hiking

Herald/Review reporter Lyda Longa enjoys hiking regularly in the many canyons and trails available in the Sierra Vista area.

Hiking was never an option where I grew up in flat Florida.

I mean, real hiking.

Then in June 2019 I moved to Cochise County and it was on — I discovered hiking.

Mountains, mountains and more mountains. Trails, trails and more trails.

At the time, I was living with friends in Bisbee. I had come here for a job as a reporter at the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista. My husband stayed behind with our two dogs in Florida so he could sell our house and then move here.

I’ve always been an outdoors type and I was introduced to two women who hiked almost weekly in both the Sierra Vista area and in Bisbee.

One of my new hiking friends immediately invited me to go hiking one weekend in July 2019.

Mind you, I had never been on a trek on a mountain except for one adventure with my husband in South Dakota.

So my first hike in Arizona took place on a Sunday morning in Bisbee, just above the Mule Pass Tunnel.

As we arrived at a small parking area in front of this hidden trail, I asked my hiking friend if this would be scary.

“I’m new at this,” I told her repeatedly.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said repeatedly.

We then embarked on my first hike on a real mountain.

Though momentarily terrified because of how high it was and slipping and sliding because my shoes didn’t grip the rocks and terrain, I was mesmerized by the beauty I saw behind me, in front of me and all around me.

We were on top of the world on this little-known trail that my new friend had discovered. I could see all of Bisbee and it’s quaint, colorful neighborhoods. We could almost see Sierra Vista and we could definitely see our neighbor to the south, Mexico.

And while my legs were shaking when we reached our cars below, I was hooked.

I could not wait until the next hike, until the next adventure into the glorious mountain trails that are all over southern Cochise County. The “sky islands” as they’re known in this area.

Over the next few weeks and months my hiking friend -- who I also call my hiking teacher because she showed me how to walk through incredibly narrow paths where I often yelled, “Where is the guardrail?” -- took me to the Coronado National Memorial, to Brown Canyon, to the Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Miller Canyon, Garden Canyon and Carr Peak. We also hiked up to the white cross in Bisbee where a family has built a spectacular shrine replete with mementos, religious statues, artwork and buddhas of varying sizes.

Each trail offers its own beauty and it’s own challenges. Having lived most of my life in big cities in flat Florida, I had never experienced the sensation of climbing a mountain and hearing absolutely nothing except perhaps a rushing stream or deer walking through dry, crunching leaves.

And yes, there are some dangers.

Rattlesnakes are sometimes on the hiking paths in the early morning as they sun themselves during the spring and summer months. I’ve been told that even though I can’t see them, you’re always being watched by four-legged residents of the forests and mountains who make themselves scarce when hikers traipse through.

Additionally, one needs to be ultraprepared when hiking because the weather can turn at any moment, or, unfortunately, you can hurt yourself.

The Cochise County Sheriff’’s Office, which has a Search and Rescue team, recommends hikers should always let someone know where they plan to hike.

Additionally, always carry a backpack or something similar where you can store plenty of water, snacks and a cell phone. Thankfully, cell phones work in most of the trails I’ve been to. The right shoes and clothing are a must and don’t forget a can of insect repellant.

Once you have all the right goodies, then you’ll be ready to discover that some of the most beautiful places in Cochise County are on a steep incline surrounded by trees, streams and wildlife.