Hiking For Families – Upcoming Presentation

This family is extremely fertile.

This family is extremely fertile.

Isn’t that family cute?

Bring your cute family this Saturday to the North Mountain Visitor Center where I’ll be presenting my list of recommended trails in the area that are great for families.

Family Hiking by Lilia Menconi

Saturday, March 7, 9:30 a.m.

North Mountain Visitor Center: 12950 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85029

After the presentation, be sure to stick around for a chance to meet other local authors. I’ll have books available for sale and signing. Hope to see you there!

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The February 20’s Are Almost Here

A professional lady reflects on her busy professional life on her after-work hike.

A professional lady reflects on her busy professional life on her hike after a long day of being a professional.

Every year, I get very excited for February 20th. Because in Phoenix, this means the sun starts setting after 6 p.m.

And for a professional lady (by position, not personality) like me, this means I get to hike after work.

In the winter months, the sun is sadly setting during my commute home and there’s no realistic chance that I’ll get out on a trail before dark. So I’m limited to weekend hikes only and that is not helping my postpartum body image AT ALL.

But starting at the February 20’s, I can hike every night if I want to!

And you can, too. Here are my tips for getting the most out of evening hikes in the February 20’s (and through the spring).

Start Planning. Circle February 20th on your calendar and spend the next few weeks figuring out which trail(s) will work best for you. Visit them on the weekends so you become familiar with them in advance.

Consider Location. I’ve found that choosing a trailhead that’s close to the workplace (which may not be close to home) is best. This minimizes the drive time while the precious sun is still up.

Don’t Get Crazy. The average hiking rate on a moderate trail for an adult is 2 miles per hour. So don’t get over-ambitious with the mileage because it gets dark quick out there, friends.

Do The Math. Barbara hikes at 2.3 miles per hour. If the sun sets at 6:17 p.m. and Barbara arrives at the trailhead at 5:05 p.m., how many miles can she hike before the sun goes down? (You’ll want to do similar calculations for yourself.)

Get the Gear. When you leave your house in the morning, grab your gear (backpack, hiking clothes, water bottle, and shoes). As soon as you’re off the clock, it’s time to get naked.

Get Naked. Having to change your clothes away from home is the big drawback here. You’re either changing clothes at a workplace bathroom risking spandexed-butt exposure to co-workers or you’re changing clothes in your car at a trailhead risking indecent exposure. Take your pick.

Give It Up. If work runs late and you don’t get out the door in time, abandon your plans. Maybe go for a jog around your neighborhood instead. Hiking in the dark can be dangerous on steep or unfamiliar trails. Don’t get stupid.

Be Safe. I have to say this: Know the trail, pack plenty of water (1L for every 2 miles), and tell someone where you’re hiking.

Don’t know where to go? Leave me a comment, tell me where you work, and I’ll find something for ya.

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Trail 100 East From North Mountain Visitor Center

Aw, pretty...

Aw, pretty…

Forgive me if this blog isn’t as clever as my others.

I’m a mother now. I have to make certain sacrifices. Because I have exactly 27 minutes until the nanny goes home.

Good writing may have gone by the wayside but good hiking has not. Now that baby is no longer a screaming, writhing, constantly-nursing newborn, I’ve been strapping her into a carrier and hitting the dirt.

Just us girls on the trail.

Just us girls on the trail.

On the very best day of my motherhood so far, baby and I set out alone to explore Trail 100 heading east from the North Mountain Visitor Center (make sure to check that place out — great exhibits for kids, a bookstore, a library, jewelry for sale, and special events).

This hike is yet another little itty bit of the great Trail 100 which stretches end to end in the Phoenix Mountains totaling 11 miles. The hike described here is considerably shorter. It wanders under 7th Street via a tunnel, past the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Hills Resort, and into some of the most serene desert you can find in the middle of the city.

After a recent rain, the place was covered in green grass and swollen cacti. I loved it out there as I worked up a decent sweat climbing a few small inclines. Baby slept the whole time, and the smell of horse crap from the neighboring stables only lasted for a few minutes. Pretty awesome.

