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!

Upcoming Book Signing Events for Take a Hike Phoenix

Come to my book signing at REI stores!

Come to my book signings at REI stores!

Hey all!

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be signing copies of Take a Hike Phoenix at multiple events in the coming months. Each event features a short presentation and is followed by a book signing.

The following events take place at both REI locations. Don’t forget to bring your copy of Take a Hike Phoenix or plan to pick one up at REI the night of the event.

Please mark your calendars and click to link to register for the event. Then be sure to show up so I don’t look like a total loser. Thanks and I hope to see you there!

Don't have one yet? That's okay! They're at REI.

Don’t have one yet? That’s okay! They’re at REI.

REI Tempe
Date: Wednesday, 2/5/2014
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 PM MST
Event Fee: Free
Link to Register
1405 W Southern Ave (at Priest)
Tempe, AZ 85282
Phone:(480) 967-5494

REI Paradise Valley
Date: Thursday, 2/27/2014
Time: 6:30 – 8:00 PM MST
Event Fee: Free
Link to Register
12634 N Paradise Village Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85032
Phone:(602) 996-5400

Description: Lilia Menconi, hiker and author of the new Phoenix hiking book, Moon Take a Hike Phoenix shares her “Top 10, 1 to 10” presentation featuring photos, maps, and anecdotes of her favorite ten Phoenix-area hikes ranging from one to ten miles. Whether you want a beginner’s stroll through the desert or an all-day sweat fest, Menconi can show you the way. The presentation will be followed by a book signing of Moon Take a Hike Phoenix which includes trail reviews of 81 hikes, now available for purchase at REI.

Stay tuned for more book signing events to be announced later!

Stop Yelling and Start Hiking

I took my extended family on a fabulous hike...and then a lady yelled at my brother. What. Ever.

I took my extended family on a fabulous hike…and then a lady yelled at my brother. What. Ever.

I’ve noticed something a little off over the past few months. This hiking season I’ve been thrilled to see parking lots jam-packed with hikers ready to lace up and hit the trails.

Thrilled that is, until I see one hiker yelling at another over parking.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed two groups in a hassle about the unwritten rules for saving a parking spot. A friend recently reported that someone picked a fight with him over his parking maneuvers. And, last week, some AWFUL woman pulled up her car and gave my brother an earful because she had been waiting too long for our party of 20 family members (we had folks in town for a wedding) to finish our hike and say goodbye to one another.

Waiting in the parking lot is dangerous business. How can you yell at a guy in an AZ t-shirt? That's just wrong.

Waiting in the parking lot is dangerous business. How can you yell at this lovable guy in his AZ t-shirt? That’s just wrong!

I’m sad to report that all of these incidents occurred at the Piestewa (Squaw) Peak Parking lot.

I suspect that the nastiness is partially due to this year’s closure of the Echo Canyon Summit Trail at Camelback Mountain. The Camelback regulars have spilled over to Piestewa and it’s causing some a-holes to act like d-heads and that’s really not cool.

Though we’re all rejoicing over the recent announcement that the Echo Canyon trailhead will re-open next week, I’m worried that some of this residual rage will be carried over. There are more parking spots at Echo, sure, but the place will be packed for weeks and that means we may be in for more parking rage.

So hikers, please keep this in mind: You’re hiking to have fun. And so is that guy who’s taking “too long” to back out of his spot. Take a deep breath, have some patience, and remember why you’re out there.

Why fight over Piestewa or C-back when you have SO many options? This is Tom's Thumb. Page 241 in Take a Hike Phoenix.

Why fight over Piestewa or C-back when you have SO many options? This is Tom’s Thumb. Page 241 in Take a Hike Phoenix.

And if you don’t think you can handle the crowds at these popular trails, I have good news for you! Phoenix is filled with tremendous hikes. Pick up Take a Hike Phoenix, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles, or Cosmic Ray. Check out your options, try new trails, and experience a different adventure on the trail. There are so many more places to hike other than Piestewa or Camelback!

(See how desperate I am for this to be resolved?!?! I’m promoting other hiking books! Apologies to my publicist.)

And most of all, please stop yelling at other hikers. Because it’s totally messing with my happy-hiker-lady vibe, man!

Be safe and HAPPY (happy!) hiking!

My First Full Moon Hike

Hiking by moonlight is my new favorite thing!

