10 Things I Learned on a Hike

We woke early to go on our morning sunrise hike up Doe Mountain (Sedona, AZ). We filled our water bottles and layered up for the brisk December weather. Our hearts sank when we saw the estimated arrival time on our Google Maps – 25 minutes. We had hoped to be there in 15.

When we arrived in the parking area, it wasn’t clear where the trail head was. The Trail Forks app that a few friendly, Canadian mountain bikers recommended the day previously gave us a useful hint, and we were off.

The trail started off with a gradual incline and easy walking. The further up we went, we encountered steeper moments and rocky ledges. Mary—eager to see the sunrise—charged ahead, and before I knew it, she was out of my line of sight. I found myself sweaty and winded, with hints of vertigo as I looked out over the zig zag path we had cut. I stopped to catch my breath and remove a few layers. I heard Mary shout from several yards ahead, “I can’t find the trail.” I catch up to her, and we evaluate the options, looking for the footprints of other hikers to guide our path.

A few zigs and zags later, we lost the trail completely, it was just rocks, and no footprints were to be found. We were almost at the top. We could see the sun starting to rise on the other side. We knew where our destination was, but we didn’t know how to get there. We just knew we needed to go up.

We scrambled our way over the last few rocks, uncertain if we were on the right track. When we got up to the top, we found a beautiful flat surface with a wide trail and arrows pointing us along the last leg of it. Towards the sunrise we skipped. We hadn’t missed it after all. As we arrived at a convenient viewing spot, the first rays of light began to warm our faces.

We celebrated with a sunrise meditation followed by lots of posing and photographs of our surroundings. We noticed a couple who had arrived before us to catch the show, as well. They took our picture before they headed back to their car. A while later, they came back and we asked them if they were okay. They couldn’t find their way back to the trail.

About done with our celebratory posing, we decided to join them on the descent. We started walking with them, and the same area that had tripped us up on the way up, gave us trouble on the way down. It looked totally different from this angle. We put our heads together, used the Trailforks app, and eventually found an area that looked familiar. We fanned out and between the four of us, we identified the narrow part of the rocks that we needed to go down in order to get back on the trail.

On our way down the mountain, we had lovely conversations with our new friends. We encountered an older (not old) man along the trail who shared philosophical thoughts with us about the importance of positivity, getting out in nature, and experiencing the sun. It reminded us of the journey we were on at that very moment. We had to stay positive and trust the process, putting our thoughts together in order to make it both up and back down the mountain. Four heads were better than two.

When we got to the last few feet of the descent, we came to a fork and decided to go down a path that looked unfamiliar to me, but I went with it. It ended up not being the exact trail that we were supposed to be on and proved difficult as we had to stealthily avoid branches and cacti.

We had a choice. We could continue along the current path; back track and find the actual path; or as our new friend Lenny ended up doing—cut across the cacti. We did a combination of all three, each of us taking our own trail but ending up at the parking area all the same.

This story demonstrates several aspects of teamwork:

  1. Determining our goal (see the sunrise)

  2. Planning and resource gathering (the morning of the hike)

  3. Making assumptions (time to drive to the trail head)

  4. Making initial decisions (trail head location)

  5. Determining our process (moving at different speeds up the mountain)

  6. Dealing with ambiguity and encountering obstacles (steep rocky incline/losing the trail)

  7. Making collaborative decisions (scrambling up the rocks and helping our new friends)

  8. Staying positive and mindful (meeting our philosophical friend)

  9. Recognizing groupthink (losing the trail at the end)

  10. Celebrating success (seeing the sunrise and arriving safely at the end)

Watch a video slideshow of our trip pictures:

#hike #arizona #groupthink #teamwork #collaboration #positivity #lessonslearned #adventure

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