Trail 100 East From North Mountain Visitor Center

Distance: 1.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 180 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Location: North Mountain Visitor Center in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)

What a nice little stretch this is.

What a nice little stretch this is.

Description:

From the southeast corner of the parking lot at the North Mountain Visitor Center, find Trail 100 clearly marked by large signs. Hang a left to follow the trail east and you’ll immediately travel through the tunnel that runs under 7th Street. With the Pointe Hilton resort to your right and horse stables to the left, you’ll have to travel a few feet to escape the odd aromatic mix of chlorine and horse manure. This doesn’t last long and before you know it, Trail 100 opens up into a gorgeous desert landscape. From here, just follow the signs for Trail 100 which will keep you veering and turning to the right as you bypass two trail intersections. At the 2nd intersection, you’ll hang a sharp right to follow the Trail 100 sign and the trail will narrow as you begin to climb up rocky terrain. Once the trail reaches a small saddle (at just under a mile), feel free to call it a day and turn around.

From what I experienced, this allows for about an hour’s nap for the 4 month old strapped to your chest.

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

I’m Back! And I’m Speaking at REI!

Well, hello.

When you are your own unpaid blogger, you get a really generous self-imposed maternity leave.

Now that I’m getting back to the swing of things (oh, who am I kidding? There’s no going back!), I’ve booked a presentation at REI to talk all about maternity and postpartum hiking. Read below for details and links.

Cute, right?

Cute, right?

Hiking for Moms and Moms To Be

Thursday, January 22nd at the Tempe REI location

Thursday, January 29th at the PV REI location

Description: Attention all moms who love the outdoors! Award winning writer and local hiking book author, Lilia Menconi, presents her most recent discoveries of local trails that are pregnancy and postpartum friendly. With an emphasis on the Phoenix Mountains, Menconi will review her favorite hikes she recommends per trimester and for moms who are ready to hit the trails with a baby in tow. Lilia Menconi is the author of Take a Hike Phoenix, a hiking guidebook featuring 81 trail reviews of hikes within a two hour drive of the city. She recently hiked her way through pregnancy and is now testing the trails as a new mom. She’ll share her experience as well as basic safety information, needed gear, and a few personal stories of triumphs (and the occasional mishap).

Be sure to register at the links above and I hope to see you there!

Guest Blog: Kate Crowley with REI’s Advice for Phoenix Summit Challenge

Lilia is currently not taking a hike. Hopefully, she’s taking a nap. In the meantime, fellow hiker and Phoenix lover, Kate Crowley offers up some fantastic info about the upcoming Phoenix Summit Challenge. Thanks Kate!

The Phoenix Summit Challenge...can't wait!

The Phoenix Summit Challenge…can’t wait!

Liz Smith from South Mountain Park and Joe Impecoven Phoenix Outdoor Programs & Outreach Market Coordinator REI Tempe gave an awesome and extensive presentation at REI Tempe (Phoenix Summer Challenge- Are You Ready?) in early August about attempting the Phoenix Summit Challenge. Many of you followed Lilia’s rainy journey last year and this year, I’m signed up to do the PHX 4 for the challenge as well…so needless I say, I paid attention.

Here are ten takeaways from the presentation.

1.  Buy (and train in ) your shoes now.

You definitely don’t want to wait to break shoes in. So buy shoes or boots now, get to your training, and feel more than comfortable the day of the event. Best part: If you’re an REI member, you can return any pair of shoes purchased to the store, within a year’s time, if they don’t work out.

2.  Find a driver or carpool.

This is a great tip especially if you’re doing all 7 summits. There’s lots of driving and towards the end of the day you could be quite tired. Plus, your only “downtime” is in the car. If you can carpool with a friend, it will make parking easier and the two of you can switch off on driving.

3.  Walk everyday

Joe recommended walking everyday, even if it was just walking your dog. Of course, this is on top of any hiking you’ll be doing. This helps you get used to being on your feet for long periods of time.

