The Hike That Makes Me Want to Have a Baby

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  this trail on my Everytrail.com site. My book, Take a Hike Phoenix, is hitting bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

This makes me want to get pregnant.

This makes me want to get pregnant.

Every trail in this town has a unique and personal meaning to me.

As I’m sure you know by now, the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A turns me into a sentimental fool (as evidenced from this post in which I got super gushy over my dear friend Kristina).

The North Mountain National Trail 44, however, makes me want to get pregnant…and possibly buy a dog.

That’s because this trail is filled with families. Families with toddlers, tweens, and adolescents climbing the wide, paved access road that constitutes most of the trail. With the families come the dogs and I’m often cooing over the chihuahuas, Labradors, and baby pit bulls. Sleeping babies are frequently seen with Mom laboriously pushing the stroller up the merciless incline. And we usually spy an old couple holding hands as they shuffle their way to the summit.

On this short trail that has zero flat parts, we’re all flushed and sweaty as we huff our way up the mountain. To see so many people turning this shared struggle into a family event is, well, it’s just nice.

As a rule, I admire anyone (no matter their age, size, or hiking shoe choice) who hits a trail. Especially this trail…it may be short but, man, it can hurt if you’re having an off day.

We climbed up to the summit the other night after a rainy day and the place was packed with the usual suspects. And just as I do every time I hike this trail, I imagined myself as the new mom shedding off the baby weight, the proud parent watching their energetic 9-year-old jog ahead like it’s nothing (seriously, how do they do that?), and the wrinkly old lady hiking with her wrinkly old husband.

It’s reassuring. Especially at a time when women my age fear losing so much with marriage and family (independence, career, identity, exercise, and hot rockin’ body), it’s nice to know there’s a trail that’s waiting for me — no matter which stage of life I’m in.


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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.


Visualize This

This photo makes me think of Phoenix. Then I think of the silhouetted power lines I often see in the evening. That makes me remember a tattoo that a friend of mine has on his forearm. And then I contemplate how the imagery of tall palm trees and power lines against a skyline has been adopted by so many Phoenicians as a symbol of life in Phoenix. That leads me to wonder about our collective identity as a city…and then I remember that most of us could care less. Which makes me think about how Phoenix natives never talk to their neighbors. I COULD GO ON. All this happens because I look at a simple photo.

I’m taking a break from making maps.

It’s actually my favorite part of “writing” this book (I guess since I enjoy it, I’m not really justified to take a break but whatever). For every hike, I must turn in a map so the cartography department can accurately create another map that’s included with the trail review.

I like to do it because I get to make pictures. I use the image from my EveryTrail app or a scanned trail map and then I add arrows and notes using Snagit.

It’s not a far cry from what I do in my current day job in which I must find the most meaningful way to accurately communicate complicated information.

In short, that means turning most things into pictures.

I’m probably betraying my kind here, but I believe that humans are much more sophisticated in reading the pervasive visual language than the traditional written language.

Don’t argue with me. I learned this in my Art History classes.

They say the average modern-day American views (it’s too late in the evening to look up the estimated number right now but think about every billboard, computer icon, television show, packaging design for products, etc. you see each day) a ton of images in a day. Compare that to the actual words you read in a 24-hour period.

See what I’m getting at?

When my book comes out, I can expect most “readers” to flip through the pages, scan the photos, glance at the maps, and maybe, maybe read a caption or two.

I can’t blame them. I do the exact same thing.

Taking that into consideration, I suppose I shouldn’t feel so guilty about busying myself with map-making in order to avoid the writing.