Living High in Colorado

Woke up this morning
And the first thing I did see
Was mountains rising to the sky
On every side of me

Waterfalls, canyon walls
Windy down on main street
Everybody that I meet
They all want to show me

Colorado bluebird sky
You can live a mile high
Colorado bluebird sky

The String Cheese Incident

In days long ago, the 60’s and early 70’s, our family vacations usually included many stops in the mountains of Colorado since my father loved the mountains. I always remember the montains as being beautiful but I have been avoiding revisiting the Rocky Mountains due to the ghosts of the past that weren’t fond memories due to the circumstances of travel with family.

Carolyn finally convinced me into taking a mini-vacation in the Boulder area and using her flight benefits (Southwest) and my hotel benefits (Hilton) we headed off to celebrate our 35 year wedding anniversary. We flew into Denver on a Wednesday morning, hopped on the bus (without Gus) and headed over to Boulder. Much cheaper to rent a car in Boulder and the trip on the bus cost us $21.

Once arriving we headed over to Snooze a breakfast eatery that we enjoy in the Phoenix area but originally from CO. Since we were on vacation, we figured why not stop at a brewery. Since Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery was right there,  we had our first craft beer of the day a Big Krane Kolsch.

After our brunch and beer, we drug our luggage down the road through the downtown and over to the rental car place and on to our home away from home, the Hampton Inn and Suites Boulder North. What a great place and friendly staff. They even had a shuttle that would take us around to different places and since it was too late for a hike, we decided to grab the shuttle and head to Longmont for some more craft beer and breweries. First stop, Lefthand Brewing Co. Happens to be the home of my favorite milk stout. I took the tour and that was interesting with a fresh beer right off the canning line as a bonus. From Lefthand, we walked about a mile and a half over to Oscar Blues.  Another large craft beer brewery with its home in Longmont. We were too late for any tour but never to late for enjoying a sampling of their wares. Jordyn and James were flying in late so we headed back to get some rest for our big adventure hike in the Rocky Mountains on Friday.

After breakfast, we all headed to Long’s Peak Trailhead at an elevation of 9300 feet. The plan was to hike to Chasm Lake about 9.4 mile rt and over 2500 foot elevation gains. It was a beautiful day and off we went. The trail was well maintained with various views and bridged stream crossings. Not an easy hike but one where you can get winded due to the higher elevations and the steady uphill climb. We did see some marmot running around but no other animals. This old guy got nervous in several areas as we had to cross through a narrow area on snow that was just a bit intimidating and then a rock scramble at the end to get to the lake. Of course you have to go back the same ways so I had moments of high anxiety.

Just being honest. Needless to say, I’m the old slow guy so keeping up with my “younger” wife and my millennial daughter and husband wasn’t going to happen. James helped lead us old folks across those narrow high slope snowing passes. Not certain I would have done that without his encouragement.

The hike was uneventful and after finishing we headed over to Estes Park a place I haven’t been since my teens. It brought back some strange memories that in someways was like exorcising demons and overcoming the past. That’s all for another day but I managed to do so and for the most part successfully.

We returned to Boulder and Carolyn and I went out to Avery Brewing that was just a mile from the hotel. Another cool spot serving up some good beers and good food. Hiking and beer is a great combination for road trips.

Saturday, the kids went on their own to hike a legit 14’er in the mountains and Carolyn and I decided to take a road trip through Rocky Mountain National Park.

We took the Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake and back again with a stop at the Alpine Visitor Center. While in the Grand Lake area we did several small hikes. On our road trip we encountered some interesting driving conditions with rain and clouds and very low visibility. It made for some white-knuckle driving conditions. No moose but some Rocky Mountain Elk were visible.

Once we got back to our starting point in Boulder we went out for dinner at an Oscar Blue Taproom to celebrate Jordyn’s birthday. Fun filled memorable day with beautiful scenery surrounding us.

On Sunday, our 35th anniversary, we decided to take another road trip and some small hikes and headed off to Nederland located about 18 miles from Boulder with a beautiful drive through Boulder Canyon. The road is under construction so the drive is much longer then normal. Nederland is a beautiful small mountain town (8200+ elevation) with a lake and some fun local shops and restaurants. Little known fact is it was the third city in Colorado to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Carolyn and I decided on James Peak Brewery and Smokehouse for lunch and what a gem. Beer was fantastic as was the brisket and their mash potatoes were simply the best. During our time we drove over to Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

What a beautiful place at 10000 feet. There were many mountain lakes in the area and we did a quick turnaround to meet up with James and Jordyn in Nederland. There is no phone service so we couldn’t make any change in plans. After meeting up we all drove back to Brainard and said our goodbyes and Carolyn and I decided to do a small hike to Long Lake. Beautiful area next to the Indian Peaks area.

After our hike we headed back to Boulder, a long trip back due to the construction, got cleaned up at the hotel and headed to the Pearl Street area in Boulder. Fairly quiet Sunday night in the area. While planning our trip to the area, I had noticed that Rebekah Rolland was playing at the Laughing Goat. Rebekah is the daughter of my former boss and friend Roy Sandoval so we decided that we would stop in and watch her perform for awhile as a surprise. It was great. She was performing with her husband Matt and we had the opportunity to listen and then visit with her. She performed some new material and one of the songs she wrote with her mother in mind, titled, (I think the title) Marry Me. It was an incredible song. Anyhow, Carolyn and I finished our 35th anniversary on a rainy night in Boulder with some great live music from friends.

