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A journey through grief & self discovery

  • Writer's pictureChristine Angelique

Healing Through Hiking

Fern Dell Nature Trail to West Trail

Want to know a crazy fact about me? I don't believe I've ever seen a mountain in person until I visited California. I've spent most of my life in the South, and the parts I was in had hills, if anything. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I have discovered my love for the beautiful mountains surrounding me, and hiking has become one of my favorite self-love past times.

In general, I like to go for a hike to get some fresh air and clear my head away from the hustle and bustle of the city. When my sweet pup Momiji isn't with me, I usually bring a journal to have a moment of reflection while I'm in tune with nature, feeling balanced and at peace. Nowadays, I find that hikes also help me manage my grief. Scientifically speaking, it's been proven that vitamin D (aka sun exposure) and exercise help reduce depression. Nature has also been proven to be an antidote to stress. I know this is true, because I can feel my mood improve the second I'm out of the city and surrounded by trees. With this being a particularly frugal week, going for a hike was the perfect activity for my weekly, budget-friendly, self-love date.

There's a gorgeously tranquil hiking trail nearby that is my go-to spot for a nice healing-hike called Fern Dell Nature Trail. It's one of my favorite trails to hike because it starts as an aesthetically pleasing, tree-canopied oasis, then flows into the invigorating trails that go through Griffith Park. Usually, I'll walk Momiji under the shaded area or go on a small, easy-looped trail, but today I decided to try something new: "Let's see how far I can go!"

Initially, I was going to just attempt a different loop than my tried and true one, but I quickly realized I still had so much energy when I was almost halfway done with the trail. (I had been sick the week before and lying down all week, so my body was craving movement!) I looked at my Google Maps and decided to do one of the ambitious trails that ended near the Griffith Observatory. "If I get tired halfway through, I'll just turn back and call it," I thought. Well, let me tell you, a girl hiked 4.02 miles in an hour and 30 minutes, and it felt fantastic!

This is truly a testament to the mind over matter philosophy. I used to be quite the track star back in school, so much so that the high school track coach stalked me and my sister for my whole freshmen year to try and persuade me to join the varsity track team. (I wanted to join the dance team instead, it was a whole thing!) My events were all the sprint relays, so I used to hate doing long-distance or cross country training. Since then, I've always seen myself more as a short-distance girl, rather than a long-distance, endurance type. I would tell myself hiking four miles is too much. "I can do two or three max."

However, when I decided to blindly explore, rather than restrict myself to a set distance, I was able to go much farther than I thought! I actually still had the energy to keep going further from my stopping point, but I figured if I got too far from where I started I'd have to call an Uber to take me back down this mountain, and a girl was saving money this week. If paying for Ubers wasn't a problem, imagine how far I could've gone! This made me think: What other areas in my life have I been limiting myself due to my own inaccurate belief of what I can and can't accomplish? What if the very thing stopping me from my true greatness is me? Oof, not me having a whole self-reflective epiphany! But hey, that's the power of hikes; they give you the space and clarity to think.

Self Discovery Tip: Hiking, being out in nature or being in a calming place outside of your usual fast-paced life can help quiet your mind enough to self-reflect. When was the last time you checked in with yourself? Could distancing yourself from life's usual distractions be just what you need for an epiphany that could change everything?

I also enjoyed this trail, because rather than a loop, it went up the mountain to a certain peak that looked over the whole city. It was truly a sight to behold, especially after all the effort it took to get there. Knowing how this trail required a little extra motivation to make it to the peak, a previous group of hikers left encouraging messages made out of sticks and stones to motivate you along the way! Messages I saw included: "Smile!" "You're almost there" "Have a happy/nice day!" Some were even in different languages like Spanish, Korean and Italian! How beautifully inclusive is that?! These messages made my hike so much more enjoyable! When I would get short of breath and feel my legs start to shake from the incline, there it was, that uplifting arrangement of sticks telling me, "You've got this" and "You're almost there!" Once I made it to the peak, I soaked in every bit of gratitude, rest, and pride for making it all the way up the mountain when I could've done the same loop I always did. I enjoyed the view of the city and thought about how crazy it was to have lived in Los Angeles for 5 years now.

After deciding it was best to head back down the mountain and call it a day, my mind began to wonder as I enjoyed the ease of descension. I thought about how my mom and I were the adventurous ones of the family, and how we never got to go on a hike together. I thought to myself it was probably for the best because with her heart condition, it was hard for her to do strenuous treks. I then had the thought that my mom was probably enjoying her limitless heavenly form because now she could do all the things she couldn't on Earth. My next thought sent happy tears to my eyes, "What if she's going on a hike in heaven right now? Maybe we can still hike together." Chalk it up to me always having an active imagination, needing some comfort in that moment or God giving the okay, but for a moment it felt like our two realms met. I was hiking down a trail in Griffith Park. She was hiking down some glorious mountain in the sky, and for a moment we were together again.

The realist in me knew this was probably some form of coping I concocted, but sweet baby pisces me who often drifted into fantasyland and who missed her mommy didn't care. I updated her on my life, boy drama and other anecdotes. I asked her how heaven was. We told each other how much we missed each other, and before we said our goodbyes, she told me she was proud of me, that I got this, and everything will be ok. Soft tears filled my eyes. I laughed to myself, imagining what the hikers who passed by must have been thinking, but I didn't care. I continued down the mountain taking the epiphanies and self-discoveries of the day with me, feeling rejuvenated and at peace. Not only did I get a much needed workout and break from the city, but I also got to feel connected to my mother, a feeling I missed dearly.

Grief Tip: Sometimes your lost loved one isn't as far as you think.

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1 Comment

Jan 06

This was beautiful 😍

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