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.

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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!



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?


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.

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

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 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!