Hello! Who are you and where are your hiking roots?
I grew up in Liberty, a small town in Southeast Texas and, growing up, was never what you would consider an “outdoors person”, or even an athletic person for that matter (I was a dancer, which is athletic...but I was never good enough to make any sports teams).
In 2017 I was having a hard time with the fact that I was turning 34 and was single, had no children, was up in the air about my career - I just wasn’t happy with where I was in life at the time and decided that I needed to do something about it. I started thinking about the things that make me happy and eventually decided I should take a solo vacation.
I had never heard of Sedona, but I saw a picture of what I now know is Cathedral Rock and immediately knew that’s where I wanted to go. At this point I would definitely not have called myself a ‘hiker’, I’d only done a handful of smaller hikes, but all I wanted to do was be outside and soak up as much of the beautiful scenery possible in the short time that I had, so I decided that this would be a hiking vacation. That trip is where my love of Sedona and love of the outdoors came alive.
Before that I did enjoy being outside - when I lived in Fort Worth I loved riding my bike on the Trinity Trails and I liked going out to the Fort Worth Nature Reserve to hike. I remember there was a “hidden” waterfall on the river that I liked riding to (that waterfall is now a destination with a trailhead and all!) So I guess you can say I’ve had something in me for a while that yearned to explore and find hidden things.
I remember being in complete awe as I drove into Sedona. I was so excited that I just parked at the first trailhead I could find a parking spot in and started walking. Eventually I ended up a place called “Trail Zen”, and the guy inside drew me a map of where I should go and that became the hike that made me absolutely fall in love with Sedona.
I hiked up Slim Shady to Hiline and the views all along the way were jaw dropping. That evening I hiked Cathedral Rock which, at that time, was so far beyond anything I had ever done before. My hiking had consisted of basically nature walking at that point and I remember being so afraid that the wind was going to blow me off as I climbed up, and even when I got to the top!
My AirBnB host told me about a guy named Peter Alan Gersten who brought people up to the top of Bell Rock, so I reached out to him and climbed to the top of Bell Rock with him and a small group the last day of my visit. To date he has taken over 3000 people to the top.
That trip is where my love of Sedona and love of the outdoors came alive.
Peter has a very interesting and entertaining life story that can only be told by him, so if you ever go to Sedona look him up on Facebook and let him take you to the top of Bell Rock! That hike sealed the deal for me - I was way out of my comfort zone, but I’ll never forget how I felt when I made it to the top and had that experience for the first time.
I went back to TX absolutely certain that I needed to move to Sedona, although I thought it might be a little too spontaneous to up and move just because I liked a place, so I waited. I decided I would take more trips and that my desire to move to Sedona would disappear, only it just got stronger and stronger.
There is something so special about feeling all alone in nature, away from the business of the world, and discovering things that are completely unexpected - caves, alcoves, ruins, unique rock formations
Finally, I decided that I would apply for jobs in Phoenix (which is only about 2 hours from Sedona, but more realistic as far as finding a job) and, if I got a job, I would move. Three weeks later I was offered an incredible position and had moved to Phoenix. Everything literally just fell into place. A few months after moving my job became remote and I realized that this was my opportunity to move to Sedona, so I eventually did in May 2019.
What’s your Story From The Mountain?
I have two ‘life changing’ hiking moments that really stick out to me.
The first one is the first hike my boyfriend took me on in Sedona. He took me off-trail to some ‘secret’ and hidden places that I would have had no idea existed. Remember that hidden waterfall I mentioned that I used to go to in Fort Worth? This was that times one thousand. That is when the off-trail bug bit me and I haven’t been the same since.
There is something so special about feeling all alone in nature, away from the business of the world, and discovering things that are completely unexpected - caves, alcoves, ruins, unique rock formations, etc. That is when I started to learn that there is so much out there to explore and discover, you just have to keep your eyes open and have an adventurous spirit.
The second one was the first time I failed at something outdoors.
We went to climb Morning Glory Spire before sunset and I couldn’t do it. While there are only a few 4th/5th class moves, it was so far beyond my comfort zone that we ended up turning around. I felt so defeated and embarrassed and was not ok with the fact that my inability kept me from achieving something.
That failure lit a fire in me and the next day I was in the climbing gym. That experience taught me that there are things outside that I want to be able to do and places I want to be able to get to and, if I am not comfortable with moves like that, I will be very limited on what I am able to do.
That is when I started to learn that there is so much out there to explore and discover, you just have to keep your eyes open and have an adventurous spirit.
