Post Surf-Trip Adventures

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.

38 Comments

  • Reply

    Off The Map

    February 14, 2012

    Your sense of humor is awesome, how were the other trails?

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 14, 2012

      Thank you so much! They were awesome! Blog and photos about them to come =).

  • Reply

    Tricia Thomas

    February 14, 2012

    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!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 14, 2012

      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!

  • Reply

    East Coast Witch

    February 14, 2012

    What a wonderful experience. It was as if I was there along side you. I love the photos you included. Such rugged beauty. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 14, 2012

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I am glad that you enjoyed it. =)

      All the best,
      HB

  • Reply

    Sea

    February 14, 2012

    What a neat place to make your first hike! Thanks for sharing the photos. Makes me homesick for the west.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 14, 2012

      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. =)

  • Reply

    cowgirliz

    February 14, 2012

    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.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 14, 2012

      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!

  • Reply

    Roberta

    February 15, 2012

    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. :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 16, 2012

      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 =).

  • Reply

    gene3067

    February 15, 2012

    Matt sounds like a great friend. I’m glad he convinced you to go. A good hike is better than hours in the gym anyday. :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 16, 2012

      I am glad he did, too! He’s definitely a great guy and a great inspiration. =)

      Do you do a lot of hiking yourself?

      • Reply

        gene3067

        February 16, 2012

        Some hiking, but more sidewalk walking. My longest stretch was 15 miles. That was when I was in shape.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          February 18, 2012

          Wow, that’s a great deal of walking! I think we did around twelve miles on our hike the other day and I was trashed by the end.

          It’s not so easy to walk around in Vegas, but when the weather and locations permit it’s always nice. I’m sure you must see some beautiful things on a daily basis. =)

          • gene3067

            February 18, 2012

            Thanks. I was around 25 when I did it.

            I did get to Vegas once. Roughly two years ago. The news said it rained more those three days than it did the entire year. LOL

            I would love to see Vegas outside the strip. I bet there are some great hidden treasures there.

          • Hilary Billings

            February 18, 2012

            Yeah what most cities consider a light sprinkle leaves us with flash flood warnings. It’s kind of sad, in my opinion, but very true! Us desert dwellers love getting those rainy days.

            Most people never really consider all that is available around Vegas… but there is so much to see and do that doesn’t involve a casino. I think I’ll write a blog about it to elucidate =).

          • gene3067

            February 18, 2012

            I’m looking forward to that! :)

          • Hilary Billings

            February 18, 2012

            Hurray! I can’t wait to share it =)

  • Reply

    Folding Mirror Poetry

    February 20, 2012

    Nice entertaining and well written account, Hilary, cheers.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 20, 2012

      Thank you so much! I am so happy to hear you enjoyed it!

      Looking forward to following your blog! Thanks for stopping by to comment =).

  • Reply

    Gina Johnson

    February 20, 2012

    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.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 20, 2012

      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!

  • Reply

    Matt

    February 20, 2012

    oh, so i’m the straight man to your headliner comedienne act? seriously, a well done (and mostly accurate) portrayal of that hike. ;-)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 20, 2012

      You’re just mad because I am wittier at higher elevations than you ;)

      Thanks for your support, Matt! Glad you liked it! Can’t wait for the next adventure.

  • Reply

    AnonymousBurn

    February 23, 2012

    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!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 24, 2012

      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!

  • Reply

    comixmaniac

    February 25, 2012

    It’s so beautiful! It’s so easy to miss the beauty of our own home because we’re yearning for somewhere else. Not that Paris wasn’t gorgeous as well :)

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 25, 2012

      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!

  • Reply

    Dante Adler

    February 28, 2012

    Awesome article post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      February 28, 2012

      Thank you so much, Dante! Your kind words are greatly appreciated!

      Have you ever been hiking?

  • Reply

    markus amoungus

    March 2, 2012

    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.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      March 2, 2012

      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. =)

  • Reply

    Klangspektrum

    April 11, 2012

    What for a camera and objective did you use?

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      April 11, 2012

      Hey there,

      So I feel like I should have a super fancy answer for this… but the reality is I don’t. I used my Canon Powershot. It’s blue.

      As far as my objective? Hmmm… capturing the magic. And happiness.

      Sorry! I’m such an amateur photographer it’s ridiculous. =)

      What kind of camera do you use?

      • Reply

        Klangspektrum

        April 14, 2012

        I use a Sony Alpha 300.

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          April 16, 2012

          Cool! I will have to check out some of your stuff!

          Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Looking forward to following your work in the future!

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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