4.  Practice your day

Yep, make sure you practice your hydration and nutrition well before the day of the challenge. And on the day of the challenge void trying anything new! If you haven’t been using it all along in training, don’t try it for the first time during the challenge. This includes avoiding mistakes like adding in fizzy drinks to your regiment suddenly or wearing a brand new shirt. Also, test your gear; especially water holding packs or bottles.

You can't know it until you do it!

You can’t really know it until you do it…and that’s the fun part.

5.  Dress in layers

Last year the weather was cold and rainy. Bring layers! The summit may be cold or windy and if you’re drenched in sweat, you’ll shiver all the way down. Pack a lightweight, crushable rain or wind layer.

6.  Use your car as home base

Keep a cooler, snacks, water and changes of clothes/socks in the car. Your car is your home base and can transport all of your needed items so you don’t need a heavy pack.

7.  Travel the course

Before the challenge, try doing a few of the hikes back to back. This will familiarize you with the course and with driving routes.

8.  Sunscreen

Yes we’re desert dwellers, and we know SPF is important. But Joe made a point that some higher level SPFs (50+) contain ingredients that can actually sit over pores and trap in heat. Choose your sunscreen carefully.

9.  Try training on large, loop trails

Get in a long hike on a loop trail. Go for a 10 to 15 miles hike on a series of trails or a loop trail (Lilia includes several in her book) so that if you get out there and decide to change mileage based on how you’re feeling or for weather, you’ll have options.

10.  Be courteous

Liz noted that there are some participants who run the race! If you are on the descent, step aside for those heading up. If you see someone running (and it’s not your team), move out of the way!

Kate is a writer and PR and marketing consultant from Phoenix. She’s a runner, swimmer and tri-athlete in training. You can follow her adventures, travels and hikes @katecrowley on Instagram and twitter. See what she’s written most recently at fitbottomedgirls.com and phoenixnewtimes.com.

Maternity Hike: The Final Days on Trail 100

Strangers no longer hesitate to comment on my pregnancy.

Strangers no longer hesitate to comment on my pregnancy.

“It’s a long walk back if you start having labor pains!” a friendly man blurted at me on the trail the other day.

Now that I’m just two weeks away from my due date, hiking has become less like hiking and more like a slow waddle through the dirt. Lately, I’ve been hitting a very, very, very simple trail that’s near my home (and my birthing center) and I only hike with my husband at sunset.

And I only do this on days when I really feel up for it.

On that note, I probably won’t be up for hiking during the next couple months (though I will be up all hours of the night with a newborn baby). Rest assured, I’ve got a guest blog in the works (thank you Kate Crowley!) and will be back on the trail as soon as I can.

Trail 100 to The Bench

Distance: 1.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 25 feet-ish (maybe less)

Difficulty: Ridiculously easy

Late Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate (because if it’s strenuous, time to head home and put your feet up)

Location: North Mountain Visitor Center in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

I re-used a map from another blog post. But you have to forgive me because I'm super pregnant.

I re-used a map from another blog post. But you have to forgive me because I’m super pregnant.

Description:

To start the hike, find the signs to Trail 100 on the south side of the North Mountain Visitor Center building. Head west along Trail 100. At 0.3 mile, Trail 100 and Trail 306 combine and you’ll follow the shared trail south. When you encounter a small clearing with a bench and the trail marker for Trail 101 (at 0.7 mile total), it’s time to turn around.

But make sure you sit on the bench for a minute and hydrate. Because you’re super pregnant.

(If you’re not super pregnant, click here for a longer version of this hike).

 

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.

Upcoming Event: See Me at North Mountain Visitor Center

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

This is me at my last “public appearance”. This time around, I will look much more pregnant.

If you missed out on my book signing and speaking events for Take a Hike Phoenix at the beginning of the year, fear not! I’ll be getting up in front of a crowd to talk about hiking very soon. Wanna come?