Hiking by moonlight is my new favorite thing!

If you haven’t experienced a full moon hike, OHMYGOD do it!

I can’t believe it took so long for me to try this out!

(That’s sort of a lie, actually. I can totally believe it because I’m a nervous ninny. I have an overactive and morbid imagination [which I wrote about here] so when considering moonlit hikes in the past, I always came up with excellent anxieties that ultimately led to my decision to stay home. What if we’re breaking the law and we get arrested and then a local newspaper writes a story about the hiking book author that broke the law while on the trail? What if I trip, tumble down the mountain, break my leg, then start hearing the narration from I Shouldn’t Be Alive in my head? What if dangerous drug dealers/psychopaths/rapists hide out on the trail at night and we run into them and then they shoot Lou/throw me in a van for God knows what/ignore my rape whistle and rape me anyway?

You would think that the many ranger-led moonlit group hikes scheduled at the Maricopa Regional Parks would be good options for me. But I have one for that, too: What if a stranger strikes up a conversation with me and I say something stupid and then things get awkward?  Boom. Just like that. I’m staying home.)

Anyyywaaaaaayyyyy, last week on a full moon night, Lou calmed my fears and we hiked North Mountain.

This was new to the both of us. As we strapped on headlamps and laced up in the parking lot, we kept glancing at the shadowed silhouette of the mountain.

We’ve hiked North Mountain about 500 times but at night, it looked completely alien. We preferred to keep our headlamps off so we could soak up the moonlight. Sure, I caught a toe here and there on an unexpected dip in the wide trail (it’s an access road) but for the most part, my feet were confident.

Instagram in the night! You can barely see Lou on the lower right corner.

Instagram in the night! You can barely see Lou on the lower right corner.

Good thing — I was so distracted by the moonlit sights, I hardly watched my feet. The rocks cascaded new shadows, the surrounding desert plant-life carved mysterious silhouettes, and I noticed small peaks or ridges I had ignored before. And, of course, I saw the lights of the entire city sparkling in all directions. The only thing blocking out the sea of glitter were the surrounding mountains that had lost their depth in the darkness and looked like cardboard cutouts.

I admit it. I was moved.

We weren’t the only ones discovering this darkened desert. We ran into a handful of other hikers in the moonlight. As always, the people on the trail were polite and cheerful (and not rape-y at all!).

And though I’m not yet brave enough to try a rocky or narrow trail, Lou and I are officially hooked. I’ve got my heart set on Shaw Butte for our next full moon hike.

I’d love to hear more trail suggestions!

Vintage Take a Hike Phoenix

Do you follow Vintage Phoenix?

Oh, you should, you should!

They are almost solely responsible for my ability to compile the following images that constitute this blog post. These vintage postcards and photos show landmarks, mountains, and parks that are featured in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix.

North Mountain (Page 46 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1951 (Hatcher and Central)

1951 (Hatcher and Central)

Piestewa Peak (Pages 59-70 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

119??

19??

19??

19??

1930s (Arizona Biltmore)

1930s (Arizona Biltmore)

Camelback Mountain (Pages 75 & 78 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1920s

1920s

1960s (Thomas Mall)

1960s (Thomas Mall)

19??

19??

1970s

1970s

Arizona Falls (Page 81 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

Arizona Falls c.1900

Arizona Falls c.1900

Hole in the Rock (Page 84 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1907

1907

1940s

1940s

Papago Park (Page 87 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1920s

1920s

1934 (Amphitheater)

1934 (Amphitheater)

1950s

1950s

Hayden Butte aka A Mountain (Page 90 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1880s

1880s

1950s

1950s

1975

1975

South Mountain (Pages 125-144 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1960s

1960s

Holbert Trail to Dobbins Lookout in South Mountain (Page 134 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1940s

1940s

Saguaro Lake, Butcher Jones Trail (Page 162 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

1957

1957

Weaver’s Needle, Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle (Page 195 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

19??

19??

Superstition Mountains (Pages 185-204 in Take a Hike Phoenix)

19??

19??

19??

19??

Neat, right?

Dixie Mine Trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Well, gosh, I guess I could write a straight trail review for once, eh?

This hike is filled with quite little desert places.

This hike is filled with quite little desert places.

