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Strength in numbers: group hikes gain popularity in Southern Arizona

Hiking to Tanque Verde Falls
Posted at 6:20 AM, Jan 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 08:20:19-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — On a early weekday morning, a group of hikers is ready to tackle new heights and see new sights.

"It's wonderful because you come out here and meet people that you've never met before. You're out here in this beautiful weather," said hiker, Marcia Raymond.

Raymond and others prefer to explore Southern Arizona in packs. It's a choice that hike organizer, Mark Wilson, believes to have big benefits.

"Hiking solo carries some dangers and risks. When you are with a group, it kind of negates those risks. The hikes generally attract very fit individuals that are capable of hiking to the destinations but would rather do so in a group setting," said Wilson.

Wilson has rallied an online group of nearly 4,000 hikers. They like to take the paths less traveled. On Wednesday, they set out for Tanque Verde Falls. It's a roughly three hour round trip hike with many twists and turns.

"Most of our hikes tend to be on the advanced scale. This hike, in particular, is not all that difficult. It's only about three miles round trip, but it's bouldering. It takes a long time," said Wilson.

In 2019, Wilson made an astounding discovery while on a hike near Mount Hopkins. He stumbled into the remains of a hiker who had been missing for five months.

"A couple of days later, I led a search and rescue team back down to that site. They were able to recover what remained of this man that was lost," said Wilson.

That experience hasn't discouraged Wilson and his love for the outdoors. It's only inspired him to help others follow in his footsteps.

"We're out here because we love it. This is what we like to do. It's beneficial for our health, the sunshine and everything else that goes with it," said Wilson.

To learn more about the 'Friendship is Therapeutic' hiking group, click here.