Sunday, December 10, 2017

Camelback Santa & Tree 2017

Weather: 74º, clouds & sun, gusty winds

Time:  31 minutes

About this Hike:  It's Camelback Santa season!  Hikers have defied City of Phoenix Parks & Rec's 'suggestion' that a Christmas tree not be placed atop Camelback Mountain.  Since early last week the evergreen has adorned the summit, although this year there's no special use permit issued by the city.  And to think, prior to last year, this tradition went on without the city interferring at all...

Anyway, before this post becomes political I'll digress.  I knew parking would be a beast this weekend, hence why I waited for Sunday.  I expected with the Cards playing at home and multiple other NFL games on this may serve to clear out the parking lot.  No such luck.

When I arrived the gate wasn't down.  Hikers in vehicles were circling like vultures.  Whenever a parking space appeared they rushed toward it turn signal aflash (the official way to stake your claim on a not-yet-occupied parking space). 

This just stresses me out.  So I went to my 'secret spot.'  A year ago I had to pretend I was interested in getting literature on the secret spot's spa in order to get my parking validated.  This year the massive gates have gone missing from their parking garage.  While I feel very uneasy doing this, I was able to park deep in the basement of the garage.  All's well that ends well.

I honestly was surprised I posted 31 minutes to the top.  There were a lot of other hikers on the trail and some bottlenecks. 

After hanging the ornament I made (with earthy, biodegradable materials of course) I took a few pictures and began my descent.  A fellow hiker commented on what 'good lines' I take noting that I appeared to be experienced on Echo might say that.  We chatted for most of the trip down.  He was from out of town, and I fully expected him to say he's from my hometown of Buffalo, NY.  He was actually a Californian visiting Phoenix, but his wife's from Buffalo.  I've said it many times before: There's always a Buffalo connection...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sunny at Piestewa

Weather: 74º, clouds giving way to sunny

Time:  26.5 minutes

About this Hike:  This day started out gorgeously overcast. We live in the Valley of the Sun for a reason. However, a change of scenery is nice.  I've enjoyed this week's clouds, even if we aren't going to get cooler temperatures this winter.  A cool down is always in the forecast, but it keeps getting pushed back another day, every day.  I'll believe it when I see it at this point.

I used the alternate summit trail ascending and descending today.  Shortly after beginning my hike the sun started to pierce through.  There was some humidity in the air.  It actually left me feeling a little fatigued for some reason.  Regardless, I reached the summit in an average amount of time.  It was nice being able to get to the summit again.  Last week's bottlenecks were more than I could take and I usually turned back just before the final push to the top. 

By the time I was descending the sun was in full force and I deeply regretted not bringing a hat with me.  Thankfully I don't think I've burned my scalp (my head is freshly buzzed). 

Overall, a routine, enjoyable Piestewa workout.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Piestewa Alternate Ascent

Weather: 69º, sunny

Time:  27 minutes

About this Hike:  Another day, same weather, same hike...

Today I tried going up the alternate summit trail now that I'm confident in where it starts and ends.  I'm convinced this trail shaves quite a bit of distance off versus starting at the main trailhead. The difference is that the alternate seems steeper, so elevation gains happen quicker.

Regardless, I posted a 27 minute time to the summit today.  That was with a handicap, albeit not a generous one.  Maybe I was closer to my usual 26 minutes—I had to make a lot of stops for bottlenecks in the trail.  However, there were periods where I sprinted along like a mountain goat. 

I didn't quite touch the summit again today because the congestion at that narrow final push was just too much.  The summit is beautiful, but also something I've seen many times before.

On the descent I used the alternate trail again.  I think I'm really going to like the alternate trail...

Friday, November 24, 2017

Alternate Piestewa Hike & Thanks-Guilt

Weather: 69º, sunny

Time:  26.5 minutes

About this Hike:  Admittedly I expected big crowds at Piestewa today as people hike off their Thanks-guilt.  There were plenty of out-of-towners and I overheard conversations such as, "I can't wait to get back to the hotel hot tub!"  The crowds ebbed and flowed, with bottlenecks alternating with empty trail. 

