The Blessings of Five Mile Hikes

Dear Friends,

I left the wildflowers and super bloom of the Coachella Valley in late February to spend some time in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was tax time; therefore, it was my task to not only get my taxes done but to get them done for my Mother.  So, why not stay awhile and snatch up some solid family time as well?  Say, six weeks?  Oops, little did I know when I planned that length of stay that I would eventually hanker for the desert.  I was getting used to a routine in the Sun City retirement community and liking it more and more (there was no one more surprised than me at this development).

The minute I arrived in the very wet Bay Area, I wanted so much to be back with my husband Dan in the desert. Yet, on the positive side, I planned to spend time with family and grandchildren and celebrate my Mother’s 88th birthday.

A friend called the constant rain, “an atmospheric river” and that is what it felt like.  I counted down the days until I could return to the desert, but in the meantime I tried to get used to the rain and count my blessings.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we would have one dry day in the week where rain clouds parted and the sun peeked through.

It felt momentous and celebratory! This is when I grabbed outdoor time and scheduled hikes with family.  And what a blessing these occasions were, in more ways than one!  They combined my love of being with family with a desire to stay active and spend time outdoors.

The opening photo was taken atop a coastal ridge (the discovery site of San Francisco Bay) which overlooks the Pacific Ocean on the west, and on the east side, the San Francisco Bay and SFO International Airport.  A double dose of stunning, expansive vistas.  As my daughter Meg and I hit the 1,200 foot high summit and I pulled out my camera, she asked if I captured the Raven floating on the breeze, and I replied “I sure did!”  I felt giddy because it was pure bliss to be out in the fresh air and I kept remarking how fresh the air smelled (yep, the rains did that, so I guess that’s a good thing) and Meg also remarked how the fresh air felt so good to her soul.

Here is what Meg and I experienced on a rare non-rainy day – who wouldn’t want to celebrate these vistas:

So in the course of 10 days, I was gratefully able (between recurring raindrops) to take three 5-mile hikes that I had never taken before even though I had lived in that coastal area since 1986 and the hikes were all in “my backyard”! I am in debt to my daughter Meg and daughter-in-law Krysti for taking me on these hikes which are sparkling treasures in my memory. Five mile hikes may be just an appetizer for more seasoned athletes; but for me, they were a gold star on my chart. I’ve done longer hikes and I’ve done shorter ones, but these 5 mile hikes were just right and what the doctor ordered to help alleviate the cabin fever that was building up.  Of course, it gets to the point where you throw in the towel and you brave the downpours to go on that hike or bike ride anyway (Oregonians are experts at this).

Making memories with my beautiful daughter Meg, Mickey and Panzer:

The second hike I took with my daughter was in our neighborhood local county park and its trail wound through dense vegetation to a height of about 900 feet; we stopped to admire gorgeous stately trees and gnarly branch outcroppings. It was a luscious, verdant feast for the eyes.  Rain is indeed the best fertilizer!

I also scheduled a date with my daughter-in-law, Krysti, to walk this same hike; but a downpour the night before increased the chances that the trail would be too slushy and muddy and that might not be as much fun. Well maybe fun for some, but I’m getting a little soft in my old age and don’t like to sink 10 inches into the earth if I don’t have to!


Krysti suggested another intermediate hike where she could bring her Akita, Karma. This particular trail ascended 930 feet and was also one I had never taken. It’s hidden off a side road but well known by locals and mountain bikers; in fact, it’s become a second home to my mountain bike loving 14 year old grandson and his friends.  We dodged some puddles but since part of the route used to be an old fire road, there were asphalted surfaces that became a luxury for us.  After all the drenched days, a gravel path was the exact boon called for at this particular time.  It was a joy to be with Krysti and Karma and experience once again gorgeous scenery and blue skies:

It seems to me that we may not necessarily cherish that which we experience every day; if we have continuous sunshiny days, we might get complacent and take them for granted. It’s not until the deluge comes that we think back and realize how much we took the gorgeous sun filled days for granted.

Or, when California experiences one too many droughts, we recall the days when rain was more abundant and we resort to praying in labyrinths or we close our eyes and wish real hard!  In these two photos below, my grand kids exhibit one focused intention and no doubt their innocence and earnestness awaken a soft spot in the heart of the Creator. Something seems to have worked because the Bay Area is experiencing its rainiest season in 36 years!

The blessings of going on these hikes with family members reinforces for me what truly counts in this life:  spending time with family and enjoying Nature.  This is what I will take with me always; I am so blessed to have a daughter and daughter-in-law who set aside time for me and made sure that I was not feeling too isolated in my little apartment while away from hubby.

