VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The wind wisps past your face giving you the fresh air you’ve needed all week while you’ve been stuck at the office. Sweat dripping down your face, muscles are tensing and your body is testing your ability to finish what you started.
Throughout one’s Air Force career they must stay not only physically, but mentally and emotionally fit in order to complete the mission. Hiking is not only a way to stay fit physically, but it is also a way to clear one’s head and stay fit mentally. However, everyone decides to hike for their own reasons, and if you decide to begin a journey up a mountain, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Personally, I hike to clear my mind. No matter the physical shape I’m in or what trail I choose to tackle, I do it because I need it. Walking, running and climbing for miles while taking in spectacular views has a way of energizing the soul giving me the mental break I need.
Hiking alone is good for the soul, but sometimes hiking with others is good for the heart. I attended a few hikes Outdoor Recreation offered to see who else shared the same hobby as me. Abbey Ganz, 30th Force Support Squadron outdoor recreation specialist, also the organizer and leader of the group, was very accommodating on all the hikes I attended and I found we share many similarities.
Ganz became a hiker a few years back when her life had changed suddenly and she needed a little help coming back to reality.
“I found that being in nature always made me feel really good,” said Ganz. “Conquering a mountain is probably one of the best feelings, knowing that you can push your body to limits that you haven’t been before, all while hiking somewhere new.”
Hiking isn’t an amazing life changing thing for everyone, but for some it really does make a difference.
The first weekend I arrived to base, I knew not a single soul. All alone in a new state, new town and what did I do? I looked up on my phone “best hikes near me.” Moments later I found myself in the car with a backpack and water, sneakers laced and ready to trek up whatever mountain I could find.
I drove to San Luis Obispo and hiked the first mountain I came across, which happened to be Bishop’s Peak. With an elevation gain of 1,000 feet and a total distance hiked of 4.2 miles, this hike left me stopping to catch my breath. After I reached the top, I was in awe of the beauty of this new place I call home. As I caught my breath, I found a spot to sit on the highest peak. After a few minutes, the fog rolled in as it does on the central coast and completely blocked my view, but that was okay because I got exactly what I needed already; throughout the hike I used my perseverance to finish what I started and in turn I received a clear outlook on life and what I was doing.
What’s great about hiking is that it can take your breath both physically and mentally. From start to finish, hiking has you craving the view of the peak, and also the feeling of accomplishment you receive after you’ve completed the trail.
One of the similarities Ganz and I share is the feeling that hiking gives us.
“There’s a rush that goes through my body when finishing a hike,” said Ganz. “Because on some days, there are definitely times that I don’t want to be hiking, my body is exhausted and I want to be done, but I keep going. I push myself both mentally and physically to get to the top, and the feeling I get when I finish is astonishing -- I feel like I can do anything.”
If you’re like me, and you’re looking for something to challenge you physically or push you mentally, try one of the many hikes located near Vandenberg.