3 Hikes That Fortified My Faith
When I travel, one of my favorite, free activities is to do is to go on a hike. It’s a great way to exercise, clears my thinking, inspires great conversations and everything you see and smell along the way is beautiful (unless someone forgot their deodorant). For me, hikes also have a way of reaffirming my faith in that universal source of truth and love I, personally, call God.
Yosemite: The summer before my freshman year, I volunteered to join a small group on a voluntary initiation trip hiking through Yosemite. I considered myself outdoorsy - I’d been a Girl Scout growing up! But a two-week hike through the Sierra’s with nothing but what you carry on your back is quite different. I did so many things during those two weeks that I had never done before: I rock-climbed a wall with no grips by shoving my foot in a crevice and shimmying up two perpendicular cliff faces…leaving a trail of blood behind me from the scrapes on my arms, I scrambled over boulders on the knife-edge of a mountain looking down a 2,000ft drop on my way to the peak, I showered under waterfalls, slept under the stars and, ultimately, came back with a stronger belief in myself as I entered the first phase of adulthood - and an even stronger appreciation for the beauty of nature and the outdoors (Yosemite has that effect on people).
San Diego: When I first moved to San Diego, I didn’t know anyone. Determined to live the life I pictured before I moved, I set off on San Diego’s best hikes solo, including Cowles Mountain - SD’s highest peak. I got to the top just before sunset, looked around, meditated, and started to head back. Unfortunately, 20 mins later I realized I’d made a wrong turn. The light was failing and I still had to hike back to the top, reorient myself, and head back down. I was scared. I was scared in the unique way a woman alone in the dark is scared of every passing stranger. At one point, holding up my phone to catch the last spark of sunset, a man called out - advice for a better photo. I turned to see a guy in his 60s who I recognized from my hike up - he’d been picking up trash along the trail. I softened, and started a conversation. As we hiked down together I learned he, Steve, was a retired search-and-rescue officer. He gave me advice for ensuring safer future hikes. I relaxed, and felt in my bones that Steve was my guardian angel. Yet another reminder not to be afraid, that God had my back.
Hong Kong: My sister and I decided to tackle the 3 hour hike to Lantau peak, and 1 hour hike down to the Big Buddha from there. The reviews said “so easy, we saw a five year old do it!” or “we passed many hikers in their 70s and 80s!” Piece of cake…except it wasn’t. I have pretty bad vertigo - something I first realized during that Yosemite peak climb - and there were many many moments along this hike where the dizziness and fear paralyzed me. I had to sit and grip the earth until the spinning slowed and my heart rate steadied. I had no idea how I was going to take another step forward, but the prospect of turning back was equally terrifying. Luckily, my ever-patient sister encouraged me at every step. She never let me forget that I could do this, I could do this. By the time I made it to the Big Buddha I had overcome one of the scariest things I’d ever done and it was exhilarating and empowering. To this day I think of that hike whenever fear threatens to paralyze me, I know God is on the other side waiting to remind me that I can do anything, as long as I have faith.