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!

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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!

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.

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 Hike: Trail 100 West from Dreamy Draw to the Saddle

Taken while on the way up the big ascent of the day. Photos for my blog make the perfect excuse to catch my breath!

Taken while on the way up the big ascent of the day. Having to take a photo for my blog provides the perfect excuse to take a break when I’m with a superior hiker.

So I’m the girl who wrote the book on hiking. I should be a powerhouse on the trail, right? Of course I’m not lately and I’ve conveniently blamed my pregnancy for my unusual shortness of breath and wimpy stamina.

It worked until a few weeks ago when I hiked with my brand new sister-in-law. She’s a big win for the family. Beautiful, intelligent, funny, charming, and adventurous. She’s also pregnant! I’m beyond thrilled. I adore all my cousins so I just love the fact that we have little cousins in the making!

I loved it, that is, until she totally shamed me on the trail. She was eight weeks pregnant at the time and made me feel like a big ol’ wimp. While I was gasping for air, she scaled the inclines like it was nothing. With my convenient excuse canceled out, I had to face the music: I haven’t been exercising enough.

(Affirmation: I’m not a terrible mother-to-be for not working out as much as other pregnant women.)

Anyway, I pathetically explored Trail 100 heading west from the main parking lot at Dreamy Draw with her. We started the trail by traveling underground through the tunnel that cuts under Highway 51. Then it was just a matter of following the Trail 100 signs until we reached a saddle. This side of the park is far less traveled and therefore, doesn’t feature the madness of trail-blazed paths that plague the park on the east side of the 51.

It may be easy to follow but I found the hike to be a challenge nonetheless with its somewhat-hefty elevation gain of about 325 feet in the first leg. In fact, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this is the toughest hike I’ve done so far during my obviously-out-of-shape pregnancy (re-reading affirmation now).

Trail 100 Portion: West from Dreamy Draw to the Saddle

I admit, this one kicked my (pregnant) butt just a little bit.

I admit, this one kicked my (pregnant) butt just a little bit.

Distance: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Location: Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

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

Description:

From the main parking lot at the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, find the large trail head on the north end. Follow the trail north for just a few feet until it splits. Take a left turn to head west and you’ll soon pass through the tunnel that travels under Highway 51 (you are now on Trail 100). Once you’ve cleared the tunnel, continue following Trail 100 up a short incline. At just 0.3 mile, notice the trail forks. Turn left to head southwest as you continue to climb.

It’s easy to follow the trail from here as it curls along the south side of a small peak. You will encounter one other fork in the trail at about 0.9 mile so veer right to remain on Trail 100 following the trail markers along the way. From here, you begin the main climb of the day which ascends about 200 feet in a very short distance (just 0.2 mile, ouch). Rest assured, it’s over quick when you reach an obvious saddle that offers views to the northeast of the McDowell Mountains and Four Peaks on a clear day. It’s the perfect place to turn around for the return trip of 1.1 mile as you retrace your steps back to main parking lot at Dreamy Draw.

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.

Book Author (Me) Chokes at Book Signing

Here I am. Trying not to be awkward. I failed.

Here I am. Trying not to be awkward. I failed.

I hate it when I say the wrong thing.

I’m just obsessive and self-critical enough to mentally churn over a comment in my mind for years (I wish I could say days). Often, my thoughts drift to review a robust roster of moments throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood in which I’ve made a complete fool of myself or blurted something inappropriate.

I’m reviewing the roster now and though I realize it would make this blog 10x better if I shared one, I can’t. I’m too ashamed.

So instead, I’ll talk about my most recent flub at my book signing the other night.

After a well-received presentation to a full room, a very nice gentleman shyly asked me to sign a copy of Take a Hike Phoenix then practically whispered, “Where would you recommend someone go around this area for a beginner hike?”

I’m probably reading too much into it but his question really touched me. This is exactly the person I want to reach! My post-book mission is to engage with other hikers (and especially people just thinking about hiking) to remove any fears so they are prepared and inspired to try something new.

I wish I could tell you I seized this opportunity.

Public speaking makes me wiggle a lot. Now I only have blurry photos.

Public speaking makes me wiggle a lot. Now I only have blurry photos.