I look back on that experience and can see how far I have come since then. I’ll never forget how I felt when I made it to the top the first time - I was nervous at first to try, I kind of looked at it as my ‘nemesis’, but I was overwhelmed with such a sense of excitement and amazement when I made it. Each move was so much easier than it was the first time. My comfort level and abilities grow each time I go out as I learn how to use my body and what it is capable of.
Through hiking/climbing, have you learned anything about yourself or nature you’d like to pass on to others?
Growing up, and even well into adulthood, I didn’t have much self confidence. It wasn’t until I started doing more outside that I began to see myself differently and really started to build a healthy self image and self esteem. There’s something about nature that is so healing.
Over the past year, as I’ve seen myself accomplish things that I never dreamed possible, I’ve begun to see myself differently. For the majority of my life I’ve placed so much value on what other people thought about me, I spent entirely too much time trying to please others and be who I thought other people wanted me to be.
Once I started to find and pursue the things that make me come alive the thoughts of “what do other people think” began to diminish.
My focus shifted to being outside, exploring new places, challenging myself in new ways, and slowly I have seen not only my self esteem improve, but also my happiness. I’ve learned to face my fears and push through them, to challenge my comfort zone, and to live my life for me, rather than for other people.
What’s your favorite item in your pack?
Right now my favorite item(s) are my Moment wide angle lens and my tripod.
As great as phone cameras are they don’t always capture everything. Moment makes a phone case that their lenses twist into. They are great, and at a fraction of the cost and size of professional camera equipment they are a must-have for me! I also do alot of hiking alone, so I like having a tripod to take pictures with.
I used to shy away from the camera and I have entire years of my life that I don’t have many, if any pictures of myself from, so I decided that I would start taking photos so that one day I can look back and remember all of the good times that I have had.
Do you have any advice for other hikers who are just starting out?
Take the first step and don’t be afraid!
When I moved to Phoenix I joined a Meetup group for people my age and it was great! I met lots of people and got to go on several adventures that I otherwise wouldn’t have done.
If you are new to an area or new to hiking I definitely recommend joining a hiking group, and try a few different ones out if you have options! You will meet so many great people and gain so much great experience!
It’s such a beautiful thing to see people from all walks of life come together to create a real community that started with a love for nature and adventure but has deepened with constant support and encouragement throughout all areas of life.
Proper footwear is also crucial. It’s important to find hiking shoes that fit your feet and your needs. Personally, I hike in approach shoes (Arcteryx are my favorite) because I like to do lots of scrambling while I’m out, but some people may prefer a trail runner, or a hiking boot - there is no one shoe that is right for everyone.
I definitely recommend doing your research and trying several shoes. Think of them as an investment, you should spend the money to get the shoes that will be best for you - they will make all the difference!
What have been the most influential hiking books, podcasts, or people?
One thing that has taken me by surprise is the outdoor Instagram community in Arizona.
I have met so many like-minded adventurers on Instagram, but the relationships that I’ve experienced and witnessed go so far beyond adventuring outdoors. It’s such a beautiful thing to see people from all walks of life come together to create a real community that started with a love for nature and adventure but has deepened with constant support and encouragement throughout all areas of life.
I’ve seen people celebrate victories together, as well as mourn losses together. I’ve never experienced people coming together as I’ve seen people do here. I truly believe that a love and appreciation of nature is something that the majority of the world is lacking.
There are far too many people to list, but Arizona truly does have a unique outdoors community.
Where’s your next adventure?
I worked at a summer camp (Pine Cove) in Texas one year in college. One of the camp traditions was to give the staff a “camp name”. To do this we played the name game where each new staffer would stand on a chair and answer questions that were thrown at them.
My camp name ended up being “Monkey See Monkey Do”. I was asked two questions: 1) If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be? My answer was “Everywhere! Because I want to see and do everything”, and 2) If you could hold any animal what would it be? My answer was “a monkey!”. So I’ve obviously had the travel bug in me for awhile now.
My camp name ended up being “Monkey See Monkey Do”
I’m actually headed to the Chiricahaua Mountains tomorrow, an area that I have wanted to explore for a while now, but there are so many places that I want to go...eventually.
I’m honestly so happy living in Sedona...there is so much to explore here that I truly believe you could explore the area for your entire life and still not see it all. I have a good friend who lives in Jackson Hole, WY and I will probably visit her sometime within the next year.
Every time I’ve gone I’ve wanted to hike to Delta Lake but the weather has always gotten in the way...hopefully this will be the year I finally get to go!
Where can others learn more about you?
You can always find me somewhere in Sedona :)
Want to share your Story From The Mountain?
Hey, I'm Greg Kamradt, the founder of Terra Mano.
We interview awesome hikers/mountaineers/climbers/photographers and share the stories behind their ambition. By sharing these stories, we want to help others become inspired to reach their goals.
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