Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Piestewa is still Festive...

Weather:  56°, sunny

Time:  24 minutes

About this hike:  I decided to go a little easier on myself today and do Piestewa instead of Camelback.  And it was on today's hike I had an epiphany of sorts:  Piestewa really is tougher than Camelback in some ways.

The camel will always be steeper, but Piestewa is longer and a more sustained steepness.  Or maybe my body is just feeling the residual effects after hiking every day this week since I've been home from NY.

The Christmas tree atop Camelback may be just a memory now.  However, not only is the little palo verde at the Piestewa summit still festive, but somebody decorated another palo verde about halfway up the trail.  I wanted to take a picture of the tree which is behind a popular resting point.  I was concerned the people hanging out there might get upset thinking that I was taking their picture.

Regardless of the crowds today, this was an enjoyable afternoon hike.  My phone says I hiked 8/10 of a mile.  I need to figure out if there's a way to better calibrate the S-Health app...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Camelback Morning

Weather:  47°, sunny

Time:  29 minutes

About this hike:  I thought that maybe a morning hike would mean thinner crowds since it has been so cold in the mornings.  Wrong again.

However, a historical trend was broken today.  As I passed the "Lot Full" sign and cross-armed ranger at the Echo Canyon entrance, lo and behold he removed the sign.  I drove a complete lap around the circle and pulled right in.  Parking was very tight, on a hill, and all around uncomfortable.  I like my car parked on an end as far from other cars as possible.

Regardless, I chose the "risky" parking spot and thankfully my car is no worse for the wear (believe me, I checked).

Today was a very enjoyable hike even with the crowds.  Even more rewarding is two days solidly in the Under-30 club.

Following are the results.  I think the S-Health app gets a few stats wrong, especially in regard to "Calories Burned."

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Tree is Down

Weather:  58°, sunny

Time:  29 minutes

About this hike:  Camelback was busy today.  The last few times I've arrived and the "Lot Closed" sign is up I go park offsite (still not revealing my secret spot!). Within the 10 minutes it takes me to walk to the trailhead, the sign is down and traffic is permitted in again. Today was no exception.

Despite the crowds I managed a 29 minute time up, undoubtedly helped along by this sustained cold snap we've had in the Valley.

At the summit I was disappointed to see that the Christmas tree was already removed, although I'm sure it was drying out with all the AZ sun, wind, and dry cold air.

Very enjoyable hike this afternoon.  And I'm learning some cool new features of the S-Health app:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Calorie Burn Starts Now!

Weather:  58°, sunny

Time:  26 minutes

About this hike:  I got back to PHX this morning after a week and a half in BUF. What a great holiday it was, filled with lots of good food and drinking!

While I had access to a gym while I was in BUF, it's just not the same as hiking my mountains.  This afternoon I got back to it at Piestewa.  The mountain was crowded today with (I presume) tourists and lots of families with kids.  Parking was a challenge at the trailhead when I arrived and I ended up on the residential side streets.  By the time I left spots were open in the main lot though.

The  crowds and kids brought their usual challenges (difficulty to maintain pace, getting in each other's way).  That said, it was an enjoyable hike and reminder that while I had a good time at home (BUF), I'm home when I'm in PHX.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Piestewa Chopper

Weather:  43°, sunny

Time:  25 minutes

About this hike:  The Valley is under a festive cold spell right now.  Monday brought a rainy day, and then on Tuesday I was concerned about icy trails with all the rain + near-freezing lows.  Piestewa was a good bet today because the trail gets a lot of early-morning sunshine.

I chose a sweatshirt and long workout pants.  Boy was I too hot once I got moving.  Even when it's cold in the Valley it's not that cold—at least to this NY boy.  And all that rain didn't do a thing for the brown cloud which is still hanging over downtown and the West Valley.  Maybe that's why I felt some fatigue on this hike today?

