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!

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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: Apache Wash Loop in Sonoran Preserve

So pretty!

How could I forget YOU?!?!

Good Lord.

I’ve been kicking myself for weeks because my blog has been very heavy with hikes in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

Lo and behold, as I was sifting through my EveryTrail site, I discovered that I hiked in the Sonoran Preserve over a month ago and I completely forgot to write about it. They say pregnant women are more forgetful but geez, I had no idea.

The Sonoran Preserve is in the super north Phoenix area close to Anthem. Part one of the trail system opened in 2012 — just in time for me to include it in Take a Hike Phoenix. The remainder of the preserve has since been developed into a connecting trail system so we recently headed north to check it out.

My adorable husband. Dang, he is CUTE!

My adorable husband. Dang, he is CUTE!

I’d just like to add that if we had done this prior to pregnancy, I believe I would have planned a luscious, 8-10 mile hike that traversed as much of the new park as humanly possible.

But since I’m all sorts of knocked up, we opted for a 2 mile loop starting from the Apache Wash trailhead that makes a quick lap around the Apache Vista peak.

Just a teensy little walk in the beautiful desert.

Just a teensy little walk in the beautiful desert.

Apache Wash Loop (Ocotillo Trail to Apache Wash Trail to Sidewinder Trail)

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Location: Apache Wash Trailhead in Sonoran Preserve

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

Description:

To begin the hike, enter the trail system from the northeast corner of the parking lot (past the restrooms). See the signs for the Ocotillo Trail to the left and follow the trail heading northwest. After just 0.4 mile, turn right to follow the Apache Wash Trail as it heads north.

At 0.7 mile total, this small trail ends at an intersection with the Sidewinder Trail. Veer right to follow the Sidewinder Trail heading northwest and to start the main climb of the day. Ignore the turnoff to the Apache Vista Trail (unless you’re feeling ambitious — this short spur will take you to the summit of this small peak). Soon enough, the climbing is over and you continue along the Sidewinder Trail as it curls south and ends at the Apache Wash Trailhead, completing the loop.

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.

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.

Not Safe for Hiking Blog

If you're squeamish or easily offended, don't click the link below.

If you’re squeamish or easily offended, don’t click the link below.

I try to keep it clean on this blog, I really do.

But hiking is dirty business. And when you’re a lady and you’re hiking, you have a unique set of challenges. And that can lead to some dirty conversation.

For a vulgar list of tips and tricks on how to manage your lady business on the trail, click here. If you’re squeamish or easily offended by raunchy crotch talk, please disregard.

You have been warned.

Best Solitude Hikes for Beginners in Honor of National Take a Hike Day

This Sunday (November 17th) is National Take a Hike Day!

I’m excited. But given my pathetic blog stats lately, I very much understand that not everyone is a hiking nut like me.

I get it. Exercise — an activity that requires you to wear tight clothing, grow sweat rings, and potentially expose your lack of cardiovascular endurance — is not something everyone wants to share with other humans.

So for those of you who hate getting sweaty in front of others, I propose you give one of these trails a shot. Each is easy, short, and offers plenty of privacy so you can try out this hiking thing without feeling too self-conscious.

Tip: Click the hike title for a link to its EveryTrail review and be sure to scroll to the bottom right corner of the EveryTrail page for driving directions.

You can so totally do this. I promise.

You can so totally do this. I promise.

South Central Valley: Judith Tunnell Trail in South Mountain

This is a barrier free trail. Which means it’s wheelchair friendly. I was sure to include wheelchair-friendly hikes in every chapter of my book and I regret that I did not feature this one (2nd edition, here we come!) because it really is lovely. The trail is beautifully paved and was totally deserted when I explored it with my family a few weeks ago. At just 1.3 miles total with only a few small inclines (inclines that would totally make my arms fall off if I were in a wheelchair, btw), this hike amounts to a leisurely stroll if you’re a walking person. It also features plenty of benches and shaded structures with educational plaques to help pass the time.

West Valley: Black Rock Loop in White Tank Mountain Regional Park (Free admission on National Take a Hike Day!)

Flat. Short. Deserted. Easy. There’s not much holding you back from trying this trail out. And it has two options: The Long Loop at 1.2 miles and the Short Loop at 0.5 mile. Yes, you can take as much time as you want on this little-known trail that simply walks through the flat desert around a couple large black rocks. Your biggest challenge will be avoiding the cholla that surrounds the trail.

Central Valley: Mohave Trail 200 in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Okay, so if you haven’t been to the gym lately (And why would you? Too many judgmental eyes!), this one might be a little tough. But who cares when you can openly curse your burning lungs and take as many breaks as you wish because there’s no one around to silently mock you? I’ve hiked Mohave five or six times and I think I’ve seen one other person on the trail. I assume it’s because everyone else is busy killing themselves by hiking up the neighboring Piestewa Peak. Mohave is only 0.6 mile up a mere 300 feet to a tiny perch that offers a spectacular view to South Mountain and the city below. After soaking up the scenery, you make an easy descent back to the trail head to total a scant 1.2 mile.

