Book Signing at Changing Hands Bookstore for Take a Hike Phoenix

Eeep! I'm so excited! This makes me feel legit.

Eeep! I’m so excited! This makes me feel legit.

So if you missed my REI events, it’s totally cool man. I’m thrilled to spread the word that my next book signing event is at the one and only Changing Hands Bookstore!

Details:
Friday, March 14th
7pm
Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 South McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283
FREE
Event Link

I will be making a short presentation prior to signing copies of Take a Hike Phoenix. Additional books will be available for purchase at Changing Hands. No RSVP is necessary but click here if you’d like to add it to your Facebook events.

Hope to see you there!

Two New Posts on Liliatakesahike.com

Like seeing old photos? There's more where that came from! Papago Park in the 1950s.

Like seeing old photos? There’s more where that came from! Papago Park in the 1950s.

Hi!

Post #1 is a quick blurb my author page on moon.com which is now featuring full excerpts from my book, Take a Hike Phoenix!

Post #2 is a collection of vintage postcards and photos of the mountains in Phoenix. I’m calling it “Vintage Take a Hike Phoenix” and I think it’s a pretty cool post, I gotta say.

Thanks all!

Phoenix Summit Challenge on liliatakesahike.com

We hiked 4 summits in one day...and were the least impressive of the group!

We hiked 4 summits in one day…and were the least impressive of the group!

Just a head’s up: I’ve posted a new blog about tips for hiking the Phoenix Summit Challenge on my other blog, liliatakesahike.com.

I kept this one clean, folks. No crotch talk!

From My Vagina to Yours: Hiking Tips for Women

It happens to the best of us.

It happens to the best of us (and our vaginas).

Being a  hiker AND having a vagina can be extremely inconvenient.

If that sentence grossed you out, just stop reading now. Because it’s about to get way worse. I only wish someone had told me these tricks before I started hiking. So to you women who have questions about how to manage your vagina while hiking, camping, or seeking other outdoor adventures, I invite you to benefit from my heard-earned  wisdom.

Let’s start with the easy stuff…

PEE-PEE PROBLEMS

Problem: You have to pee and you don’t have a penis.

Solution: Get a penis. Purchase the GoGirl, the Little John, the pStyle, the SheWee…lots of cleverly named options here. Basically, these products create a penis for you out of plastic. It’s a little awkward at first, sure. But after you get the hang of it, you’ll be thanking GOD for plastic!

Real-life example: Port-a-potties and pit toilets. I hate them. The plastic penis saves me from hovering my genitalia over a vat of cooking feces (and the flies that eat the feces then land on my vagina…fucking gross).

It's not as bad as it looks.

It’s not as bad as it looks.

Problem: You forgot your plastic penis and you don’t want to hover your genitalia over the port-a-potty.

Solution: Disposable cup. If you’re near a port-a-potty or pit toilet, it’s assumed you’re at a trailhead or campsite. So grab a disposable cup and head to the port-a-potty for some privacy. Pee goes in the cup, the pee goes out of cup and into the toilet, the cup goes in the garbage. Brilliant.*

Real-life example: I entered the pit toilet at the Peralta Trailhead and was greeted by a turd sitting on top of the toilet seat. Someone had also smeared the turd so there was a visible brown trail of shit everywhere. Lucky me, I hadn’t planned to use the toilet anyhow. I brought an empty Starbucks cup and then I filled it to the top line…almost a full venti!

Problem: You’re using your plastic penis on the trail and a stranger unexpectedly catches you in the act.

Solution: None. That person is left to wonder forever about your anatomy. Unless that person is a lady. If that’s the case…time to show and tell, girl! (P.S. This is why I only use the plastic penis in a port-a-potty situation.)

Real-life example: Also none. But I imagine I’d be so worried about the person’s resulting confusion about my gender, that I might chase them down to provide an explanation. “No, no, I swear, I’m a girl! See? It’s right here!”

Call me an idiot? I'll shove a used tampon in you.

Call me an idiot? I’ll shove a used tampon in you.

PERIOD PROBLEMS

Problem: You got your period.

