Tag Archives: Hiking

N is for North Mountain Park

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N is for North Mountain Park

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email:

Hi Andrea,
It’s me, Textile Ranger!  I am going to be in Phoenix the first part of next week, April 8 and 9, staying by North Mountain State Park.  I have stayed there before a few years ago, so you when you wrote about hiking at South Mountain, that registered with me.  It may be very far from your part of Phoenix to where I will be, but I just wanted to check with you about possibly meeting for lunch or an art museum visit or something on one of those days.  If you can’t make it, that is fine, but I didn’t want to come to Phoenix without mentioning it to you.
If you don’t know, Textile Ranger is the blogger behind Deep in the Heart of Textiles. I can’t remember how I stumbled across it, but I love it for the quilts Textile Ranger creates. She’s interested in (and writes about) everything textile, from fibers and dyes to antique clothing. She’s been weaving for decades. (She also has a nature blog, Little Wild Streak.) So, she’s something of a celebrity to me, and I jumped at the chance to meet her in person. And since I’ve been meaning to check out North Mountain Park, I suggested we hike there together before going out to lunch.
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We met last Tuesday at the Visitor Center. She gifted me with a nifty water bottle holder that clips on nicely to the shoulder bag I usually carry when I’m hiking. Now I have a free hand!
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Textile Ranger

And off we went. Ranger (she spent two summers as a park ranger at Big Bend) suggested a 2 1/2 mile trail that didn’t have any steep elevations. Perfect for walking and talking.
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The huge park has breathtaking desert and mountain views. We had some good rains a few weeks ago, and we’ve been rewarded with lovely wildflowers.
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Globemallow below:
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I want to call these buttercups, but I’m not sure that’s what they are:
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These flowers remind me of how little children draw flowers, just circles on a stem; I don’t know what they are–
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But there was an area that was literally blanketed with them:
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And the palo verde trees are just beginning to bloom:
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Closeup of a pale verde blossom:
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And the cholla cactus has these beautiful magenta blooms:
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Back at the visitor’s center, there is a water fountain that dispenses chilled water. Heavenly! And there are beautiful plantings by the building. Don’t know what this bush is:
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I think this is a pink globemallow:
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Cool sculptures:
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Which are the perfect backdrop for another picture of the Textile Ranger:
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I am so thrilled that Textile Ranger is not just a virtual friend any more, but a real friend whom I know face to face. We have lots in common. She’s also a former elementary school teacher, and she loves to read. I’m so touched that she reached out to me. Be sure to check out her blogs, Deep in the Heart of  Textiles and Little Wild StreakShe’s going to post her take on North Mountain Park on Little Wild Streak today.
North Mountain Park is a place I will explore in more detail in the future.
AtoZ2019tenthAnn

Hiking Different Trails at South Mountain Park

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Hiking Different Trails at South Mountain Park

I’ve been back to South Mountain Park three times since I last posted about it. My first visit back, I hiked further along the Kiwanis Trail. But after a while, I couldn’t tell where the trail led; it wasn’t clearly marked. I turned to retrace my steps, and I couldn’t remember which way I’d come up. Luckily, a little old man and his wife appeared, coming down, and I watched where they stepped. It was tricky, harder than coming up. They wanted to wait for me, but I told them to go on–I’d be awhile. I did catch up to them again–much later.

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That little red dot left of center is a person. He gives some scale to the landscape.

So the next time, I decided to find an “easy” trail, and decided on the Marcos de Niza trail, which starts near the Pima Canyon trailhead on the eastern end of the park, which is a lot closer to my home than the main entrance near Central Avenue.

 

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the Marcos de Niza trail once I got there. Instead, I hiked a very nice, wide, fairly level trail which I think is the National Trail. Part of it parallels a sandy dry wash.

 

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I walked about half an hour, stopping along the way to take photographs. Lovely wildflowers along the path (click on smaller pictures to enlarge):

A dead saguaro cactus:

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An ominous threat of rain on the mountain:

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When I came to an intersection, I turned right on the Beverly Canyon trail, and then picked up the Pima Wash Trail, which I could see headed back toward the parking lot. (There it is, behind those red-roofed ramadas, with the city of Tempe in the distance.)

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Though this ocotillo looks dead, closer inspection shows new growth coming out among the thorns.

This tree, however, is very dead:

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The Pima Wash trail is narrower than the National Trail, and has more ups and downs, making it a bit more demanding, but not too bad. More wildflowers:

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This little cave looks like the perfect home for a fox:

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I swear this cloud followed me.

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Yesterday I went back to the Pima Canyon trailhead, but I was in the mood for something a little more challenging. I left my camera at home and took the first part of the Desert Classic trail, which wraps around the southeastern edge of the mountain. The first mile or so borders along the back of a housing development. Thirty years ago, when we were exploring moving to the Phoenix area, we looked at some of these houses with “mountain views.” However, the ones in our price range were quite small, too tight for our growing family.

This trail, like the other South Mountain trails I’ve hiked so far, are popular with runners, mountain bikers, and dogwalkers. I overheard one biker tell his companion, “This is one of the least rocky trails in Phoenix. I’d hate to see a rockier one.”

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You can’t always see the surrounding trails, but every once in a while you get a peek of other hikers.

The Desert Classic trail starts out fairly level, but then it climbs. After a little more than mile, it intersects with the Beverly Canyon trail, which continues up and over the mountain. It’s steep, but there are adequate footholds. I was not afraid, as I have been on some trails. After I descended, which was a little tricky (I handle uphill better than down), the trail becomes a bit easier and ultimately crosses the main National Trail, which I followed back to my car.

I’m very comfortable with yesterday’s hike, and I will come back to it. Parts of it are a little harder than what I expect I will experience when I visit Israel this summer, but if I train hard now, I’ll have a great vacation.

Return to Hole in the Rock

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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Hayden Mill, an historic landmark

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The lovely Tempe Mission Palms Hotel.

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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.

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

 

A little-bit-better view of the “A.”

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

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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).

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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.)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!)

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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

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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.

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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.

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A barrier of some kind.

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I think this is a variety of cholla.

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My pretty Katie, sitting on an interesting log.

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You can see how rocky the soil is.

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

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

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

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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.

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Someone stacked some rocks.

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The rocks don’t deter plants from growing.

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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.

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Who left these tracks?

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Oh. That’s who.

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A tree growing right out of the rock.

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

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I love the shadows on the mountains.

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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

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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):