Solo Backpacking Through Southern Utah’s Wilderness

I have come to believe that there may be nothing that requires more self-reliance than backpacking. There is something about telling the day-to-day life you live, “stop, I’m putting you on hold,” while you embark on an adventure that is both personally fulfilling and at times unforgiving.

In desperate need of some inner peace and natural therapy, I set out to complete the 34-mile Virgin River Rim Trail located in the heart of Southern Utah’s wilderness. Now, I suppose I would consider myself an “avid” hiker and camper but I had never backpacked before, and I found myself ashamed to admit this at the time. However, my mind was made up and essentially it felt like there was no choice; I WAS going to do this.

(top & left: Te-Ah Campground, right: on the trail near Navajo Lake)

Day one was by far the worst. Everything hurt, the thought of turning back crossed my mind — yet only briefly, realizing there was nowhere to really turn back to and while enthralled with the beauty that surrounded me, my mind was simply occupied by my next step. 12-13 miles later when I plopped my pack down at Te-Ah Campground for the night, the breath that escaped my lungs was like none I’d ever felt before. This was accomplishment; capability of the human body, mind, and soul, and here I was engulfed in all of it now eager for another step.

(Breakfast at Te-Ah Campground near Duck Creek Village, UT)

Over the next two days there was only one thing on my mind – to keep on. Off I went again, climbing and dropping and climbing again, short lunch breaks with still not a single person in sight. I made a quick couple mile detour to Spruces Campground, which had just closed for the season, but a very well kept campground with excellent views called for me to hang the hammock for a short breather. I was so wildly content at this point that the thought of returning to a normal home simply escaped me. This was what I set out to do and I did it, truly loving every step and mile.

In the end I couldn’t help but be amazed by what we are capable of as humans. YOU are the one who makes the decision to keep going day after day, regardless of circumstances. We keep pushing through for there is only forward to go, trail or otherwise.

(Mission accomplished: Strawberry Point Lookout, UT)

Words by April McPherson

A Southern California native and Southern Utah transplant, April’s day job consists of teaching and sharing her passion for photography at her local university. Otherwise you can find her adventuring, playing music, and enjoying life!

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