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  • Joshua Walker

Exposure, Access, And, Opportunity…Mental Health And The Outdoors.


Mount San Antonio, a.k.a Mount Baldy


Hiking is, simply put, a long walk, especially in the country or wilderness. I have talked at length about my upbringing so y’all know that I am a country bumpkin at heart. Even though I live in Los Angeles now, I grew up in the backwoods of South Carolina on my family’s farm. As a kid you naturally want to go outside and run around until you can’t run anymore. For me it was running in the woods. Now that I am an adult, that kid still takes control when I am outdoors and still forces me on adventures. The conversation that we are having in the outdoors community now is about how can we diversify the outdoors. The sad fact is that Black people hike, but it isn’t noticed but the saddest fact is that there are Black people that don’t even feel like they are welcome and may never know the joy of being outside. I had exposure, access and opportunity to get out and reap the full benefits of nature and I think everyone else needs to as well.


Mono Lake, Mono County, CA


In light of the pandemic, wellness has been a center of conversation. Because gyms and spas were closed, social media became the hub for everything wellness & self-help. You could hardly avoid seeing a home work out, a meditation, or cooking tutorial. We also saw, in areas where hiking is more accessible, people taking to the local trails or nearby national parks to just get out of the house and safely socially distance. Why not? It’s a great form of exercise and gets you out in the fresh air. What people tend to ignore are the mental health benefits and life changing, perspective shifting moments that can occur when you are receptive to it. John Muir said it best, “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Mental health is a human problem and is not exclusive to one race. However, it is currently discussed less in communities of color because there has always been a negative stigma surrounding mental health. To avoid that stigma, a lot of us try to ignore the issue rather than address it. When I started my blog, my goal was to show authenticity and transparency; so, here’s a bit more transparency for you. This summer I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety. After my Father passed away, I went to a very dark and lonely place and ,while I was in therapy, the place I found the most peace was nature. After receiving the news of his passing, one of the first things I did when I found enough strength to get out of bed, was to go for a long hike by myself. I completely lost track of time, didn’t look at my phone for hours, and just let myself be.



Mono Lake, Mono County, CA


I viewed that as free therapy. I need to preface that people should not rely on nature to just fix your problems. While I know that goes without saying, it’s worth noting. It’s also worth noting that all experiences you have in nature might not be pleasant and perfect. I said I was always going to be authentic and transparent right? Well believe it or not, I went through a phase where I was not interested in doing big hikes again. I got lazy and out of shape. The thought of laboring my way up a mountain in the heat was deplorable to me and that mindset made it so easy for me to say no and stay in my house watching Netflix. When I would go camping, I would always opt to just hangout by the campsite or go on a mountain drive. That was enough nature for me.

Mount San Antonio, a.k.a Mount Baldy


Recently, a new friend invited me to join him on a trip to Mt Baldy. Check it out on All Trails to learn more about it but for now, just know it’s not an easy hike. The plan was to leave around 3:30 after work and start the hike around 5:30/6 and camp at the summit. I had been feeling a bit out of sorts for the last few weeks. Work was busy, stress about the election, and personal life and relationships were clouding my focus. I made a conscious effort to get out in nature every weekend in October but I didn’t have any plans that weekend. That invitation felt like it was something that I needed to accept. You should also know that I am not necessarily a spontaneous guy and I need to have some structure in my life. Funnily enough, the more my life felt out of control, the less control I wanted to have in other areas of my life. I allowed myself to go with the flow. I texted him the morning of and said “I’m down”. I have dope new gear from L.L.Bean, I have been backpacking at this point already, and I’m with someone who is very experienced. I can do this!

Things did not go as planned. We didn’t meet up until 5:30, 2 hours behind schedule. I hadn’t eaten, I barely slept and I, of course, did a leg workout the day before so I was nice and sore to start our 5.5 mile night hike ahead. We started hiking around 7:30 and immediately in my head I thought, “why am I doing this?” “Are you really missing that much in your life that you are out here climbing a huge mountain in the middle of the night?” “Tell him you want the keys because you are taking your butt back to the car and sleeping there.” One of the things I am working on is self-deprecation and the incessant need to put myself down. But as we made our way up switchback after switchback, hitting strong winds in the mildly temperate night sending chills through your bones while simultaneously causing you to sweat from the intense workout, I was left alone with my thoughts and realized that, in the end, it wasn’t me against the mountain. It was me against myself.


Mount San Antonio, a.k.a Mount Baldy


After the second quick break, I realized how powerful the mind is. Having someone as encouraging as my partner definitely made a huge difference, but changing my mentality gave me the second wind I needed. While I couldn’t reach the summit before setting up camp, the feeling of pride and strength I felt setting up my tent was so satisfying. There was such a feeling of contentment in trusting and believing in yourself. It also was a clear example of how much we are actually able to take. The experiences I felt on that hike renewed my love for hiking and pushed me to reach new peaks, literally and figuratively. Reaching the summit was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and the soul-searching journey I went on is only one that could only be induced by nature.

This is why Black people should continue to take up space in the world especially outdoors. If not for the sheer right that we have to enjoy nature the way it was intended but because of the inherent mental and emotional health benefits associated with it. One of my favorite things about travel is that is forces you to gain new perspectives on life by taking you out of your environment and placing you into a completely new one in which you are expected to acclimate to. Being outside in nature is no different. As we allow our minds to be shaped by new adventures, it also proves the mailability of the human consciousness. I challenge all of you reading this to spend some time in the next week to sit and commune with nature for at least half an hour. Sit in silence and appreciate the natural beauty around you. When you are done with that, check in with yourself and I can guarantee that you will discover something new about yourself.

Mount San Antonio, a.k.a Mount Baldy







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About Me

There are a lot of travel blogs out there and Josh, You Trippin is a blog that is meant to give an authentic and transparent look into my experiences while travelling. I hope to see some of you along the way! 

 

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