PHX PD was doing some sort of practice maneuver landing their helicopter on a flat ridge near the Piestewa summit.  I had no idea such a feat was possible.  At least I assume it was practice; I didn't see any injured people on the mountain.  Regardless, it scared me at first considering what happened with a medical chopper over the Superstition Mountains last night.

All in all a great hike today!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Camelback Christmas Decorating

Weather:  63°, overcast

Time:  ~33 minutes

About this hike:  Today I hiked up Camelback again, this time with an ornament for the tree.  I wrote a little 2015 memoir on it and hung it up high on the tree where only we 6'4" types can reach.

Parking wasn't too bad upon my arrival, but when I was leaving the lot was full.  A guy in a white SUV spotted me and followed me to my car then sat there guarding my spot with his turn signal flashing.  I'm glad I could provide someone the gift of a good parking spot at Echo Canyon.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Camelback Christmas

Weather:  63°, sunny, slight breeze

Time:  33 minutes

About this hike:  Being a weekday crowd (I was laid off from my job on Tuesday) plus cooler temps, I expected a near-record time up the mountain.  For some reason I felt slightly lethargic and queasy going up, so not even under-30 today.

Regardless, this was a special hike.  Even before I reached the summit I knew the Camelback Christmas tree was going to be up.  There were pine needles all over the trail.

This year they went all out.  I'm not an expert in pine trees, but from the bluish branch tips I'm thinking it's a blue spruce—a beautiful, tall, full tree.  Too bad it will likely succumb to the desert heat, wind, and dryness within a few days.  It's decorators did put a large pot of water under it though, so hopefully it lasts.  They also put battery operated lights all over the tree.  I'm going to be at Papago Park tonight and plan to use my binoculars to spy on the top of Camelback to see if it is lit up.  Because being at Camelback on any trail after dark gets the PHX PD in a huff.

Newly unemployed, I have plenty of time to hike.  I may come back tomorrow and place an ornament on the tree.  On Saturday Camelback Santa will be handing out candy canes, so parking will probably be impossible.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Festive Piestewa

Weather:  76°, overcast

Time:  24.5 minutes

About this hike:  Was a cloudy Sunday afternoon and relatively low temps meant a crowded Piestewa.  Regardless, I logged a great time up the mountain today.

The Piestewa Christmas tree is decorated.  I look forward to seeing the bigger Christmas tree atop Cameback, hopefully sometime this week.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thankful for Camelback

Weather:  63°, sunny

Time:  28 minutes

About this hike:  Record tied! Love these cooler temps, and my time shows it!  That is a slightly adjusted time wherein I stopped the clock a little before the summit. This is to make up for stoppages beyond my control such as children, people paralyzed with fear at the railings, selfie-stick hawking tourists, etc.

The mountain was crowded, but there were breaks without a ton of people. It was better than Piestewa was yesterday.

"Lot Full" was displayed when I arrived at the parking lot, and a cross-armed ranger was enforcing it.  Not willing to circle around, I parked at my secret spot (which remains un-named) down the street.  By the time I got to the trailhead (~10 min.) there were plenty of parking spots.  Makes me question the validity of this little show of power.

Regardless, a good hike and I am thankful for this afternoon adventure to wrap up Thanksgiving weekend.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Post-Thanksgiving Piestewa

Weather:  60°, sunny

Time:  35 minutes

About this hike: This wasn't a solo hike, hence the time.  Regardless, it was a good opportunity to burn off some Thanksgiving calories.

The mountain was crowded today, as expected during a holiday weekend that involved feasting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for a Good and Safe Hike

Weather:  70°, overcast, breezy

Time:  30 minutes

About this hike:  Back in the 30-and-Under Club.  It feels so good.  Mountain was crowded today with what I presume were tourists and out-of-town visitors.  It got a little irritating at times, but overall I maintained a steady pace and had an enjoyable pre-Turkey Day hike.

