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!

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!

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.

Book Signing at Changing Hands Bookstore!

Eeep! I'm so excited! This makes me feel legit.

Eeep! I’m so excited! This makes me feel legit.

So if you missed my REI events, it’s totally cool man. I’m thrilled to spread the word that my next book signing event is at the one and only Changing Hands Bookstore!

Details:
Friday, March 14th
7pm
Changing Hands Bookstore
6428 South McClintock Drive
Tempe, AZ 85283
FREE
Event Link

I will be making a short presentation prior to signing copies of Take a Hike Phoenix. Additional books will be available for purchase at Changing Hands. No RSVP is necessary but click here if you’d like to add it to your Facebook events.

Hope to see you there!

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!

The Great Eight

The L.V. Yates Trail 8 is my favorite for a quiet day in the desert.

The L.V. Yates Trail 8 is my favorite for a quiet day in the desert.

Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of  the L.V. Yates Trail 8 on my Everytrail.com page which shows just half of the trail. A detailed review of the entire 5-mile trail is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores late November and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Well, I am just thrilled!

My best hiking buddy Kristina is back on the trail after months of cruel confinement to cast and crutches. To celebrate, we hiked. Big surprise, right?

We chose an unassuming little trail that has become one of my favorites in town: The L.V. Yates Trail 8 in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

We were pumped. Look at all those teeth!

We were pumped. Look at all those teeth!

Things I love about the L.V. Yates Trail 8

    • It crosses Trail 100 within the first quarter mile. Look to the east and you’ll see a stunning view of Four Peaks in the far distance.
    • It’s not that hard. It climbs the whole way and the entire trail is 5 miles (out and back) but it’s so gentle, you don’t really feel it.
    • It’s 5 miles. Since writing the book, I’ve found that 5 miles is my “Goldilocks” distance. It’s long enough for a great conversation but short enough so I don’t have to pack a lunch.
Turn around at the first bench for a 2.6 mile total hike. But don't forget to snap a photo.

Turn around at the first bench for a 2.6 mile total hike. But don’t forget to snap a photo.

  • The parking seriously kicks butt. The trailhead at 40th street has plenty of spots so there’s no parking politics to sour my serene mood.
  • It’s secluded. Most people just stick to Piestewa Peak when they hike in this area. Which is fine by me because I like having Trail 8 all to myself.
  • It shows off some fantastic scenery. Four peaks, Dreamy Draw, Piestewa Peak, and the surrounding desert. You can’t ask for much more.
  • It has benches. This may not sound like a big deal but I have great affection for a trail with a bench. Especially when the bench marks the halfway point on a trail and your friend’s foot is still recovering so you should probably turn around anyway.
  • It features decent pee spots. Not only is there a pit toilet at the trailhead, but the seclusion, surrounding hills and low vegetation offer some exellent private peeing potential.
  • It’s quiet. You’re far away from major roads and the only thing you hear is the crunch of rocks beneath your feet. I love that sound.
  • It surprised me. I found Trail 8 when I was doing research for my book and I needed a 5 mile trail. I thought it would be mediocre. It wasn’t. In fact, I love it and was thrilled that I could include it in the book.
  • I’ve only ever hiked Trail 8 with Kristina. And, as I’ve established, hiking with Kristina is a super special thing.

Finding Friendship on the Trail

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  today’s hike on my Everytrail.com site.  The Quartz Ridge 8A Trail is featured in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Ta-daa! That's me and a big hunk of quartz...on the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A earlier today.

Ta-daa! That’s me and a big hunk of quartz…on the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A earlier today.

Now that I’m slowly emerging from the endless evenings and weekends dominated by book editing, I have found my way back to this blog.

And today, I felt inspired by the morning rains to trudge through the mud  and follow one of my favorite trails in town. If you know me or have read any of my other hiking blogs, you’ll know that the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve is my “go-to” trail. And since the proper write-up with all the boring details like, “turn left here…” and, “look to the east for a view of blah…”  will be featured in my upcoming hiking book, I’m telling a different story today.

I first discovered the Quartz Ridge Trail about 8 years ago. Well, actually, my friend Kristina discovered it and dragged me along for a hike one night after work. Back then, our hiking was as casual as our friendship. I was sporting a sad pair of ladies Nikes (with a pink swoosh) that I bought at Mervyn’s for $25 and Kristina was just a girl in the business department at work that made me laugh.

Over the next few years, we returned to the Quartz Ridge trail often. And one summer, we hit that bitch HARD. Every weeknight, we’d sneak to the ladies room at work just before quittin’ time to hop in our hiking clothes. Then we’d rush to the trail head so we could fly up the trail before sunset.

Time sure flies...Kristina and I on the trail about 7 years ago. This is before I had a proper hiking hat or sunglasses.

Time sure flies…Kristina and I on the trail about 7 years ago. This is before I had a proper hiking hat or sunglasses.

The exercise and scenery was addictive, sure. But it was the conversation that really propelled us. With the isolation of the trail, we could speak freely. Kristina is fiery, raunchy, sarcastic, and funny as hell. There were no boundaries to the subject matter and the discussions frequently got downright gross. On more than several occasions, comments like “Oh my God, I have the worst B.O.,” or “Do you think I could pee behind that bush?” were still leaking out of our foul mouths as we’d turn on a switchback and run smack into another hiker. Woops.

We laughed our sweaty butts off about it every time.

Embarrassing conversation aside, our talks inevitably led to fits of hysterical laughter, rage-filled rants, and a lot of tears. Then there’s the physical stuff — we both overheated, ran out of water, tripped, gave up, or were forced to share any other kind of shortcoming that exposed our vulnerability. We relied on one another and that takes trust. By sharing miles of trail, we carved out an intense and intimate friendship.

So while my book might explain the elevation gain, mileage, and turn-by-turn instructions for Quartz Ridge Trail 8A, it doesn’t explain what this trail means to me.

I fell in love with hiking on the Quartz Ridge Trail. Kristina and I fell in love with each other.

It's us! Kristina and I after hiking the 81st trail for my book...champagne in hand.

It’s us! Kristina and I after hiking the 81st trail for my book…champagne in hand.

Kristina recently suffered a foot injury that put her in cast and crutches for months. Last week, I took her on a driving tour of South Mountain so we could still enjoy the desert together. Though the injury is temporary, I think this was good practice for us. We’ll need to know how to continue our friendship forged in the mountains when we’re a couple of foul-mouthed old ladies.