LASA Students Rediscover Love for Hiking with Limited Outdoors Time

Juan Ramirez (JC) Delgadillo, Staff Writer

With a number of scenic outdoor spaces to visit around Austin — whether it be the Barton Creek Greenbelt, the Lady Bird Lake Trail or the Southern Walnut Creek trail — visitors and residents have options for where to explore nature in the capital. Especially now, in a time where people have had to spend larger portions of their time inside, the escape provided by hiking has found a greater appreciation from LASA students.

When sophomore Paw Eh was in middle school, she had athletic commitments to various clubs. Nowadays, her preferred form of exercise has pivoted to hiking around Austin.

“I used to be really outgoing in middle school,” Eh said. “Then I started joining sport clubs and doing a few sports. After that, I didn’t join any sports club in high school, so hiking keeps me moving.”

Senior Nicole Vu first got into hiking when she visited a national park with her parents and brother. Now, it’s one of her hobbies, and she most enjoys challenging trails that go along cliffs and up the mountains.

“I got into hiking when my parents took my brother and I to our first National park, Zion,” Vu said. “The scenery was very beautiful, and the hikes to get to certain viewpoints were peaceful. Ever since, we’ve been traveling to national parks and finding local places to hike whenever we can.”

Senior Tess Frazer’s love of hiking was sparked by her annual outdoors experiences at summer camp. According to Frazer, hiking has led her on some memorable adventures, and she hopes to further explore in the future.

“I have always loved the outdoors, and spend two months every summer living in the woods of Tennessee at an all-female summer camp,” Frazer said. “The only way to get anywhere at camp is to walk. This sparked my love of hiking, and living in the city, I find hiking to be a grounding way to escape. Hiking has also led me on some cool backpacking adventures. I hope to go to college in a location that has good hiking trails so that I can continue this hobby.” 

For some like Vu, the beauty of nature can leave a lasting impression. That was the case for her when she recently visited the Cascade Canyon at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

“It was very steep and involved a lot of tight walkways along the side of a cliff,” Vu said. “In the eight miles that we hiked, we passed a waterfall, a lake overlook, crossed a river and even had to walk through a bit of snow. At the end of the hike, the trees cleared, and we were standing in the middle of a vast canyon with snow-capped mountains surrounding us on all sides. It was really breathtaking.” 

Similar to Vu, Frazer also has memories of a specific hiking setting that has stood out to her. Regarding a trip in the mountains this past summer, she said that enjoying the visual rewards of the hike comes with a physical price.

“My favorite place I have hiked was on a backpacking trip this summer in Colorado,” Frazer said. “I spent three days hiking and camping through the West and East Maroon Bells in the Elk Mountains. My feet were blistered, and my back was sore from my 50-pound pack and 14-mile days, but it was unlike any other place I had been. There is something so simple about watching the moon rise over the mountains away from society that reminds me of my humanity.” 

As an experienced hiker, Vu recommends that finding the right footwear or investing in a pair of hiking shoes to use on a regular basis should be main priorities for those just stepping out onto the trails. In addition, newer hikers should pace themselves at the beginning, according to Vu.

“I would tell new hikers to invest in a nice, comfortable pair of shoes so that they don’t injure themselves,” Vu said. “I would also encourage them to start slow and only go as far as they’re comfortable with in the beginning. Lastly, I would just say to try and enjoy nature as much as possible; it’s a really good way to clear your mind.”

Eh, on the other hand, emphasizes bringing along hiking partners and the importance of hydration. 

“Hiking is more fun when you go with friends and family,” Eh said. ”Make sure to bring a water bottle so that you’re ready to explore the world!”

While the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented people from keeping up with hobbies indoors or involving crowds, Vu is glad that hiking has been largely unaffected as exposure has been easier to control in outdoor settings. Vu has also appreciated the continued mental health benefits from hiking, especially during the pandemic.

“Since COVID-19 started, I’ve tried to avoid notoriously crowded trails, and I always have a mask with me to put on when passing other people,” Vu said. “We did go to Wyoming, but we stayed away from people and drove 30 hours to get there instead of flying. We had our own cabin instead of a hotel, and we packed all of our food so we didn’t have to go out to eat. I feel lucky to have a hobby that hasn’t been affected too much by COVID-19. It’s been a great way to unwind and relieve stress during these strange times.”