A Cornucopia of Errors

By Sharon Jones, Girls Who Hike West Virginia Ambassador

Did you ever have one of those hikes where everything that could possibly go wrong does? I am no stranger to hiking but I have made my share of errors while hiking. A fair amount of these errors were made when I decided to hike the Cornucopia Trail located in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona.

Overall the hike sounded like an interesting one. It was a round trip distance of 6.5 miles and should have taken approximately 3.5 hours to complete. It promised great views of the surrounding areas: Four Peaks, Mt. Ord, Saddle Mountain, and the Superstitions. A short little side trip on this hike would have lead to the remains of the Cornucopia Mine, and an old bus. Alas, I never did get to see these wonderful things.

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One of the few things I did right on this hike was making the decision to go with two friends. One of the stupid things all three of us did was to neglect to tell anyone where we were going. We simply told our families that we were going hiking for the day. None of us hike now without making sure someone knows where we are headed. 

Another dumb thing we did was fail to bring a sufficient amount of water. We seriously underestimated the amount of water we would need. Things got to the point where we were rationing water to make sure we had some in case we were stuck on the trail overnight. Thankfully we weren’t.

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We did not bring a first aid kit. This was the only time I have needed a first aid kit while on the trail. It truly would have been helpful. I ended up with cuts and abrasions (think razor burns) on both of my legs from below the knees to my ankles. One of my friends twisted her ankle. Both of these incidents occurred because of the heavy overgrowth on the trail. Without a first aid kit there was nothing we could give my friend to alleviate the swelling and pain in her ankle. There was also nothing we could use to soothe my scraped up legs. Although pouring some water on my legs may have helped, as I mentioned above, we didn’t bring enough to waste on something like that.

I used to find information about trails online, print off the directions, and go. This tactic for trail choices can work fairly well if the trails are clearly marked and well travelled. I never had issues using this method in the past. Of course, this was before the popularity of apps like AllTrails. I now carry a compass or GPS with me in case I get lost. 

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Although not a huge surprise given all the above, my friends and I got lost on this hike. This was in part due to the lack of a well maintained trail in addition to not having a compass or GPS to help us determine where we were, or the way back to the car. Getting lost on the trail was a contributing factor to our running out of water.

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Losing our way caused us to be in the wilderness for much longer than the amount of time anticipated. It was close to sunset when we finally found our way back to the trail. Guess what else we didn’t have – a light source. This caused us to panic a bit; we did not want to be on this trail in the dark. Not having a flashlight did, however, provide us with the proper motivation needed to get back to the car as quickly as we could. As we were booking it up the trail, we encountered a white tailed deer. I stopped long enough to take two photos.

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A couple of weeks passed before I even looked at any of the photos I took on this hike. I was extremely frustrated with myself for making all these “rookie” errors. My friends and I used to call this “the worst hike ever.” The sad part is we made it that due to our lack of preparation. We now call this a memorable hike because in spite of all these errors, we did end up with a memorable experience to share with others about what not to do when hiking.