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!

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.

The Hike That Makes Me Want to Have a Baby

This makes me ovulate.

This makes me ovulate.

Every trail in this town has a unique and personal meaning to me.

As I’m sure you know by now, the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A turns me into a lesbian (as evidenced from this post in which I got super gay over my dear friend Kristina).

The North Mountain National Trail 44, however, makes me want to get pregnant…and possibly buy a dog.

That’s because this trail is filled with families. Families with toddlers, tweens, and adolescents climbing the wide, paved access road that constitutes most of the trail. With the families come the dogs and I’m often cooing over the chihuahuas, Labradors, and baby pit bulls. Sleeping babies are frequently seen with Mom laboriously pushing the stroller up the merciless incline. And we usually spy an old couple holding hands as they shuffle their way to the summit.

On this short trail that has zero flat parts, we’re all flushed and sweaty as we huff our way up the mountain. To see so many people turning this shared struggle into a family event is, well, it’s just nice.

As a rule, I admire anyone (no matter their age, size, or hiking shoe choice) who hits a trail. Especially this trail…it may be short but, man, it can hurt if you’re having an off day.

We climbed up to the summit the other night after a rainy day and the place was packed with the usual suspects. And just as I do every time I hike this trail, I imagined myself as the new mom shedding off the baby weight, the proud parent watching their energetic 9-year-old jog ahead like it’s nothing (seriously, how do they do that?), and the wrinkly old lady hiking with her wrinkly old husband.

It’s reassuring. Especially at a time when women my age fear losing so much with marriage and family (independence, career, identity, exercise, and hot rockin’ body), it’s nice to know there’s a trail that’s waiting for me — no matter which stage of life I’m in.

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  this trail on my Everytrail.com site. My book, Take a Hike Phoenix, is hitting bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

The National Trail

IMG_1958

This was just the beginning…

I’m cuddling up on the couch with my blanket, laptop, and favorite cat right now.

My mind keeps wandering, however, to the National Trail.

The National Trail travels the South Mountain Park from end to end. It’s like walking from 40th Avenue to 40th Street. Except that you have to walk up and down a bunch of mountains to get there. It’s 14.7 miles total. I haven’t yet calculated the elevation gain but it felt like 2,000 feet (cumulative).

This is Lou.

This is Lou.

IMG_1997

This is Stephanie (she’s the best).

Lou, our friend Stephanie, and I met before sunrise at the park’s Central Ave entrance Sunday. After searching for scorpions with a black light, cramming bagels in our mouths, and taking a final bathroom break with the luxury of running water (in most cases), we set out from the west end of the park.

Within the first few miles, we started climbing. And climbing. And climbing some more. It wasn’t until mile 9 when the endless pattern of steep ascents, descents, and then ascents to climb back up the elevation we had just trekked down finally let up.

This was unexpected. I had told my hiking companions that I anticipated just one major climb that would last 2 miles. Oops.

Close to the Kiwanis Trail.

Close to the Kiwanis Trail.

We took it like a bunch of pros. Especially Stephanie. She has joined us on a few hikes throughout this book project and though she’s in great shape, she hasn’t had the 70+ hikes Lou and I have enjoyed to refine her endurance. In spite of this, she pushed on without complaint and stayed at our heels the entire time. I feel funny saying this (because I’m not her parent), but I was so damn proud of her.

In fact, I was proud of all three of us. No one freaked out. No one got angry. No one even got grumpy.

Instead, we joked and chatted (between heavy breathing) for the entire 7.5 hours.

There aren’t very many people who can pull off 7.5 hours of constant exercise with such finesse. I feel lucky to know at least two.

Seriously...what is IN THAT HOLE?

Seriously…what is IN THAT HOLE?

“I almost want to say that hike on Sunday was spiritual,” Stephanie texted to me today.

I completely agree.

Writer’s Note: Upon further inspection, this trail was actually 14.7 miles. Not 15.5 as originally written.

Neglect

Nose to the grindstone.

Nose to the grindstone.

The photo above illustrates the reason behind my recent and ongoing neglect of this blog.

If you don’t understand what the photo above means, read about it here (each stripe represents a completed hike review for my book).

I’m so tired.

Dad Knows Best

And here it is...still limping along.

And here it is…still limping along.

I should not be blogging right now. I should be writing my book.

I’m in the total-freak-out stage of this writing project. Now that I’m settled into my corporate job (I’m very happy there), I’ve developed a new discipline to devote 9-10 hours per week to this book. I can only hope this is enough.

I’m stressed to the max.

But I’ve been writing this blog post in my head for months and it’s time to get it out.

It’s about my camera.

When I graduated college in 2006, this Canon Power Shot A540 was my Dad’s gift to me. I’m going to send the link to this blog to my dad later today so he’ll soon learn that this was so not what I wanted. At the time, I had given my then-fiance very specific instructions to tell my dad that I wanted an iPod.

Instead, I got the camera.

“I figured that, with your new job at the New Times, you could use a camera for your work when you’re out reporting stories and such,” Dad told me.

Then I started my job and quickly accepted the assignment to take pictures of party people once a week for a column called Club Candids. I despised the gig but the money was way too good to pass up. This camera was with me all the way. It somehow survived bars, clubs, and dance nights each week for three years solid.

Today, the lens is missing its cover. The screen on the back is scratched to hell. The flash only works if you flick the bulb five times with your finger before you take the photo. The wrist strap is so caked with dried booze and grime, the woven threads are now all leathery and gross.

