Hike from the Heart

I hearted the sh*t out of this hike.

I hearted the sh*t out of this hike.

A few weeks ago, my bookshelf exploded.

Had you walked into my office, you would have seen a 32-year-old woman on her knees, desperately rummaging through a messy pile of unfolded trail maps and dog-eared hiking books.

I was trying to pull together my anniversary “gift” for Lou. And I only had 45 minutes before the guy got home from work.

Leather? Crystal? They can suck it. I give you the desert.

Leather? Crystal? They can suck it. I give you the desert.

Lou and I decided that instead of purchasing leather or crystal gifts for one another, we would celebrate our 3rd anniversary with a hike. This is a part of our strategic effort to form special experiences and sentimental memories together. This is also indicative of my many child-of-a-divorce hangups but, whatever. It’s worked pretty well so far.

So there I was, flipping through maps, failing to find any trails remotely resembling a heart (how about a hike shaped like a pickle instead?), and beginning to believe that I should abandon this whole idea.

Dear City of Scottsdale, Thanks for this. You've done well. (Brown's Mountain)

Dear City of Scottsdale, Thanks for this. You’ve done well. (Brown’s Mountain)

Then I found it. And I’ve never been so grateful for the City of Scottsdale.

Just a couple weeks prior, I attended Scottsdale’s Brown’s Ranch Trailhead Grand Opening Event in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Northern Region. True to Scottsdale style, the trailhead is gorgeous, shiny, and well-equipped (running water and real bathrooms woo-hoo!). They even provide free, paper trail maps.

On this particular trail map, I found my “Hike from the Heart”. At 5.5 miles, the loop was the perfect length — time enough for solid conversation without hitting my six mile grumpy hour.

See that? Aw YEAH.

See that? Aw YEAH.

Because the City of Scottsdale is so generous, I had grabbed multiple maps at the Grand Opening. I quickly cut one up, traced the heart shape in red marker, then glue-sticked that sucker to the front of some other crummy card. It worked. On the morning of our anniversary, Lou thought I was a darling wife when I presented it to him.

Go me!

If you want to see photos, a trail map, and other details about the Hike from the Heart, check out my EveryTrail entry. If you want to know more about the area’s Brown’s Mountain Summit Trail or the Cholla Mountain Loop, click those links for write-ups from one of the best hiking blogs in AZ.

And, as usual, if you want the ultimate guide to Phoenix hiking, order my book, Take a Hike Phoenix.

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.

My Dirty Little Secret: This Blog

Courtesy of Rosaura Ochoa, Flickr Creative Commons.

I'm back in, baby!

I guess I write for free.

As I mentioned in my very first blog, this is something a mentor once told me I should never do.

Aside from a few co-workers and a handful of relatives, I haven’t yet shared this blog. Today, in celebration of writing my 10th blog post, I will share it on Facebook.


While I have the intellectual understanding that my blog is just a drop in the vast bucket of online content, I’m self-centered enough to consider this exposure to be a big deal.

It’s an interesting experience to write without an editor and without a team of colleagues with which I’m able to discuss ideas. Not that the Phoenix New Times was particularly nurturing, but I miss the hallway conversations that led to a sense of validation. I was always assured that at least one person in the world believed my next writing idea was good enough to put out into the world.

And in just ten dinky days of blogging, I realize that writing on my own requires more commitment on my part. Rather than living in an environment that provides advanced approval (or disapproval that probably saved me from writing stupid junk), now it’s just me pounding out words…then jamming on the backspace key almost as fast as I generate them. It’s a miracle anything gets written at all.

I’ve got a running list of blog ideas and I’m pretty excited to see what I can make of them. But I’m always tempted to link back to my old articles…the articles that filtered through the approval process of my editors. And I suppose there’s a part of me that believes/fears that I was at my best when I was at New Times and there’s really no going up from there.

Goddamn, that’s a depressing thought.

Because I don’t consider myself to have had a fantastic impact there. I was merely sufficient.

At the very least, however, this makes my husband happy. He’s my most loyal fan and followed my work even before we started dating (which was a humorous confession he made early into our courtship…he complimented me on this piece about a beer pong tournament).

See? There I go linking back again.

Shoot. While I’m in the habit, I may as well provide a few links to pieces on this blog:

Here’s a post that explains why I’m doing this in the first place called Ugh, I’m Blogging.

Check out a list of crazy crap men have said to me here.

If you want something with a little meat on its bones, read my post about contraception and the Catholic church.

Then look at this because it’s horrible (and I think it’s funny).

And thanks for reading. Seriously.