**These hikes took place on O’odham, Akimel O’odham, and Yavapai Apache lands**
My parents sent us a Phoenix hiking guidebook when we first moved in and our first hike was the closest one mentioned in the guidebook (Lookout Mountain). It had been a bit since we had picked another trail from there with so many trails in the area so we pulled it out and found Go John Trail. After we got around the first bend behind the hills we were greeted by a fire scar. It was heartbreaking but amazing. The fire had happened in May and the amount of plant life already coming back was incredible.
Knowing that we had errands to run and cleaning to do ahead of my parent’s visit we opted for a quick easy hike in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. Apache Wash was our trail of choice for a quick (flat) 5.5 miles. We had an early start and got to see some hot air balloons just taking off. As much as I wanted to get a photo of their flames as they rose we were a bit too far away. We were surprised when we got to the north end of the loop to find a very busy road but after paralleling it for a bit we turned back south and lost ourselves in the beautiful morning.
One of the first hikes we did was in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, the Dixie Mountain Loop. As the first hints of fall were hitting the Valley with an almost 20 degree drop from 100F on Thursday to 80F on Saturday at the beginning of November we were itching for longer hikes. Remembering how much we had enjoyed the Dixie Mountain Loop we looked at forming a longer loop in that area. It ended up being more of a lollipop to Great Horned Owl Trail with a quick jaunt to the top of Union Peak for our typical food break. Heartbreakingly, at the top of Union Peak there were almost a dozen rock stacks (cairns). If you’re unsure as to why these aren’t good click here for an article from LNT or here for an article from Smithsonian Magazine.
Kirk had a day off for Veterans Day so we took a long day to head to the South Mountain Preserve. There are so many trails in the South Mountains. We put off going there all summer since we knew we’d want to do a longer hike than the heat was generally allowing for. While trying to determine the trail we wanted to take at a crossroads a couple came by and recommended the Hidden Valley Trail. We were so glad that we listened to them. Not just because the trail was gorgeous and super neat but also because they ended up providing the most non-family social interaction we’ve had since we moved out! The Preserve is extensive and we’re super excited to explore more of it.
With the weather cooling off we’ve been hiking longer into the day (and sleeping later). This means that we’re also willing to drive a bit further to hike so we headed out to the Usery Mountain Regional Park. We had also recently heard about Maricopa County’s 100 miles in 100 days challenge and would need to hike at county parks to participate so we headed to a nearby one.
Our four day weekend for Thanksgiving started off very ambitious with a 4.5 mile trail run and plans to hike 7+ miles two days later. Well, 4.5 miles was longer than either of us had ran in a year and we could feel it! Instead of 7 miles we ended up doing about 4 miles along the Competitive Track at White Tank Mountain Regional Park. We didn’t realize that it was specifically a mountain biking track and it was a bit dull for hiking. Even though it was mid 60s both of us quickly started sweating in the sun. Still trying to get used to this desert hiking!
The weekend before Christmas we went back to Usery Mountain Regional Park to hike Pass Mountain Trail. When we had been to the Park last we knew we wanted to hike Pass Mountain Trail. It was a good length for a winter hike and the area was gorgeous.