Hear it from FHC’s hikers: an interesting take on being lost in the woods


Rachel sits and smiles for a photo during one of her many hiking adventures

English teacher Dr. Anne Keller traverses a strenuous expedition through the Porcupine Mountains with a friend.

Following the path pulled from a guidebook instructing them to follow along a small stream, Keller is faced with a rather prevalent complication: the stream is near dry. Placing an almost complete disregard to the once-dominant literature, they cut through the woods with little indication of where they should go. They spot headlights of an approaching car—a close call. 

After a semi-alarming stop at the Ranger Station before taking on Mount Williamson in the Sierra Nevada Range, science teacher Joey Spadafore embarks on an ice-stricken journey. Not long after reaching the head of the trail and commencing their hike did Spadafore and his crew realize that the alarming concerns at the Ranger Station would be a problem. Not only this, but they would need to rock-climb up vertical faces. Following a creek as their guide was the chosen amo. They bushwhacked and ended just about three thousand feet from where they had begun—basically, they had been moving in circles. 

Senior Rachel Marco and a friend end up completely lost in the midst of the woods, armed with no technology, not even a compass. Using the snowmelt and the sun’s place in the sky, they were able to find their way out. 

When asked for a memorable story of hiking endeavors, Keller, Spadafore, and Rachel all quickly shared these tails. Interestingly enough, their common ground is the fact that in each, they were lost. 

“It’s the—I don’t know—weird situations that you find yourself in,” Rachel said. “It’s kind of interesting, not relying on technology and everything to stretch yourself and see how much you know. Things that are scary can still be fun. If you’re afraid of something, or it’s not an ideal situation, it can still be fun, and you can still learn really good things from it.”

Things that are scary can still be fun. If you’re afraid of something, or it’s not an ideal situation, it can still be fun, and you can still learn really good things from it.”

— Rachel Marco

“The biggest lessons that come from hiking are being self-reliant and enjoying where you are in the moment,” Keller said. “It’s one of those activities that requires your attention right at the moment. You can’t rely on your technology. You are just there and you are experiencing it, and I think we don’t do that often enough.”

Without the assistance of technology, problem-solving is learned when unpredictable situations are created. 

“I like being in nature and off of the beaten path,” Keller said. “I like it when you can rely on what’s in your backpack and nothing else. You strip down all of the unnecessary things and have only what is essential. It’s just peaceful to be outside. There is a lot of problem-solving and thinking about your survival that you don’t have to do on a regular basis.”

With Rachel and Keller, they emphasized enhanced problem-solving skill sets acquired by the strenuous activity whereas Spadafore presented a different benefit.

“Just the ability to be alone with yourself and to understand yourself and challenge yourself [is why I enjoy hiking so much],” Spadafore said. “It’s hard to be alone without instruction. I don’t ever not have my phone on me or I’m not alone for a while like miles around—the ability to just be by yourself.”

Each individual hiker has a set of benefits catered to their individual experience, and the same goes for their lists of favorites. 

Backpacking in Nordhouse Dunes seems to be a popular backpacking location. However, they each have a list compiled of their favorites. 

“I’ve been to a lot of places to hike,” Rachel said. “Probably my favorite has been Banff National Park in British Columbia, Canada. I mean, Canada doesn’t sound super cool, but it has crystal blue waters and huge mountains. There’s nowhere like it in the world, and it’s really not that far away.”

Rachel’s love for the activity arises through a unique array of experiences. She attended Goodwillie Environmental School as well as the Alzar School. The Alzar School teaches leadership through backpacking, whitewater rafting, and kayaking. Her love for all things out-doorsy seems to stem through her family.

“I’ve always kind of hiked my whole life,” Rachel said. “When I was little, my family went to national parks instead of to the beach, so I guess I just grew up doing it.”

No matter the coveted lists of favorite hikes or where this appreciation for hiking and nature originated, it is obvious when talking to just a few of FHC’s devoted hikers that there is much more to gain from hiking than what it outwardly projects. 

“I really like it because I’ve always really liked being active, and I think it’s a great way to see new things and challenge yourself physically,” Rachel said. “It’s a great thing to do with friends too because you are outside struggling. It’s fun to not feel super comfortable all the time, not being afraid to feel uncomfortable.”