Tag Archives: Hiking

Return to Hole in the Rock

Standard

A year ago I went to Hole in the Rock, an interesting sandstone formation in Papago Park. That was when I was still suffering from arthritis pain (before my hip replacement) and was unable to climb to the top.

Now that I’m bionic and healed and going hiking once a week, I decided to go back and try again.

IMG_3082

This is considered rather an easy trail, but it was still challenging for me. You walk around the back side of the mountain. Steps are built into the path and edged with rock. There were quite a few people there. Children scampered past me. So did parents carrying toddlers.

IMG_3072

From the back, this is what the mountain looks like:

IMG_3071

When I look at the steepness of it, I can’t believe I climbed up there. When I got to the opening, though, I couldn’t make myself descend the little stairs cut into the rock that lead into the chamber. Look for yourself–see them at the lower right corner of the picture below? I think part of my problem was that just out of sight on the left was a group of people enjoying the view and I didn’t want them to see me tumble down. (Although, if you’re going to fall on a hike like this, you want to do it when there are people around to help you.) Another consideration was that I had an expensive camera around my neck that I didn’t want to bang up.

IMG_3076

Here’s what the view from the top looks like through the hole:

IMG_3073

And here’s the view looking out from the back side, Camelback Mountain in the distance:

IMG_3080

Someday I’m going back with a little more experience and without my camera so that I can really experience Hole in the Rock the way the Native Americans did.

Revisiting “A” Mountain

Standard
Revisiting “A” Mountain

Three years ago I hiked nearby Hayden Butte, also known as Tempe Butte and “A” Mountain for the big “A” on its face (for Arizona State University). I made it most of the way up, but turned back before reaching the top, because after negotiating what was for me a very challenging rocky area, I came across another patch like it and didn’t want to press my luck.

But recently I bought a nice pair of hiking boots and a trekking pole, and I’ve committed myself to hiking regularly, and I thought maybe I could try “A” Mountain again.

dsc03276

It’s a little hard to see the “A” from this angle. Also, it’s a lot larger than it looks–60 feet tall!

I took the light rail to downtown Tempe. There are two stops at the foot of the butte. I got off at the Veterans Way/College Ave stop.

The first part of the trail is a gravel path which is sometimes a gentle slope, but mostly steep steps reinforced by wooden railroad ties. I stopped often along the way to take pictures.

dsc03280

The light rail train approaching the Mill Ave/3rd St station.

fullsizeoutput_c0a

Hayden Mill, an historic landmark

dsc03286

The lovely Tempe Mission Palms Hotel.

dsc03285

Always construction in Tempe and on the Arizona State University campus.

This is the desert, folks, as you can see from the landscape along the trail.

dsc03288

Pretty desert wildflowers (click on the smaller photos to enlarge):

 

A little-bit-better view of the “A.”

dsc03292

After a while, the gravel path connects to an asphalt one, which is rather steep, but has a hand-rail. It ends at a level area with benches and a trash bin, a good spot to take a break and snap some photographs. Then we’re back to an unpaved trail.

It seems to me that the trail has deteriorated a lot in three years. The soil has eroded to such a degree that some of the steps are almost three feet high, challenging for a little old lady like me with two artificial hips.

dsc03296

Here’s a hazy view of Sky Harbor Airport (upper left; control tower center) and the Phoenix skyline.

dsc03299

Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium is nestled right next to Hayden Butte:

dsc03303

Eventually you get high enough to see what’s on the other side of the butte: State Farm Insurance’s new headquarters and the Tempe Town Lake, built out of the dry Salt River bed.

dsc03304

Also, by this time we are on the stretch that caused me so much distress last time. The path is steep, uneven solid rock with lots of nooks and crannies. I think I wore ordinary sneakers last time; hiking boots are much better on this kind of terrain. I carefully watched where I put my feet so that I wouldn’t turn my ankle.

fullsizeoutput_c16

Because my eyes were down, I didn’t notice that the handrail on my right, which I was hanging onto for dear life, abruptly ended. Unfortunately, another handrail, to my left, would not be within reach for two more steps. In my surprise, I awkwardly swayed on my steep footing until I could maneuver my trekking pole into service. Can you make out the gap between the handrails in the picture below?

