Toni Barker of Phoenix does not like snow. A native of Guyana in South America, Barker arrived in Arizona by way of Kansas in 2013. “I’m accustomed to sunshine all year, so moving to Arizona was the perfect choice,” Barker says. “My company at that time was expanding in Arizona, so I applied and got the job. I packed up my car, rented an apartment online and drove over 15 hours to a state where I knew no one and had no family.”
Hiking was one way she oriented herself, helping her see the state and build friendships. Following some upsets in her personal life last year, Barker found she needed a way to reset, regain confidence and meet new friends. Rebooting her love of hiking seemed like a good plan. “It was time for me to get back out into nature,” the insurance company professional decided.
Barker joined a social media hiking group that was challenging its members to hike at least 20 miles in 30 days. The totally doable goal was just the ticket. “Seeing all the hikes completed by others, especially women, motivated me to start hiking again,” Barker says. “I was completely nervous… because I [had grown] accustomed to hiking with my partner.”
Stepping out alone took courage, preparation and plans. “I did some research and got my necessary gear… I was ready to undertake my first solo hike.”
With the camaraderie of the hike community and a solid objective, Barker was able to achieve and even exceed her mission of becoming a strong, self-sufficient hiker. Among her first solo hikes were Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, Peralta Trail in the Superstition Wilderness and the difficult North Wilson Trail in Sedona. “It is so rewarding when you check things off your list. My regular goal is to hike every Saturday, all day.”
Hiking is an important part of Barker’s life again. “We are so lucky to live in a state that has so much to offer to stay healthy and to wash your worries away. I look forward to continuing on my personal journey while enjoying my carbs.”