Hiking is a fun and relaxing way to spend your time – but you need to be smart about it. And there are a few things you should always do when preparing:

1. Tell at least one person where you will be and when
2. Bring a whistle or noisemaker
3. Try not to hike off trails or routes
4. Bring a little more water than you think you’ll need
5. Spending a little extra money on quality equipment can help save your life

I absolutely love hiking and I am excited to get back to it once it is safe for me to do so. But this spring, I learned some valuable lessons. I took a friend’s advice and hiked up an unfamiliar backyard in Arizona. Ultimately, I couldn’t safely get off the cliff. I ended up falling about 100 feet down a canyon, but I can’t tell you why because I thankfully don’t remember. I spent about 28 hours by myself, with multiple broken bones.

Prior, I told my parents in Wisconsin where I was and gave them emergency phone numbers. I also told my friends in Arizona where I was going and when I would be back at the bunkhouse. Thankfully, they cared enough to look for me when things went wrong. People like that stay in your heart forever. That next day, I blew my whistle until someone heard me and responded. They could not see me. That is when my five-hour long rescue began.

I am grateful for my life and those in it. The hike was not the problem in my story; I was being stubborn. I wanted to find petroglyphs before sunset and I didn’t think through the repercussions. Please, learn from my story and enjoy nature within your limits! There is so much beauty out there. We just need to educate and prepare ourselves. My North Face daypack, ExOfficio sweater, and LifeProof phone case kept me safe, warm, and stable (despite lack of cell service). Thanks for reading!