My First Backpacking Trip!


Since moving to Arizona, I’ve experienced a great love for nature. It started with little hikes and grew into camping. It didn’t take long for the desire to start backpacking to take hold of me. Unfortunately though, my navigation skills have been somewhat lacking, causing me to be careful and patient with this goal.

About a week ago, Liam surprised me with a plan. My first backpacking trip would be in Payson, Arizona, on the Horton Creek Trail. I visited this trail last year, not knowing that disbursed camping was allowed. To be fair, I wasn’t even aware of where the actual trail was, as I had spent that day up the road at the recreation area, confused as to why the trail didn’t make a lick of sense. I had fond memories though of a beautiful oasis, lush green grass and a babbling brook. It looked very different this time.

We arrived at the trailhead in the evening, with about an hour and a half until sunset. The temperature was perfect for a steady pace and I could see the spring growth of the vegetation I had so fondly remembered. The babbling brook was no longer gentle and sweet, it was a rushing stream, fully fueled by an exceptionally rainy winter. While the urgency of the creek didn’t hold us back, I was shocked at how ice cold my first water crossing was. I pushed through the freezing water with pride, as if it were a badge of honor.

Crossing Horton creek

We had planned to see just how far we could get, but not to push ourselves too much, since it was my first trip. There were plenty of camping spots along the trail, but we were careful not to stop for just any spot, as Liam insisted the trail would provide, and it did. We found the most beautiful spot after about two miles, just as the sun was setting.


Liam showed me how to hang the bear bag and we set up the tent together as daylight faded. There was plenty of wood surrounding us for a fire, and by the time camp was set, we were longing for the heat. We didn’t feel like cooking up our Mac n Cheese dinner in the dark, so I snacked on chicken packets while Liam treated himself to pop tarts. We took our soaking wet shoes and socks and laid them out next to the fire to dry out. The crackling of wood with the rushing creek beside us was soothing, and before I knew it, I was ready to go to sleep. Barefoot, we walked back to the bear bag to store our leftover snacks and trash before quickly changed into our sleeping clothes.

This was also my first time using my backpacking tent, which was super exciting to me. Since I had only ever been car camping, I was concerned that the lack of available space in my new tent would make my night uncomfortable but oddly enough, I preferred it. There was less room to slide around on my sleeping mat and I was asleep by 9 PM.

When morning came we filtered water together, which was a big moment for me since I had only ever practiced using the tap in my apartment. I have only one thing to say about that: stream water tastes AWESOME. Breaking down camp took a little longer than we expected but when the Mac n Cheese I requested for breakfast was ready, we headed back to the car.

The hike back was more beautiful in the morning, since we really didn’t have to rush and we could more fully embrace the views. I found myself wishing we had more miles to hike, as the trip felt like it was over far to quickly.


Upon reaching the car I reflected on my first backpacking trip. Was it everything I had hoped for? Was it magical and inspiring? Absolutely. I was proud to consider that I could handle more weight in my pack, I felt more confident in my ability to set up camp, and I felt more comfortable being further away from my car than I ever had been. My only regrets (aside from a Mac n Cheese breakfast) were not packing a pair of dry socks and some floss.

Ambers first time filtering water

We have a much bigger trip planned for the fall and this has only made us both more excited. I hope to return to Horton Creek and explore more of what it has to offer. It is an incredible overnight, but it can also be a very nice day trip for those who aren’t looking to camp further away from their cars. The peace and solitude were unmatched and I can’t wait to do it again.

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