Solution: Tampon, duh. Think ahead and bring tampons on every single hike no matter what. You’ve got your first aid kit, right? Add at least 3 heavy flow tampons to that thing. Done. Problem solved forever. And here’s an unexpected perk: Tampons make excellent kindling for fires. Just spread the cotton, throw on a spark and watch that thing ignite.

Real life example: Lou and I used a tampon to start a fire while camping. Brilliant invention, I say!

Problem: You got your period and you don’t have a tampon.

Solution: Uh, get the hell off the trail. It’s not like it’s going to get better. If things get crazy, however, open your backpack and look for anything useful. Handkerchief? Kleenex? Gauze? Hate to say it but you’re going to have to do it middle-school style and start filling the crotch of your pants with anything absorbent. And if you see another woman on the trail, good God don’t be shy. Ask her if she’s got lady supplies handy. She will help you.

Real-life example: A friend of a friend hiked into the Grand Canyon and she got caught without a tampon. By the time she arrived to the campground, the poor woman was a mess. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!

Problem: You got your period, you HAVE a tampon, and now you have to change it on the trail.

Solution: Grocery bag. Always carry at least one one white plastic grocery store bag in your pack. You’re going to use that bag much in the same way you would use it to pick up dog poop. Only this time, it’s like the dog poop has a string attached to it and you have to pull it out of your dog’s butt-hole then catch it with your bagged hand. And also, your dog lives in your pants. Sounds complicated but it can be done. In fact, I’ve mastered this maneuver and can successfully make the big switch without even removing my pants. I feel proud.*

Real-life example: Too many to count. I’ll tell you this much though, it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I see photos of the top of the flatiron.

I'm feeling a little...unfresh...down there. You know...in my...swamp thing.

Hmmmm. I’m feeling a little…unfresh…down there. You know, in my…swamp thing.

GENERAL VAGINA PROBLEMS

Problem: Swamp vagina.

Solution: Bring Kleenex on every hike. You’re just one discreet wipe away from feeling fresh again!

Real-life example: When a hiking partner and I finally confessed to this unfortunate side effect of having a vagina on a summer desert hike, we forever called the resulting incident, “The Great Wipe-Out.”*

Problem: Cameltoe, moose knuckle, turtle paw, frontal wedge…whatever you want to call it.

Solution: Embrace it. I prefer yoga pants to traditional hiking pants when I’m out on the trail and while I try to be conscious of vaginal fabric bunching, the reality is, I often stop caring. I’m sweaty, dirty, thirsty, and tired. And, most likely, I had to degrade myself with doggie-bag tampon changing or pissing in a cup while staring at a smeared turd. Now I have to obsess about my cameltoe? Whatever.

Real-life example: I’d rather not know. If you’re reading this and you’ve hiked with me, please refrain from commenting. Thank you.

That’s it! I can only hope that writing this blog post will  help all the other vagin–I mean–women looking for outdoor adventures!

How do I know so much? Well, my vagina and I have hiked over 100 trails in Arizona. Then my vagina and I wrote a book about 81 of them called Take a Hike Phoenix. For less vulgar, more G-rated writing about hiking, please visit my other blog, liliatakesahike.com.

*I adhere to a very strict pack-it-in-pack-it-out policy. There’s no excuses on this one, hikers, and it includes the icky stuff. Littering is bad and, also, are you really going to make a park ranger pick up your tampon, piss cup, or vag Kleenex for you? Don’t be cruel!

Winter Hiking in Phoenix, a Guide/Rant

Smiling doesn't mean you're happy.

Smiling doesn’t mean you’re happy.

Looking out my window this morning, I see gray clouds and a wintery-looking Phoenix.

One might think that on a day like today, a Phoenix hiker would be dying to hit the trails. It’s better to hike in the cool weather, right?

Wrong!

​This hiker prefers hiking in the summer.

Yeah, I said it.

I’d much rather trek through the baked dirt in the disgustingly hot evenings wearing practically nothing and sweating like a maniac than hike in the cold — bundled up and clammy with snot dripping from my freezing nose.

Wow. Hiking is not very attractive.

Anyway, as a hater of the chilly outdoors, I’ve come up with a list of tips/gripes to make winter hiking tolerable:

1. Layer with as many zip-up clothing options as possible
With fuzzy beanies, visors, sunglasses and other cumbersome accessories, you’re not going to want to keep pulling something over your head that musses up your hats and glasses. Zippers are your friends.

