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!

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.

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.

Maternity Hiking: Deem Hills Circumference and Basalt Loop

Deem Hill is located in the north valley near Happy Valley Road (ish) and 51st Avenue. Also, Deem Hills is pretty.

Deem Hills is located in the north valley near Happy Valley Road (ish) and 51st Avenue. Also, Deem Hills is pretty.

Well, here I am at week 11 and rejoicing each day I get closer to shedding the total hell that has been the first trimester.

They say it gets better at trimester #2. I’m choosing to believe that they are absolutely right.

And when I recently hiked in Deem Hills, I found that my cardio was stronger, the climbing went well, and I powered through almost three miles! Sure, I don’t have the I’m-not-pregnant-and-I’m-writing-a-hiking-book stamina that I enjoyed a year ago. But, things are getting better! #littleedie

Now let’s get to this hike, shall we?

Deem Hills Circumference and Basalt Loop

Distance: 2.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate…maybe strenuous for the first mile

Location: Deem Hills

This hike is featured as an option in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, on page 230.

This hike is featured as an option in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, on page 230. Follow the yellow arrows seen here!

This loop follows the newly-popular Deem Hills Circumference Trail from the 51st Avenue side of the park. Expect a challenging climb of about 300 feet in the first mile then a relaxing walk for the remainder of the hike.

Oh, and you don’t have to be knocked up to do this hike. In fact, I hiked this trail with three non-pregnant companions and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Start the hike from the southeast side of the parking lot. Find a wide, dirt access road to follow at first, then join the Circumference Trail at the trail marker to your left. Take a right turn at the fork to head east (still on the Circumference Trail) and begin the big climb of the day. Though challenging, it lets up after about a mile and ends as you approach intersections in the trail. Read the trail signs and hop off the Circumference Trail to follow the Basalt/Ridgeline Trail. The trail is shared for just a few feet until the Ridgeline Trail breaks away to the left (it’s the one that climbs the hill…you don’t want that one). The Basalt Trail also splits at this juncture in two directions. Follow the Basalt Trail that heads straight (north) and ignore the trail that veers right. Descend along a series of short switchbacks that last for a quick 0.1 mile until you come upon a trail sign for the Circumference Trail. Hang a left turn heading west. As the Circumference Trail veers north, pass by the Ridgeline Trail (this is the other end of the climb you wisely elected to skip) and continue on the Circumference Trail for the rest of the hike as it traces the other side of the hill and spills into the parking lot. That’s all there is to it. (You can follow my hike and see photos here — scroll to the lower right of the page to get driving directions.)

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

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

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!