Dixie Mine Trail in McDowell Regional Park

Distance: 5.4 miles out & back

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 600 feet (or so)

Time: 2 hours-ish

The McDowell Mountains does it again!

This is just the latest trail in the McDowell Mountains that I’ve fallen for. This beautiful hike starts in a private neighborhood, strolls through the foothills of the McDowell Mountain range, and ends at the Dixie Mine. The hike is located on the southwest corner of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park and is accessed via a small park entrance. The trailhead is a small parking lot (with bathrooms) in a quiet neighborhood.

This trail is awesome!

This trail is awesome!

Start the hike by following the well-marked sidewalk path through the neighborhood for the first half mile or so. This idea turned me off at first but don’t let it sway you! It’s a nice little walk and the hike is totally worth it.

See? It's not so bad.

See? It’s not so bad.

After following signs and crossing a residential street, enter the desert and pay the $2 fee at the kiosk to enter the park. Be sure to grab a map. Then simply follow the Dixie Mine Trail for the next 2+ miles. The trail is easy to follow with frequent trail signs.

This is what the mine looks like. Pass by it then take the dirt road up to the top.

This is what the mine looks like. Pass by it then take the dirt road up to the top.

When you encounter a wide service dirt road at about 2.4 miles, turn right to continue along the Dixie Mine Trail.* You’ll pass a large pile of rock and sand marking the site of the mine. Keep an eye out for a sharp left turn to follow another service dirt road up to the mine itself which is a deep hole in the rock floor covered by a metal grate.

(We accidentally followed a shortcut [oops] that was trailblazed which I feel TERRIBLE about so please avoid that small trail and look for the dirt road.)

That’s it! When ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

That's Kristina. Mine-ing her own business.

That’s Kristina. Mine-ing her own business.

This trail is NOT featured in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, but is a strong contender for the book’s 2nd edition which will be released sometime in the next 4 years or so.

Get an interactive map and more details on my everytrail.com review. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and use the Google map tool for driving directions.

*Optional directions that make this hike 10x more awesome (but aren’t shown on the map above)

Wow, it really pays to have friends on the trail. My darling hiking buddy recently contacted me to describe an alternate route that leads to the mine entrance, petroglyphs, caves, and a waterfall (if it’s been raining). Whatever!

Here’s how to do it: Follow the trail as described above. After making a right turn on the service road to follow Dixie Mine Trail, look to the left for a small trail that enters a canyon and travels under a canopy of riparian-area trees (can’t miss them — it’s the only leafy vegetation for miles). Follow the trail along the canyon floor. Look to the right for the signed entrance to Dixie Mine. Continue and see petroglyphs (and some graffiti…grrr) to your left. You’ll see caves speckled throughout your walk. Though the trail continues, my pal ended her adventure when she reached a sheer rock wall that may or may not be a waterfall depending on recent weather. All of this happens in about 1/2 mile from the turn into the canyon.

Your body is a riparian wonderland.

Your body is a riparian wonderland.

That's a fine friend right there.

That’s a fine friend right there.

Clearly, adding this option is a must-do…and it’s a great excuse for me to revisit this hike!

Phoenix Summit Challenge: What You Need to Know

What a treat! This was taken on Summit #1 Holbert Trail in South Mountain.

What a treat! This was taken on Summit #1 Holbert Trail in South Mountain.

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you are well aware that my husband and I completed the Phoenix 4 Summit Challenge this past weekend.

This was the first year I participated in this event. And I must say, IT WAS AWESOME!

The City of Phoenix, along with their sponsors, runs this event every year. For 2013, participants could sign up for the 4, 5, or 7 Summit Challenge (the All Access Challenge was also available and includes wheelchair-friendly trails).

Naturally, I picked up a few tips along the 16 miles and 3,543 feet of elevation gain we completed (yes, I’m bragging here). So if you want to sign up next year, here’s what you should know.

Registration Begins in August & Sells Out Immediately

Be sure to follow the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association to stay in the loop for next year’s event and take note that you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot with that online registration. There are only 250 available spots in each challenge. This year, the registration for the 7 Summit Challenge sold out in 14 freakin’ minutes! The 2014 event will be the 10th anniversary of the Summit Challenge so mark your calendars now and plan to stay up until midnight the day that thing goes live. I know I will!

Dude, they had hot chocolate waiting for us! Summit #1: Dobbins Lookout from the Holbert Trail in South Mountain.