DSC03308

Despite the posted policy requiring hikers to stay on the trail, some find lofty vantage points to check their phones:

fullsizeoutput_c18

After that point, there was one (or maybe two) tall staircases fabricated out of concrete. Then there was another stretch of uneven solid rock. It was there that I turned around last time. This time I continued onward and was rewarded by a lovely view of Camelback Mountain (near the left horizon; from a different angle, it is easier to make out the camel’s head, neck, and hump; in this picture you really don’t see them unless you know what to look for).

dsc03313

After that rock path, there is a short, maybe 6-step staircase made of concrete; a small level area with a trash can; and to the left another short staircase leading to a chained and padlocked gate. That’s as far as you can go. There’s no platform at the top to relax and take pictures; you’re better off stopping just before you get to those two little staircases. (This picture doesn’t capture it very well. I took it after I’d already started down. But you can see the handrail to nowhere.)

dsc03315

It took me about 35 minutes to go up, taking photographs along the way, and about 25 minutes to come down. A lot of people, especially college students, passed me coming and going, so it is possible to do this hike in a significantly shorter time. You use different leg muscles coming down, and it’s steep, so I walked with care. I decided to take the asphalt path all the way down and bypass that first stretch of railroad tie steps. I ended up having to wander a long way around the base of the mountain to get back where I started.

If you’re interested, a very well-written online review details hiking the butte with kids.

 

Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

Standard
Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

My daughter Carly spent seven and a half weeks in Israel last year, six of those weeks in Hebron (I guess, technically, in Palestine) studying Arabic. She wants to go back this summer, and suggested I go, too. It’s been on my bucket list for thirty years.

img_2984

img_2980

Carly warned me, “I don’t understand how this is possible, but I swear every street in Bethlehem is uphill.” I promised her I’d train. I’ve been walking the treadmill at an incline, and I will gradually increase my speed and my height. A friend who’s been to Israel recommended bringing a trekking pole for uneven ground and cobblestones.

img_2991

img_2992

Working out on the treadmill is nice, but maybe it’s not realistic. I bought some hiking boots and a trekking pole and headed out to South Mountain Park.

img_2995

img_2996

South Mountain Park/Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. It encompasses more than 16,000 acres at the southern edge of Phoenix, Arizona.

img_2997

img_2998

I used to drive up to the summit of the park with my children when they were young. There’s a cabin-like structure at the top where you can sit, eat a picnic lunch, and enjoy a panoramic view of the entire “Valley of the Sun.” But I’d never hiked there, except for one brief excursion with my kids when they begged to go home after 15 minutes.

img_3008

So, now I’m a sixty-six year old beginning hiker with two artificial hips. With the help of Hike Phoenix, I determined that the Kiwanis Trail would be a good place to start.

img_3009

img_3010

Thursday late morning I parked my car at the trailhead and looked around. If you follow ARHtistic License, you may have caught on that I love the desert. It’s so much greener than I’d expected when we moved here from New Jersey. I love the rugged rockiness of the desert mountains.

img_3013

img_3014

There’s a profound silence in the park, except for the chirping of birds. And the sounds of the jets en route to and from Sky Harbor International Airport, not too far away. And barrages of gunfire from a nearby shooting range. And the disconcerting buzzing of bees busy pollinating the yellow brittlebush and taking detours around my head.

img_3015

img_3017

In the 1990s, Africanized honeybees invaded Arizona, and from time to time we heard reports of people and dogs being severely stung and even killed by swarms of the bees in Arizona, and at least one in South Mountain Park. Not so much lately, though.

img_3019

img_3022

I discovered I really like the trekking pole. It helped stabilize me on the steeper sections of the trail, and even a gentle push on the pole helped boost me up a big step. I will definitely take it to Israel.

img_3023

img_3029

Even though there were quite a few cars in the parking lot, I didn’t see many people on the trail. Part of that might be due to the fact I was there on a weekday; also, I brought my camera with me, and I stopped every few feet to take another picture. The desert looks different every time you change your perspective.

img_3046

img_3048

At one point, all I could see ahead of me was a jumble of rocks. Uh oh, I’ve lost the trail. But a couple steps later, I saw it again. I guess my stature of five feet nothing was to blame for my limited vision.

img_3055

img_3058

I never reached the end of the trail. After forty minutes, I decided I’d had enough for the day and turned around.

img_3059

img_3064

I found coming down the trail more challenging than going up. Again, my trekking pole helped me keep my balance while stretching beyond my normal stride, and kept me from stumbling when my heel caught an outcropping or I landed on a lose rock and almost twisted my ankle. I made it back to the car in twenty-five minutes, taking few pictures on the way down because I needed to concentrate on my footing. (I ended up with a total of 95 shots!)

img_3065

I will definitely be going back, without my camera next time. I want to enjoy the hiking without any distractions. I am so blessed to be able to immerse myself in the beauty of the desert.

Desert Walk

Standard
Desert Walk

My youngest daughter had a day off work on December 30, and she invited me to come over and hang with her.

Katie lives almost an hour away, so I don’t often drive out there.

But she asked me so nicely. My heart swelled with joy. So, I said, “I’d love to.”

