Story and photos by Courtney Haile
Everyone hikes in San Luis Obispo—or so it seems. Slocal status is cemented with photos of oneself enjoying the outdoors, and hiking shots are an actual requirement if one has a dating profile. As I’m taken I’m not on Tinder, but this week I did need a quick local adventure. I nearly rushed to a pottery class before it dawned on me that I could try a new activity in my own backyard. I had never hiked the Irish Hills Natural Reserve and the trailhead is blocks from my house. A quick Google search informed me of the trail options and I’ll admit that even with Google and the trail head map, I was concerned about getting lost.
I hadn’t hiked in months, maybe even a year (for shame!), and had a fitness class to teach later in the day so didn’t want the challenge of my life. The map rated Mariposa Trail as advanced, and although I didn’t want to over exert myself, I am supposed to be fit, right? I set out solo with my headphones on. Although hiking with friends is super fun (who am I kidding? I just told you I haven’t hiked in a year), I often like to zone out with a podcast or some tunes. Today my soundtrack was filthy Miami bass booty music. What’s nature without a little 2 Live Crew?
The trails on Irish Hills Natural Reserve are less trafficked than other local treasures like Cerro San Luis Obispo, so I was alone in the wild for much of my trek . . . or was I? After spotting some feces I realized my only strategy, if confronted by a ferocious animal, was to walk briskly in the other direction. At one point I removed my headphones and heard something scurrying in the bushes. There was no showdown but I sure did hustle.
There were some very rocky areas; and concerned with twisting my ankle I was extra cautious about where and how I stepped. The signage for Mariposa trail was thankfully super clear, but at one point I saw an option for a more enticing Morro View trail. Eventually I found a bench outfitted with a Land Conservancy plaque and figured I’d made it to my destination. I indeed located a tiny Morro Rock in the distance (although I was more enraptured by a great view of the newly paved Madonna Road on my way down).
The timing was right for me to head back and as I descended downward my feet felt a tad tender. After a 90-minute afternoon hike and hour-long barre class, my bed felt especially comfy and I was satisfyingly sore the next day.
Although I love to teach and take classes at the gym, we are lucky that especially in this area, you don’t have to pay to get a great workout. See you next time?