At a first glance, Pierce College may not seem like an appealing hiking trail to people on campus, but one student has carefully crafted out the perfect trail.
Bongeon Park, a student in ENCORE—a program for for elder students—has crafted and perfected a hiking trail through the campus starting at the top of the Performing Art Building and ending approximately 2.5 miles away.
Park keeps the well-detailed map of the route with him at all times, happily sharing with his classmates and anyone who is interested.
Dressed in red plaid T-shirt, faded denim jeans and a well-equipped backpack on his back, Park is ready to begin his journey, which usually takes him two hours to complete.
As Park starts his hike, he makes sure to set his pedometer, meticulously logging each destination in his journey beginning with the 174-step stairway that leads from the Arts Center.
“I see many students walking up and down, up and down, but the campus is a natural way to exercise,” Park said, gripping his compass cane for support. “While you’re on the campus you walk on the stairs.”
With the abundance of eye-catching plants and creatures, the Botanical Garden—which he nicknames “desert garden”—that follows after the stairway is one of Park’s favorite hiking spots.
“That garden has lots of turtles, lots of little cute animals. The first thing I noticed was all the [cacti] right in the middle of the campus. It’s so beautiful,” Park said, pointing at the turtles as he walks by. “If you’re very quiet you can even meditate.”
As a passionate yoga activist, Park engages in daily meditation, which helps him clear his head during his hikes.
Park’s wife, Soon, can attest to her husband’s love for hiking.
“My husband loves to hike. He seems very interested in the routes. I think it’s a very good idea, and he’s helped make a nice route for students to hike,” Soon Park said.
With hiking through the campus and yoga, Park continues to stay physically active hiking around Los Angeles. He is even enrolled in the health and fitness classes, offered by the ENCORE program.
“I try to enrich myself [and] learn more. The P.E. class is always one of my favorite ones, because physical exercise is very important.” Park said.
Park remembers when he first started walking through the hiking trails that he mapped through the college.
Park first started hiking in his native country of South Korea, and began searching for trails convenient for him to hike through when he moved to America.
“Suddenly, one day it came to my mind—hiking is one of the best exercises. Why not share with other students?” Park said. “Surprisingly, the response was good, but later somebody told me that the teacher copied it and distributed it to the class.”
Chris Netto, Park’s ENCORE instructor for health and fitness, began telling her students about the alternative workout Park designed.
“He asked if I wanted to share it with some of the other students. I thought the students might enjoy that, and I posted that on my website for the students to access it. They could even share it with their friends if they want,” said Netto.
The Braille Trail, a trail designed for the visually-impaired to experience nature, is Park’s next stop on his map.
Park admires the natural beauty that runs rampant through the Braille Trail as he walks through the heavy foliage of the path. He stops to point out a bridge he likes, calling it “romantic and rural.”
Following his short walk through the Braille Trail, Park gears up for the real endeavor of the hike, trekking up a steep hill. He calls it the “East Hill to West Hill hike.”
“[This is] the hardest part of the hike,” Park said.
Despite the difficult task at hand, Park remains unfazed and properly prepared with his backpack full of hiking essentials including fruits, water, a book, and his favorite peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.
Park slowly continues up the steep hill. As others on the path race past him, Park is steady but diligent in walking up the hill, moving at his own comfortable pace.
“You have your own time, your own pace, and sometimes you can fall into deep thinking about yourself, what you are currently facing or anything. Sometimes good ideas come from that,” Park said.
A reward awaits Park at the top of the hill: a scenic view of the San Fernando Valley along with a cool and refreshing breeze.
“Isn’t it refreshing?” Park said, gazing out at the scenery. “So nice.”
Park makes his way toward the end of his trail, passing the Farm and making a stop by the a “secret pool” in Canon de Lana, where he meditates before he comes full circle in his trip.
Park offers a last his final thoughts on reaching his destination in the form of a favorite proverb of his.
“The journey is important. If you’re in the journey, the journey owns you,” Park said, smiling. “But if you finish the journey, it’s yours.”
For the full map of the trail visit http://www.standingfirmfitness.com/resources.php and click on Pierce Campus Walk.