Leave it on the trail

Pandemic hikes in the redwoods enable two friends to shed their woes and inspire others

Two people smile in the foreground; a sunny redwood forest is in the background.
FROM LEFT: Friends Monica Binetti and Erin Closmore hike among coast redwoods in Mount Tamalpais State Park. Photo by Erin Closmore.

It was six months into the pandemic — a bizarre time that seemed out of a sci-fi movie. We were still settling into our new normal and figuring out a way to maintain a sense of familiarity in a wildly unfamiliar landscape. Everyone was virtual and isolated.

Suggesting we meet up for a hike at the California Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay, California, in retrospect, seemed so out of the norm for us. We had been friends for almost 20 years, and our typical pre-pandemic outings did not entail panoramic views and hiking shoes. This would be a new type of adventure.

During our first hike together, we felt a shift. After all those months of quarantine, seeing each other in this beautiful outdoor setting immediately washed away our inhibitions. As we marveled at the beauty around us, we talked about how hard these last months had been, the shows we were watching, the books we were reading, and our fears. It felt therapeutic.

We decided we would do weekly hikes together. We were not experienced outdoorswomen, and as the weeks progressed, so did the intensity and length of our hikes. We challenged ourselves and each other. If we were feeling nervous about a tough trail, we were there to be each other’s cheerleaders. By coming through for each other, we came through for ourselves.

Like real life, the trails have their ups and downs (literally!). We were opening up and being vulnerable—physically, mentally, spiritually. Our talks, like our hikes, got steeper; we talked about our childhoods, our high school years, and our futures. As the trails flattened out after tough climbs, so did our talks; we laughed about mundane things, reminisced about our poor fashion choices in our 20s, and discussed good indie films.

The redwood forests were our sanctuary. Walking among the giants at Henry Cowell, Mount Tamalpais, and Humboldt Redwoods state parks gave us perspective and humility.

We recognized that these trees have been around for thousands of years before us and are 50 times our size—imagine all they have seen! We wondered, if they could talk back to us, what would they say? Maybe that it will not always be storming. To keep going. Or maybe to stay grounded. Tree pun fully intended.

Nature is non-judgmental. It pulled us out of the internal world of our thoughts and ideas that made us feel trapped at times. It taught us to take pleasure in the simple things. We developed greater internal and external awareness by being really honest with ourselves in a way that we believe wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting. We started to use the phrase, “Leave it on the trail.” It was symbolic of our ability to release our emotional woes and leave the trail feeling some healing and empathy not just for ourselves, but also for each other.

We decided to share our hiking experiences on Instagram as @bayarea.galventures, knowing what a positive impact it would have if we could help motivate others to do the same. Through this journey we have connected with a diverse community of hikers and would-be hikers.

The pandemic, initially the most isolating experience of our lives, brought us closer to each other and closer to nature; these have been incredibly positive, uplifting, and healing relationships in both of our lives. Like the roots of the giant redwoods we love, our gratitude for this experience stretches far and wide. We hope that reach allows us to grow stronger together.

“Community Voices” is a series in which guest writers share their perspectives on redwood forests.


Read more highlights from the Winter 2022 Resilient Future Edition online.

About the author

Monica Binetti and Erin Closmore are the co-creators of @bayarea.galventures, an Instagram page dedicated to inspiring others to explore the natural beauty of California and beyond.

bear reading the blog
Get the latest redwood updates in your inbox

Leave a Reply