2. Bring a snot rag
With a cold nose, you’ll start to drip watery snot out of your nose. It’s super gross and it’s really freaking annoying. The only way to avoid this is to keep a snot rag on hand and constantly blow your boogers out of your head. You may as well use an old bandanna. A tissue will just get shoved into your backpack or pocket only to be discovered later. Gross.

3. Bring a non-snot rag bandanna
This is essential. If you find yourself feeling too chilly around your neck or head, this thing can be fashioned into hat, ear-warmer, or scarf. Of course, do not confuse it with No. 2.

4. Cover your ears
This may only apply to me because I’ve got ugly monkey ears that poke out of my head but those things can catch a lot of wind. Then they freeze and I experience the most painful freaking headache in the world. Keep ‘em fettered if you can.

Lou...harnessing inspiration from "The Road".

Lou…harnessing inspiration from “The Road”.

5. Bring a tissue and a zip lock baggy (if you’re a girl)
Another thing I hate about hiking in the cold: you don’t sweat out your water consumption so you have to pee in the desert. This is the suckiest. Especially for chicks. And it’s not like there are big bushes in the desert you can effectively hide behind.

Again, if it’s summer, this is not a problem at all. One time I hiked a 10.5 trail in 100 degree weather and didn’t go pee once. It was beautiful. Anyway, you should be able to guess what the tissue and the zip lock bag are for…don’t litter your pee rag.

6. Remember to drink water
Duh, right? But I actually get more dehydrated on winter hikes because it’s so easy to forget to chug water when you’re not at risk of heat stroke. Plus, I don’t like to drink water on the trail because then it brings me to tip No. 5. I can’t win!

7. Bring your camera
Ok, I admit it. The desert is more beautiful in the winter sun … assuming you have time between pee breaks and snot-blowing to notice.

This blog post originally appeared on The Phoenix New Times website way back in 2010 when I had no idea I’d ever write a hiking book. I stand by what I wrote with just one caveat: winter hiking is truly spectacular because, unlike summer, I can plan glorious, 10-15 mile hikes that take all day.

Also, now that I published a book with an entire chapter devoted to safety, I feel it’s my responsibility to mention that my summer hikes only take place in the early morning or at dusk because hiking midday in the summer is too dangerous. Also, if you hike a trail of any length in 100-degree weather, please, please, please be sure to bring plenty of water. I take 3 liters for any trails over 5 miles, no matter what time of year. And when it’s warm, I take 3 liters plus a large water bottle, sometimes two. Okay, I’ll stop now!

It’s Here! It’s Here! Take a Hike Phoenix is Here!

When your book arrives in the mail, it's time to take a selfie.

When your book arrives in the mail, it’s time to take a selfie.

Big moment, people:

My book, Take a Hike Phoenix, arrived on my doorstep!

It’s been arriving on doorsteps across the country as evidenced by the texts, photos, and tags from friends and family. As painful as it was to receive many of these messages before my own copy arrived, I was beyond touched by the enthusiasm and support. I know it’s just a hiking book (let’s face it, I won’t appear on the New York Times bestseller list or anything) but it’s my first published book and I feel pretty darn good.

(Except for when I think about all the inevitable mistakes that I didn’t catch which is totally freaking me out right now but I’m trying, trying, trying, trying to be gracious about it and enjoy this moment but I can’t help thinking it’s my mistakes that are arriving on doorsteps, not my book, shut up, Lilia, shut up, shut UP!)

Aside from all that noise, I hope other people feel pretty darn good about this, too.

Because, you know, it’s not like I did this thing all by myself. This accomplishment should be shared by everyone who knows me and is nice to me.

So today, my blog features the Acknowledgements page that I wrote for the book but does not appear in this printing because my publishing company tragically forgot to include it.

Acknowledgements

This book is dedicated to my husband, Lou. (It’s all for you, babe.)

I am humbled and touched by all the support from friends, family, and my community during this endeavor. Being my first book, I could not have successfully waded through this project (something that once seemed an insurmountable and lofty goal) without such vital reinforcement. And now, drawing from the momentum of others’ encouragement and care for what I do, I modestly offer my thanks.