I promised myself I’d buy a new camera so I could take excellent photos for my book. I planned to use my sad, sad Canon only for the first few hikes. But I got busy and lazy and I didn’t want to do the research needed to buy a new camera.

Today, I’m more than halfway done with my list of hikes and this beat up little thing has captured some gorgeous photos…some are even good enough for the cover (according to my publisher’s Graphics Coordinator).

Dad knows best!

Visualize This

This photo makes me think of Phoenix. Then I think of the silhouetted power lines I often see in the evening. That makes me remember a tattoo that a friend of mine has on his forearm. And then I contemplate how the imagery of tall palm trees and power lines against a skyline has been adopted by so many Phoenicians as a symbol of life in Phoenix. That leads me to wonder about our collective identity as a city…and then I remember that most of us could care less. Which makes me think about how Phoenix natives never talk to their neighbors. I COULD GO ON. All this happens because I look at a simple photo.

I’m taking a break from making maps.

It’s actually my favorite part of “writing” this book (I guess since I enjoy it, I’m not really justified to take a break but whatever). For every hike, I must turn in a map so the cartography department can accurately create another map that’s included with the trail review.

I like to do it because I get to make pictures. I use the image from my EveryTrail app or a scanned trail map and then I add arrows and notes using Snagit.

It’s not a far cry from what I do in my current day job in which I must find the most meaningful way to accurately communicate complicated information.

In short, that means turning most things into pictures.

I’m probably betraying my kind here, but I believe that humans are much more sophisticated in reading the pervasive visual language than the traditional written language.

Don’t argue with me. I learned this in my Art History classes.

They say the average modern-day American views [it's too late in the evening to look up the estimated number right now but think about every billboard, computer icon, television show, packaging design for products, etc. you see each day] a whole shit-ton of images in a day. Compare that to the actual words you read in a 24-hour period.

See what I’m getting at?

When my book comes out, I can expect most “readers” to flip through the pages, scan the photos, glance at the maps, and maybe, maybe read a caption or two.

I can’t blame them. I do the exact same thing.

Taking that into consideration, I suppose I shouldn’t feel so guilty about busying myself with map-making in order to avoid the writing.

Hot, Hot, Hot

By SashaW on flickr Creative Commons.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

On Tuesday, I hiked 2.6 miles with my mother. We started at 5 p.m. and the entire hike was in full sun. The high for the day was 112 degrees.

We survived. And we did it without complaining.

In fact, I rarely complain about the heat anymore. I’m more likely to get hostile about the “freezing” air conditioner.

Truth is, living in the heat isn’t that difficult…as long as you adopt these guidelines:

Tip #5: Give up on Being Clean Cute

It’s pretty much impossible to achieve the powdery, fresh-from-the shower look  in this kind of heat. I find that the only time I’m really bothered by the AZ summer temperatures is when I am trying to look cute in that sterile, clean way. So, instead, I channel the sexy power of a lady athlete, musician on stage, or dancer. I usually wear my hair up, adopt a cotton wardrobe, and scale back on the makeup. This way, if I get sweaty or flushed, I’m going more for a dewy, badass, just-got-done-with-a-roll-in-the-hay kind of look.

Tip #4: Embrace the Sweat

In my younger years, I was horrified if my perspiration created any kind of sweat stain on my clothing. Today, I’m not so freaked out. I try to avoid it by living in tank tops but if I do get a sweaty patch, screw it. It happens. When it’s 115 degrees out, there’s no shame in it. And, chances are, the dry air will soon suck moisture out of your fabric.

Tip #3: Adopt Ignorance

As soon as June hits, ignore all thermometers. Don’t watch the weather report or check your smartphone for the forecast. If you don’t look at the numbers, every single day will feel exactly the same: hot (with a shrug). If you see the numbers, however, you’ll only adopt a very tangible, nagging way to measure your misery.

Tip #2: Don’t Mention It

Really? It’s hot outside you say? I’m surprised to hear that.

Tip #1: Get Out

Get out of the house. My #1 defense against the heat is to get out in it and do stuff. Go on a walk, do yard work, hike, whatever. Just go out into the heat and gain some experience dealing with it. Before you know it, your body will acclimate, your misery will subside, and you’ll save money on your electricity bill because you won’t be cranking down your AC like a madman.

There. I release you from your Phoenix summer misery. To celebrate, listen to this.

Public Speaking

Brisbane City Council, flickr creative commons

Yeah! This is what I felt like on the inside!

Turns out, I’m not afraid of public speaking.

I figured out a great trick: I have to know what the heck I’m talking about.

Last week, I got a last-minute invite to talk about blogging at a meeting with the Gilbert Small Business Alliance.

With less than 24 hours to prepare, I whipped up an outline. While Lou cleaned the dishes that night, I rehearsed my presentation.

And, because my husband is awesome, when I “opened the floor” for some Q&A, he asked multiple questions and spoke in a different character voice each time.

I expected I’d be super nervous before the presentation. Instead, I was just slightly sweaty as I blabbed in front of the small crowd of florists, mediators, floor cleaners, and other independent business owners.

Rather than run the risk of offending someone with my godless, eff-word-filled blog, I mostly concentrated on The Root Word, a blog that I edit for the fantastic hair experts at The Root Salon.

The audience asked some really great questions, shared their own blog ideas, and I received some great feedback from the organizers. All in all, I think it went well.

Of course, the big win for me was not feeling terrified.

And, as a bonus, I now have an outline so I can easily write a blog about blogging.