Blevins is so beautiful, it's CRAY.

Blevins is so beautiful, it’s CRAY.

East Valley: Blevins to Cat Peaks Loop in Usery Mountain Regional Park (Free admission on National Take a Hike Day!)

I recently took my sister-in-law on this hike in the east valley to prove to her that I wouldn’t force her into anything too hard-core. It worked. We enjoyed a breezy, 3-mile walk on the flat terrain of this desert trail that is off the radar for hikers. If you can walk across a parking lot, you can easily manage this trail. The only human contact you’ll have is with the locals who choose to enjoy this trail on horseback. So even if you’re working up a sweat, there’s no shame. At least you’re not making an animal do the heavy lifting.

North Valley: Sears-Kay Ruin Loop in Tonto National Forest

This one requires a bit of a drive. But consider the distance your insurance policy against the peering eyes of health elitists who might cruelly judge your muffin top (jerks!). At just 1 mile total, this little loop is one of my all-time favorites. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, climbing a small hill, and touring the ruins of a 900-year-old Hohokam village. With plenty of informational plaques, you’ll have all the excuses you need to take breaks between breaths (this one’s great for kids, too).

Have a happy National Take a Hike Day, everyone!

Winter Hiking in Phoenix, A Guide/Rant

Smiling doesn't mean you're happy.

Smiling doesn’t mean you’re happy.

Looking out my window this morning, I see gray clouds and a wintery-looking Phoenix.

One might think that on a day like today, a Phoenix hiker would be dying to hit the trails. It’s better to hike in the cool weather, right?

Wrong!

​This hiker prefers hiking in the summer.

Yeah, I said it.

I’d much rather trek through the baked dirt in the disgustingly hot evenings wearing practically nothing and sweating like a maniac than hike in the cold — bundled up and clammy with snot dripping from my freezing nose.

Wow. Hiking is not very attractive.

Anyway, as a hater of the chilly outdoors, I’ve come up with a list of tips/gripes to make winter hiking tolerable:

1. Layer with as many zip-up clothing options as possible
With fuzzy beanies, visors, sunglasses and other cumbersome accessories, you’re not going to want to keep pulling something over your head that musses up your hats and glasses. Zippers are your friends.

2. Bring a snot rag
With a cold nose, you’ll start to drip watery snot out of your nose. It’s super gross and it’s really freaking annoying. The only way to avoid this is to keep a snot rag on hand and constantly blow your boogers out of your head. You may as well use an old bandanna. A tissue will just get shoved into your backpack or pocket only to be discovered later. Gross.

Lou...harnessing inspiration from "The Road".

Lou…harnessing inspiration from “The Road”.

3. Bring a non-snot rag bandanna
This is essential. If you find yourself feeling too chilly around your neck or head, this thing can be fashioned into hat, ear-warmer, or scarf. Of course, do not confuse it with No. 2.

4. Cover your ears
This may only apply to me because I’ve got ugly monkey ears that poke out of my head but those things can catch a lot of wind. Then they freeze and I experience the most painful freaking headache in the world. Keep ’em fettered if you can.

5. Bring a tissue and a zip lock baggy (if you’re a girl)
Another thing I hate about hiking in the cold: you don’t sweat out your water consumption so you have to pee in the desert. This is the suckiest. Especially for chicks. And it’s not like there are big bushes in the desert you can effectively hide behind.

Again, if it’s summer, this is not a problem at all. One time I hiked a 10.5 trail in 100 degree weather and didn’t go pee once. It was beautiful. Anyway, you should be able to guess what the tissue and the zip lock bag are for…don’t litter your pee rag.

6. Remember to drink water
Duh, right? But I actually get more dehydrated on winter hikes because it’s so easy to forget to chug water when you’re not at risk of heat stroke. Plus, I don’t like to drink water on the trail because then it brings me to tip No. 5. I can’t win!

7. Bring your camera
Ok, I admit it. The desert is more beautiful in the winter sun … assuming you have time between pee breaks and snot-blowing to notice.

This blog post originally appeared on The Phoenix New Times website way back in 2010 when I had no idea I’d ever write a hiking book. I stand by what I wrote with just one caveat: winter hiking is truly spectacular because, unlike summer, I can plan glorious, 10-15 mile hikes that take all day.

Also, now that I published a book with an entire chapter devoted to safety, I feel it’s my responsibility to mention that my summer hikes only take place in the early morning or at dusk because hiking midday in the summer is too dangerous. Also, if you hike a trail of any length in 100-degree weather, please, please, please be sure to bring plenty of water. I take 3 liters for any trails over 5 miles, no matter what time of year. And when it’s warm, I take 3 liters plus a large water bottle, sometimes two. Okay, I’ll stop now!