Journey of a Lifetime
On April 13, 2013, the Muslim Youth Group (MYG) of the Islamic Center of Southern California embarked on a journey to hike to the Hollywood Sign, located in Los Angeles. The day began with a healthy, balanced breakfast at the Islamic Center around 8:00 AM. During this time, counselors were prepped on their duties as counselors, the plan for the day, and how to handle emergency situations should one occur during the hike, while the youth spent the time being hyped up for the day. Before departing, Soha Yassine, the MYG coordinator, set the tone for the day by reciting some verses from Surat Al-Rahman to get us thinking about Allah (swt) and His creations, relating to the theme of our journey: “reflecting on matters of the soul and matters of the universe” and how our spirituality is connected with nature.
At 10:00 AM, we made our way to the beginning of the first hiking trail, Ferndale, just off of Los Feliz Boulevard and Ferndale Drive. The one mile hike up to the Griffith Observatory was supposed to be the mild warm-up, but to our surprise was one of the harder trails of the day. Finally at the top, after 20 minutes of steep inclination, the group sat together and heard a lecture from a guest speaker: Sultan Sherrief. He spoke about the pace of nature and how it is in tune with the pace of our bodies, as we meditated for a few minutes to really create a connection with nature that has otherwise been lost from our constant involvement in a materialistic world.
At 11:30 am, we began our official journey to the Hollywood Sign, a journey most, if not all, of us were unprepared for the rigor of what was still to come. We began hiking up the Charlie Turner Trail, excited and ambitious to trek on such an adventure. Warning signs of “Caution: Rattlesnakes” instilled fear in some, and gave others more of an incentive to continue on. The inclination of the mountain (Mt. Hollywood) was steeper than most of us expected and was a struggle in and of itself. After a couple of hours of hiking, we took a break for dhur prayer and lunch, trying to further promote a healthy and balanced diet.
The long journey continued as we hiked for another couple of hours until finally, after a steep inclination up the last hill (Mt. Lee) and hiking a total of six long miles, we reached the Hollywood Sign, many of us feeling accomplished, others relieved, anxious, and astonished. The views from the top were beautiful and breath-taking. Every high rise building was visible, all the cars were minimized to seem like little colorful ants crawling, and the noise was brought down to a bare minimum. The disconnection from the city and the connection with nature as the light breeze hit our faces was a moment of pure bliss. But like every sweet and savory moment, there must be an end; so we began our long journey back, which was much quicker because it was downhill. About halfway down, there were some hikers who were close to giving up, close to losing all hope and confidence that they could finish strong and complete the journey.
But as their fellow hikers gave them encouragement and motivation, they were able to go on and complete the journey, the trek, the accomplishment of a lifetime, a 12 mile hike from the Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood Sign and back. It was over. At 5:00 pm, with guest speakers Samira Idroos, Omar Offendum, and Tarek Shawky a group discussion was held to help reflect on the day, shining light upon the fact that as a group we struggled, we connected, we were enlightened, we accomplished, and we achieved: together. The verses from Surat Al-Rahman that were recited before we started our day, were repeated, in order to come full circle.
At 7:00 PM, we ended our day with a show about the end of the world, called “Time’s Up,” at the Samul Oschin Planetarium at the Griffith Observatory to get us thinking about the afterlife and how our actions here on Earth could affect our lives after we die. It was a good reminder that although this nature, this society, this world makes up our lives now, we will be leaving it all sooner or later and all we have to take with us, is not material things, but rather our deeds. With that, we left the Observatory and headed back to the Islamic Center, more experienced than when we first arrived. Every aspect of the day truly was a wonderful way to reflect on matters of the soul and matters of the universe. The things I learned, the bonds that I formed, and the memories that were created will last forever and never be forgotten.