As the year comes to a close, I wanted to recognize the one hobby of mine that completely transformed me this year: hiking. There is no doubt that I found something to truly love out there on a trail. At times, I feel like I know the moments when my life has changed while I’m living them. Well, I feel that almost every time I hit a new trail. Hiking has truly helped ease anxieties, created a passion for fitness, reinvigorated a love of the outdoors, and got me connected to a wonderful network of friends, family, and coworkers. So, I present to you, my top ten favorite hikes of 2018.
10. Mission Concepcion to the Alamo Urban Hike San Antonio, TX (Aug 2018)-This summer is when I really hit my hiking stride. I was doing 5-6 hikes a week and feeling great. I met my wonderful boss, Lorena, at 7a one sleepy Sunday morning. We trekked nearly 9 miles through the city. It was a magical and exhausting morning.
9. Badwater Basin Salt Flats at Death Valley NP, CA (January 2018)-It was our first time in Death Valley and the park is quite magical. It’s hard to imagine the scale of the giant mountains against the vast flatlands. Ryan and I spent the morning walking through the muddy salt. It was oddly majestic and a very fond memory from an epic road trip.
8. Eisenhower Park Night Hike (May 2018)-I did not know what to expect when my friend, Jordan, suggested we go hiking at night. Everything I’ve ever read told me not to do such a thing. I was feeling a little brave, so I decided to go. I’m so glad I did! It was a wonderful journey to the top of the observation tower. We watched some fireworks, took in the night breeze, and hiked back down to our cars. Since then, I’ve gotten friends and family to get out and night hike with me.
7. Dinosaur Tracks at Government Canyon State Natural Area, TX (June 2018)-There are very few things that make me geek out more than dinosaurs. This was such a wonderful experience seeing prehistoric footsteps and wandering around in the backcountry with my favorite person.
6. Carlsbad Caverns NP, NM (January 2018)-Ryan will tell you that this was very hard for me. I started getting anxiety as the ranger was explaining it would take at least two hours down in the dark. Descending into the cave, I made Ryan hold my hand to steady my vertigo. Truly, though, once we entered the “twilight zone” of the cave it felt magical. We had so much fun roaming around in the dark. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life.
5. Fraser Experiment Forest in CO (July 2018)-As we were headed to the trail that morning, a local suggested we take a side trail and follow the creek. It made for a much better view than the first time around. Spent the morning roaming through the forests of Colorado. Nothing makes you feel so lucky as being in the middle of nature surrounded by family.
4. Joshua Tree NP Backcountry in CA (April 2018)-This trip will always remain one of the most life affirming experiences I’ve ever had. My love of Joshua Tree is large. The first moment I fell in love with nature was in this park. The first time I realized that Ryan and I truly had something special was in this park. The icing on this delightful journey was adventuring in the park with a handful of women I love, women who have created the person I am today. We spent the day under a big, beautiful oak tree. We met a nature photographer in the middle of his work. We wandered around the backcountry, and I felt so alive wrapped up in sisterhood.
3. Jim Creek Trail at Arapaho National Forest, CO (July 2018)-I love this hike because it was just Ryan and me. I fell in love with him all over again. We started out hiking with the family, and they let us go ahead to see a beautiful waterfall. It was an amazing journey, even though the trails were a bit run down so we got lost. We didn’t panic and made our way back to the trail through the field of falling down logs. This was my favorite Colorado experience of the trip.
2. Friedrich Wilderness Park (April 2018)-On a wild and weird Friday the 13th, I headed out on my first solo hike in a park I had hiked a few times with Ryan. This was absolutely the park that changed the course of the year for me. However, it was this hike that finally made me realize how much I had let fear drive my life. When I stepped out of my comfort zone, I truly had an amazing experience alone in nature. I haven’t looked back since.
1. Devil’s Hall Trail at Guadalupe Mountains NP, TX (January 2018)-This was the first time I took an “I can’t” and made it happen. We got to a really steep facing, and I was so afraid of falling that I stayed behind. Then, when Ryan was out of sight, I forced myself to make the climb alone. And I DID IT! It was the first time hiking ever became a metaphor for life: see an obstacle, and kick its ass.