By Edward Gutierrez
I’m 24 years old and I live in Bellemont, Arizona - an unincorporated community 12 miles outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. I work the night shift at Flagstaff Medical Center restocking supplies while the Operating Room is closed. It’s not stressful during the night – it’s pretty quiet. I sleep during the day. My roommate works the night shift also – we hang out during our days off. We get to grocery shop during weekday mornings when there’s nobody there, which is pretty nice.
I also love hiking, especially around Flagstaff. I go into the mountains and enjoy just being in the woods. I haven’t gone a lot recently due to snow, but I try to get out there at least a couple times a month in the spring and summer. It helps me clear my mind and get away from town, work, and technology. I’m able to think about what’s going on, reflect on a busy week, and just have peace.
Growing up, I went camping a lot with my family and my mother’s friends. We would go to Sedona or Lake Mary. I remember sitting in a big circle around a bonfire. One time, there was a heavy downpour and we all had lamps and were huddled in a tent together listening to the rain.
I learned how to fish on these camping trips with my grandfather, godfather, and my mother’s friend. I remember putting bait on the hook for the first time and learning how to gut fish myself to prepare it for eating— we had rainbow trout. We always eat the fish that we catch.
Recently, I took a trip to California where we went deep sea fishing with my dad’s brother-in-law. It was the first time I ever went deep see fishing and I caught seven fish! I caught two at once, and he caught a pretty decent sized fish. He opened its mouth and there was an octopus inside. We took out the octopus and used that to catch a bigger fish. We also caught some rock fish that were right there under the boat. When we brought them back, we made fish tacos with them. That was a cool experience to be out there on the water.
I really enjoy the family aspect of being outdoors, learning from each other, especially from older family members and teaching things to younger family members. I’ve been fortunate to live in Northern Arizona where the forests and public lands are my backyard.
I also grew up helping my godmother care for her horses and learning about those responsibilities. I learned how to feed them and wash them, and I rode quite a bit when I was younger. Although I didn’t ride during middle school or high school, I still remember that being outdoors on horseback is a great experience.
I’m a huge introvert so I like going on walks by myself. I usually try to find a high spot to get a good view. I don’t really like a flat hike. I like the views and the challenges of a climb. The back of Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Arizona has big jagged rocks and I’ve gone up those a few times. There’s something about that challenge that I enjoy.
In Sedona, Arizona you get a little bit of everything as a hiker. I did the Devils Bridge Trail once. You park at the trail head and walk maybe 3 or 4 miles. It’s not really a climb but it’s an up-trek, and the trail can be really busy because it’s a “must do” if you are in Sedona. Seeing the incredible red rocks in Sedona at any time of day is really nice, but it is especially nice at sunset or sunrise.
The most recent crazy hike that I did is a trail about five miles from Flagstaff - the Weatherford Trail – that ended up between Mt. Elden Lookout Trail toward the San Francisco Peaks. At the end of that hike I landed on the backside of the Peaks, near the ski area Snowbowl which is really awesome. It’s about 7 miles of incline the whole time back and forth. My legs were burning after. Once you get up there the treeline stops – you can see Sedona, all of Flagstaff, and the view from the back of the mountain is unreal. Breathtaking.
On the way down, a storm rolled in so for the last hour or two I was walking in the rain. People say, “oh man,” but honestly it was the most peace I’ve ever had. I totally got drenched it was so peaceful. The clouds rolled in and that’s all you hear is just the rain. That was one of the better hikes I’ve had in a long time. The last mile or two it really started coming down so I picked up the pace. But the rain actually ended the hike really well.
During that same hike I heard coyote cubs playing. They started walking toward me, so I took a side path and let them walk by. That’s the only out of the ordinary thing that I’ve seen on my walks. Usually I see reptile creatures and bugs and I’ve picked up horn toads that cross the paths, but I always put them back where I found them. I always make sure to take care of the wildlife and leave everything how I found it.
I feel super lucky to have access to these lands in my backyard. In the summer I can go on a hike any day after work. Some people that live here don’t take advantage of it even though it’s literally right in front of them. Being in Flagstaff and on Route 66 people come from across the U.S. and even across the ocean to visit these places. Tourists pay big dollars to come here on vacation – and we live it every day.