Hit The Trail
As of this past Thursday, I Heart Costa Mesa is officially two years old.
Two years of getting out into the community, connecting with neighbors and regulars, sharing stories and loving on this eclectic, spirited, coastal city of ours. For those of us involved in creating this content, it has been life-changing to say the least.
If there’s one grand takeaway from these early days, it would be something we’ve repeated ad nauseam in nearly every conversation since the beginning: This city is made great by all the people “just quietly doing their thing.”
By and large, Costa Mesans aren’t big on bragging or self-promotion. They don’t necessarily want or need praise for what they are doing. It’s enough to throw themselves, humbly and wholeheartedly, into their passion project(s) of choice – whether that’s a garage band, a charity, a social club or coffee-roasting – and discover connections, community and meaning along the way.
Today’s featured Costa Mesans walk such a path; or, more aptly, a trail.
Trail Forty is an online, outdoor-gear website selling everything from hammocks to truck racks to bodyboards, and beyond. It’s the “brandchild” of husband-and-wife team, Gilbert and Brittnee Gonzalez – a fresh-faced, adorable couple who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Within five minutes of meeting them, the only thing more apparent than their affection for each other, was the sincerity of the faith that drives them.
“The full name of our company is, ‘Trail Forty: Withdraw Into The Wilderness,'” shared Gilbert. “The ‘forty’ is a reference to 40 days and 40 nights – and ‘Withdraw Into The Wilderness’ is from the bible, Luke 5:16, because it’s often what Jesus did to pray. We’re not trying to push that idea onto anyone, but our faith is a big part of our lives and so the name is deeply meaningful to us.
“Whatever your beliefs, we can agree there’s just something about being outdoors – and the peace it brings – that resonates with all people. When you get out from behind the desk and into nature, it’s centering. And when you’ve been out in nature, and then come back into society, it becomes more obvious if part of your life is misaligned; something there that needs addressing. So really, our objective is just to encourage people to get outdoors more often.”
Getting people outdoors is part one – what the Gonzalez’ call the ‘front end’ – of a two-part goal. The ‘back end’ of the plan is to generate an additional income stream so they can afford generosity more often.
“We both already have day jobs,” said Brittnee. “But we’re only earning enough at the 9-to-5 to provide for ourselves. We see the need around us and want to fill it, but we just can’t manage it with what we’re bringing in from our jobs.”
“There are so many people in our city who need help,” said Gilbert. “Drive down into the parks anywhere and you know what I’m talking about. There are just too many times we hear of families or neighbors who are in need. Brittnee and I felt increasingly frustrated because we lacked the resources to help at the level we wanted to – to be able to pull out of our pockets and just say, ‘Look, be blessed.’
“So we got our heads together and thought, ‘What can we create that would help others and bring in those extra resources?’ Well, we both really love the outdoors and so we slowly started building this little thing – which eventually became Trail Forty as it is, today.”
The company started out as a platform where friends could sell their outdoor-related products. But as word got out about the mission, the Gonzalez’ received some surprising feedback.
“Friends were coming up to us saying things like, ‘You guys should make your own stuff,’ and ‘Trail Forty sounds like a brand,'” said Gilbert. “Lots of people saw what we were doing and encouraged us to take it to the next level. Initially, we were thinking we would just be this hub for other people’s brands. The more we thought about it, the more we thought, ‘Alright, let’s explore this idea.'”
The Gonzalez’ started experimenting with making their own stuff – which eventually blossomed into a line of proprietary personal-care products, along with ‘Trail Forty’ branded apparel.
“The beard oil is one that’s really taken off,” said Brittnee. “We source pure, essential oils – organic, whenever possible – and use a mixture of jojoba, coconut and apricot as the main ingredients. The objective is to soften your beard and the skin underneath – and you can use it to control and condition your hair, too.”
“We have three signature, beard-oil scents that are all based around my childhood growing up in Orange County,” said Gilbert. “The first one, ‘0600,’ is a peppermint-eucalyptus blend that reminds me of Laguna Canyon on foggy mornings. Then the ‘1200’ is a eucalyptus-orange scent that reminds me of El Toro back when the orange groves were around in the ’80s. Finally, ‘1800’ is a reminder of my favorite season, harvest time through fall, so it has a nice cinnamon-clove-orange thing going on.”
“That’s, like, your fancy, going-out-for-the-night beard oil,” said Brittnee.
