ocean loving kid would rug up (regardless of season) and head to the salty sea where the air was clear of allergens and filled with exquisite calm. Without the opportunity to give my little lungs a break, I had no idea I liked the other option that entailed ‘leaving the beach’.
Elphaba was right, ‘because I knew you I’ve been changed for the better’ (Wicked) – San Diego living has opened my eyes to the world of hiking. Granted, these desert scenes and island flowers have given my lungs the break they needed to allow me the opportunity to find joy in the pathways away from the sea. These winding trails traversing mountains, cliffs, valleys and journeys to more natural goodness continue to show me more and more about the continuing beauty of nature. When you throw in the health benefits of a clearer mind, calmer heart rate, lowered blood pressure, elevated connections, kindness and equality found on the trail – I’m glad that I stopped evading and started embracing the world of hiking. Today, I crave it and often find myself looking up new spots to trek, new natural sights to see and odd as it is to say, they’re not all by the water.
When we arrived, there were four people already at the peak of Iron Mountain. We all grabbed our refreshments, enjoyed the view and made sure to put all of our rubbish back in our packs…and then we chatted with each other. One of the ladies was visiting from New Zealand while her friend was in from Canada. They were looking forward to their upcoming caravan trip traversing the South Island of New Zealand. There was a local guy who told us Iron Mountain was one of his favorite hikes and then gave us a few ideas for our next adventures and there was a girl who, like us, had moved here for the year ’round outdoor lifestyle. Like the rest of us up there, she had stopped for a rest, to take in and photograph the view and to enjoy being where she was. In the entire conversation, she was the one with the words I remembered most (and Mat and I met in New Zealand so that’s saying something). She was so happy to be there, in this place, on this trail. She said, ‘It may sound a bit hippie, but it feels like we’re meant to be here – that nature is our home’. The minute she said it, I smiled from the inside out. I couldn’t agree more.