|A scene from today's hike at Skyline Ridge
[image: Young white man with short brown hair,
from behind, hiking a wide trail under tall oaks.]
Because it's what we enjoy and due to a lack of other options, 2020 was, for me, a year of near-daily hiking. Most of it was with my 19- and then 20-year-old, some of it was with my eldest, some with my husband, some with my youngest, some with a combination thereof. It was all beautiful. We could hike a different trail each day in this picturesque, varied Bay Area, and never repeat ourselves.
Yet many of our cherished trails were destroyed or badly marred in 2020. Sometimes I felt like we cursed these places just by visiting them during this upside-down year, even though I know this mindset is both egotistical and silly. But consider that our redwood pilgrimage site Big Basin State Park burned down the very day after we hiked it. Our favorite and frequented short coastal hike, Cascade Creek, burned black in that same CZU complex fire, which cost so many Santa Cruz Mountains residents their homes and livelihoods. The Oat Hill Mine Trail, with its dizzying views of Napa Valley, and which my husband and I hiked just before lockdown, was partially burned in this summer's Glass fire and is closed until further notice. South San Francisco's Sign Hill Park was torched by teen arsonists within a month of our visit. And, for variety's sake, human remains were found in San Bruno Mountain park, shortly after we'd hiked there. Perhaps you can understand my unease.
Hiking also helps me grapple with one of this year's most devastating losses, the death of Mel Baggs. Mel's compassionate but unyielding advocacy on behalf of disabled people like (and also unlike) Leo can't be replaced—but we can keep spreading those teachings, like what self-advocacy actually means:
"Self-advocacy doesn't mean staff get to pat us on the head, use the right buzzwords, tell us what wonderful little self-advocates we are, and then chastise us or put us on a behavior program when we get angry at them about their controlling behavior."
As Leo and I continue to hike through the redwoods Mel loved, and as my son's laughter rings through the trees, as my heart swells because who couldn't be happy in the presence of such joy—I hope that by doing our best to give Leo a good life and let him know how much he is adored, we are doing a small part to live Mel's legacy. Though we didn't do much else this year, I consider loving and being loved a win.
Bite me, 2020.