Trails - Iman Wilkerson

There is always a way to get lost. We manage to do it in a crowded room. Whenever we find ourselves staring, zombie-style, at nothing in particular—I’m pretty sure that’s just us detaching from the din, finding an alcove of solitude, a floaty little space for our awareness.

Spacing out is a centering instinct. Think of how good it feels to “freeze” like that. How, when someone tries to “snap you out of it,” you feel offended, done rude, as if they stole from you. Because that was us briefly and contently lost. This issue is about living an active life outdoors in San Diego. A life of hiking, biking, walking, running, yes. But also of wandering, exploring, and losting.

People are like water. We come to a place like San Diego and flow freely through it to start. But over time, we repeat ourselves, form rivulets and tracks. We could find new ways, but unless we make a conscious decision to do so, we’ll hit the end of the day and realize we poured ourselves down the same river of experience.

This year, we leaned on good friend and successful active-life podcaster Shelby Stanger (search out her Wild Ideas Worth Living podcast) to help us get lost. She pointed us to inspiring adventurers living in our midst. These bikers and runners and will-pushers share their favorite trails and back countries and moonlike nooks around San Diego County. We asked two extremely talented local photographers—Todd Glaser and Jussi Oksanen—to capture them in their losting element. Then we had them turn their cameras on each other to show their favorite outer realms.

I can’t stop staring at the photo of Iman Wilkerson (pictured above). You can feel how alive she is, how she seems to leave a vapor trail of grace behind her, how her shadow probably struggles to keep up. There’s also an epic photo of a person on a fancy bike doing a wheelie on the edge of a ravine. It looks ill-advised and dangerous and life-affirming. The ragged skyscraper of dirt he’s riding on looks like Sedona, or that alien planet where the wee robe creatures stole C-3PO.

It’s San Diego.

I’m sure some of you have ridden these trails, run these ravines, scaled those cliffs. But so many of us haven’t. I haven’t. And the whole point of what we do at San Diego Magazine—of documenting inspiring people in artful ways—is to show you invigorating ways to live a life here.

The cover photo of Todd and his girlfriend, Jenna, barefooting the cliffs of Black’s Beach with their surfboards, unleashes the memories. I can still remember, age 14, when a friend’s older brother took us surfing at Black’s. I remember parking at the glider port, where people threw themselves off the cliff at random intervals as we put on our wetsuits. I remember looking at the dizzying cliff we were about to descend and thinking in expletives. We had to traverse this thin section of the trail at the top. On each side, sheer doom—or at least reasonable peril. It was a windy day, which makes your surfboard act like a sail and throw you off balance. I remember the adrenaline starting in my gut and then through all of me. I remember making it down to the bottom. I remember being surprised by the naked members of our elder community on the beach below. I remember surfing for hours, and feeling I’d discovered a remote world in the middle of the city.

I felt perfectly lost.

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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