Last Saturday afternoon, during a time unlike any we’ve seen and under a “Stay-at-Home” order, I met Lori Brookes at the base of Deer Springs Trail.
Nature is still one of the few places we are still “allowed” to go. We maintained “social distancing,” a term that has quickly become a way of life.
As we hiked, all we could hear in the vast wilderness of trees were the sounds of our footsteps and the occasional bird chirping.
As we hiked up Deer Springs Trail, we discussed Brookes’ first published book “The Unintended Positive Consequences of Hiking.” The inspiring memoir is about Brookes and how she set out on a journey that led her in directions she never imagined.
Brookes was dealing with two very ill parents. As she watched them quickly decline, she realized we aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow.
“I went on this hike in Death Valley,” explained Brookes. “I wasn’t a hiker and I thought I was going to die. I kind of had an epiphany that day. I decided I should do something to get in better health. So, on my 59th birthday, I decided I’d hike my way to 60.”
Originally, her idea was to complete 60 hikes by the age of 60, but it morphed into so much more than that.
Before she moved here, Brookes had been coming to Idyllwild for years for rest and relaxation, not for hiking. From San Diego, where she lived, it was a quick drive to get to mile-high Idyllwild. Because of that, she was aware of the maze of hiking trails that Idyllwild offers.
“On my twelfth hike, I came up with a friend and we did South Ridge Trail,” said Brookes. “We didn’t make it, but hiking grabbed onto me. I fell in love with it and I knew I was supposed to live in the mountains.”
Within four-and-a-half months, Brookes was on her sixtieth hike up to Tahquitz Peak with a few friends and family.
“On the way down, I had another epiphany,” Brookes said. “I did the 60 hikes, but I’m not 60 yet!” So, at that point, Brookes decided to triple her goal.
In one year, Brookes completed her goal, visiting five states, three countries and completing 180 hikes.
Five months after she completed her hiking journey, her father passed away from heart complications. Just weeks before the Cranston Fire, Brookes moved to Idyllwild on July 1, 2018, to help take care of her ailing mother who was living in Hemet. Unfortunately, her mother passed away within three months.
Wanting to document the journey, lessons and obstacles, Brookes decided to write her book.
“I decided to stay here [Idyllwild] and in February 2019, I wrote a chapter a day from my cabin,” Brookes said. “The book was born here in Idyllwild. It was published on Feb. 22, 2020.”
Writing is something Brookes has done professionally over the years, along with photography.
“One of the great things about writing the book was it was cathartic, fun and healing,” Brookes admitted. “I felt a sense of accomplishment getting it published. I had a real vulnerable moment when I hit the publish button, forgetting everything I wrote about. I’m sad my parents aren’t here to see it, but I give them a large amount of claim for me even going on the journey in the first place.
“The book wrote itself,” Brookes said. “It’s not just about hiking. It covers so many topics that we all can relate to. One of the biggest messages is there is no time like the present to do what it is that you want to do. I had a pair of hiking boots, no other gear, and I just went for it.”
As we wrapped up our interview standing on the trail, a female hiker passed us and asked, “Do you have an e-version of your book?” The hiker recognized Brookes from socializing in town. It was proof that in less than a month, her book has already made an impact amongst the hiking community.
Her official book release was going to be April 25, 2020 but was canceled due to the COVID-19 “Stay-at-Home” order.
While everyone is home, Brookes has been doing nightly readings of her book on Facebook Live to help keep positivity and help some feel a little less isolated.
“The Unintended Positive Consequences of Hiking” can be found on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle version.