Opinion: Dear Susi Q asks the question


What’s the best advice you could give an advice columnist? 

Lynette Brasfield answers: Take a hike!

A few weeks ago, I hiked 2,300 feet up to Tahquitz Peak in Idyllwild with my good friend Kathy Panzl. She’s 62, and I’m 68. It was challenging, but we did it. At the top of the peak, we found a lookout staffed by a volunteer firewatcher whom we’re guessing was in his early seventies. He’d hiked the rocky, soggy, root-strewn trail starting in the dark at 5:30 in the morning – with a knee scheduled for replacement in January. 

We had the best time talking to him about the history of the lookout. The tower is also in its seventies, a similar age to so many volunteers who help out in national parks, forests and wilderness areas. And its ancient brass compass still works, which is more than I can say about my sense of direction, but there you go.

It struck me then that if it weren’t for people my age and older, there’d be hardly anyone to lead hikes, work on habitat restoration, and help out at the Native Seed Farm at the Laguna Canyon Foundation and other OC wilderness areas, like Limestone, Baker, Fremont and Black Star Canyons, where Kathy and I volunteer. Several volunteers are well into their eighties. 

Lynette Brasfield at Car Wreck Trail near Aliso Viejo. Photo/Lynette Brasfield

So we “older adults” – or geezers, or seniors, or pensioners, or whatever term you prefer – really are vital to the health of our planet. And as our final act, we can always choose to be composted, so there’s that!

About Kathy: Through hiking, I also discovered it is never too late to make a new best friend – the sort of person with whom you can laugh and whom you utterly trust, someone who is kind and funny and smart. I already had a few friends with those wonderful qualities (Dianne Russell, I’m looking at you!), but I thought that was it for one lifetime. It wasn’t, and I’m so happy it wasn’t.

Seriously, getting out in the wilderness is so therapeutic for mind and body. I’ve always been terrible at activities involving balls, balance, or bending, so it was a revelation later in life to find that putting one foot in front of another could be so rewarding. 

So far, I’ve delighted in nearly falling off rocky ledges in Marble, Grand and Bryce Canyons; literally crawled at times up steep Car Wreck, Five Oaks and Mentally Sensitive trails locally; sauntered past sloths in Costa Rica; sighted saguaro in the Sonoran Desert; hiked happily in Yosemite; wandered the trails of Whistler Mountain; rambled in the Rocky Mountains; galumphed along in gorgeous Glacier National Park; dawdled in the heat in Death Valley; and noodled along in stunning Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Highlands National Park – and it’s all been beyond wonderful.

Here, we’re so lucky to have Laguna Canyon Foundation just off the 133. It offers geology, birdwatching and wildflower hikes that range from easy to strenuous. Check them out at lagunacanyon.org. Hope to see you on the trails!

Lynette is working with Laguna Beach Seniors and the Laguna Canyon Foundation to lead a beginner’s hike to (and from!) Barbara’s Lake, Orange County’s only natural lake. It will be an easy introduction to the benefits of getting off our duffs and enjoying our exceptional environment the way it should be seen – from eye level. For more information on living it up and meeting the challenges that can come with time, visit thesusiq.org or email [email protected] if you have a question you’d like to ask Lynette. 

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