I made a stupid trail mistake on my first solo hiking attempt in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas, Nevada. The oversight steered me off my intended path by several miles. These are the types of goofy things I accidentally get myself into.
It was Monday, during the early afternoon. The planned hike was supposed to be a straightforward and easy loop of 1.5 hours. However, it ended up as nearly a four-hour, 10-mile hike, by the end of the day. As much as I like hiking, I’m not used to 10 miles/4 hours in one day.
It was an experience to remember—my tired legs, sore feet, and very aching and swollen knees certainly won’t forget it. Even as I write this the next evening, I can barely walk from sore muscles.
Why Solo Hiking?
The idea to go solo hiking came about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Mike is too busy with work during the week, so he cannot come along. I want to keep up good health and lose weight. In order to do this, I need to be more moderately active during the week. (I do go on walks with my friends two-three times per week in the neighborhood, plus random Zumba workouts, but it’s not enough to see results).
Weight gain has been a great personal challenge over the past ten years; I usually lose weight, temporarily, and then, disappointingly, put it back on. Ultimately, I’ve decided to be at peace with my body image if I can’t lose the extra weight. Nevertheless, I still feel that I should be more active most days, for increased overall health and happiness.
The CDC says that, “People who have lost weight and kept it off typically engage in 60-90 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week…” (Italics and bold added by me). Therefore, hiking seems like it’d be a good plan for getting and staying fit, as well as feeling healthier. So off I went, on my accidental 10-mile hike on a Monday afternoon.
The Moenkopi Loop and Beyond
I looked up the trails at Red Rock National Conservation Area, and found one that looked easy and safe enough for my first solo hike in the desert. What I found was the Moenkopi trail, which starts at the visitor center, just left of the picnic area on the west side of the building. From there, you can take a very nice and scenic hike around a 2-mile loop, back to the building.
During most of the hike, I felt so connected to nature. I love, love, love nature. I saw large jackrabbits, with their big impressive ears, looking at me, and then hopping away, and many lizards scurrying under rocks and across the trail as I walked along. Huge, colorful mountains and rock formations were in sight from every direction. There were dangerous looking, spiky cacti, Joshua trees, and abundant desert plant life. The desert and wildlife were inescapable, everywhere, as far as the eye could see.
Have you ever been hiking by yourself before? Solo hiking reminds me of meditation; at least, that’s what I imagine meditation to be like. It’s just you, your thoughts, and the great outdoors. It was a good feeling. A peaceful feeling.
There was mostly silence on the hike, with just the sound of my breathing, the gentle breeze, and my shoes crunching the sand and rocks as I walked the trail. There were bright blue skies above, and it was a warm 78 degrees. It was a perfect day. Well, almost perfect.
I Missed My Turn
I made one mistake that turned my hike into quite the personal challenge. At one point on the trail, I accidentally walked straight ahead, onto another much longer trail, rather than turning right to stay on the easier Moenkopi trail.
The missed turn became clear after about two hours. “I know this trail should start turning around anytime now, maybe just a bit further,” is what I was telling myself at first. Finally, too much time had passed and I was inching closer and closer into the mountains, so I realized my mistake and turned back.
Towards the end of the hike, maybe around hour three, I started getting very tired. I was walking funny, my legs felt like jelly, my ears and the back of my neck felt hot and sunburned, and I was wondering if I was getting blisters on my feet. It reminded me of a Hollywood movie, where people walk tirelessly, and parched, wandering through the desert, in search of water, signs of life, and shelter (It wasn’t that bad— I’m exaggerating, sort of). I can now relate to the desert wanderers in the movies.
Eventually, the visitor center appeared in the distance. I felt so happy because this meant that I was almost back to my truck. Picture a horse that sees the red barn and starts walking faster or trotting; time for these jelly legs to go home! Hallelujah! That was me by the end of the hike.
I Did Come Somewhat Prepared…
Luckily, the entire time of the hike, I had my cell phone, a knife, bottled water, snacks, Band-Aids, and other goodies in a backpack. I also saw about 6-8 other friendly hikers at different points on the trail, so I knew I’d be okay and could always ask for help, if needed (so please don’t worry relatives that are reading this ;)).
Great Experience and Lessons Learned
Overall, despite a little fear and weariness at certain points, it was a very positive experience—this solo hike of mine. I wish I would have paid closer attention to the signs, and turned right when indicated. I will be sure to pay closer attention next time. It was a great feeling to be out on that hike, independent, with nature, with just my thoughts, getting exercise, and vitamin D. I intend to go on more solo hikes in the near future—probably again next week.
Wish me luck! I might need it.
Question for Readers:
How long of hikes or walks do you typically go on? Is ten miles easy or difficult for you? Have you tried solo hiking? If so, do you enjoy it, and do you think it’s safe? I look forward to your comments!