We had been interested in doing the Maricopa County 100 miles in 100 days challenge but unfortunately we hadn’t found out about it until a few weeks in and the restriction of only being able to count hikes in county parks made us decide to pass this year (and honestly the cost!). Instead we stumbled upon a “lite” version of it with Arizona Bootleg 100. They also include social(!) activities in the form of group hikes (Kirk and I are diligent about wearing masks in ANY social situation, including group hiking).
After work on the first of December we grabbed our headlamps and drove down to South Mountain Park for the group kickoff hike. Standing in the parking lot was chilly with the sun down and after a round of introductions we got moving. This had been the most people we’ve been around since March and it was a little unreal. The majority of the group wore masks and we just kind of stayed away from those without. This was our first night hike in Arizona and it was definitely worth it. About half of the trail we hiked that night Kirk and I had hiked a month prior, which was great because South Mountain Park is gorgeous!
Saturday morning found us at the Boulder Canyon trail in Tonto National Forest. We had gotten up extra early to load our kayaks before heading into the National Forest. There was another group hike (in the daylight this time!) with AZ Bootleg in the Superstition Wilderness and we were thrilled. Even though it was December the forecast called for 80 degrees but standing at the trailhead I was glad I had grabbed my jacket. As soon as we hit the other side of the hill we started on it heated up and by the time we stopped for lunch at the base of Battleship Mountain I was back to my hiking dress and commenting on how warm it was for winter. The group that we hiked with was fantastic and we got to meet a couple of cute dogs, we’re excited to hike with these people in the future!
The duo that started this hiking challenge have connections around the city and decided to team up with Rising Mountains Coaching for a run/hike collab event the next week. We met at the trailhead at 7am and since it was a chilly morning were off running before 7:15. They offered 5 or 8 mile loops options. This was early in the challenge and we hadn’t done much trail running recently so I opted for the shorter of the two. I was glad to have a windbreaker on for the first hour until the sun crested over the mountains but almost wish I had worn a bottom base layer. Dan (one of the co-founders) was the only other AZ Bootleg member there but we were able to chat throughout the run about how they got the group started and even gave me some hiking and camping suggestions.*
Flatiron Peak or just “Flatiron” is a peak in the Superstition Mountains that had been recommended to us multiple times, mostly due to its notoriety. It’s known for its brutal elevation gain, rising over 3,000 feet in just over three miles. This incline involves lots of scrambling, careful foot placement, and rock climbing just shy of using ropes. Although the trek to the summit was grueling and our group went off-trail a couple times, the views at the top are worth the effort. While we were up there our group decided to check out some of the neighboring spires, namely Superstition Peak 5024. The route further up was less defined and consisted of climbing large boulders in whatever way you were able to. Flatiron gave us good views of the city but this peak gave us better views of the wilderness beyond and deep into the Superstitions.*
AZ Bootleg’s last group hike of the challenge was to Peak 5057 via Hieroglyph Trail. Up to the Hieroglyphs was a fantastic warm up. The invite had warned of scrambling/bouldering and encouraged having experience with the Superstitions/Flatiron, however it had neglected to advise long leg wear. After leaving the hieroglyphs I started to regret my hiking dress as we bushwhacked up the hillside. Once regaining the trail it was a matter of boulder hopping and scrambling across scree to reach the ridgeline. On the ridgeline I was thrown out of my comfort zone. Bouldering is not a sport I have much experience with and though I have done my fair share of rock climbing and have yet to experience a fear of heights I have never wanted to climb around on a cliff edge. Something about tumbling down a mountainside has never appealed to me. Fortunately the group that we were hiking with was more than happy to share their expertise and help me when I got stuck. If we hadn’t been hiking with a group I wouldn’t have been able to reach the summit, which would have been disappointing since it was gorgeous. We’re definitely going to spend more time in the Superstitions!
*Written by Kirk because Kaila wasn’t feeling well that day (sad emoji)