Blog post by Bill Huggins
Any of us who spend time in wild places probably have many similar reasons for doing so: nature connection, clean air and water, the serenity of open spaces, wildlife viewing, letting our dogs run if we have pets, keeping fit, and maybe the challenge of tough peaks. There are a hundred or a thousand more reasons, unique to every individual. These all apply to me, and more that I could name, but there’s also a very simple reason underneath it all.
Like oxygen, water, food, these essentials of life—hiking is right there for me, as well. I grew up an Air Force brat in a series of wild places around the United States. My father worked on nuclear weapons, and generally our military chooses not to keep such an arsenal very close to urban areas. From the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Blue Ridge of Virginia to the Black Hills of South Dakota to summers spent in the beautiful canyons around Moab, Utah, where I was born, my life has been lived in close concert with wild places. I’ve been hiking and wandering and exploring my whole life.
When I moved to Las Vegas over two decades ago it took me about a year to discover something incredibly special about this area: it’s a remote, weird, urban space surrounded by some of the best wilderness anywhere on Earth. Truly. My explorations started close to home, Red Rock NCA, Mt. Charleston, some of the smaller wilderness areas close to town. But as time went by I started expanding outward, deeper into the Basin, to more remote and wilder country.
I work on the Las Vegas Strip, dealing with the public in a busy and sometimes hectic industry. After a long week, knowing I can look forward to a great walk in spectacular scenery with just the sound of the wind, my boots, and my dogs moving through the landscape around me keeps me centered. Wilderness is a tonic to the stresses our urban lifestyles put upon us. The cares and problems of the week drop away, a stillness moves into my core, and by the end of the walk I’m refreshed and ready to tackle anything.
I hike often with my wife and friends, too, and the camaraderie that comes along with being outside can’t be beat. Without the distractions of modern life, you’re forced to slow down and focus on one another. Conversations stretch out and take on a more organic feel. It’s a great way to learn to listen to someone else. Maybe if we could get our elected officials outside more often we could start a better dialogue than keeping them cooped up in offices all the time.
Hiking: building a better society.
It’s a truism that we protect these awesome spaces for the next generation. As father to a beautiful, perky two-year old, that’s no longer an abstract concern for me. I truly want my daughter to be able to walk in these spaces one day. Right now I carry her on my back in a baby pack that she loves. She’s just getting confident on her feet and has walked a few hundred feet of southern Nevada trail by herself. I see a bright future for her of long walks with Dad and dogs, fires and sunsets and tents and sleeping bags, hopefully a lot of it in the great open silence of the Basin.
She’ll be her own person, unique and vital, like all life. But I hope I can pass on to her this green need I have, and that she’ll take it and walk with it on her own path.