Advertisement

How my brother’s untimely death inspired me to hike L.A.

Jaclyn hikes Vasquez Rocks with two close friends.
Part of the 40 miles that Jaclyn hiked in January in honor of their late brother’s 40th birthday was at Vasquez Rocks with two close friends.
(Courtesy of Laura Newberry)
Share via

Editor’s note: This newsletter is all about featuring a variety of exciting voices from SoCal’s outdoors scene. Starting this week, that voice belongs to Times staff writer Jaclyn Cosgrove, who will write The Wild going forward. Jaclyn enjoys hiking through Angeles National Forest, mountain biking along the least scary trails they can find, and kayaking hopefully a bit this year.

This January, I set an ambitious New Year’s resolution: to hike exactly 40 miles that month.

It wasn’t because I wanted to lose weight or get fit for the new year. Rather, my intention was to celebrate, to honor, what should have been my older brother Clinton’s 40th birthday on Jan. 10.

Advertisement

Clinton died of brain cancer in 2018. For the past six years, I’ve grappled with how to honor his life in Los Angeles, a city where we have no shared memories because he died too soon after I moved to ever visit. I’ve chosen to make my own memories of him, here, primarily in the mountains that surround L.A.

I’m Jaclyn Cosgrove, an outdoors reporter at the L.A. Times. I’ll be writing The Wild for the foreseeable future. I previously worked as a news reporter at The Times, covering L.A. County government, crime, wildfires and a variety of other California stories.

Jaclyn at Red Box Canyon in Angeles National Forest.
Jaclyn hiked 40 miles in honor of their late brother’s 40th birthday in January, including this hike through Red Box Canyon in Angeles National Forest.
(Jaclyn Cosgrove)

For my first entry, I’d like to introduce you to why I love being outdoors, what guides me on the trails and what you can expect from my reporting.

I didn’t know a thing about mountains when my wife and I moved to L.A. in 2017. I grew up in rural Oklahoma, surrounded by private land, and had spent little time recreating in high elevation. Initially, I dabbled a bit outdoors, venturing to Griffith Park or on a hike in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. I was intimidated, but mountain-curious.

Advertisement

Then my brother got sick again. Back in 2016, doctors discovered a walnut-sized tumor (a glioma) on his right frontal lobe. He told my family the day we threw him and his pregnant wife a baby shower. But then he had a surgery that was successful, my niece was born and life kept moving.

Two people holding beverages posing for the camera at an outdoors event
Clinton and Jaclyn at their family reunion in 2013 in Ashland, Okla.
(Courtesy of Jaclyn Cosgrove)

Fast-forward about a year and half. I flew back home for a work event. While I was there, I met up with my brother and his family at our alma mater’s homecoming parade. His daughter was busy grabbing candy from passing cars. I stood with him to the side and asked point blank: “Are you good now?” Clinton was optimistic. He said his scans were clear and all seemed well.

About five weeks later, he had at least seven seizures in one day. About two months later, in late January, he died. His neurosurgeon said it was “top five one of the most aggressive brain tumors” he’d ever seen.

I was so terrified of what would happen if I felt my feelings that I tried to block them out. I returned to work two weeks later, taking every assignment I could to distract myself from my emotions. Internally, I battled serious depression. A dense fog consumed my mind.

At home, my wife was so supportive of my grieving process, but I resisted help. I felt like no one could understand what it felt like to lose my brother and all the history we shared.

Advertisement

At the time we lived in a cramped apartment in Koreatown. We had loud upstairs neighbors and no place to be alone. I felt like I could not breathe.

Jaclyn at Sawmill Mountain, left, and Ontario Peak in December 2022, right.
(Jaclyn Cosgrove)

Out of desperation, I went to the mountains. I started hiking harder trails with serious elevation gains. I found trails in remote areas where I was the only person there. And in the midst of it all, I tapped into a deep feeling of gratitude for what my body could do. Clinton died from a disease he had no control to fight, I reasoned. I, however, still had a healthy body. And I was going to use it.

On the hardest parts of hikes, I started screaming, “I am so lucky! We are so lucky!” And in summit registers across Angeles National Forest, I started writing a simple message: “In loving memory of Clinton Travis Cosgrove.”

