Category Archives: Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe

Don’t Look Down

While southbound to Cincinnati on I-71 a couple of years ago, Zach and I laughed over a few favorite memories from an Arizona trip the previous spring. His bold assurance as we clambered up and down the sides of mountains and canyons had given height-wary me additional amounts of courage and strength. During our car ride, he admitted to having experienced a couple of less than absolutely confident times himself.

Not surprisingly, his moments of unease coincided with a few of my own white knuckle memories: A couple of “don’t look down” spots on the side of Camelback Mountain (we both looked!) and on the side of an almost bald outcropping on Bear Mountain where sudden hail and wind gusts made hugging a scrubby bush more about survival than about any warm environmental feelings.

Anytime you get to push a shoulder into your own boundary and expand the edge line out a little further, you facilitate your own growth. When you can do that in the company of someone you care about, you have a witness with whom to frame and commemorate the change.

“What a great trip!”  Not sure which one of us said it first.  But either one of us could have stated the obvious.

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Can You Hear It…?

Originally posted April 14, 2008

Craving a little warmth as the snow falls steadily outside my window…

There was so much to see that it took a moment for me to realize there was nothing to hear. It was silent. And then a warm breeze rustled the leaves of the aptly named brittle bush and there was sound in the Sonoran Desert…

With a bottle of water and serious slathering of sunscreen, I was primed to explore the desert area of South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona last month. The choice I wobbled over was whether to photograph it or run it.

I love to run in new-to-me beautiful places. I also love capturing those places frame by frame through a camera lens. Fitness or photography? On vacation, I had the luxury of choosing both. I took my camera the first afternoon and then enjoyed a truly lovely run the next morning; reminding myself each time I caught a spectacular view (without a camera) that I’d had my chance the day before.

South Mountain Park preserves 16,000 acres of Sonoran Desert. Three mountain ranges stretch diagonally across the park, creating a challenging playground for mountain bikers and hikers and “home” for some fascinating desert critters. I spotted the orange tail of a chuckwalla, several geckos, California jackrabbits, cactus wrens, quail, hawks and hummingbirds along the Pima Loop trails. No javelinas or rattlesnakes. Maybe next time…

I used inordinate caution over the loose rocks that scattered most of the steeper grades in grudging accommodation of my surgically-enhanced ankle. But the sandy trails below made for a wonderfully cushioned run… I kept thinking that I should turn around but had a hard time following through that second morning. It was forty-five minutes of pure exhilaration with a water break at the half-way point. I was in no hurry to finish, which made it a good run and a great vacation.

Phoenix Things To Do on raveable

More Arizona adventures to come…

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Climbing Camelback

Urban hiking usually includes designated crossings and coffee shops. Public transportation is a safety net option should you get lost or out-hike your return trip energy. Camelback Mountain in the ultra urban Phoenix/Scottsdale area offers but distant views of those niceties.  One of several mountainous globs that emerge from the flat desert landscape, it is in the city but not of the city.

The first time I hiked Camelback, it was along the Cholla Trail where darkness turned us back short of our summit mark. It was the smart safe choice.  Sheer drop-offs and dim lighting are kind of an oil and water combination for most serious hikers.  But it felt unfinished. In my heart, I knew I’d have to hike it again.

Zach and I found the Echo Canyon Trail the afternoon before we were to fly home from Arizona last spring.  We’d spent a week hiking the Grand Canyon and in the Sedona area and wanted one more mountain before heading back to relatively flat Ohio.

Like my previous hike on Camelback, it was a good workout.  Continuously steep with varied boulder height, it used my legs well and required handholds as we neared the summit.

We spotted the occasional chuckwalla, but most of the non-plant life was human.  It was easily the busiest trail we traveled during our week in Arizona.

But the views were memorable, and the hike itself was another good mental challenge for my height-wary self.  And the biggest surprise at the top wasn’t the 360 panorama but that a hummingbird had also found its way to the top of Camelback Mountain.



















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