First and foremost, my undying gratitude is showered onto my husband, who was literally with me every step of the way. He’s not only my trusted hiking companion but he seamlessly took the responsibility of every other aspect of our joined life while I spent evenings and weekends hunched over my laptop to write about our adventures on the trail. Special thanks to my mother who, during the summer months, braved the heat and the hours of travel across The Valley to sweat through miles of dry, dusty trail in 110+ temperatures. To my dad who saved my butt by helping edit during the final stages of compiling this book when I was so overwhelmed with words, I could hardly see straight. To my three older brothers for telling me how proud they are of their baby sis — fulfilling the lifelong dream of every last-born to finally gain the admiration of their older siblings (and thanks to Alan for hitting the trail with me). Love and pinches to my nieces, Madison and Gracie, who were always up for fun family hikes and who patiently put up with my endless requests for their photos. Huge thanks to Kristina and Craig Smith for re-hiking trails I hiked in the past, alleviating me from repeating miles of trail. I owe Kristina for aiding in the discovery of my love for hiking so many years ago and consider her my very best hiking companion on this earth. And Craig is the only person who has ever convinced me to fight through the tears as I climbed vertical rocks in sheer terror. I send a giant hug to Stephanie Buell for braving some of the most challenging and poorly-planned hikes on my list with a smile on her face the entire time. Thanks to Nate Sauer for remaining calm at the wheel while indulging my requests to push his car to its limits as he navigated tricky roads to reach remote trailheads. Thanks and love to Sam, who selflessly offered the supreme comfort of her high country cabin. Appreciation to the other folks who enthusiastically hopped on the trail with me when I needed company (and, in some cases, 4-wheel drive): Hilber Blair, Starr Preodor, Kelsey Hazelwood, Kate Crowley, and my uncle, Carl Menconi. Hugs and love to the entire Robinson, Menconi, Kummerer, and Gutschalk clans for the endless encouragement and general joy they provide me. Big thanks to Katie Moder and Jill Matejcik who saved me from hours of brutal technical work. Gratitude and love to my in-laws for accepting our absence from dozens of family dinners (and for not being mad at me for using my maiden name for the byline, right?). Love to Lisa Hildebrant, Katie Kucharski, Chris & Amy Johnson, Laurén Hart, Christy Cocchia-Barbaree & the Skrats, Todd Grossman, and Lou’s social circle for forgiving our lack of availability. Thanks to those who regularly read my blog (liliatakesahike.com) and who graciously tolerate my sporadic commitment. Appreciation to my day-job leader and teammates whose professionalism and personal support made me feel capable of chasing many goals at once. Big thanks to the staff at Avalon Travel and my editor, Sabrina Young, who were always available and willing to answer all my questions. Gratitude to my colleague Martin Cizmar for his many trail suggestions. And, without question, I could not have done this without my incredible writing mentor, trusted confidant, dear friend, and half-assed “deadline buddy”, Robrt L. Pela. To anyone I didn’t call out by name but have been a part of this process, thank you for sharing this path with me — each in your own important way.

 

Papago Park Doesn’t Suck

I dig the Buttes. Big time.

I dig the Buttes. Big time.


“That trail SUCKS!” my husband Lou said the other day as we drove past Papago Park.

He was referring to the Eliot Ramada Loop on the west side of Galvin Parkway. The trail offers a paved portion for the first half mile until you reach the Eliot Ramada, a large shady structure poised between the massive, erosion-pocked red rocks called the Papago Buttes.

The trail is easy.

Easy for us anyway. Because, save a few creaky joints and Lou’s “arthritis” in his toe (eye roll), we are young, able-bodied hikers in the prime of our lives.

Not everyone has the luxury of hating that trail, however.

About four years ago, I convinced my grandmother’s caregiver and a few family members to meet up for a hike. With a heavy blanket tucked around her limp body and gray curls poking out from under her fuzzy beanie, GJ (our nickname for her) felt the chilly December air as we took turns (okay, brother Alan did most of it) pushing her wheelchair along the paved trail in Papago Park.

It was hard work.

Shortly after our family hike, GJ had another stroke. A big one. And it pretty much kept her at home for the rest of her life.