In addition to beard oils, Trail Forty offers a variety of house-made, body-care products that feel “treaty” to use and leave skin soft and glowing. Brittnee whipped us up a batch of goodies to try at home, and after a luxuriously long shower, here is our experience:
Vanilla Sugar Scrub You know when you’re baking chocolate-chip cookies from scratch and you get to the step where you’re adding brown sugar and vanilla extract? This body scrub smells exactly like that! Richly-textured and full of molasses, it scrubbed gently and left our skin feeling moisturized.
Nectar Body Butter The only thing better than the creamy-yet-fluffy, whipped texture of this body butter is the tropical, floral scent of your skin after using it. The nose is like walking through a cliffside garden overlooking the Pacific.
Nectar Hair Oil Why should your skin get all the love? Compliment the body butter above with its smooth sister, hair oil! It really did smooth away any frizz after our blow-dry and left a soft, shiny finish that wasn’t heavy or greasy. (We didn’t even feel the need to wash our hands – just rubbed the leftovers into our skin!)
Vanilla Sugar Lip Scrub Have the rest of y’all been lip-scrubbing this whole time and we’re just the last to hear about it? We’ve never in our lives used a lip scrub, but now we see the appeal! We tried it after a long, dehydrating, trail run – and it did a great job exfoliating, then left our lips feeling soft in a more authentic way than chapstick ever could.
All in all, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the quality and consistency of the Trail Forty products we tried. We’ll be back for more once our samples run out, happy to support a local, family-owned enterprise.
“We’re operating Trail Forty out of our one-bedroom apartment, so we’re obviously never gonna have a selection like REI,” said Gilbert. “But we’re still a viable alternative to bigger brands. Maybe check in with us before you go to a big-box store, feel a little better about supporting a small business, the local guys.”
“If we ever get, like, 10,000 orders at once – which would be a really nice problem to have – we’ll just call up friends and family to pile into our apartment and help us fulfill all those orders,” laughed Brittnee.
We asked the Gonzalez’ what they thought their generation could learn – or how it might benefit – from spending more time in nature.
“Look, technology today is great on so many levels,” said Gilbert. “We can communicate and connect to a degree we never could before. But I think it’s easy to cross a line into letting it be the ruler of your life. I think my generation could be better about putting the phone down, walking away for a while, and just being.
“We know people that will look at their phones any time there is a pause in conversation – but there’s nothing even on there for them to look at. They’re just staring at the screensaver, or something, because it’s so habitual. There’s a kind of weirdness about that. I say find time to turn off your phone and get back to nature – you’ll be happier for it.”
The Gonzalez’ walk-the-talk of their “back to nature” campaign, spending most evenings outdoors, together.
“Being in Costa Mesa, we’re lucky to be central to so many things,” said Brittnee. “Going to the beach to take a walk is the simplest thing in the world to do, but it refreshes you down to your soul. Just breathing in that ocean air is so renewing.
“We hike local trails; there are so many options to hike where we live. None of it needs to cost very much – if anything at all. In the winter, we take our boogie boards up to Big Bear, find a hill, and just sled. You really don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a lift ticket – or a bunch of fancy gear – to enjoy a great day of snow play.”
But people today are so busy, it’s not always easy to find the time to get outside.
“To that I would say you need to identify the vampire in your life,” said Gilbert. “What is sucking the time out of your day? Little things can suddenly add up to an hour or two before you know it. I think it just takes some mindfulness and careful analysis.
“For us, it took getting rid of our TV. We weren’t even big TV watchers, but having it there meant it had the power to draw our attention away from other things. All of a sudden we would realize an hour had gone by and we were sitting, watching, when we should have been living or working.”
Thank You Gonzalez Family – and Trail Forty – For Sharing Your Costa Mesa Story
Both Brittnee and Gilbert grew up in other parts of Orange County, but they say Costa Mesa feels more “hometown” than their cities of origin.
“I really love the diversity of the people here,” said Brittnee. “Plus, the food is awesome. Amazing ramen and Mexican food – it’s central to everything – I love living here.”
“I grew up amateur skateboarding for Vision Skateboards and they’re located off Placentia,” said Gilbert. “One of the things I’ve always loved about Costa Mesa is that it’s – I don’t want to say hard-core, necessarily – but it’s very core. Some of the oldest and most-iconic surf and skate brands are from here, but there’s no hype or attitude around that; it just is. People here produce quality work and just live.
“I get my hair cut over at Miller Barber Shop and Mark is just a humble dude. We talk about punk rock and his days of growing up in the Costa Mesa music scene. There’s some amazing history with its roots in this town.
“It feels good to have this place and to be a part of it. We may not have lived here our whole lives, like some, but if there’s anywhere I can call home, Costa Mesa’s it, for sure.” ♥
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