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!

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!

Papago Park Doesn’t Suck

I dig the buttes in Papago Park.

I dig the buttes in Papago Park.

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.

“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 disses my trails. Nobody.

The Hike That Makes Me Want to Have a Baby

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.

This makes me want to get pregnant.

This makes me want to get pregnant.

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 sentimental fool (as evidenced from this post in which I got super gushy 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.


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 all scratched up. 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 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!