After my mother’s stroke earlier this year, we ventured to Papago Park once again for weekly hikes. Mom could walk okay but I had to keep a hand on her belt so I could yank her straight if she started to lose her balance. We started with the paved portion, taking breaks at each bench. We made it to the ramada. After a couple weeks, we braved the uneven terrain of the surrounding dirt trails. Eventually, we could walk the whole park.

That's Mom. Dwarfed by the amphitheater in Papago Park.

That’s Mom. Dwarfed by the amphitheater in Papago Park.

Today, Mom is hiking the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A, a much more challenging trail, three times a week by herself.

Papago Park is where my GJ got out of the house for one of the last times. Papago Park is where Mom healed from her stroke. Papago Park doesn’t suck.

This is the very same speech I gave Lou after he made his callous remark. Needless to say, he recanted his comment.

Nobody fucks with my trails. Nobody.

Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of  this hike on my Everytrail.com page which shows a loop we created one day. A detailed review of a Papago Park hike is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores fall 2013 and is now available at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

The Great Eight

Trail 8. Quiet. Secluded. Friendly to those with full bladders.

Trail 8. Quiet. Secluded. Friendly to those with full bladders.

Well, I am just thrilled!

My best hiking buddy Kristina is back on the trail after months of cruel confinement to cast and crutches. To celebrate, we hiked. Big surprise, right?

We were pumped. Look at all those teeth!

We were pumped. Look at all those teeth!

We chose an unassuming little trail that has become one of my favorites in town: The L.V. Yates Trail 8 in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

Things I love about the L.V. Yates Trail 8

    • It crosses Trail 100 within the first quarter mile. Look to the east and you’ll see a stunning view of Four Peaks in the far distance.
    • It’s not that hard. It climbs the whole way and the entire trail is 5 miles (out and back) but it’s so gentle, you don’t really feel it.
    • It’s 5 miles. Since writing the book, I’ve found that 5 miles is my “Goldilocks” distance. It’s long enough for a great conversation but short enough so I don’t have to pack a lunch.
That's me. Posing on the bench.

That’s me. Posing on the bench.

  • The parking seriously kicks butt. The trailhead at 40th street has plenty of spots so there’s no parking politics to sour my serene mood.
  • It’s secluded. Most people just stick to Piestewa Peak when they hike in this area. Which is fine by me because I like having Trail 8 all to myself.
  • It shows off some fantastic scenery. Four peaks, Dreamy Draw, Piestewa Peak, and the surrounding desert. You can’t ask for much more.
  • It has benches. This may not sound like a big deal but I have great affection for a trail with a bench. Especially when the bench marks the halfway point on a trail and your friend’s foot is still recovering so you should probably turn around anyway.
  • It features decent pee spots. Not only is there a pit toilet at the trailhead, but the seclusion, surrounding hills and low vegetation offer some exellent private peeing potential.
  • It’s quiet. You’re far away from major roads and the only thing you hear is the crunch of rocks beneath your feet. I love that sound.
  • It surprised me. I found Trail 8 when I was doing research for my book and I needed a 5 mile trail. I thought it would be mediocre. It wasn’t. In fact, I love it and was thrilled that I could include it in the book.
  • I’ve only ever hiked Trail 8 with Kristina. And, as I’ve established, hiking with Kristina is a super special thing.

Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of  the L.V. Yates Trail 8 on my Everytrail.com page which shows just half of the trail. A detailed review of the entire 5-mile trail is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores late November and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Ten Alternate Trails to Hike While Camelback Echo Canyon is Closed

I’ve see a few tweets that will surely piss off a Phoenix Hiker or two.

According to azcentral.com, the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain may not be open until January 2014, a solid 2 months later that the originally scheduled November date. I’ve seen other tweets say that Valley hikers might be waiting even longer due to delays in the trail renovations, parking lot expansion, and bathroom construction.

These tweets don’t piss off this Phoenix hiker, however. Because I have options. In fact, I have 81 of them which I will share with you in late November when my book is released.

In the meantime, though there’s no replacing the Echo Canyon Trail, here are quick summaries of ten alternate trails that offer some of the same features of that valley favorite.

Camelback Cholla Trail at your service.