Instead, my mind went blank and I weakly responded, “There are portions of Trail 100 that are very flat that you could take from Dreamy Draw but they’re not specifically outlined in my book so, uh, you’ll need to buy this other map and uh…you could follow my blog?”

CRINGE.

On the drive home, I felt great about the presentation but I couldn’t stop kicking myself. I should have been able to answer his question. I should have told him about Trail 8 (on page 56) from the 40th Street/Shea trailhead  and recommended he only follow it to the first bench because that would have been PERFECT for a beginner looking for a hike in the area.

And I shouldn’t be discouraging someone from trying a new trail. Even it if was an accident.

Trust me, I’ve had waaaaay worse social flubs in my time but in this case, I may have squandered a real opportunity to help someone.

“You should blog about it,” my husband said. “Then maybe he’ll see the blog and you can make it right.”

So there ya go.

Like this? If want more personal stories about my crazy emotional interpretations of life’s incidents, check out my other less hike-oriented and more PG-13-rated blog iguessiwriteforfree.com.

Maternity Hike: Clay Mine Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park

Here I am. You can sorta see my belly in this shot. I took that unborn child into a mine.

Many told me I had a baby bump in this photo. There was more than just a baby in there (if you catch my drift). Pregnancy is fun!

I saw a photo on my Instagram stream the other day of a lady who hiked 10 miles at 24 weeks pregnant.

Needless to say, it made me feel totally inadequate because I wouldn’t dream of 10 miles right now. Ugh, and I’m the girl who wrote a hiking book! Dammit, I feel shamed.

I did feel proud, however, when I hiked a short trail to bravely explore the Clay Mine in Cave Creek Regional Park. So there, I guess.

Looking up from inside the mine. Sunlight is wonderful in tight spaces!

Looking up from inside the mine. Sunlight is wonderful in tight spaces!

I didn’t know it at the onset of this hike, but exploring the Clay Mine didn’t require much bravery. Of course we were following a park ranger into the mine (don’t explore mines or caves on your own because that’s very bad) that was a measly 25-foot tunnel into a large room. The large room had an opening at the top so the whole place was drenched in beautiful daylight. I still imagined cave-ins, bat bites, and other horrors (because I’m nuts) but I’m sure anyone else would simply enjoy this unique place.

Old-timey tools were used. Only back then, they weren't old-timey they were just regular.

Old-timey tools were used. Only back then, they weren’t old-timey they were just regular.

So about the mine…it was developed during the Great Depression and excavated with primitive tools (picks, shovels, buckets, ladders, etc.). They mined the clay here that was then shipped to California and manufactured for medicinal purposes. The owner of the mine cliamed that it healed just about everything. After the mine was left by its original developers, other mining companies passed it up since it was determined that the amount of remaining product was too small. The tour includes additional history and fun facts (that I’ve forgotten already) told by the park ranger tour guide. You might also get to see the resident bat fly by if you’re lucky.

Clay Mine Trail

Distance: 1.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Difficulty: Super Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Easy

Location: Cave Creek Regional Park — Find the next Clay Mine tour in the events calendar, there’s also a park map on the site

Fee: $6 per vehicle

Online Map, Photos, Info, & Driving Directions (scroll to the lower right corner of the page)

Our brave companions. Faces pixelated to protect the innocent.

Our brave companions. Faces pixelated to protect the innocent.

Description:

After entering the gate to the park, follow signs to the Nature Center parking lot. Find the Overton Trailhead west of the Nature Center and follow the Overton Trail north. When it forks after just a few feet, turn left to head northwest, still following the Overton Trail. In no time (just 0.3 mile) you’ll find the clearly-signed turn for the Clay Mine Trail. Take a left to follow the Clay Mine Trail south and continue as it curves west. At about 1 mile, you’ll notice the clay Mine to your left. Wait for instructions from the park ranger to join the tour. If it’s a non-tour day, um, don’t go in the mine.

From the mine, turn around and retrace your steps back to the Overton Trailhead. This trail is nice and pretty but I recommend going on a Clay Mine tour day to make it worth your while. We had a whole gaggle of boy scouts and other children in the group so it seems it’s a fine trail for the family.

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.