Hilary Goes Hiking Part I: The City Girl Adjustment

I sat on the curb in the still of the morning, listening to the hum of traffic on the I-15. I glanced at my phone, wondering if my decision to get up so early would end up being as regrettable as it felt at the moment. There was nothing I wanted more than to crawl back into my bed and drift into a deep slumber. I, however, had committed to seeing this day through. I had never been hiking before and today was the day I decided to redress this sad fact. Damn me.

I’ve always been aware that my home town sits surrounded by beautiful hiking trails that would take little effort on my part to experience. And for as much crap as I have gotten from my friends about it, I’ve just been more focused on having foreign adventures. But now that I was back in town, it was time for me to start familiarizing myself with the beauty surrounding Las Vegas.

When fellow writer and friend, Matthew O’Brien, expressed interest in checking out one of the national preserves, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get my hike on. So here I was at the crack of dawn sitting on the curb in front of my house, cursing my enthusiasm.

Matt pulled up in his Kia Sportage bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I hopped in and mumbled some sort of salutation, annoyed by his joyful disposition. He ignored my apparent grouchiness. “So miss Hilary, you ready for this?”

My response was something like, “Mefhavaladfg.” I had previously warned him that I was not a morning person and sometimes incapable of using consonants before noon. Given that I had chosen to go out the night before to celebrate my return to Vegas, it was definitely one of those days. And even though it was my fault for staying out all night, not getting any sleep, and committing to having my first hiking adventure the morning after, I mentally chose to blame him.

It would be a two-hour drive out to the Mojave National Preserve. Gulping down my coffee and watching the passing desert, Matt was on his own to entertain himself. Lucky for me, he found my catatonic state and hiking virginity very amusing.

We rolled up to Teutonia Peak Trail, the first stop of the day. The air was crisper, thinner, and colder than Vegas. I followed Matt to the trail head, as I wasn’t sure what the protocol was. Do you just start walking? Are you supposed to plan a route? Is there some sort of huddle, break, or hiking cheer? Were you supposed to sing a sea shanty or recite a hiking legend? I was convinced there was some tradition I was missing. “What do we do now?”

Matt smirked and pointed to the flier taped over a marker. “Don’t get eaten,” he teased.

“Har dee har,” I retorted, rolling my eyes at him. Matt turned his back to me and strode down the trail. I frantically scanned the horizon for hungry cat eyes. The last thing I wanted to do was end up as the feature story on 1,000 Ways to Die.

I sized up the Joshua trees that flourished along the trail. I had always been unimpressed with the idea of them as our state tree because they reminded me more of wannabe cacti than something to celebrate on Arbor Day. But as we moseyed along I marveled at their rough and intricate beauty.

The quiet was only broken by the sound of our shoes crunching in the gravel. Ravens and hawks circled nearby. Rodents and lizards skittered under the shrubbery, disturbed by our presence. I couldn’t get over how piercing the silence was. Even the winds blew through with a quietude only matched in libraries and funeral homes.

Matt had a considerable lead on me, partly because I continually stopped to take photos and drink in the surroundings (and partly because he was in better shape). All of that time he spent in the tunnels under Vegas gathering stories for one of his books had paid off. I wheezed and panted behind him. I really needed to get out more.

We trekked up Teutonia Peak, the rocky crags on the east side of Cima Dome. The views were unbelievable but the added elevation left the air colder than down below. We took shelter behind one of the rock formations and sprawled out on the granite to warm up. I felt like a very large lizard, hugging the bed rock for warmth.

As I surveyed the horizon, I started to think about the shamans, Indians, and pioneers who had spent time out in this desert. I imagined what their experiences must have been like. I envisioned early settlers slowly moving across the desert with their caravan, mail carriers galloping their ponies along the uneven trails, and mystical men of sage wisdom meditating on the top of the mountains. If only these rocks could talk, I thought. After awhile Matt stretched and got up. “Well, what do you think? You ready to go check out some of the other trails?” Before I had time to respond he was already nimbly descending the rock bed. Taking in a deep breath, my out-of-shape ass followed. The hike down wouldn’t be nearly as exhausting as the hike up, but I also had a bad track record of falling down stairs. As much as I wanted to enjoy the views on the descent, I focused all of my attention on staying upright… and avoiding mountain lions.

We took the same route back down, checking out the abandoned mines along the way. We passed clusters of friendly hikers who were just beginning their day’s adventure. I tried to remember a time where I’d received so many salutations walking along the Las Vegas Strip. I guess fresh air does do people good.

The wind was picking up and so were my spirits. The curiosity and excitement of what beauty lay ahead at the next trail trumped my exhaustion.

I hopped back into the car and threw on some Beatles tunes. We had a way to go until our next stop but I was awake and ready for anything. A couple of hawks flew over us as we turned out on the main road. And while I realize that their flight path was most likely unintentional, I couldn’t help but feel it was Nature’s way of welcoming me to her playground.

It was going to be a good day. I could feel it.

