What Really Happened to Me This Summer


Raegan Jacob, Staff Writer

I was driving home from my cabin in Northern Maine from the 4th of July weekend this year, when my parents pulled into a random empty parking lot. My grandmother was there, and I sat there in confusion as my brother hopped out and got into her car. Both of my golden retrievers followed. After my parents loaded up my grandmother’s car with refrigerated food, we left the parking lot and headed towards the airport. My mom turned to me and said, “We are flying to Arizona today.” I didn’t know what was going on; I didn’t have my phone to say goodbye to my friends, tell my boss from work, or even save my streaks on Snapchat.

I had no bags, no toothbrush, no nothing. I walked through security with nothing other than a pack of spearmint gum in my pocket. Both of my parents had bags; they had been planning this trip for a whileI could tell. I sat separated from them in the airport waiting for our flight, refusing to believe what they were going to put me through without my permission. My mom brought me my favorite iced coffee as a peace offering, but I was too angry to even say “thank you” to her.

I had known for a little while that my parents were actively searching for places to send me that would treat my depression and anxiety. Since I was being kept in the dark about this process, I was thinking they would bring me to a different kind of therapy. I had no idea they were going to fly me into the Arizona desert for two months.

I woke up early Friday morning at 8 a.m. to drive to the Anasazi Foundation Office in Mesa, Arizona. I met a woman named Skye and a man named Tate. They both shook my parent’s hands along with mine, and we introduced ourselves. Tate told me I wasn’t going to see my parents for a long time, so I should probably say goodbye to them. Instead of hugging them goodbye, I walked up the stairs with Skye and never looked back. As I walked away from my family, I felt my mood shift from anger to anticipation. I was excited to learn about what I was about to do for a few weeks, and I found myself laughing with the staff and making friends. I walked into the room upstairs with five large couches lined around the perimeter of the room and that’s where I met one of my best friends, Michaela. She greeted me with a smile and welcomed me to Anasazi, and we made some jokes back and forth. There was a huge bucket of items in front of each couch that I assumed were for the new intakes for the trip. I cracked some jokes here and there with my new friends, and Skye handed me some clothes to try on.

As the time ticked by, new intakes flooded into the office. Five other kids just like me came into that room, four boys and one other girl. All of them packed together their things just like I had, and they tried on their clothes as well. A staff member whose name was Andrew brought us a bunch of Little Caesar’s pizzas, and that was going to be our last real meal for months.

We packed our things in the back of a couple of SUV’s, and we drove for hours into the mountains. We found ourselves in the Tonto National Forest, but we weren’t allowed to look at the maps. By the time we found where we were supposed to be, it was 12 a.m.. We got out of the cars, and stumbled our way through the dark to find somewhere to sleep for the night.

That first four days of my trip was basically an orientation. We learned how to make fire, food, shelters and spoons. On Monday, I “stepped into” my girls band, and that’s where I met the best people in the world. They were all teenage girls just like me, and there for similar reasons. I met three Trail Walkers that day: Cindy, Eric and my best friend, Lauren. The Trail Walkers are the most beautiful human beings that spend 8 days with us on the trail and then go home for 6. They keep us safe, lead us on hikes, play games with us, sing us songs until we fall asleep and most importantly, they are there for us when we need them the most. The Trail Walkers switch out every Tuesday, so I didn’t have much time with those three people.

Before they left on Tuesday, I had a conversation with Lauren. We sat and talked for two or three hours; it was unheard of by others in the program. No one has ever sat with a Trail Walker for that length of time. It took me a while to realize she really was just like me. Our stories were so similar, and it brought me such comfort to know that she could pull herself out of the depression she found herself in. It gave me hope. Although I only knew her beautiful soul for less than a day, I thought about her every single day when she left my band to go back home.

It was week seven: the beginning of my last week on the trail. I had been begging the directors for weeks to let Lauren walk with me for my last week in the forest. I hadn’t been able to walk with her for a whole week yet, and it was something I wanted most in the world at the time. Everyone told me I shouldn’t get my hopes up because it was hard to arrange something like that. On Tuesday afternoon, I saw my best friend walking on the path to my campsite. I wish I could put into words what it felt like, but words don’t do it justice.

Lauren isn’t the person who made my experience great though. She contributed to my happiness, but it was everyone I met that made it amazing. I never thought that hiking 40 miles a week through the woods with 50 pounds on my back would be so life altering. Sure, there were hard days, but the good days were the ones that mattered. There was rain-lots and lots of rain. (It was monsoon season so it rained every day) There were rattlesnakes, scorpions and cacti. There were injuries, blood and band-aids. But most of all, there were laughs, friendships and memories.


Lauren (left) and me