Notable today there is a palo verde tree at the summit that is decorated.  I'm not certain if this is in honor of the victims in Paris or an attempt at an early Christmas tree.... I expect the traditional main Christmas tree to go up there shortly.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Delight on Camelback

Weather:  78°, sunny, breezy

Time:  32 minutes

About this hike:  This hike was routine as they come.  I love the cooler temps making an afternoon hike possible.  Parking wasn't bad although the mountain did have it's share of activity.

Nothing else to report today.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Motivation Tuesday at Cameback

Weather:  77°, sunny, breezy

Time:  32 minutes

About this hike:  This was an after-work hike.  Parking wasn't a big issue, but by the time I got off the mountain the lot was pretty full.  The trails suffered for it.  I was surprised at how crowded it was on a weekday afternoon, but perhaps I'm not the only one taking advantage of our cooler afternoon temperatures.  I love this time of year...but truly, I love all seasons in Arizona.

The time it took me to get up the mountain was disappointing, especially considering I rarely paused to take a rest.  Regardless, I always welcome the opportunity to climb my favorite PHX mountain.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sunday Afternoon at Piestewa

Weather:  82°, sunny

Time:  26 minutes

About this hike:  Loving the cooler (relatively speaking!) afternoon temperatures.  Took advantage of this Sunday afternoon and hiked up Piestewa.

At the trailhead I learned that despite having a small car, I can't parallel park to save my life.  It's a wonder I passed the driver license exam back 14 year ago.  That said, it was nice to be able to park in the main lot instead of off-site.

Overall a very nice hike!

Monday, October 26, 2015

#MotivationMonday - Camelback Echo Canyon

Weather:  90°, sunny, breezy

Time:  31 minutes

About this hike:  Took advantage of cooler (relatively speaking!) temps to do a late afternoon hike after work.  Interesting observation—the Echo Canyon trail is shaded quite a bit in the afternoon.  Despite temps that are similar to a July morning the heat doesn't feel near as oppressive.  This may have to do with the time of year and angle of the sun as well.

Regardless, this was an enjoyable hike.  Parking was plentiful when I arrived, but by the time I was getting off the mountain the main lot had filled up a bit—still not impossible to find a space though.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Back at Camelback

Weather:  83°, partly cloudy

Time:  32 minutes

About this hike:  Ahh the weather is getting cooler and the tourists are descending on the Valley.  It was crowded at Echo Canyon this morning.  Determined to do Camelback today, I ended up getting a parking spot at my secret location down the road :)

The stern park ranger and "Lot Full" sign at the Echo Canyon entrance was unnecessary.  After my ~10 minute walk to the trailhead I noted several parking spots available.  When I finished my hike parking was a non-issue.  But whatever, my car is safer in my secret location...

Overall this was an enjoyable hike on somewhat crowded trails.  Every now and then a cool breeze served as a little air conditioning.  Always good to be back at my favorite red sandstone mountain.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Post-Rain Piestewa

Weather:  83°, partly cloudy, very windy

Time:  27 minutes

About this hike:  I awoke this morning to the glorious sound of (un-forecast) rain.  The wet weather was all forecast to hit later today or tomorrow.  It poured for a bit then the sun came out.  I was inspired by the lower temps to go for a hike.

Piestewa was fairly empty for a weekend morning, especially when you factor in cooler temps.  It was a nice hike and I made good time with precious few stops.  As is typical with desert soil, the trails were dry despite the previous rain.

Around the time I was coming off the mountain some very heavy wind gusts picked up. I was nearly knocked off balance a few times, but gratefully returned to the trailhead unscathed.  Clouds hung low around the Valley while the sun shone over CenPho.  There was haze to the south that I can only think was dust.  To be honest, with the wind gusts I'm surprised a big dust storm wasn't kicked up.

Overall a very enjoyable hike.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Piestewa Peak

Weather:  83°, dry

Time:  28.5 minutes

About this hike:  My intention was to climb Camelback. However, the lot was full and cars were being turned away.  Since I was tight on time I opted to just head over to Piestewa.

This was a fun hike. Uneventful but enjoyable. I didn't really feel the need for any major stops along the way, although I did take one.

Never get sick of my mountains....

