Friday, January 29, 2016

Piestewa Near Record...

Weather:  59°, sunny

Time:  23 minutes

About this hike:  Nearly scratched a Piestewa record.  Today I completed the trail in 23:06, so almost hit 22 minutes.  If I only had sprinted on the staightaways... No, that would be unsafe and a violation of my personal rules.

Regardless, this was an enjoyable morning hike.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Camelback Echo Canyon - New Record!

Weather:  59°, sunny

Time:  27 minutes

About this hike:  I thought it couldn't be done.  Twenty-eight minutes was to be my record up Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon.  And then somehow I did in 27.  Granted, this does factor in a handicap, but regardless, I was pushing hard and rarely even stopped to take a sip of Powerade.

I'm honestly not sure that 27 minutes can be beat though.  Reason is, I refuse to run on any of the mountain trails.  Runners pass me constantly, especially on the way down, and I hope for their safety every time I see one.  I have witnessed many an injury on those mountain trails, and I believe it is in part due to people running and tripping over rocks.  Of course not bringing water, hiking at 2:00pm on a July day, and venturing off trail are all culprits as well.  Like the sign at the trailhead advises, "Don't be that hiker..."

So a very enjoyable hike today.  As I was leaving the PHX PD chopper was circling above and park rangers were arriving at the trailhead parking lot.  I overhead a ranger say a mountain rescue was in progress...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good Workout at Piestewa

Weather:  56°, sunny

Time:  24 minutes

About this hike:  This was a routine Piestewa hike.  I regret believing my tablet's weather app when it said 43°... I ended up wearing a thermal and was way too hot.  The trails were surprisingly not crowded; a direct conflict with the situation in the parking lots.

I might have spent the least amount of time ever at the summit today.  Normally I find it very serene and enjoyable to relax at any of our PHX mountains' summits after a long hike.  Today some other hikers were hacking their lungs up and felt the need to share with everyone.  The peaceful summit ruined, and not wanting to catch their plague, I headed straight back down.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Yup, It's High Season for Tourists...

Weather:  53°, sunny

Time:  28 minutes

About this hike:  Upon arrival this fine Monday morning the Echo Canyon parking area didn't look too busy.  The cars that were parked must have all been rental cars though, because the trails were loaded with tourists.

I know this because of comments such as, "The guidebook warned that this is a very steep trail!"  Not to mention a lack of trail etiquette with the worst offenders stopping  to lean against the railings and chat.  This caused bottlenecks both coming up and going back down on this steep, tricky part of the trail.

So despite my frustrations, this was still a nice hike on a brisk, sunny PHX winter morning.  I gave myself a bit of a handicap on the time due to all the bottlenecks I couldn't get around, but I solidly tied the 28 minute record.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thumbs Up (and Down)

Weather:  71°, overcast

About this hike:  Every time I visit the McDowell-Scottsdale Sonoran Preserve I am impressed by what a spectacular job the City of Scottsdale has done with this outdoor recreation haven in the McDowell Mountains.  Trailheads feature abundant parking and facilities including restrooms (waterless latrines, so definitely bring your own drinking water), well-stocked literature racks including maps, and trash/recycling bins.  The best part is that the preserve is free to use.

I decided to take advantage of warm January temps and an overcast day to visit Tom's Thumb, a trailhead I haven't visited in years.  Getting there involves a bit of a drive up the 101-N, exit at Pima, continue on Happy Valley... Arterial streets give way to meandering residential streets lined with million-dollar mansions and views of the McDowells to match.  Unlike a few years ago when I first visited, roads to Tom's Thumb now feature clear signage to the parking area.

Tom's Thumb proved to be full of other hikers with similar Saturday plans.  Nabbing a parking spot was still not difficult.  The hike up to Tom's Thumb was about two miles each way and featured strenuous uphill for most of the hike up.  The trails are smooth and well graded, which can be a bit deceptive as they are also slippery gravel in spots.  I would HIGHLY recommend (and regret not having) hiking poles for the trek down.  A lot of people bring dogs on this trail and I got to play with a number of cute, friendly huskies this afternoon.

Exploring the Thumb is pretty cool, but definitely not an all-day event.  There are plenty of spur and side trails to explore, all well-signed at junctions/trailheads.  I opted to hike the Marcus Landslide, which is accessible both at Tom's Thumb trailhead and at a junction off the Tom's Thumb trail.  Signs along Marcus Landslide trail provide some insight into how the landslide occurred, and how this has shaped the present-day McDowell Mountains.  The trail was a relatively flat, easy one-miler each way.