Reaching the summit became another issue as the backup was significant.  I decided to turn around without quite reaching the summit rather than fight the crowd. 

On the descent I noted the trail marker for the alternate summit trail.  Alternate is a spur that splits from the main trail and goes down the north/west slope of the mountain. I've looked for this on past hikes but had looked in the wrong area.  The alternate trail was a lot less crowded and heavily shaded early in the morning.  It was quiet and wonderful.  However, there are a lot of large, loose rocks and it's definitely steeper, so an abundance of caution is needed.  The alternate trail deposits you right on Squaw Peak Drive near the residential areas that I like to park in, so that was also a plus. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Phoenix Summit Challenge - Crowding Piestewa

Weather: 79º, sunny

Time:  25.5 minutes

About this Hike:  Due to the on-going construction, I parked in the usual residential neighborhood outside the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  Upon arriving at the trailhead, there were signs advising that today is Phoenix Summit Challenge and apologizing for crowds—and of course—any inconvenience.

Hikers everywhere we wearing PSC t-shirts.  The gist of this event is to hit a set number of major summits around Phoenix within a limited time frame.  I guess Phoenix needs to compete with Tempe's ongoing Ironman this weekend...

Due to the PSC crowd, my feet never touched the summit. I got to the final 'staircase' and the bottleneck was so severe I just paused, enjoyed the views, and headed back down.

PSC hikers seemed a little amateur-ish/out of their element.  Some were a bit entitled and didn't observe the best trail etiquette—I imagine because they consider today their event.  A Phoenix PD chopper began to hover at one point.  "Return to the trail; you will fall!," boomed the voice over the loud speaker.  It was quite amusing.  I'm guessing some PSC hikers either got lost or felt the need to blaze a new trail.

Regardless, I enjoyed a nice hike overall. I wish we had the same heavy cloud cover of yesterday, but today was brilliant sunshine. It was warm, but not overly so.  Just like those off-kilter summers where highs seldom reached 70º when I was growing up in the northeast, so is this winter to Phoenix.  I'm fearful it's going to be warm all winter with little relief from the heat.  Here's hoping I'm wrong and this will be a winter filled with low-desert Arizona hikes.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fall-Like on Piestewa

Weather: 76º, overcast, breezy, spotty showers

Time:  26 minutes

About this Hike:  It only has taken until November to finally see some fall-like weather in Phoenix.  I don't recall rain being in the forecast, but for a brief time on my drive up to Piestewa it was coming down pretty good.  By the time I reached the trailhead everything was dry.

The views were spectacular today.... The clouds cast shadows and made for a unique lighting effect on the mountains and buildings around the Valley.  Rain shafts could be seen coming from the surrounding clouds. 

As I was descending, showers set in.  They didn't last long, but it was cool and refreshing.  While I'd love a good downpour, I'd rather NOT be on a trail when it occurs.  Those rocks become awful slick making an already tricky hike even more dangerous. 

Four Peaks framed by rain shafts

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Much Nicer Piestewa Hike

Weather: 82º, sunny

Time:  26 minutes

About this Hike:  What an improvement over last Saturday!  A little haze on the mountains around Phoenix is not unusual.  From Uptown to Downtown and beyond, the Valley was clearly visible today. I also left my mask (respiratory, not to be confused with Halloween) home today.

Despite a full parking lot there were gaps on the trail where I was mostly alone. It was wonderful and all the things a hike should be—relaxation, challenging yourself, getting alone with your thoughts for a while.

The parking area is getting increasingly gross due to construction.  A sign with the world 'Dust' slashed out is posted on the main road.  The roadways themselves (or what's left of them) are covered in slurry mud which I can only think is being pumped in to honor that 'No Dust' sign.  The main lots are open, but I avoid driving my car thru this disgusting mess and just favor the residential streets outside the preserve.

Otherwise a great hike and big improvement over last Saturday. Now if we could only get those temps down a bit lower...