Tag Archives: South Mountain Park

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.

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.