What motivates you to get out and hike?

We all hike for many different reasons—to exercise, maintain our health, preserve youthfulness, lose weight, clear the mind, connect with nature, and so on. Whatever the reasons, hiking and bonding with nature are great for the mind, body and soul.

Hiking is also a great way to spend quality time with family and friends. You can get a small group together and safely distance yourselves while out on the trails. Pack some snacks or have a picnic luncheon, and make it a social event. It works—especially during the pandemic! Just don’t forget your mask and sanitizer, of course.

My friends and I get together on the trails quite often. To kick off 2020, a group of us took a New Year’s Day hike. Little did I know that would be the last time all year I hiked with a group of more than five. Many times for the Fourth of July, friends and I have found some great trails with perfect spots to watch fireworks from a distance while indulging in some good food and drink. (Just be sure to pack everything back out!) I like to keep it simple with a good bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, and maybe some grapes or apple slices. (Just make sure you don’t have too much wine!) Whatever you decide, you can’t go wrong. One great spot is the Goat Trails (which start behind the Vons at Palm Canyon Drive and Gene Autry Trail); another is the Palm Springs Museum Trail—although you must be extremely careful descending the Museum Trail at night. No matter where you go on a night hike, you’ll definitely need a good light.

One time for my birthday, a few of my friends and I started at the northernmost part of the North Lykken Trail and ended our hike at the southernmost part of the South Lykken Trail. If I recall correctly, it took us a little more than four hours at 8.5 miles—and we had the most fun along the way. We had a mimosa toast at the halfway stop, followed by a Mexican-food feast after completing the journey. It was the most awesome birthday!

Sometimes you come across wildlife on the trails (something I’ll get into more in a future column). This can really get the blood flowing—a heart-healthy benefit of hiking. Also, the views can be absolutely breathtaking, leaving one with a calm, peaceful feeling. At just more than 2,000 feet high, Murray Peak, the tallest local hill (that’s not really a hill) in the Palm Springs area offers 360-degree panoramic views, including San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak to the west, and all the way to the Salton Sea (on a clear day) to the south. Bighorn sheep may also be seen from time to time along the majestic trail to and from Murray Peak—and there are plenty of great meditation stopping points along the way.

A Coachella Valley resident for more than 15 years, my longtime friend and hiking buddy Texie Pastorok began hiking shortly after her move here to the Coachella Valley. She said she enjoys hiking in a group, as it is always nice to share things you love to do with others. Even though group hikes tend to be slow-going, the social aspect makes it worthwhile.

“(The area) reminded me of Boulder, Colorado—a magical place!” she said. “I began hiking because I was looking for something active to do outdoors that didn’t require a large investment in materials, and I’m not so much into running or biking.

“I love getting out on the trails; it is peaceful, energizing and rejuvenating. I always feel incredible after a hike. I believe it helps keep me younger by continuing to move. Seeing some of the wildlife out on the trails helps keep me balanced and reminds me how small we really are in this world.”

One of Texie’s favorite trails in the Coachella Valley area is Snow Creek, which is actually a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs between Mexico and Canada. The first time Texie and I were on the trail, we ascended about 4 miles of pure breathtaking terrain that switch-backed along the north face of the San Jacinto Mountain range. We would have continued that day had we not ran into a huge hive of bees; there’s never a dull moment on the trails.

Another longtime great friend and hiking buddy, Marnie Hesson (below), is a Palm Springs native who grew up hiking. She went from wading the Andreas Canyon stream in diapers to hiking around the country and world as an adult. Marnie told me that hiking is her favorite exercise, her escape—and even her church.

“It’s just literally so grounding, and we all tend to be in a great space when we are outside,” Marnie said. “Some of the closest friends I have today are people who I connected with in extra-special ways out on the trail, camping and hiking, creating memories that always make us smile.” I agree: Whenever I am on a hike or a mountain-trail run, connecting with nature totally recharges me. It is beneficial mentally, physically and spiritually.

Who’s with me? Get out there and go for a hike! Don’t go alone, but keep at least six feet apart, and again, remember your mask and sanitizer.

Theresa Sama

Theresa Sama is an outdoor enthusiast who writes the Independent’s hiking/outdoors column. She has been running and hiking the Coachella Valley desert trails for more than 10 years and enjoys sharing...