Jaclyn holds a hand written note reading, "In loving memory of Clinton T. Cosgrove, 1/10/84 - 1/25/18"
Jaclyn regularly leaves this message in summit registers on hikes around L.A. County. Their brother died Jan. 25, 2018, which they struggle to remember and write down correctly.
(Jaclyn Cosgrove)

Through these hikes, I’ve arrived at meaning in Clinton’s death: to make sure I savor my “one wild and precious life,” as poet Mary Oliver describes in “The Summer Day.”

Advertisement

That’s the energy I will bring to The Wild. I want you to read this newsletter every week knowing that I am so excited to be here, with you, helping you learn all the ways you can savor your one wild and precious life.

We all go into nature for our own reasons, and I look forward to hearing what drives you to hike, bike, run and more. I am eager to learn with you about how to be outside, and how to respect and protect this land we all love.

I also look forward to bringing a diversity of opinions, voices and ideas to your inbox. Importantly, I look forward to surprising you with new magical outdoor discoveries each week.

This January, I completed my 40 miles of hiking on the last day of the month — a journalist needs a deadline after all. Each mile was a physical testament to his memory. And reminded me what it means to feel alive.

A wiggly line break

3 things to do

An illustration of a butterfly
The El Segundo blue, which lives on a nature preserve next to Los Angeles International Airport, is one of several endangered flying wildlife depicted in a new exhibit titled “Sarah Kaizer: Rare Air” at the Catalina Museum for Art & History.
(Catalina Museum for Art & History)
Advertisement

1. Learn about endangered winged wildlife on Catalina Island
Did you know there’s an endangered butterfly — the El Segundo blue — that lives next to Los Angeles International Airport on a nature preserve? It’s one of several endangered flying wildlife depicted in a new exhibition titled “Sarah Kaizer: Rare Air” at the Catalina Museum for Art & History. The exhibition, which focuses on birds, bats, butterflies and bees, runs through Sept. 8 and features scientifically accurate pen-and-ink artwork. It includes guidance on how visitors can help combat the challenges facing our winged friends. Find museum hours and more at catalinamuseum.org.

2. Enjoy the largest West Coast Fourth of July celebration in downtown L.A.
Enjoy live music, crafts and games from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday (that’s tonight) at the Fourth of July block party in Gloria Molina Grand Park (200 N. Grand Ave). This free event will feature hip-hop and reggaeton music, and a 75-foot-tall Ferris wheel with a 90-foot-long fiberglass “super slide.” Instead of fireworks, there will be a drone light show. Find a detailed schedule at the Grand Park event page.

3. Camp overnight at one of five L.A. County parks
This summer, you and your family can camp in July and August at five L.A. County parks for $15 per person (kids 12 and younger are free). Space is limited. To reserve your family’s spot, call one of these parks to learn more about its dates and availability: Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in San Dimas, Castaic Lake State Recreation Area in Castaic, Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in El Monte, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in L.A. and Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale. Visit the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Instagram page for more information.

A wiggly line break

The must-read

The Inverness Shipwreck in Inverness, California. A wooden ship rests upon the beach.
Recent storms have made a shambles of the S.S. Point Reyes, a forlorn vessel both loved and hated by the townsfolk of Inverness, Calif.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The S.S. Point Reyes is a beloved abandoned fishing boat with a tremendous history, and has been stuck on a mudflat in the Northern California community of Inverness since the 1990s. Times staff writer Hailey Branson-Potts writes that the vessel, endearingly termed “the shipwreck” is on National Park Service land and will eventually be removed. Why? It’s falling apart. Since 2016, the ship has been burned, battered by storms and vandalized. But, as Hailey points out, some locals find its resiliency inspiring and don’t want to see it leave the shoreline.

Advertisement

For those who want to explore a shipwreck closer to home, you can check out this hike along the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Happy adventuring,

Jaclyn Cosgrove's signature

P.S.

As an Oklahoman, I have many memories of blowing things up on the Fourth of July. In L.A. County, it’s a totally different story, especially in our wild lands. Fireworks, including those labeled “safe and sane,” are illegal in several L.A. cities and Angeles National Forest, as they pose a serious risk to wildlife and could easily start a wildfire. Luckily, you can check out any one of the dozens of fireworks and drone displays around L.A. to celebrate the Fourth without lighting anything on fire. I promise it is just as awe-inspiring as doing it yourself!

For more insider tips on Southern California’s beaches, trails and parks, check out past editions of The Wild. And to view this newsletter in your browser, click here.

Advertisement
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news