In thinking of the word isolation, it is my thought that it’s the bane of human existence. Every person, I’m convinced, yearns to love and be loved, and to connect with others.  I realize that I personally need to make an effort to reach out to others and not just sit back and expect things to come to me:

“My participation in everyday, ordinary life is a small but firm step away from the pain of isolation and toward a life of loving involvement. Life is for the living. Today I will involve myself in the joy of living…All of us deeply desire to belong.”  (From the Alanon Daily Reader Hope for Today, p. 309)

A friend who is a fitness and yoga instructor told me that social connections are more beneficial for the brain than the computer brain games that are ubiquitously advertised.  I nodded in agreement because for me having family and friends in my life is essential to my well being. And for me, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.  They are the life giving light that sustains me.

As my six week visit to NorCal came to an end, I told folks that I was going “home”. HOME? Did I hear myself right? Yes, I’m calling the desert home now – something shifted and I don’t feel completely at home in the San Francisco Bay Area where I lived for 56 years. It’s changed and so have I.

I’ve happily reunited with hubby and fun outdoor activities and laughs with new retirement friends await me.  But on the flip side, I won’t have grandchildren just minutes outside my door, so that will make the next time with them even more precious.  I’ve learned not to take anything for granted, least of all the most important people in my life.  I told my Mom on her 88th birthday how blessed I feel to have her in my life and how much I love her. What a turnaround – I could not have said that 10 years ago for a number of reasons. It goes to show that the seeds of transformation and growth are within each one of us, and all we have to do is be willing and make a choice.  No matter what, we can open ourselves to the power of Grace.

Every minute is precious and we never know what will happen from day to day; maybe I’m just getting more sentimental in my old age, or maybe…. I’m just getting smarter!  The companionship I enjoy with family and friends is evidently good for my brain. 

May light, laughter, friends and family grace your path often.












13 thoughts on “The Blessings of Five Mile Hikes

  1. Thanks for including me in your writing Nana. I’m really glad that you gave the desert a chance and that you are calling it home! Let’s plan for another hike when you back in the Bay.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very beautiful post on many levels, Susan. Your photos are stunning. I like how you mentioned the “smell” of rain. The views of the ocean are spectacular. A wonderful way to spend time with your family. The grandchildren photos were very poignant. Lately the concept of social connections has been in my radar for various reasons. It is interesting how you reflect on this. Thank you for sharing your story. Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Donna,

      Oh thank you for reading and commenting! You have such a depth of understanding and feeling, and you go beneath the surface. You described and summed up in one sentence what I was trying to convey. It’s so interesting that once upon a time I didn’t think I could ever call the desert “home”. I’m glad I stayed open to possibilities and simply let my heart guide me. There’s the downside of not having my grandkids close by, but life is never perfect.

      You are an inspiration!


      Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you Pat. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I’ll never forget my first semester at U of O when I was invited to attend a touch football game. I came from a family of girls so such a thing was completely foreign to me! So it started to rain, and I said to my roommate, crossing my fingers “Maybe the game will be canceled!” She laughed and said “not a chance!” So I ended up playing and the nice person who invited me threw me a pass for an easy touchdown. But here I thought that a touch football game underneath rainy Oregon skies would be canceled. HA HA!



  3. Thank you for this post, Susan. As usual, very
    Insightful , inspirational, and refreshing!
    Thank you for sharing all the beautiful pictures of nature, and precious pictures of your
    family as well! You are truly blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful post, Susan! So through living in the desert, you have developed a desert heart! You miss it when you are not there.

    5-mile hikes with your daughter and daughter-in-law sound wonderful and the photos are gorgeous! Isn’t it amazing how we can miss the treasures in our own backyard? The Bay Area has so many treasures!

    I loved seeing pictures of your family, especially your adorable grandchildren. I must have been such a blessing for them for you to stay for a long visit. Photos of your DIL’s Akita brought back memories of our own beloved Akita. She was the best dog ever! What a character; she had a huge heart and outsized personality.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on isolation and agree 100%. We are meant for connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Laurie for this great comment! The ocean will always have my heart but the Coachella Valley which is surrounded by mountains has its enticements as well. Ask me in the summer and maybe I’ll have a different view, ha ha.

      I remember you talking about your Akita. God Bless Her!

      I really enjoyed writing this post because it was a bit of a departure for me as I try not to infringe on anyone’s privacy but I wanted to make it a love letter to my family and all those who have been beacons of light when dark settles in, and express my gratitude for God’s Grace. I am very grateful to readers, too.
      Thank you so much for stopping by. I know you get it.


      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Maria

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I had so much fun writing this and inserting the photos I had taken while out on my adventures!
      I’m so glad that you liked them!


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