Although I love Los Angeles, the bustle of city life can be stressful. Sometimes l just need to get away: away from the blaring sirens that wake me up at 3 a.m., from the heavy traffic that turns a 30-minute drive to an hour-long commute. When I need to recharge, I run to nature. I escape to a faraway place where sirens are replaced by silence, skyscrapers by mountains, and traffic by wide, open roads.
If you see me packing my bags for the weekend or leaving my house for a long ride, I’m likely going to these nature escapes.
Angeles National Forest
California has an incredibly diverse terrain. Drive for an hour, and you hit the beach. Drive for another hour, and you hit the desert. Drive some more, and you find yourself in the Angeles National Forest, a 30-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles. With a sweeping view of the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona Mountains, you can stop to hike, bike, camp, or simply drive through the winding roads, letting your thoughts roam. I love to come here during warm winter months when the mountains are dusted with snow.
Sequoia National Park
Six-mile hikes that lead to glimmering lakes, picnics by a bright meadow, a drive through a 2,000-year-old log — Sequoia National Park offers views and experiences that amaze and reinvigorate the human spirit. The park is a bit of a drive from the city (nearly four hours), which makes camping or lodging in a nearby hotel ideal. Campsites are very popular, requiring reservations for weeks in advance. Knowing that the thousand-year-old trees at Sequoia have outlived many generations humbles me.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
The super bloom is my favorite part of spring. During this time, flowers fan their petals in a dazzling display of colors. I visit the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve during this time to watch poppies at the height of their bloom. There, I let my imagination run wild, pretending that the yellow and orange hills are colored in crayon.
Joshua Tree National Park
When you spend most of your time facing responsibilities — paying bills, meeting deadlines, managing a team — it’s easy to forget your sense of whimsy. But at Joshua Tree, a playground for nature-loving adults, I can be a child again. I can be carefree, scaling giant rocks, my hands and fingernails caked in dirt. I can explore the desert, watching little critters dart from bush to bush. At nightfall, I gaze at the stars, listening to the howls and yelps of nearby coyotes.
Rolling Thunder Cherry Ranch
I don’t know why, but I love fruit picking. There’s something so satisfying about harvesting your own produce. During cherry season, I visit Rolling Thunder Cherry Ranch. Pale in hand, I go from tree to tree, sampling cherries of different varieties, from Rainier to Bing to Skeena. When I was a child, I dreamed of owning a vineyard, harvesting grapes on a white horse. At Rolling Thunder, I’m almost fulfilling my fantasy.
I love my city, but sometimes, I just need an escape. Nature replenishes the spirit, and when I return to the city, to my responsibilities, to my job, I feel refreshed, calm, and ready to take on whatever comes my way.