Here are the details…

Brown Bag Workshop: Lilia Menconi presents “Top Ten, One to Ten”

Saturday, August 2nd

Noon to 1pm

FREE

North Mountain Visitor Center

12950 North 7th Street

This event is just for fun so there’s no expectation to purchase a book or get it signed. You can just show up, bring a snack, listen, and leave without talking to anyone!

(Or, if you like, you can bring or buy a book and I’ll happily sign it for you. No pressure. I swear.)

I’ll be sharing my go-to presentation about my top 10 favorite hikes in The Valley that vary from one mile to ten miles. I’ll also run through a few tips for beginners, hiking safety, and trail etiquette guidelines.

Hope to see you there!

Safety Guide for Phoenix Summer Hiking

With the recent tragic death of a 23-year old on Camelback Mountain, safety on the trail has been on my mind.

I never want to discourage anyone from hiking. But in the summer, it’s tricky business. Doable…but you have to know what you’re doing.

In addition to the general safety tips hikers should practice (carry a first-aid kit, map, etc.), these are the rules I recommend following when hiking in the heat:

This is what one liter looks like. In the summer, it's good for about 2 miles. That's it, no more.

This is what one liter looks like. In the summer, it’s good for about 2 miles. That’s it, no more.

Rule #1: Water, Water, Water, Water…

Water! So I generally bring one liter for every two miles. And I always, always have an extra liter in my pack. How much is a liter? Excellent question. It can be answered easily by checking the label on your water bottle. I’m making you work for this answer because checking your water is an important part of your preparation for hiking safely.

(Or you can look at the picture to the left.)

Regardless of how much you bring, the general rule is to turn back when your water supply if halfway gone.

It’s important to note that one-liter-to-two-miles ratio is NOT sufficient for a hike in mid-day summer. Which brings me to my next rule…

Rule #2: ONLY hike at sunrise or sundown.

For evening hikes (my preference), I get to the trailhead about 30 minutes to one hour before sundown. This way, I’m catching the serenity of sunset as I watch the desert come alive. Depending on your fitness level and the hike’s difficulty, you can potentially fit in 2-4 miles.

For morning hikes, I’d follow the same timeline and hit the trail about an hour prior to sunrise if you can. If you do the morning hike, keep this in mind: unlike a sunset hike, weather conditions increase in intensity the longer you are out. So make sure you know what you’re in for.

Rule #3: Know Your Trail

This is a rule that is downright critical to follow in the summer. Stick with the trails you’re already frequenting so you don’t accidentally make a wrong turn or get in over your head.

Know the mileage. Know the elevation gain. Get familiar with what 2 miles with an elevation gain of 1200 feet feels like to you (that’s Piestawa Peak, btw). Google, read, buy a hiking book. Start with easy hikes and gain an understanding of your body. Know yourself, know your trail and you’ll know safety.

Rule #4: Stay in the Shade

If you follow rule #3, you’ll know where to go for good shade.

During the winter months, I scout trails that have excellent evening shade potential. Relying on vegetation for shade is a joke so take note of trails that trace the appropriate side of a mountain or canyon wall for the time of day you plan to hike.

Example: For evening hikes, hit a trail that follows the east side of a mountain or canyon wall (blocking the sun when it sets in the west).

I’m partial to the Phoenix Mountains so my favorites are the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A, North Mountain, and Trail 100 from the North Mountain Visitor Center. If I’m in the South Mountain area, the Kiwanis Trail also does the trick.

Glorious shade (and quartz)!

My pre-pregnant body celebrating the glorious shade (and quartz) on Trail 8A in the Phoenix Mountains.

Rule #5: Be Self Aware

I have been a total MORON on the trail many times. I”m almost ashamed to admit that it took many frightening moments of almost overheating on the trail for me to finally know how to swallow my pride and cut a hike short.

Don’t be like me. Accept that some days, things are just off. Maybe you had too many beers the night before or not enough protein in your breakfast or the moon is pulling at your chakras wrong…whatever!