Monday, September 7, 2015

Laboring Up Echo Canyon

Weather:  97°, humid, dry

Time:  37 minutes

About this hike:  My minutes up the mountain were better than last time. Still nowhere near where I'd like to be.  The humidity was high and sun came out making this an uncomfortable hike.  On the final long vertical section I needed to sit down and rest for a while.  Largely uncrowded for a holiday, and all in all a very enjoyable hike.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Back on the Camel

Weather:  95°, humid, dry

Time:  40 minutes

About this hike:   It's been a long time (over a month!) since Camelback. This, combined with high humidity, slowed me down.  In more ways than one I'm no longer in the under-30 club (turned 30 this week) as my abysmal time shows.

The mountain wasn't at all crowded this morning and I enjoyed the views. It felt good for my feet to touch that red soil again. Until next time...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sunset at Piestewa

Weather:  103°, sunset, breezy

Time:  Not taken

About this hike:   It's been so long that I decided not to record my time. Especially considering it's a warm August evening.  That said, I maintained a steady pace with just a few short stops.  I'd say I made it to the top in 30 min. or less.

With monsoons in the high country, I was hoping to see some clouds and thunderheads tonight, but no such luck.  Views of the sunset and Valley were beautiful regardless.  Coming down it got dark enough I needed my flashlight.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Camelback Echo Canyon

Weather:  92°, sunny, dry

Time:  37 minutes

About this hike:   All things considered for PHX in July, it wasn't that hot today.  But the sun and relative lack of breeze really got to me.  I found myself stopping frequently on today's hike.  Regardless, it was uneventful and I got it done.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

Climbing for 'Merica

Weather:  92°, overcast, humid

Time:  35 minutes

About this hike:   Well I shaved almost 9 minutes off of last time.  I also didn't encounter a bee sting this time.  It was a fairly cool (by PHX standards!) morning with monsoon clouds and moisture in the air.  Being Independence Day holiday for many Monday-Friday workers like myself, I expected a crowded mountain.  Quite the opposite was true and parking was a breeze.  Otherwise, just an enjoyable hike.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Harsh Morning on Camelback

Weather:  97°, sunny

Time:  46 minutes

About this hike:   This unrelenting heatwave is definitely taking a toll on my climbing time.  I may have set a new record for the longest time getting up Camelback.  That said, when it's this hot you've gotta hike smart.  That means stopping whenever your  body tells you to do so.

Anyway, it was nice to be back at Camelback.  As I've said countless times before, the hot weather makes getting a parking spot easy.

Memorable from today--I got stung by a bee on my way down.  It got between my backpack and stung me on the lower back.  Thankfully I carry a first aid kit and treated it best I could.  So far it doesn't even really hurt anymore; here's hoping it'll be a non-issue.  And thank God it wasn't like a swarm of killer bees or something.  I guess I'll live.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Cool on Camelback this Morning

Weather:  65°, overcast

Time:  34 minutes

About this hike:   Been a long time since I've been to Camelback.  The unseasonably cool temps would've spurred me on to a sub-30 minute time in another life.  Today my out of shape-ness showed through.  Regardless, it felt good to place my feet on the Camel's back again.

The cool temps were brought on by heavy rain last night and low clouds hung all around the Valley.  Made for some nice scenery.

When I arrived parking was fairly easy to come by, but when I was leaving people were fighting for spots.  Soon as I approached my car I had two people chasing me down for the spot.  They ended up boxing me in and making it a challenge to back out.  Meanwhile a park ranger stood by screaming at standing vehicles.  I was glad to get out of that melee.

All in all a good, safe hike.

