By Izzy Mendiola, Regular Contributor
My best friend, Alaina, and I are drenched in sweat as we huff up a half-mile long, unshaded, disgustingly steep hill that locals have dubbed the Hill of Life (which in my opinion would be more accurately called the Hill of Death). I can’t decide which burns more—my shoulders from the sun beating down and lack of sunscreen I have applied or my quads from this heinous incline I am ascending. As we stop for a moment and take turns desperately gulping from a CammelBak, Alaina turns to me with her freckly smile and affirms, “This may be one of the greatest days ever.” Without a second of hesitation, I agree with her, and I, truly, in the depths of my sweat-covered soul, do.
That morning, Alaina and I decided to spend the day hiking the entire Green Belt, an 8-mile trail in Austin, Texas that runs along a creek—an oasis from the rising condos and increasingly crowded highways of the city. We woke up, strapped on our hippie sandals, scarfed down acai bowls, and were on our way.
Within the first few miles, we experienced some ups and downs despite the relatively level trail (the Hill of Life would be the last half mile of our journey). While I struggled to keep up with Alaina as she weed-wacked her way through the main trail, I was assaulted by the foulest of odors as I nearly stepped on a fish carcass that was providing a feast for a tribe of maggots. Alaina’s Teva gave out on her as she walked through a patch of mud, leaving her belly down on the trail. A few miles later our stomachs started growling, reminding us that it probably would have been wise for us to bring a few snacks. A little after that, I realized I had left my keys in my car, which meant I would have to call my mother to pick us up on the condition that I take on extra chores around the house (although, it’s really not doing anybody a favor when I have to cook dinner).
However, the bruises gained didn’t seem so bad compared to sliding down waterfalls, relaxing in the creek, and laughing about stories of our moms as we walked. After the first mile, we veered off of the trail and found ourselves emerging from the woods--a la Miguel and Tulio in Disney’s The Road to El Dorado-- to find a sanctuary of clear, blue, rushing water. We explored the shallow waters where we found rocks that perfectly fit our bodies when we sat, making me feel like I was in some sort of nature-made spa. We sat there, goofing off, in what felt like perfect harmony with each other and our surroundings.
Despite our injuries, our hunger pangs, and our sunburns, it really was one of the greatest days ever. When I think about why it was so great, I cannot help but to think that it’s because I was with Alaina, my wise, free-souled, nature-loving, ray of sunshine of a friend.
These past weeks of summer, I have had more time than usual to think about what makes me happy. Summer has provided me with an opportunity to consciously choose ways to fill my time. After hiking the Green Belt with Alaina, I cannot help but think that for me, happiness may be less about what makes me happy, and more about who makes me happy.
Let's chat! Who in you life makes you happy? What adventures have you gone on together? Tell us about them here!
Izzy calls Austin, Texas her home, and is currently studying psychology at Boston College. She is a froyo enthusiast, a shameless lover of country music, and enjoys long runs way more than is normal. She loves the mission of I AM THAT GIRL and is so excited to be part of the IATG community!
image via brotherscove.com