I have scars from hiking with Robert Stieve.
He, as you know, is our editor. He’s also our hiking guru. His book on the subject — published under the Arizona Highways imprint, of course — will be released next year. That means that over the past 18 months or so, I’ve had several opportunities to hit the trail with him. Those expeditions have left me with more than a few dermatological flaws. But they’ve also left me with some amazing stories and, as is often the case when you hit the road with your mentor, a few great lessons.
There’s the scar on my knee — a thin, white line where the snow-covered thorns on Pine Mountain had their way with my legs. Robert and I had a difficult time finding the trail at points and ultimately had to bushwhack down the side of a hill. We knew that finding the creek meant picking up the trail again, and we did. That day left us tired and looking as thought we’d been attacked by a herd of rabid cats, but I learned that trusting your gut can go a long way. I also learned that if I can fit a bag of Goldfish crackers in my backpack, I can certainly pack a pair of hiking pants.
There’s another scar on my left shin. It’s a little smaller and a little angrier than the other one. It found me on the Hell’s Hole Trail, in the Salome Wilderness. The trail is aptly named— not so much because the entire length of it is brutal, but because it leads into a very big, boulder-strewn hole. There are pools of water, and the views are breathtaking, but climbing into Hell’s Hole requires some serious maneuvering. Climbing out, as you can imagine, is hellish. Regardless, we climbed out in less time than it took us to climb in, and I learned that when your calves are screaming and your butt doesn’t want to go uphill you just have to … move. And move fast, because you want to be out of Hell’s Hole before it starts getting dark. I also learned that eating a Builder’s Bar and a PB&J is probably a good move before you try to climb out of something with “hell” in its name.
I snagged my gloved hand on a thorn along the Oaks & Willows Trail. Luckily, that one didn’t leave a mark.
I managed to scrape the back of my leg while hiking in the Hualapai Mountains yesterday. It was my own fault — I decided to scramble up a pile of boulders to achieve my daily adrenaline fix. I don’t think this one will scar, but I do think that, somehow, yesterday taught me something about Arizona. The Hualapai Mountains moved to the top of my list of favorite places in the state. I’d never thought much about the Kingman area, didn’t think that there might be a place so unexpectedly beautiful just outside the city proper. But there is.
The mountains and their trails should be a must-visit destination for everyone who wants to explore every corner of the state. There are plenty of stunning, not-often-explored places all over the place. You just need a good guide to find them, and really, that’s what those of us who work at Arizona Highways hope to be.
I also learned that great ledes aren’t always written in front of a computer screen. Sometimes they’re inspired by a crayon-blue sky, the crunch of pine cones and the smell of something crisp and green. Robert found one that way yesterday, but you’ll have to wait to read it. Look for his entry on the Potato Patch Loop when his book comes out next year. In the meantime, maybe we’ll see you on the trail.
— Kelly Kramer, Associate Editor