If you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it. Turn around and head back to the car while your brain is still working well enough to make good decisions. Then resolve to redeem yourself when you’re feeling 100%.

Rule #6: Avoid Exploring New Trails in the Summer

Unless you are a super-pro survivalist who excels at reading trails, maps, and a compass, just save the exploring for better weather. And if you’ve never hiked before in your entire life, summer may not be the time to try out this hobby (unless you have a trusted, experienced friend to guide you).

Rule #7: Don’t Rely on Your Cell Phone

Dead battery, lack of reception, or a drop down the side of a mountain can turn that lifeline into a hunk of useless plastic. Bring one, sure, but assume that you’ll have to survive without it.

Rule #8: Help Tourists

A few summers ago, we had cousins visiting from Ohio. They mentioned they were planning to hike Camelback Mountain the next day, starting around 10 a.m.

Uh, no.

We convinced them to hike with us. Start time was 6 a.m. and we chose a less challenging trail. We also insisted they borrow our extra hydration pack.

“When we started, I thought I was going to die!” my cousin said when the hike was over. They both drank all the water in their packs. Just imagine what would have happened on Camelback at 10 a.m. Scary!

It’s your responsibility as a Phoenix hiker and host to visitors to provide the right guidance. When possible, do the hike with a visitor so they start early enough, bring enough water, and stay on the correct trail.

Safety aside, your dog deserves to look this adorable.

Safety aside, your dog deserves to look this adorable.

Rule #9: Pay Attention to Other Hikers…Including Dogs

If you see someone on the trail who is flushed, dazed, or looking ill, approach them. Tell them they look like they’re overheating and ask if they are feeling okay. Offer water. Offer to sit with them in the shade until their mind clears. You may have to insist.

Overheating messes with your brain BIG TIME. So if a person is in that state, they will often lose the ability to make sound decisions. This is why it’s a good idea to have a hiking partner. I don’t think that hiking alone shouldn’t be an option but know that you’re much safer if you have a pal looking out for you.

When it comes to dogs on the trail, please know that your dog is less capable of regulating his body temperature. Whenever you are thirsty, your dog is, too. And be mindful of how hot the trail is on their paws! Those things can blister, burn, and bleed if they are out too long on hot surfaces.

Consider buying dog paw booties. I mean, they’re adorable anyway so why not?

Rule #10: Buy My Book

I couldn’t think of a 10th tip so here’s a link to buy my book which has an entire chapter dedicated to hiking safety.

Did I forget anything? Want to add your advice? Leave a comment!

Maternity Hiking: Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Things get super pretty right away on the Marcus Landslide Trail.

Things get super pretty right away on the Marcus Landslide Trail.

On the heels of my recent hiking accomplishment to Tom’s Thumb, we made another visit to the area to explore a decidedly less challenging, less popular, and just as beautiful trail called the Marcus Landslide Trail.

This interpretive 4-mile jaunt was stunning. With only 575 feet in elevation gain spread over 4 miles, it feels flat for most of the trail. We looked at rock formations, read the educational signs about the landscape, and enjoyed a clear-shot view to Four Peaks during the entire hike.

No snakes, no wind, and no fear-filled fantasies this time around. Just good hikin’ and good conversation. Bring a friend or a kid on this hike to really enjoy it. You won’t meet many other people on this one!

Shrooms.

Shrooms.

Marcus Landslide Trail

Distance: 4 miles

Elevation Gain: 575 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Location: Tom’s Thumb Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)

Easy enough, eh?

Easy enough, eh?

Description:

From the Tom’s Thumb trailhead and parking lot, enter the trail system at the signed Marcus Landslide trail, located on the southeast end of the parking lot (before you reach the shaded structure with the bathrooms).

Follow the trail east as it traces a wide, flat path. The many trail signs along the way will keep you on the right path as you pass Caballo and Feldspar Trails in the first half mile. At about 0.5 mile, the trail will veer right (southeast) and continue this direction until it bumps into the McDowell Mountain Regional Park border.