Dude, they had hot chocolate waiting for us! Summit #1: Dobbins Lookout from the Holbert Trail in South Mountain.

Try to Sign Up for the 5 Summit Challenge (At Least)

I don’t know about the other 4’s out there but I sure felt like a big ol’ wuss when I was on the trail. My friends and family may be impressed with my hiking the 4 Summit Challenge but when I was crawling up those trails with the 5’s and the 7’s, I felt like a heel. Of course, it didn’t help that when Lou and I asked a fellow hiker to take our photo on the final summit, she said, “Are you a 5 or a 7?” We had to sheepishly admit that we were “just” 4’s.

Registration Costs Money

In 2013, registration cost $75 for the Summit Challenges. All proceeds benefit trail maintenance and repair. Considering that I get to hike the City of Phoenix trails FOR FREE whenever I want, I say this is well worth it.

Kablammo! This one was the easiest of the day. Summit #2: Lookout Mountain.

Kablammo! This one was the easiest of the day. Summit #2: Lookout Mountain.

The Event Organizers Will Take Care of You

I’m a bit of a stress cadet when it comes to planning (What time should I show up? What if I can’t find parking? What if I have to pee real bad and too many people are around???) The communication from the City of Phoenix and the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association was top-notch. I signed up for their e-mail list and on the day of the event, I knew where to go, when to show up, and what to bring. Parking was a dream and each location had restrooms complete with stall doors and running water! These people seriously know what they’re doing.

Be Sure to Train

Even though we did the wimpiest of the Summit Challenges, we took the training seriously. Weeks prior to the event, we were sure to hike each of the 4 trails to familiarize ourselves with the location. The weekend prior, we hiked 3 out of 4 of the summits. Armed with practice and preparation allowed us to start the challenge feeling like capable, strong hikers. Until we were shamed for our measly 4 summits, of course.

Watch the Weather

When I started training for this, I was hiking in the heat. Then that crazy storm system rolled in and I had to reach to the back of my closet for my rarely used and  ill-fitting cold weather hiking clothes. As unattractive as I was, the rain gear, layers, and turtle fur kept me cozy and dry the entire day. Weather forecasting is a wonderful thing.

I had a super big smile for summit #3. The toughest of the day. Piestewa Peak!

I had a super big smile for summit #3. The toughest of the day. Piestewa Peak!

Pack Heavy, Travel Light

I’m no novice when it comes to all day hikes. But I’m usually on one trail with all my essential items strapped to my back. This time around, we had the luxury of hopping in and out of our car between each trail. Which meant we packed that thing with extra gear, food, drinks, clothes, and other maybe-I’ll-want-this hiking items. It was glorious. But we still managed to forget our most-needed item: extra bandanas (eye roll).

Go to the U Rock Festival

Under normal circumstances, my shyness would encourage me to skip the post-hike U ROCK Festival. This year, however, I was determined to attend so I could do a little face to face marketing for Take a Hike Phoenix. Of course I chickened out with the marketing but we had a blast at the party! We, along with other jolly hikers high from completing the challenge, stuffed our faces with delicious food from the local food trucks, cheered at the raffle give-aways (I didn’t win the $1400 REI backpacking gear prize, grrr), and drank the most delicious beer I’ve ever tasted in my life. YUM.

Embrace the Crowds

I’ll admit that the idea of hiking with 750 other people was not my idea of an ideal situation. But once I dropped my introverted attitude, I found that I was in total appreciation of my fellow hikers. The stream of folks doggedly pursuing each summit was downright inspiring. I ran into a friend from high school, a pal from work, and an old friend who now volunteers for the Central Arizona Mountain Rescue (seriously, what a badass!). I summitted Shaw Butte while chit-chatting with a dude in his 70’s, took photos of other hikers at the summits, and witnessed a blind woman (a blind woman!) climb the mountains with her two guides.

I love hikers, I really do. And I love the Phoenix Summit Challenge.

Managing a smile in spite of feeling like a wimp. Also I HATE the way the bandana in my pocket makes my stomach look all bulg-y. Ew! Summit #4: Shaw Butte.

Managing a smile in spite of feeling like a wimp. Also I HATE the way the bandana in my pocket makes my stomach look all bulg-y. Ew! Seriously, though, it was an awesome moment. Summit #4: Shaw Butte.