Camelback Cholla Trail at your service.

Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain

3.6 miles, 1,300 ft. elevation gain

Did you know there’s a trail on the other side of the mountain? With constant climbing, heavy scrambling, and views from the very same summit reached via the Echo Canyon Trail, the Cholla Trail will surely satisfy your need for climbing Camelback Mountain. The similarities to Echo Canyon don’t end there…the parking is a nightmare. With no proper parking lot, hikers must park parallel along Invergordon Street then walk to the trailhead.

Piestewa Peak Summit Trail in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

2.4 miles, 1,200 ft. elevation gain

This one’s a no-brainer. Wildly popular, the Piestewa Peak Summit trail demands hard-core huff n’ puff all the way up. And up. With barely any reprieve from the climbing, Echo lovers will feel that scathing lung burning they crave. No scrambling efforts required here except for the parking. It’s crowded at the trailhead but there are other parking lots within walking distance.

Holbert Trail at South Mountain

3.6 miles, 950 ft. elevation gain

Like making it to the top? This trail will take you to the highest point accessible in all of South Mountain park at Dobbins Lookout, 2,330 feet. This one’s a more subtle burn but offers plenty of sweat-filled climbing as you make your way to the stone-stacked structure which marks your endpoint. The big difference here is that reaching the top means running into non-hikers who opted for the mountain drive, accessible by car. But with views of the entire city, you’ll barely notice.

Black Mountain in Cave Creek

2.2 miles, 1,275 ft elevation gain

It’s really no secret that Black Mountain is Cave Creek’s Camelback Mountain. It’s a hefty grunt all the way up this rocky trail with zippo switchbacks to ease the pain. Make it to the top and you’ll be treated to views that rival Camelback’s. It may be a drive but it’s right off the main drag in Cave Creek so treat yourself to a burger and beer afterward.

My husband. Sweaty and sexy on the Sunrise Trail.

My husband. Sweaty and sexy on the Sunrise Trail.

Sunrise Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (aka McDowell Mountains)

3.7 miles, 1,100 ft elevation gain

To put it simply, this is a stellar hike. The trail and trail head are brand new, beautifully maintained, and in a nice area of North Scottsdale. Reaching Sunrise Peak guarantees clear views of your beloved Camelback as well as the Phoenix Mountains, the Supersitions, Four Peaks…you can even see the Fountain Hills fountain’s massive projectile of vertical water if you time it right.

Tom’s Thumb Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (aka McDowell Mountains)

4.1 miles, 1,325 ft elevation gain

Okay, so when you’re on Camelback and you’re looking north, you’re looking at the McDowell Mountains. Have you ever noticed the single, rocky protrusion that looks like a teeny little thumb? That’s Tom’s Thumb. And after you sweat your way up this challenging trail, it won’t be teeny. In fact, it’s so huge, you can barely wrap your head around its massiveness.

Pinnacle Peak Trail

2.9 miles, 1,000 ft elevation gain

This trail offers the same Scottsdale fanciness that the Echo Canyon Trail boasts. Nice area of town, beautiful trail, and tons of opportunity to stare into rich peoples’ backyards. This trail is less of a summit hike and more of an up, down, up, down…turn around and do it all backwards kind of hike. You’ll love it.

Image credit: www.jfryhale.com

Start early. Pack water, gloves, food, and your courage. Climbing to the flatiron could be the best hike of your life.

Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron in Superstition Mountains

5.8 miles, 2,750 ft elevation gain

I am going to say this now and I’m sorry if you’re offended. This hike is way, way, waaaaayyyy better than Camelback Mountain. Six miles. Vertical climbs. Merciless crawling over boulders. And the absolute most breathtaking I-am-on-top-of-the-mother-fucking-world-right-now views. If you love Camelback, you must do this hike.

Hunter Trail at Picacho Peak

3 miles, 1,900 ft elevation gain

To the timid, this trail is downright terrifying. But if you like the steep parts on Camelback when you have to grip those bars, you’ll adore this trail. It’s one of the few in the U.S. that boasts via ferrata climbing — Italian for “iron road”. Picture this: rockface, metal cables, and you gripping the cables while hanging on for dear life as you climb your way to the summit. Chickens, you’re going to want to sit this one out.