Simply stay the course and follow the signs for Marcus Landslide Trail heading south until 1.7 miles when you reach the Marcus Landslide Loop Trail. Trace the loop for about half a mile and it spits you right back out onto the Marcus Landslide Trail where you can begin your return leg.

You’ll encounter a few spurs here and there where you will discover informative signs like the one pictured below. Soak it up. Education is a good thing.

Excellent question.

Excellent question.

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.

Hiking, Birthing, and Bravery

That's ME!

That’s ME!

So I’m in my second trimester and I got extraordinarily lucky: I feel waaaaaay better.

And as soon as T2 hit, I started attending a prenatal yoga class which focuses on preparation for my upcoming natural childbirth. In class, myself and a handful of other pregnant ladies challenge our physical and mental stamina with endless squatting and compromising positions. This builds our confidence to help remove the fear that is often associated with childbirth. It also probably looks hilarious.

After just one class, something clicked.

I was emotionally inspired. So I decided to hike to Tom’s Thumb. Purely because the idea scared me.

I called my most trusted hiking partner and we hit the trail on a beautiful day. She generously matched her pace to mine (a super effing slow pace) and was sure to talk the whole way up so I wouldn’t use precious cardio for chatting. We took breaks, we ate snacks, and I chugged water in spite of my compromised bladder.

It's a beautiful hike, it is!

It’s a beautiful hike, it is!

The hike to Tom’s Thumb isn’t the most brutal in town (I only rated it as “moderate” in my book). But it’s a healthy 4-5 miles with a 1,300 foot elevation gain. It’s not enough to make you sore for days but it definitely makes you crave a beer (or three) after you get off the trail.

As we painstakingly climbed the switchbacks, I struggled, sure. But I also felt strong.

To my surprise, my hiking partner suddenly turned to me and blurted, “This is too much for you. We need to turn around.” She explained that I was breathing too heavy, I was hiking too slow, and that she was really worried.

Never, ever, in the history of our years of hiking together, has she said something like this to me.

I felt afraid. If she didn’t believe I could make it, how could I?

I quickly decided to bury my fear and convinced her I was fine.

But from there on out, the break in resolve wore on me and I wrestled with anxiety. Each time I’d catch a breath wrong, I’d imagine myself passing out on the trail with a dangerous drop in blood pressure. When we stopped to allow a rattlesnake to cross, I pictured poisonous fangs under every rock, ready to strike. On the final leg of the ascent, my balance was blasted by relentless wind so I often saw myself tumbling down the side of the mountain to land in a bloody heap.

I wasn't the only one who had to be brave. Kristina had to believe me when I told her I would be okay.

I wasn’t the only one who had to be brave. Kristina had to believe me when I told her I would be okay.

This is not uncommon for me — these images cross my mind with almost every hike. But dealing with my morbid imagination is soooooo much easier when I’m the only person in my body.

Oddly enough, I coped by thinking about the birth. My fear-filled imagination on this hike was surely childsplay compared to what I’ll torture myself with when I begin laboring.

So the hike turned into a scrimmage of mind control. I practiced ignoring the things my mind was screaming in order to listen to what my body was saying. Lucky for me, my body was saying it was perfectly fine. In fact, it was happy to be outside, moving, and absorbing so much oxygen.

Eventually I made it to Tom’s Thumb. And I felt really, really good.

I haven’t told very many people that I’m planning for a natural childbirth. Because almost every time I tell someone, I see a wide-eyed expression followed by some kind of negative comment. Each time, I feel a small crack in my confidence.

I just have to keep doing what I did on Tom’s Thumb: Ignore the noise and trust my body. Obviously, it knows what it’s doing and it will guide me to the right place.

 

Tom’s Thumb Trail

Distance: 4-5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,325 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Strenuous — Probably only do-able in 2nd trimester

Location: Tom’s Thumb Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)

Full trail description is available on page 241 in Take a Hike Phoenix!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.