She’d been to our house Christmas morning, before going to work for the day. It was then she suggested we do something together. She proposed three different outings, and none of them appealed to me. So I suggested a hike, and she jumped on it.

The San Tan Mountain Regional Park, just a short drive from Katie’s house, contains 10,000 acres of desert, with beautifully maintained trails. We walked a loop that consisted of part of the Moonlight trail, the Stargazer trail, and part of the San Tan Trail, covering 2.5 miles of relatively easy walking.

Although Katie didn’t complain, I must have driven her crazy, because I stopped every few steps to take pictures. Honestly, the view changed constantly. And if you turned a few degrees, everything looked different again. I took 160 shots. I’m only going to share a few.

img_0261

img_0267

img_0269

img_0291

img_0298

img_0304

When we first moved to Arizona 28 years ago, I was expecting the desert to look like the Sahara–lots of sand, completely brown. The Arizona Sonoran Desert is full of life. It’s rocky, although sandy in some places. Mostly, it’s dirt. And the mountains are rocky.

If you go to northern Arizona, it snows up in the mountains. There are actual ski resorts up there. Those mountains are covered in pine trees rather than cactus.

img_0302

A barrier of some kind.

img_0305

img_0306

I think this is a variety of cholla.

img_0314

My pretty Katie, sitting on an interesting log.

img_0327

You can see how rocky the soil is.

img_0329

Housing developments in the distance, and more mountains in the background.

img_0335

You can’t blame Katie for getting ahead of me. Besides, I got some action shots of her on the trail.

img_0339

The trail had some gentle ups and downs, but nothing steep, at least not where we were.

img_0342

A lot of people rode mountain bikes on these trails, too. Or walked their dogs. Everyone was so nice, too. They greeted us as we passed one another.

img_0343

Someone stacked some rocks.

img_0345

img_0348

img_0351

The rocks don’t deter plants from growing.

img_0352

img_0353

img_0358

Do you see what I mean about how beautiful and how diverse it is out here? I want to try to paint some of these scenes.

img_0364

img_0409

Who left these tracks?

img_0403

Oh. That’s who.

img_0365

img_0366

img_0367

img_0368

img_0369

img_0374

A tree growing right out of the rock.

img_0396

The sky was so blue. The temperature was 69 degrees. It doesn’t get better than this.

img_0397

img_0399

img_0402

img_0408

I love the shadows on the mountains.

img_0410

img_0411

img_0412

image-1

Okay, I’m done. But there’s so much more to explore. We’re planning to go back.

Photos © by ARHuelsenbeck and Katie Huelsenbeck.

Crossing A Mountain Off My List

Standard
Crossing A Mountain Off My List

 

Butte—an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top (similar to but narrower than a mesa).

When we were house hunting in Arizona in the summer of 1988, one of the sights we saw was a mountain with a big A on it, just a stone’s throw from Arizona State University. The A is supposed to be yellow (ASU’s colors are maroon and gold), but we’ve seen it every color of the rainbow (including plaid), even though unauthorized personnel are forbidden from painting it.

Hayden Butte

Found on Yelp.com posted by Ron G.

We moved to “the Valley of the Sun” (the greater Phoenix metropolitan area) in August of that year, and one of the things I looked forward to doing was hiking A Mountain, also known by Tempe Butte or its official name, Hayden Butte.

Of course, as soon as we moved into our new house, I became pregnant with our fifth child. And other aspects of life intruded. And I never got around to it. But I kept it in mind as something I wanted to do someday.

When I started this blog last year, I thought it would be fun to post photographs taken from the top of A Mountain. I could cross one item off my bucket list and get a good workout in addition to gathering content for the blog. And yet, every time I planned to do it, I got derailed. It was too hot. Hubby needed my car. It was raining. My hip hurt.

Add to that my husband’s suspicions that I wasn’t up to the job. I am a 63-year-old lady with osteoarthritis, after all. And I am not a hiker.

But when Wednesday, December 30, 2015 dawned, there wasn’t a single good reason not to try it.

Parking in downtown Tempe is a challenge, so to be on the safe side, I used a Park & Ride lot and took the light rail to the foot of Hayden Butte. (I actually saw some unused metered parking spaces in the Sun Devil Stadium lot next door, but that’s okay.)

Knowing my physical limitations, I gave myself permission not to force myself to climb to the very top. Yet I got pretty close. Several times I thought I was almost there, just to crest a rise and discover I had another hundred feet to go. Part of the path was made of steps created with railroad ties; another part was paved in asphalt; another part was concrete stairs; another part was rock, at jagged angles (the one spot where I almost fell). When I came to a second rock section close to the top, I pronounced myself high enough.

Here are some of the photographs I took (click on individual images to enlarge and see captions):