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Good Friday to Hike

Weather:  82°, sunny—felt HOT in the sun

Time:  26 minutes

About this hike:   Not as many cars in the parking lot today as on a Saturday, but felt just as crowded.  There was heavy black smoke visible in the west valley as I was descending.  I'm guessing some sort of structure fire.  Otherwise a completely uneventful, enjoyable hike.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Squirrely Piestewa Hike

Weather:  75°, sunny—felt HOT in the sun

Time:  26 minutes

About this hike:   Back to Piestewa for a second week in a row.  Even though Camelback will remain my all-time favorite, I just don't have the energy to fight the parking mess at Echo Canyon this time of year.  Parking in the "Beverly Hills" neighborhoods off Squaw Peak Drive is just so convenient.

The mountain was very crowded today and, while I made good time, I had to take quite a few rests.  Still, 26 minutes isn't bad.

Some friendly squirrels came to visit me at the summit and one guy threw nuts at them.  Hence why they aren't afraid of humans and probably are going to get fat.  It was cute to watch.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Back to Piestewa Again!

Weather:  80°, sunny, nice breeze

Time:  25 minutes

About this hike:   The mountain was crowded as expected on a beautiful Saturday during Spring Break.  Regardless I made good time today.  Otherwise uneventful.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Superstition Flat Iron

Weather:  82°, sunny

About this hike:   Been over a year since I've come out to this beautiful place. Parking was the most crowded I've ever seen and a park ranger advised I'd have to park in overflow. However, once I got thru the labyrinth that is Lost Dutchman State Park I was able to score a good spot.

The waterfall was flowing at a trickle in Siphon Draw...very pretty without making a dangerous situation.

I think I've conquered my fear at the end of the trail where you have to pull yourself up a ~7-8 foot ledge using either tricky hand holds in the rock or an exposed tree limb.  I used to freak out here every time, but I think I've mastered the art of grabbing the tree limb and finagling my way up.  Wonder what we'll do when the tree limb eventually snaps off?

Some interesting things from today:

  • Met a group that was going to camp on the Flat Iron. They were hauling up huge backpacks of camping gear
  • Saw Mt. Lemmon down near Tucson
  • May have seen Picacho Peak, but it was hard to determine for certain
  • Enjoyed all the spring poppies and wildflowers
I don't know why I don't visit this beautiful place more often.  We're so fortunate to have this only 40 miles from Phoenix.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Back to Piestewa

Weather:  72°, sunny

Time:  27 minutes

About this hike:  My weekends are different now. The predictable Saturday morning hike has been replaced with trips to Tucson and/or sleeping in. But I wouldn't trade a minute of it :)

This weekend is like a throw back to my past life. Normally I'd fight til I got a parking spot at Camelback; today I just didn't have the energy.  I opted for Piestewa and the certainty of parking.  That said, the queue waiting to get into the main lot was ridiculous. I parked in the "Beverly Hills" neighborhood that I favor, and it too was very full.  I was near the top of said hill.

Jake the Juke safely and legally parked, I hoofed it to the trailhead. My ascent time this morning was 27 minutes. Certainly not bad considering:

  1. I haven't done this for a while (read—out of shape)
  2. It was insanely crowded
  3. These temps are way too warm for February, even by PHX standards
I relaxed in my favorite spot near the back of the summit and enjoyed the zen of it all.  Someone mounted Old Glory at the "other summit" to the east.  The throngs of hikers surrounding her reminded me of the famous Iwo Jima photo. 

Was a nice Saturday hike.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sabino Canyon - 7 Falls

Weather:  75°, sun

About this hike:  Check another one off the bucket list.  Seven Falls was one of the first hikes I read about and wanted to do down in Tucson.  Best part was doing it with somebody special :)

Parking was a challenge at the trailhead, and then there was a $5 fee to park, but well worth it.  A tram (additional fee) will take you to the trail head.  It leaves hourly, and we had just missed it.  We opted to walk the 1.2 miles to the Bear Canyon Trailhead.

This was a long 4-5 hour hike over well packed, busy, fairly level trail.  The sun was hot, and we realized we forgot sunscreen.  A friendly US Forest Service ranger passing by was the savior of our skin.

Sunscreened up, we took in the cliffs around Sabino Canyon which cannot be done justice with photos. And the saguaros stick up's literally a saguaro forest.  The Santa Catalina mountains make for stunning backdrops that make the mountains around Phoenix look like foothills.

