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.

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Maternity Hike: Trail 100/101 to North Mountain

These trails have existed for a long time but this combination was new to me!

These trails have existed for a long time but this combination was new to me!

With the limited energy, small bladder, and cardio deficiency I’m experiencing during this pregnancy, I’ve been on the hunt for trails under three miles that still offer a little bit of climbing.

Oh, and if there’s a bathroom at the trailhead, that’s a sure-fire winner.

The Phoenix Mountains Preserve just keeps delivering. Armed with my Green Trails Map, I’m having a blast scouting out “new” trails (combinations I haven’t yet explored) and then heading out for a new adventure.

My newest adventure once again taps the main artery of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve: Trail 100.

When Trail 101 meets the North Mountain summit trail (Trail 44 - paved), the maternity hike is over. But the non-maternity hike can keep going!

When Trail 101 meets the North Mountain summit trail (Trail 44 – paved), the maternity hike is over. But the non-maternity hike can keep going!

This one begins in a popular area near the North Mountain Visitor Center, passes by Shaw Butte to the west, then follows a little-known trail on the north side of North Mountain. This quiet area is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding popular trails. The hike ends at the intersection with the North Mountain Summit Trail. And aside from the yellow flags indicating sites where irresponsible hikers left their dog’s waste (oh, come ON, people!) the hike was glorious on a breezy spring day.

See how it all fits together? You could make all kinds of delicious trail combinations yum yum!

See how it all fits together? You could make all kinds of delicious trail combinations yum yum!

Trail 100/101 to North Mountain

Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 225 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate

Location: North Mountain Visitor Center (North Mountain/Shaw Butte) in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

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

Description:

To start the hike, find the signs to Trail 100 on the south side of the North Mountain Visitor Center building. Head west along Trail 100. At 0.3 mile, Trail 100 and Trail 306 combine and you’ll follow the shared trail south. When you encounter a small clearing with a bench (at 0.6 mile total), see the trail marker for Trail 101. Hang a left to follow Trail 101 southeast to start a subtle ascent that slowly intensifies.

At about 1.1 mile total, you have an elevated view of 7th Street below. Turn right to continue along Trail 101 following the correct trail signs (do NOT take the trail that heads north as it is clearly signed as a closed area). You’ll continue to climb until you reach the paved road that marks the intersection with Trail 44 (North Mountain Summit Trail) at 1.2 miles. Turn around here and enjoy your descent as you retrace your steps to the North Mountain Visitor Center for a total of 2.4 miles.

Option for non-pregnant people: Instead of turning around, take Trail 44 to the summit of North Mountain! This will add 350 feet (give or take) in just 0.7 mile on the way up. The trail is wide, paved, and easy to follow to the summit which is littered with large, metal towers. You’ll certainly get a FINE workout from this addition that creates a total hike of 3.8 miles with 575 feet of elevation gain. Just don’t forget to turn off of Trail 44 to return to Trail 101 on the way down!

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.

Book Author (Me) Chokes at Book Signing

Here I am. Trying not to be awkward. I failed.

Here I am. Trying not to be awkward. I failed.

I hate it when I say the wrong thing.

I’m just obsessive and self-critical enough to mentally churn over a comment in my mind for years (I wish I could say days). Often, my thoughts drift to review a robust roster of moments throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood in which I’ve made a complete fool of myself or blurted something inappropriate.

I’m reviewing the roster now and though I realize it would make this blog 10x better if I shared one, I can’t. I’m too ashamed.

So instead, I’ll talk about my most recent flub at my book signing the other night.

After a well-received presentation to a full room, a very nice gentleman shyly asked me to sign a copy of Take a Hike Phoenix then practically whispered, “Where would you recommend someone go around this area for a beginner hike?”

I’m probably reading too much into it but his question really touched me. This is exactly the person I want to reach! My post-book mission is to engage with other hikers (and especially people just thinking about hiking) to remove any fears so they are prepared and inspired to try something new.

I wish I could tell you I seized this opportunity.

Public speaking makes me wiggle a lot. Now I only have blurry photos.

Public speaking makes me wiggle a lot. Now I only have blurry photos.

Instead, my mind went blank and I weakly responded, “There are portions of Trail 100 that are very flat that you could take from Dreamy Draw but they’re not specifically outlined in my book so, uh, you’ll need to buy this other map and uh…you could follow my blog?”

CRINGE.

On the drive home, I felt great about the presentation but I couldn’t stop kicking myself. I should have been able to answer his question. I should have told him about Trail 8 (on page 56) from the 40th Street/Shea trailhead  and recommended he only follow it to the first bench because that would have been PERFECT for a beginner looking for a hike in the area.

And I shouldn’t be discouraging someone from trying a new trail. Even it if was an accident.

Trust me, I’ve had waaaaay worse social flubs in my time but in this case, I may have squandered a real opportunity to help someone.

“You should blog about it,” my husband said. “Then maybe he’ll see the blog and you can make it right.”

So there ya go.

Like this? If want more personal stories about my crazy emotional interpretations of life’s incidents, check out my other less hike-oriented and more PG-13-rated blog iguessiwriteforfree.com.

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.

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.


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.