12 November 2021

Feeling free in the wilderness

Written by: Daniela Kenny

I spent the 2.5-hour drive to the Sierra Ancha Wilderness jamming out to my music and admiring the beautiful views of mountains and lakes. The steep highway roads leading up and down the sides of mountains made me (a very anxious driver) pay close attention. I’d never been to this wilderness before, and I was excited to one of the wilderness areas I was working on. 2 hours into the drive, I finally turned onto the highway that would lead me up the mountain to my destination. A beautiful, crested saguaro waved me hello as I drove up. Thankfully the whole way was pavement until the last ¼ mile, where it turned into rocky terrain. My supervisor led us through the gate, and we were officially in the Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest.

The cabin we stayed in was in great condition. After settling into our new home for the next few days, we set out to explore. We found some research plots, old cabins, a stream, and some amazing views. I felt myself relax more and more as we walked around this beautiful place. With the fresh air, clear skies, and seemingly endless wilderness around me I felt reinvigorated. We drove down the mountain a bit and found a perfect spot to watch the sunset. The sun was slowly lowering itself behind the iconic four peaks, and I could also see the superstition mountains in the distance. It amazed me that even though these mountains and wildernesses were so far apart, we could still clearly see them.  Sitting on rocks at the edge of a cliff, while watching the Arizona sunset was pure bliss.

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The next day we explored Aztec’s peak and went on a great hike. Being fully immersed in the wilderness made me feel at peace. It reminded me of during my orientation for this resource assistant position we had a session on forest therapy. I remember the leader of my section was talking us through some forest meditation and speaking on how being in nature can be healing. These few days in the wilderness really did feel healing. Looking at these grand mountains, and gorgeous landscapes made my problems and worries seem small. It’s not that they were invalidated, because all our problems and worries are valid. But it helped me frame in my mind that my problems are not as big as they seem and gave me a new perspective.

I recommend to everyone (that has access and opportunity) to visit a National Park or Forest, or anywhere in nature. Get away from the city, the noise, the people, your phones and go be in nature. Use that time in nature to meditate, journal, walk, reflect, hike, contemplate, or anything that feels right to you. These few days in nature were truly a reset for me and I hope everyone can have a positive, healing experience in the wilderness.

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(all photos taken by me in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness)

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Tonto National Forest

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