Once arriving at the falls they were flowing nicely.  It reminded me a little bit of Ithaca, NY and the gorges/water falls surrounding that area.  I saw an ant with a fuzzy orange abdomen. While pretty neat to look at, I'm afraid of what kind of stinger, venom, etc. might be contained in that abdomen.

On the hike back we witnessed a rescue in progress as an elderly lady had fallen ill on the trail.  While she seemed alert when we passed by, rescuers, horses, and a helicopter were sent in.  Another hiker who identified herself as being in her 60's decried the elderly lady for even attempting this hike in the first place.  She went on to rant about midwesterners, why smoking isn't bad for your health, and her tastes in men.  You always meet interesting folks on the trail.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Welcome Back to Sedona...Cathedral Rock

Weather:  62°, sun

About this hike:   This was my second time up Cathedral Rock.  Parking at the trailhead was just as challenging as last time.  Thankfully the dirt pull-over area on Back O'Beyond road was still there and was accessible.  While empty when we arrived, it was jammed full by the time our hike was complete. 

We met some interesting people including one Sedona long-time resident who played a Native American flute for hikers resting at the summit.  It's soothing sounds bounced off the red rocks.  Very Sedona indeed.

Otherwise the views of Sedona and Oak Creek were stunning and I was glad to be back in Red Rock country.  I really don't understand why I don't come up here more often.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lava Trail - Flagstaff Nordic Center

Weather:  48°, sun, snow on ground

About this hike:  We covered the entire Lava Trail (one of the longest, ranked one of the most difficult) at Flagstaff Nordic Center.  This was accomplished on snow shoes.  While the snowy conditions were deteriorating due to warmer temps and sunshine, there was still ample snow on most of the trail.  Jackets were soon shed for t-shirts and only shorts were on under our snow pants.

The Lava Trail gains some elevation and near the top the snow pack was quite a bit better. Towering ponderosa pines gave a sweet smell of sap while aspens stood alongside. The views of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks and Humphrey's Peak were breathtaking in places.

Around a 4-5 hour hike on snow shoes, this one is an all dayer.  I would love to experience this in a moderate snowfall while the branches of the ponderosas slowly gather a coating of white.

For my first experience snow shoeing I have to say I was not disappointed. I plan to be back.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Picacho Peak

Weather:  68°, overcast, a few sprinkles

About this hike:  I've often admired the lobster claw-shaped rock that sticks up on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson.  As one drives east/south on the 10, Picacho Peak becomes visible around Casa Grande and remains visible nearly all the way to Tucson.

The trailhead is accessed via Picacho Peak State Park.  The ascent toward the summit was moderate at first, and varieties of plantlife, including a fine desert grass, abounded.  At times it was hard to believe I was in the Sonoran.

Picacho soon turns very steep with numerous portions requiring hikers to pull themselves up along steel braided cables.  I did not have gloves for this hike...lesson learned for next time.  At times as I clung to the cables my fear of heights kicked in.  Regardless I persevered to the peak where a swarm of gnats awaited.  I enjoyed the views, took a few pictures, and quickly got out of there.  Best part of this hike was sharing it with someone special :)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Piestewa on a Saturday Afternoon

Weather:  60°, sunny

About this hike:  First time back to Piestewa in a while. I went with someone special :) We first tried Camelback thinking mid-afternoon on a Saturday might not be so bad. We were very mistaken. Rather than fight for a spot or visit the "secret" place, whose gates were sure to be closed, we headed to Piestewa.  Speaking of closed gates, after entering the Echo Canyon parking lot at Camelback, the main entrance gate closed behind us. I guess the park rangers are serious about not letting additional cars in when parking is full.

The views weren't great today with a lot of smog/haze in the air.  The past few days Superstition and Four Peaks have been snow capped and absolutely beautiful. While visible with the naked eye, a camera lens wouldn't do it justice considering all the crap in the air.