By Abby Everett

When I first arrived at PUC, I liked nature, but our relationship hadn’t quite blossomed to the next level. I have always been fascinated with wild places, but I didn’t immerse myself in the outdoors until my time here at PUC. I met friends who went running in the Back 40, rock climbing on Mount Saint Helena, free diving along the coast near a small town called Jenner, and hiking anywhere and everywhere, including the land trust that is right here in Angwin. As I immersed myself in these activities, the outdoor world began to explode with opportunities. It wasn’t long before my “like” relationship with nature transitioned into a “love” relationship.

Since I grew up in the state of Washington, I came to PUC already accustomed to lush, green forests, towering mountain peaks, and cloudy skies that never disappear (sparing the month of August). I was pleasantly surprised with the forest located right behind our campus and even though it’s not quite as lush as the forests back home, it quickly became a safe-haven. I have spent countless hours exploring the trails in PUC’s own “Back 40,” and have been quite surprised with the number of students I’ve met who know nothing of this “other world” behind our little school. There are numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation in the surrounding area, yet I often get the impression that these places see very few PUC students.

When I need a quick get-away, I head up to the airport to go for a walk or run in the Back 40. There are plenty of nice little loops, but most of the trails are quite extensive; you really can never get bored back there. Another favorite spot on campus is the farm. I’ve ended many evening walks by making friends with the cows. They’re quite friendly and will more often than not let you feed them grass and scratch their foreheads. It’s so nice to have all of this in our backyard, but if I have a little bit more time on my hands, I frequently visit Oat Hill Mine Trail and the climbers’ trails on Mount Saint Helena just north of Calistoga. These are two of my favorite spots that look over the valley. In my opinion, the best time to visit these two spots is an early winter morning. If you time it just right, you can gain a little elevation and look down on the clouds sunken in the valley as the sun comes up.

If you want to enjoy the outdoors but aren’t up for a hike, I would definitely suggest a trip to the coast. There are so many beaches and coves along Highway 1 that offer a peaceful escape from the assignments, tests, quizzes and projects that come with college. One of my favorite places is Stillwater Cove, which is north of Jenner. This little cove is frequently visited by local abalone hunters, and if you’re brave enough to venture into the water, you can see a variety of sea creatures like urchins, crabs, giant green anemone, and even the occasional sea lion. No matter your fitness or interest level, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation not too far from our campus.

Today, the outdoors is where I receive fulfillment, rejuvenation and peace. The mental and spiritual blessings that come from spending time outdoors keep me going, because let’s be honest, college can be rough. For me, nature is an awesome stress reliever. I feel most connected to God, our Creator, when I am wandering in His creation. As I spend time outside and experience the outdoor recreation our geographic region has to offer, I find myself falling deeper and deeper in love with nature and wild places. Had it not been for the Back 40, those climbers’ trails on Mount Saint Helena, and the numerous little beaches along the coast, I wouldn’t have discovered this little piece of me that has become a huge part of my identity. These places have transformed me as a person and have certainly had a major impact on my PUC experience.