News and Tribune

Columns

October 5, 2013

DODD: Desert life is bittersweet

It was only his second day on the Arizona National Trail. The two gallons of water Steve Voelker had been carrying in his 50-pound camping pack was completely gone.

Although he had only been out of water for a little over an hour, this was the Arizona wilderness where one can dehydrate in a short amount of time. His last urine was already a rusty brown/red color. He told me when hiking such conditions, “Water is always an issue.”

In a stroke of good fortune, he had found a water cache which also included two ginger ales and a Shasta lemon-lime drink. The can had a small hole and he began to drink from that hole for an immediate thirst quencher. He then popped the top and saw them running out.

“Hell, I had been drinking ants!”

Voelker was making a sojourn that few people will ever undertake. He was hiking alone in what can certainly prove to be some very unforgiving terrain. Most would believe it to be even more of a calculated risk for a man who is 68 years old.

JOURNAL ENTRY 8/18/13

“Just had a big scare, deputy sheriff outside my tent named Bundy. My In Reach that had not been tracking properly emergency beacon had gone off. He hiked 3 miles to find me.”

To train he had walked 10 miles per day on a treadmill and hiked in local park trails carrying his pack; 50 pounds of food and supplies that did not include the two gallons of water. One day on the Arizona trail, he hiked 23 miles.

Kim, Cameron and I have hiked some of the national park trails — always on a day trip. Carrying snacks and adequate water are not luxuries. Our hikes had always been for a few hours.

Voelker often spent days alone and slept by himself in a lean-to set up overnight in a land full of bears and mountain lions among the unwelcoming nocturnal wildlife. He spent one evening watching bats catch insects at eye-level responding to the night light attached to his head. On another evening, he was sure he heard a bear’s grunting close to his camp. After some anxious moments, the growls and whatever was making them disappeared into the night.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
LOCAL MAGAZINES
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Raw: Fire Engulfs Tower Block in China Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Transcript Reveals Confusion in Ferry Evacuation Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.