Wisdom I am packing home from the Catalina Island Retreat
Before the trip, I hadn’t seen too many pictures of what Catalina Island looks like. I knew I would be seeing the ocean for the first time in a few years (being from Michigan) so I was stoked to be reunited with the vast waters. I expected to be hiking most of each day for this retreat, seeing views of blue and green the whole way, winding down at each campsite with some yin yoga and amazing food by made by Zach (aka “Zachalicious”). What I got was what I expected and so much more.
Expectation vs. Reality
After an hour ferry from Long Beach to Catalina, we hopped off in the little, adorable town of Avalon. Not too much time to waste with about a 13 mile day, we headed straight to the trailhead with day packs and trekking poles after giving most of our gear to a gear haul service. The ferry ride and the mile and a half walk through town to the trailhead was a great time to get to know this group of now-strangers who had all signed up for this adventure. All coming from different places and experiences, everyone sounded very well-prepared for this long weekend of backpacking. Yay! I could already tell I was going to learn a lot from this group as I hiked with them and helped facilitate yoga and cooking for the next four days.
The first day was a LOT of incline right off the bat. Everyone made it successfully, honoring their bodies and hiking at a comfortable pace. Our first campsite was in the middle of the island, so no ocean views from camp yet. Circling up for yoga before dinner, everyone had wonderful reflections to share about the first day of hiking as Carrie prompted everyone to share about an “expectation” vs. “reality”. Then yin! Oh my goodness, we all needed it! Allowing my body to stretch out and rest after a challenging climb felt so so good. A reminder to find the balance between effort and ease in life. The first night ended with some amazing Thai peanut noodles with tempeh and veggies to re-fuel our tired muscles (Thanks again, Zach!). Then it was an early night to sleep for everyone before an 8 mile day ahead.
The following three days were a series of the same rhythm – wake up, coffee and breakfast, pack up camp, warm up circle, hike with incredible green and blue views, set up camp, hang out, yoga, dinner, and ended with a warming campfire before bed.
While each day had roughly the same schedule, it hardly became mundane. Each day had a different feel with the impact of the marine layer of fog that hugged the island each morning. Sometimes it never fully lifted, creating an almost Lord of the Rings feel as we hiked up and down, like we were all hobbits on a great quest. Everywhere we turned there were unique wildflowers, some I had never seen before, capturing our attention from the lush green and blue around us. Also, hello buffalo on day two! (The buffalo are not native to the island, and were brought to Catalina in the 1910s for filming a movie and left behind. Hopefully now humans know better, and can do better!)
The Beauty of Community
While we experienced new things while hiking each day, what truly made this retreat so special was the community that formed from a group who were for the most part strangers a couple days before. As a friend and staff to Carrie and Zach, I found sometimes that guests wanted to help cook and do dishes (things I expected to do) while in conversation with the group – truly making it feel like an equal community. Also being the youngest person in the group, I enjoyed hearing all the stories and experiences each person had to share as we dived into some ice-breaker questions around the fire from a game a guest had brought along. Everyone’s openness and willingness to share brought up lots of wisdom and laughter. I give lots of credit to Carrie and Zach for creating an authentic, inclusive environment during retreats where this level of sharing and deep laughter is possible. Each night on this trip I felt I went to bed with a tired, yet grateful, body and a smiling heart.
Wisdom I am Packing Home
On the final night, like we close out every retreat, each person shared what they are taking away from their experience on the island. We then go around the circle and give three words to describe and lift up the person who just shared. While I won’t share all the details of each guest’s wonderful reflections, I do want to highlight a few learnings that I think we all took away from the trip:
Hike your own hike. On the trail and in life – go your own pace, honor your pace. We will all get to where we need to be.
Don’t take life too seriously. This trip was full of a lot of fun personalities and silly stories. Life is supposed to be full of fun and love.
Practice “santosha”, one of the “yamas” in yoga philosophy meaning contentment. Sometimes the trail is hard. It’s hot. It’s steep. Your feet and legs are tired. Can you still be thankful and present for each step, being content with each moment as it comes? Same in life, whether things look gloomy or bright, can you be fully present with each experience and emotion as it is?
Join the next Trans Catalina Trail adventure, April 25-29, 2024!