Very enjoyable Saturday. I guess I need to visit McDowell-Scottsdale Sonoran Preserve more often.

Rock climbers atop Tom's Thumb

Hazy sunshine over the Marcus Landslide

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hike to Camelback Summit - Less Hazy Today

Weather:  53°, sunny

Time:  28 minutes

About this hike:  Time-wise today was a repeat of yesterday, so I won't post the screenshots from the S-Health app.  However, I feel more confident about this 28-minute today.  Yesterday was all about justifying how I calculated a handicap.  Today, despite the mountain being more crowded, I managed to make great time.  And yes, I took a handicap, but it wasn't as generous as yesterday...

Coming down there was a group of high-school aged kids playing tag; this started right around the railroad tie stairs.  The shenanigans continued thru the graded dirt portion of the trail all the way back to the trailhead.  They only stopped every now and again to make out.  Otherwise, they'd run ahead of me with someone screaming, "I'm it!" and then they'd eventually stop, wait for me to pass, and then start again.  I was very fearful that their reckless running would end with one falling and taking me along for the ride off the mountain... Seriously, I want to start a "hiker shaming" website...

Despite my complaining about youthful non-sense, today was a great hike.  Also noteworthy is that the brown cloud and pollution that's been so bad all over the Valley seems to have lifted today.  The mountain views were a lot clearer than even yesterday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Camelback Record Tied

Weather:  51°, sunny

Time:  28 minutes

About this hike:  The crowds they were thin at Camelback Echo Canyon this morning.  Spurred on by cool weather, I tied my previous record of 28 minutes.  That said, I did allow myself a bit of a handicap... Generally I always stop my time just before the I reach the summit at both Piestewa and Camelback.  This is to make up for slowdowns beyond my control (i.e. tourists, snow birds, selfie-takers—anything that blocks the trail).  So I know, I know—I make my own rules.  Regardless, I'm declaring this one a 28 minute time to the summit.

Otherwise, this was an uneventful hike, which is just the way I like them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Snowbirds on Piestewa

Weather:  56°, sunny

Time:  23 minutes

About this hike:  After a weekend up in Flagstaff playing in the snow, I was concerned my legs would be sore and fatigued. Not so apparently, as I tied the record again today!

Flocks of snowbirds had descended upon Piestewa this morning and I spent the majority of the hike down dodging them.  It was definitely a little busier than I expected.  All things considered, an enjoyable, if not routine, hike.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Back to Play in the Snow - Flagstaff Nordic Center

Weather:  38°, started sunny but clouded up

About this hike:  Last year after visiting Flagstaff Nordic Center I stated the following:

"I would love to experience this in a moderate snowfall while the branches of the ponderosas slowly gather a coating of white."

This year I got my wish...well sort of.  Plenty of fresh snow had fallen the day before and everything was beautifully covered in white.  The snow on the ponderosa pines was breathtaking along with the aspens and views of the San Francisco Peaks.

For the holiday weekend I loaded up my snowshoes (that's right, I bought a pair—no more rentals!), snow pants, and boots for a trip up to the Nordic Center.  Not only did I do Lava Trail again, but I also did the full circumference of Elk Trail.  Unfortunately that doesn't leave a whole lot of new trails to explore.  My next snowshoe adventure may be blazing my own trails at Buffalo Park or perhaps Mormon Lake.

Every time I go up to Flagstaff I make a commitment to myself to visit Flag more often.  And now that I own a pair of snowshoes, I guess I have a good excuse...

Breaking in new snowshoes

It happened again this year—Jake (the Juke) in a lake!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Elastic Stretching at Camelback...

Weather:  47°, sunny

Time:  29 minutes

About this hike:  The mountain wasn't too crowded this morning, for a change.  But for those who did choose to brave the camel's back, today must have been ugly spandex day... Lots of  big butts ready to bust out of hideous prints.  Too bad I missed the memo (and don't own a pair of spandex!).

Otherwise a routine, enjoyable hike. With the cooler temps I would have loved to set a new record, but I remain at my steady 29 minutes.  Still under 30 though...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Placid Day on Piestewa

Weather:  65°, sunny

Time:  24 minutes

About this hike:  Job hunting isn't going particularly well this week.  What better way to take a break then head to the mountains?

