It was supposed to be an easy second hike.
The route was fairly simple — two trails only. I’d studied the map carefully online; we both had.
So when my partner asked, on the morning of our second hike, “We don’t need the paper copy of the map, do we?” I thought it was fine to leave it at home.
If rule number one of hiking in Arizona is rattlesnake signs really do mean rattlesnakes, then rule number two of hiking… anywhere, really… is take the effing map.
When we hike, I am usually the one in front navigating, on account of I obtain ridiculous amounts of delight from charting courses. (Seriously. Every time my partner is like, “Where should we hike tomorrow?” I come back saying, “Here are options A, B, C, and D, along with the distances, elevation changes, and relative pros and cons of each.”)
And while the route we ultimately planned to follow involved two trails, another route we’d been discussing involved three trails — that partly overlapped with the final planned route.
What I’m trying to say is that I should have been prepared for the intersection to be confusing, as well as the disagreement that followed.
“We turn there, don’t we?”
“No, we keep going until this crosses the access road.”
“But that’s the trail we want to be on, no?”
“Yes, but not here. It crosses again, further south.”
Because I am the navigator, we did what I wanted. After a few minutes of walking, however, the trail turned.
“It’s going east. We’re not supposed to go east. I want to turn back now.”
“Well, we know there’s a trailhead in half a mile, where it comes out on the park road.”
“But I don’t know how far east on the park road. We could be adding an extra mile and a half besides what we’re already adding now.”
“Which would not actually be all that terrible, would it?”
I sighed and turned back down the trail. “We’re having an adventure, aren’t we?”
“Yes, dear. Yes we are.”
Within a short time, the trail did come out along the park road; fortunately, we both remembered enough of the map to know which way to turn on it. It would have been slightly better if we had been able to estimate how far east of our trailhead we thought we were (as it turned out, about three-fourths of a mile), but as it was, the entirety of the road stretch was a gentle slope downhill.
Then came the north-running trail and the final walk back.
It was exhausting, let me tell you. Not because we were hiking three-and-a-half miles. I’ve hiked longer and on more challenging terrain, and that didn’t tire me out as much as this did. Rather, because we’d initially set out for an easy two mile hike and ended up increasing that by 75%. Also because part of the hike was spent in significant anxiety worrying, “ZOMG, we are lost! And we’re going to be deserted out in the desert and the whole day is ruined and what if we run out of water and –” well, you get the idea.
So, bottom line: When hiking in Arizona (and probably elsewhere), bring the effing map.