I’ve always heard about the meditative powers of hiking, but never experienced it, until this week.
On the recommendation of a friend, I embarked on what promised to be a challenging hike with great views of the Pacific Ocean over Half Moon Bay.
Purisma Creek Redwoods Reserve has multiple access points. I opted for the main entrance off of Skyline Blvd that had ample parking, a bathroom, and trail information.
After using the restroom, which I highly suggest as the next one is a few miles away, I started off. I hoped to see some amazing views of the ocean and take in the shade of the Redwoods, this hike did not disappoint.
The loop I took was North Ridge Trail to Whittemore Gulch Trail (bathroom break at the end), to Harkins Ridge Trail, and finally back to North Ridge Trail to the parking lot.
Since I started at the main entrance, I walked downhill for the first half of the hike on North Ridge Trail and Whittemore Gulch Trail. About a half a mile in, I was greeted by my first views of the Pacific Ocean!
I realized about a mile in, that all of this downhill walking meant only one thing, the return trip would be mostly uphill. Nevertheless, I kept moving and eventually lost the view of the Pacific for the shade of the Redwoods.
Looking up at those giants who have been living for ages before me and will continue living long after I’m gone is truly magical.
Eventually I came to the junction of Purisma creek trail, which is the location of another entrance option, and a bathroom. There’s also a large bridge here over the creek which makes for a fun photo opportunity!
I sat on a stump next to the creek, listening to the water flow as I ate some snacks, mentally and physically preparing for the walk back up. I got a few stretches in, but since I had to go to work that afternoon, I needed to start the climb up. So, I headed up Harkins Ridge Trail.
The Hike Back Up
It was 2.2 miles of steady incline, some steep, others more gradual. I could feel my heart rate picking up as I climbed the hills, so I would stop frequently for breaks. I began questioning whether I could hike at high altitude, five consecutive days, during my upcoming Salkantay Trek in Peru. On these breaks I focused on my breath to help my heart rate recover, breathing long and slow through the nose. I realized the power my breath had over my heart rate, I knew if I focused on this, that I’d be OK.
Once I felt as though my heart rate recovered, I started moving again. I repeated this process, with every incline I met.
Do not underestimate the hills here, it’s a tough climb back. Each hill I would just look down a few feet in front of my own. I noticed if I looked up to see how far I had to go, it would make me want to stop. In order to keep myself moving I would repeat “one more step, one more step” or “keep walking, keep walking”, until I reached the top to re-engage my breathing.
After a mile climb, I was rewarded with most breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. This picture, does not do it justice. It was a clear day, so I could see all the way to Pillar Point!
From there it was another mile back through the Redwoods and ultimately to the sandals awaiting my tired feet back at the car. I always bring sandals for my feet after a hike, it feels amazing to slip them on and it’s more comfortable to drive.
As I started the drive back home, I noticed a subtle shift. I felt more at ease, energetic, clear minded, and focused. It was then that I realized, I felt how I do after a good meditation.
I finally experienced meditation while hiking!
Of course, then I wanted to figure out how it happened, because I want to repeat it!
I believe it happened because during the first half of the hike I let my thoughts wander, I took photos, then I increased my heart rate and focused on my breathing during the hills of the second half. I didn’t actively think about meditating. The sole focus on making it up the hills at the end, combined with utilizing my breath to recover, and repeating mantras for 2.2 miles created a moving meditation. Something I didn’t register in the moment.
I opted to stop dissecting HOW it happened and just revel in the fact that it did happen and enjoyed the feeling of peace that lasted for a beautiful three hours post hike.