Finally the crowds are dying down.  The parking area wasn't too crowded today.  Snow is still visible on the Four Peaks and some other mountains just north of the Valley.  Other than that, this was a tranquil, enjoyable afternoon hike.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Clemson & Crimson Tourists on Camelback

Weather:  53°, sunny, windy

Time:  29 minutes

About this hike:  When I arrived around 10:00am on this fine Tuesday morning parking was easy to come by.  I looked forward to a relatively crowd-free hike up the mountain.  There ended up being crowds, but mostly at the usual bottleneck points:  hand rails, etc.

I noted that most people on the mountain today were tourists in town for the College Football Championship.  A lot of Tigers fans were licking their wounds today.  One group even unfurled a Tigers' flag at the summit.

Four Peaks and some of the surrounding mountains have a bit of snow on them which was very pretty in the morning sun.  (Some tourists stated it was just the sun reflecting off the rocks, and they would know best, right?)  I got some pix with my phone, but it wasn't easy since strong wind at the summit was blowing me off balance.  This was one day where I was not too hot wearing a thermal athletic shirt.

So for all my complaining about tourists (I was one on Camelback just 5 years ago!), I continue to do this hike in an enjoyable 29 minutes.

As I descended the mountain I noticed even more crowds on the ascent, most sporting collegiate athletic wear.  By the time a reached the parking area not a spot was to be had.

Snow on the Four Peaks

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Piestewa this Afternoon...

Weather:  57°, overcast, chilly

Time:  23 minutes

About this hike:  I debated going to Piestewa this afternoon.  Phoenix is full of tourists this weekend for the college football event downtown.  This means they'll all be out for a hike in our cool, damp weather.  Despite my internal objections, I rose above and made the drive up to Piestewa.

It was every bit as crowded as I expected with tourists, children, etc.  Regardless, I had an enjoyable hike and pushed very hard.  My efforts paid off as I tied my previous record.  Not sure ascending Piestewa (safely!) in less than 23 minutes is ever going to be a reality for me.  Twenty-three minutes is still a respectable personal best.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cold, Cloudy, Crowded Camelback

Weather:  59°, overcast, occasional strong breeze

Time:  29 minutes

About this hike:  Being a Wednesday afternoon (and considering the recent weather) I expected a quiet trailhead. Wrong again. Upon my arrival there was hardly a parking spot to be found. Gratefully I scored a fantabulous spot right at the top of the main parking lot.

This has been a rough week for hiking. On Monday I was in the area of Echo Canyon for an appointment but conveniently had my hiking gear in the car. I even went so far as to get to the trailhead and get parked, but the rain started coming down hard. I opted to wait for a bit, but it started coming down harder. Since wet rocks and climbing are never a good combination, I opted to play it safe and head home. Probably a good thing, as the Valley has seen unprecedented rainfall each day this week.

So back to the hike at hand... The trails were still a little damp from all the rain, but drying nicely. I'm not sure if it was cabin fever or what, but an amateur crowd was out today (stopping in the middle of the trail to take selfies, causing drama, etc.). Add to that an extra dose of precaution due to damp trails, and yet somehow I still managed a 29 minute time to the summit.  In less crowded, drier conditions could this have been a 28-minute record tie, OR a new record entirely? Regardless, I'll still happily take an under-30 minute time.

All the rainfall has cleared out the pollution hanging over our Valley since New Years. Today you could see down between Casa Grande and Tucson as Picacho Peak just barely stood out in the far distance.  Wish I had brought my binoculars, but it is visible in the photo below.

The airplane is the marker. See Picacho behind it in the far distance??

Very Superstitious...

Rainfall is bringing out some wildlife too!

Only 192 calories burned? I don't think so!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Piestewa Record Tied!

Weather:  70°, overcast, occasional strong breeze

Time:  23 minutes

About this hike:  I tied my old record!  That in itself is an accomplishment as it has been a while since a sub-24 minute time at Piestewa.

While the trip up was great, the trip down not so much... I fell, or nearly fell, 3 times.  Thankfully no injuries (except maybe my pride!), but disconcerting that I kept falling.

This week is forecasted to be rainy and cool.  Hopefully the weather cooperates and I can squeeze a few more hikes in.