Don't be fooled by the glamour of National Parks on Instagram (and learn from my dumbass mistakes).
I was covering a story with Taye Diggs outside of Las Vegas on Lake Mead in November 2018. With a free afternoon, I discovered that the Arizona Hot Springs weren't too far from where I was staying.
The weather gets so unbearably hot in the Summer there that the trails to the springs are closed. However, I was there in November. The scene is very desolate. Besides the one main highway, it is full-on desert filled with canyons. As my Uber driver dropped me off, he warned me that I may have no service when I would need a ride back to my hotel.
I loaded the trail on my Google Maps and set out on my afternoon adventure. Solo hiking is exhilarating. That morning I was standing in New Jersey in a down jacket and hours later I was alone, without a person in sight in a desert in Nevada. I know time travel isn't real, but this felt pretty close to it.
The terrain was dirt, rocks and sand, all looking vastly identical. I only brought water, my phone and had running shoes on instead of hiking boots. I tried to follow the signs and make sure I was making all the right turns. But along the way, of course, I made a wrong one.
About 40-minutes into my hike I realized I made that unfortunate turn when I found myself at a 30-foot drop off. I didn't freak out. I thought, “I'll just retrace my steps back to where I came from.”
I ended up at a dead end.
Then back at the 30-foot drop off. I had no idea which way I came from. Alone, without service, in canyons and hitting 4 dead ends over the last hour, “what the actual f*ck” were the only words I could mutter.
I had about two hours to sunset and was lost for well over an hour. I wanted to stop and take pictures of the beautiful scenery, but I was scared sh*tless at the same time. First world problems. On hands and knees, I climbed to the highest point where I could see the single road in the distance that I arrived on.
Continuing to search for service on my phone, I noticed that the little dot on my Google Maps was still following my movements.
This is what saved me.
Google f*cking Maps.
I didn't know this prior, but if your app is preloaded and you lose service, it will still show you where you are on the map. Within a half hour, I found my way back to where I started and saw that wretched turn I made.
Mother Nature's hazing was over and the adrenaline rush came back to me. “Don't be an idiot,” I said to myself. But alas, my naivety won and I jogged down to the Arizona Hot Springs as I was in a race against the light. I couldn't afford to get lost again.
It was gorgeous and I'm glad I got to see them even if it was only for a few minutes. I'd like to caution, if you find yourself on a solo hike, make friends. I befriended two sisters at the springs, we hiked back up together and they even drove me back to my hotel. Now we follow each other on Instagram!
Since then I haven't hiked alone but am big on the buddy system. For any type of hike, here are some items that you should always have on you:
Weather-appropriate clothes (layers!)
Snacks/plenty of water
Things people *often* forget:
Map or compass
Knife or multi-tool
And don't forget to look both ways before crossing the street.
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