Arizonans hiking to new social horizons

A hiker snaps a photo of a beautiful Arizona sunset during her hike at Sabino Canyon. Photo Illustration by Mark Armao.
A hiker snaps a photo of a beautiful Arizona sunset during her hike at Sabino Canyon. Photo Illustration by Mark Armao.

Catherine Radachi, a 22-year-old associate consultant at Microsoft, hiked the hills and valleys of Arizona enjoying the solitude while sharing her adventures with the world.

Radachi, now working for Microsoft in Washington, finds value in using social media to share her exploits outdoors.

“People document their experiences all the time at parties and on vacations, this is just part of my experience,” Radachi says, “I don’t feel like I’m exploiting nature or anything of the sorts.”

Advancements in social media is becoming just another way to share adventures, even while hiking. “There is something intimate about venturing out with one friend or a group of friends and having no idea what is around the next corner or horizon, it’s wonderful,” outdoor enthusiast Radachi said. “Also being able to share and exchange stories with people you meet about your hikes is fun too!”

Heidi Shull, public relations officer at the Coronado National Forest, explained that Tucson’s most popular trails are on Mount Lemmon and Sabino Canyon. On Instagram, a popular social media site there are more than 4,300 photos linked with the hashtag “#MountLemmon” and 7,000 images with the hashtag “#SevenFalls” and over 8,500 linked with the hashtag “#SabinoCanyon”.

Popular trails in Phoenix include Camelback Mountain that has 18,000 images on Instagram, along with Four Peaks Trail with more than 12,000 images with the hashtag “FourPeaks”. Not to mention there is a whopping 4.3 million pictures on Instagram with the hashtag “#hiking” and over 500,000 images with “#grandcanyon”.

Elaine Roberts, 55, from Vail, Arizona shares a different perspective on social media integrating with hiking.

Roberts began hiking 30 years ago back when there were no cell phones or social media; she’s hiked the majority of the mountains and trails in Tucson. She does enjoy staying connected with family and friends through social media but says there’s a limit.

“I have to say social media has also been a large part of lack of communication in society,” said Roberts. “Everywhere you go dinner, hiking, camping I see people on their cell phones and not enjoying each other or nature. I hope to never be part of that crowd.”

The fear of becoming too submersed in social media is a concern for hiker Scott Koenig, the director of development for the University of Arizona’s Alumni Association. Koenig has been hiking in Arizona for 15 years and he still hikes at least once a week. He believes that there needs to be a balance between staying connected and appreciating nature during a hike.

“I try to be present in the hike without only seeing it through the lens of my phone.” Koenig emphasizes that sharing pictures through social media is a way to “try to inspire … to get out and experience the desert, mountains, and canyons; to share the natural beauty with my friends and family who don’t get to experience it daily.”

Recreational outdoor activities are now more social and interactive compared to the traditional isolation with nature. Along with social media geocaching is becoming a way hikers are staying connected. It’s a treasure hunt using GPS.

People connect with fellow explorers by looking for geocaches around them and logging their names in a book. The website allows participants to share geocaching adventures.

Through posting and sharing pictures, social media continues to change people’s mindsets. Koenig explains how he thinks about social media while hiking, “Rather than just powering through a hike, I’m always looking for what the most special part of the hike is.  I’m always wondering what would make people most likely to get out here and join me!?”

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