Elden Lookout Trail in Flagstaff, AZ

5.1 miles, 2.400 ft elevation gain

Admittedly, this requires a lot more driving on your part. But if you can zip up Camelback Echo Canyon Trail, it’s time to up your game, friend. This trail is about 5 miles roundtrip with 2.400 feet in elevation gain. It’s like two Piestewa Peaks stacked on top of each other surrounded by thin, Flagstaff air. No bones about it — you’ll feel like a serious badass after you finish this one.

Want to know more about these trails? You’ll read all about them in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores late November and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Spousal Arguments and Lightning

The lookout. Our destination.

The lookout. Our destination.

“I am having the worst time on this hike!” I said a few weeks ago.

My voice was in that high-pitched place where ladies’ voices go right before they’re going to start sobbing. I was having the worst time because we were hiking at about 8,700 feet elevation in the middle of a Flagstaff, AZ monsoon shower on the Elden Lookout Trail.

This is the part where I sheepishly admit to making a dumb mistake with my hiking plans. I know better. I know that I shouldn’t hike in the afternoon in monsoon season in the Arizona high country. Because that’s how people get struck by lightning.

But when we entered the trail head late that morning, I didn’t mention any of this because I didn’t want to piss off my husband, Lou.

Just a few weeks prior, Lou and I got in an argument at the Grand Canyon. We got off to a late start on the Bright Angel Trail and though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I was already terrified that a lightning-filled monsoon storm would roll in and trap us mid-hike. Lou, who doesn’t share my chilling fear of indiscriminate sky swords that deliver pure death, was frustrated with my anxiety.

“If you’re not willing to take risks then we shouldn’t even leave the house!” he snapped.

For the next 2 1/2 miles into the canyon, we voiced our bitchy retorts and snippy comments between the brief moments when other hikers weren’t in earshot. Other hikers would pass, we’d both smile and say hello, then a few seconds later I’d hiss, “I’m just saayyying I don’t want to be rescued or DIE on a trail a month before my effing hiking book comes out!”

It’s a ridiculous way to have an argument with your spouse.

Even while arguing, we make a great team. Lou graciously snapped this photo of me mid-hike and mid-fight.

Even while arguing, we make a great team. Lou graciously snapped this photo of me mid-hike and mid-fight.

To top it off, we were missing some of the most spectacular views on planet. I finally convinced Lou to turn around just before we hit the 3-Mile rest house.

On the way out, I was wishing for clouds after just half a mile of climbing. It was early August and insanely hot in the canyon. We were soon dribbling water over each others heads. To hot and miserable to care what others thought of us, we made loud and gross moaning sounds as the cool water trickled down our backs. After we finally crawled our way off the scorching trail, we went on with our happy trip at the Grand Canyon with me repeating, “Yes, you were totally right.” throughout the remainder of our visit.

So when we hit the trail late on Mt. Elden in Flagstaff, I decided to shut up and climb.

Taking a break from the intense climbing.

Taking a break from the intense climbing.

We saw the clouds rolling in when we neared the lookout tower (our turn-around spot). We pushed ahead, made a quick tour of the structure, then hauled ass down the trail. Then the rain started. Our strategy was to descend as quick as possible and the minute we heard thunder, we’d take cover and wait out the lightning storm (this is what the experts recommend).

I was convinced that I wouldn’t hear any thunder because I’d be too busy getting hit by lightning and turning into a dead person. Or worse, I’d be too busy becoming a widow.

After 30 minutes of repeatedly imagining my husband’s tragic death while trying not to slip on the slick trail, my high-pitched, lady-about-to-lose-it voice burst out of me. Lou gave me a reassuring hug and we pushed on.

Ten minutes later, the skies cleared and I was a carefree little hiker.

“We won’t do this again,” Lou said. I assumed he was finally beginning to share my fear of lightning. Then he said, “we won’t do this again because I never, ever want you to have a crappy time. Especially when we’re on a hike.”

I win.

Don't worry. We're still crazy about each other.

Don’t worry. We’re still crazy about each other.

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  the Mt. Elden on my Everytrail.com siteThe Mt. Elden Trail in Flagstaff, AZ is featured as an option my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.