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44 thoughts on “Hilary Goes Hiking Part I: The City Girl Adjustment

  1. Knowing you, ending on “it was going to be a good day” is a cliffhanger, for sure.
    I love how you just casually write ” a couple of hawks”. Where I live that’s a rare sight, haha!
    Were you up so early because the desert gets too warm later?
    Btw, I just climbed a mountain, and I disagree about the descent. That really ruined my thighs! I was so exhausted when we got down. You have to crouch so much, damn it!
    I loved it šŸ˜€ I love your small and big adventures. Very inspiring.

    • Haha! Hawks and ravens love the desert. We don’t get a lot of them near Vegas but you’ll see them out in Red Rock or as you get farther along into ‘the wild’. I guess I do take their presence for granted! I suppose it’s always that I’m just looking for the ever elusive wild horses instead :).

      Yeah, it’s better to start early. You don’t want to be stuck hiking in the heat of the day. Plus, the drive was a few hours so we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to hit all the trails. Luckily it didn’t get too warm that day.

      It’s amazing how good of a workout you can get just from walking up a mountain, haha! I think I found it less exhausting because I wasn’t huffing and puffing the whole way down. But I totally understand what you mean!

      And thank you so much. =) I love getting your comments and feeling like I’m contributing something worthy to the world. Thanks for sharing and keeping my small blog going. =)

      • My pleasure šŸ˜€
        There’s new research out that long-term health-wise it’s just as good to walk as to run. The matter is how far you go. 1 km running is equal to 1 km walking – it’s just faster x)
        Just a bit of walking fact for ya there … I hope to someday see this amazing desert of yours!!!

        • That’s so awesome! Thanks for sharing! I MUCH prefer walking to running (as do my knees). THRILLED to hear I can walk and get the same effects. =)

          And I hope you get the chance as well! Would love to take you out to ‘our’ nature to see the hawks.

  2. Great stuff. I felt the same way the first time I popped my hiking cherry. WTF am I getting into?
    Humorous too. People don’t laugh at themselves enough. “My outta shape ass”. Hehehe.

    • Hey there! Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post! Where do you like to go hiking?

      I am a big advocate of laughing at yourself. Because really, if you can’t poke fun at your own shortcomings, I don’t think you can fully enjoy what life has to offer. =)

    • I think you hit it on the head; it’s so much easier for us to fall in love with places far away. But sometimes, some pretty cool things can lie just beyond our doorstep =). And don’t worry, I’ve still got plenty of stories about Paris to post here. Already planning my next trip back! Such a cool place.

      Thanks, as always, for stopping by!

  3. So awesome that you got out! I used to hate hiking because the hike was just the means to the end of climbing at the crag. I went out to Yosemite last year and just hiked with a friend. It’s completely different when the hike is the ends. You can relax and enjoy and breathe in the air and take in the world and it’s like a reset button. Glad you enjoyed yourself!

    • Wow! Hiking through the Yosemite sounds amazing. I have gone horseback riding through the Tetons and loved that experience, but that was years ago. I am hoping to get back that way soon. I’m so glad you had a good hike!

  4. Love this- The pictures make me feel like I’m there in the silence with only the sound of “crunching gravel”. I’m a big fan of discovering the simple pleasures- hiking is one that renews me every time.

    • Thank you so much, Gina! As always, I greatly appreciate your kind words and support. I feel very blessed to have people like you in my life.

      Let me know if you ever have time to catch up when I’m in Vegas. It would be great to see you!

  5. Hi Hilary! Loved this! Beautifully written; I can really relate. Your mention of the pioneers and others who walked those trails and over the rocks many years ago struck a chord with me; it’s something I think about every time I find myself out in the gorgeous wilderness areas here in California. I think about how easy it is for me to go to and from those places in air-conditioned splendor and how darned hard and uncomfortable it must have been for them. I’m so glad you had a good experience and didn’t become mountain lion breakfast. That would have been a totally different post altogether. šŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much, Roberta! I am so happy to hear that this post resonated so deeply with you. I often have the same thoughts and feel so grateful to be living in the time that we do.

      I look forward to following your blog and hearing all about your daily adventures! I hope you’ll come back and visit me again =).

  6. Too funny to see the comment about Portland. I moved to the desert to get away from the depressing gray sky and excessive rain!
    The Joshua Trees are so pretty. They just have a surreal look to them. I haven’t seen any on the north end of the state. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places…
    Looks like it was a great day for hike. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

    • Haha! It’s funny how when you grow up with one thing you want the other.

      From what I learned on the hike, the Joshua Trees can only grow in high elevations… I hope that helps!

      Thanks for stopping by to comment! Love reading your blog!

    • Yeah, I really lucked out! I can’t wait to blog about the second half of the day… the terrain just gets prettier!

      Thanks for stopping by and reading! You’re welcome to come out this way and hike with me whenever you like. =)

  7. So pretty. It’s pouring in soggy Portland right now but I grew up near the Mojave. I wouldn’t want to live there – I need more moisture – but there is nothing like it in the morning or at dusk. Thanks again for the trip!

    • Thanks for your continual support, Tricia!

      I’m also a fan of the rain. Whereabouts did you grow up?

      I’m hoping to get up to Portland in the next month or so. I’ve never been and am very excited to check out your eclectic city!

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