On October 19, 2018, I ventured out on a solo hike through the White Mountains of Western Arizona. My intention was to explore the local area in search of a new trial.
It was midday and the sun was shining as I began my journey. Being alone in nature was natural for me, as my childhood was spent running through the grassy fields of the Midwest. Fear was never present when I explored, yet there was some apprehension as I began my journey this day as I knew that I was in unknown territory.
I felt excitement grow as I found beauty and unexpected discoveries along the way. The first thing I spotted were two wooden teepee type structures that were built in a secluded spot. I had no idea as to why the shelters were built or who had built them, but the discovery intrigued me to travel on. I quickly forgot about turning back and continued to hike forward, excited to find a beautiful reflective pond with a single large rock, where I sat and reflected for a period of time.
I followed trail makers as I hiked over rock filled paths. I inhaled the aroma of the ponderosa pine forest and felt at one with nature. After a few hours of hiking, I realized that my cell phone was dying and I was getting thirsty. I was not acclimated to the dry humid terrain of the southwest. I realized I had not seen a single person and noticed that my cell phone battery was dying. If it died, I wouldn’t have a GPS or trail finder to guide myself out if I became lost. I also didn’t have an asthma inhaler with me or water to drink. I had not intended to hike so far. I began to get worried and contemplated turning back, but I had already hiked several miles, so I decided to keep moving forward.
Fear started to shroud me like a dark dirty cloud. Was I lost? Did I veer off the trail? What if I had an asthma attack? What if my cell phone died and no one found me? I knew that curiosity and my sense of adventure had taken me further into the mountain than I had originally expected. I continued to follow the trail markers, but some were missing or were difficult to locate, making me question if I was on the trail at all.
My hiking pace increased as I set my intention on finding my way out of the mountains. Eventually in the distance, I spotted two people who were hiking up the mountain ahead of me. I caught up to them and shouted, “Is this the way out?” The man said that they were headed towards the parking lot. I had no idea where we were or what he was talking about. I asked them if they knew were the starting point was where I had begun my journey. The woman turned around and said, “That’s far away! You should turn around and go back.” My mouth dropped as I explained that I had traveled further than originally planned. The man generously gave me a bottle of water and offered to drive me back to my starting point. We hiked another hour up the mountain to their truck and then drove several miles down the road where they left me close to where I had begun my journey.
Being a natural explorer, the next day I went back to the same trail and hiked in the opposite direction, trying to figure out where the trail had looped together, but this time I was prepared for a long hike.
Not that I was really in any danger, other than in my mind, but I realized that the mountains are no comparison to a casual 4-mile walk in the flatlands of the Midwest. I quickly learned that when hiking at an elevation of 7,500 feet above sea level, it’s best to be prepared for the elements incluidng, hot weather, rough terrain, wild animals and thin air.
The White Mountains are a hiker lover’s paradise with thousands of trails to explore throughout the four seasons.
Check out the local Chamber of Commerce for trail guides and roadmaps to local National Forests.