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!

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.

People Are So Nice: Ryan & Denise Photography at Take a Hike Phoenix Book Signing

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

Ryan and Denise (the ones holding books) are waaaaaaaaaay nicer than me and Lou (the ones not holding books).

I consider myself to be a nice person. But then someone does something nice for me and I realize I have some room for improvement.

Last Friday at Changing Hands Bookstore as I was blabbing through my presentation to a healthy crowd, I heard the unmistakable sound of camera shutters clicking.

And it wasn’t the fake sound an iPhone makes. It was the sound of real cameras.

I scanned the crowd and saw our pals Ryan and Denise crouching in the aisles, snapping photos. These two generous people (and fabulous photographers — they shot our wedding a few years ago — look at their website and hire them immediately) surprised me by documenting the event.

I really couldn’t believe it. Talk about the nicest people in the world!

Here are just a few images they so expertly captured that night.

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

In case there’s any confusion about the location.

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

PacMan mouth.

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

I made those!

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

My captive audience…these people are friends and family so they have to pay attention.

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

If I’m overly-cheery, maybe people will like me?

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

My hair appointment was the next day. Please don’t judge me.

Image courtesy of Ryan & Denise Photography (ryananddenise.com)

This one’s my favorite. It makes me feel real good about myself.

Enormous thanks and lots of hugs to Ryan and Denise! Here’s their website link again.

I’m not kidding…hire them immediately. They are the BEST!

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 trailheadĀ  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.

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.