The end of our travels as we headed back to Denver and after storm delays we landed in Phoenix in some ways sad to be back to the real world of work and worry. It was a new adventure for Carolyn and I and we hope to return to the mountains of Colorado again. In some ways it was a time of healing for me to be able to overcome past memories. In life there is so much to do with so little time but memories are made and always to be cherished. The journey continues.

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It’s No Secret At All

A man will rise
A man will fall
From the sheer face of love
Like a fly from a wall
It’s no secret at all
by U2
Carolyn and I were able to head up to Sedona this past week thanks to my Hilton Team Member benefits and decided to spend a couple nights and get a hike in as well. Wednesday night we arrived at Vino Di Sedona in time for happy hour. I always go for their Bison Chili and it never disappoints. Great selection of craft beers and wine, plus friendly staff make it a fun stop.
We get to the Hilton Sedona Resort and it always feels like home since we have stayed there quite often and are recognized by their staff. Just love those Hilton travel benefits. Anyhow we plan on an early evening but I surprise Carolyn with a nice desert, the Smores Skillet: rocky road ice cream, Hershey’s chunks, toasted marshmallow fluff, graham cracker crumb Let’s agree that it was as good as it sounded. That was the splurge of the evening as Carolyn has a 12 mile hike up Loy Canyon to Secret Mountain cabin site.
It’s a long drive (about 50 minutes) from the hotel to get to the trailhead and we get started at 7:30. It’s already hot by Sedona standards when we get started.
The first three miles or so are like walking on the beach. Lots and lots of sand. On the west side of the trail there are some very beautiful red rock cliffs. Even though you are walking through areas of trees, the trail is very exposed to that bright sun. Around mile 4, you really start to climb up the side of the Rim. Some spots are narrow so you really have to watch your footing. Throughout our hike, we had to constantly battle flying insects as they seemed to constantly be swarming at us on our journey. Halfway up the Rim, Carolyn gets stung twice, once on each leg by what we believe was a wasp. It was quite painful for her and caused bruising and some swelling on her calves.
We get to the top of the Canyon trail and head on Secret Mountain trail for another mile to reach the now almost completely caved in cabin. We have taken our time and get to hang out for awhile but we can see monsoon clouds building so we start back down the canyon. It is quite beautiful but the hike is pretty tough for me in the heat and the sun beating down. I do stumble and fall into one those cactus plants that looks like an agave plant and it spears me right in my tricep. Battered and bleeding we head back down.
I drank 3 liters of water, and was beat on this hike. The terrain is mixed, rock and sand, so it jars your joints regularly. I wish we had brought our bug spray but I forgot and it was a battle on the entire hike with flying bugs. It felt great to be finished. This may have been one of my least favorite hikes I have done in the Sedona area due to the bugs, the heat, and the sun exposure but any hike is a great hike. Due to my slowness the 12 miles takes about 6 hours of hiking time with elevation gains of 2080 feet. (No wonder I was tired)

Though battered and weary, we traveled another mile down the road to see the Honanki Ruins. We were glad we did as they are just a short hike to see some dwellings on the sides of the cliffs. Some great petroglyphs are viewable as well. This added about another mile to our total for the day.
Headed back to the hotel, we stopped at Picazzos to see an old bartending friend that has served us for about 16 years: Robert. He’s great and we always love visiting him as he always makes us feel special and at home. By the way, he makes a great old fashion with Rebel Yell Bourbon. dzierTc1R7Wfr6yceCdoUwAfter our visit with Robert, we head over to Oak Creek Brewing Co. on Yavapai Drive. Don’t get this confused with the touristy one at Tlaquepaque. This one is the real deal and a great local hangout place. You also get free peanuts in the shell for soaking up the beer and replenishing lost salt from the hike. They have added a kolsch style beer that was truly amazing. Probably one of my favorites along with Huss Brewing’s Scottsdale Blonde.
Once again an amazing day that has worn me out. Even the Hilton’s Jacuzzi doesn’t take away all of the aches and pains and I have learned that a man will rise and a man will fall just like a fly on a wall especially when that man is me. I leave you with an oldie but goodie from U2. My favorite version of the Fly.
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Marching to Zion (Experiencing life in Zion and Bryce National Parks)

Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God. 

(Robert Lowery)

Carolyn and I have yet to figure out who is responsible for our saying: “it is one thing to see a place but it is another thing to experience the place”. We chose to experience Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks this month.  Many times we have headed to the Grand Canyon and had great experiences but for some reason, we had never been to Zion or Bryce and this year we decided to go for it. Once again we were able to use my Hilton benefits for places to stay on our excursion. (Thank you Hilton!)

After work on a Tuesday night, we loaded up the rental car and headed to Flagstaff to get a jump on our six hour trip to Zion. Stayed at the Doubletree (Hilton Property), got up not so early and ate our free gold member breakfast and headed down Highway 89  through Page, Konab, and on to Springdale, UT.

Once arriving in Springdale, we checked into the Hampton Inn, (Hilton property) jumped on the buses and headed out to Angels Landing. I won’t bore you with details but that hike is not for the faint of heart and it is amazing to me that people have fallen to their untimely deaths. Reasons include people wearing street shoes, normal running shoes that provide little traction, and sheer numbers that hike up and out on the landing. We saw young children and some stunning hiking footwear. At my age, holding on to chains is no longer an appeal to me. Scary stuff. So far this year two have fallen the 1400 feet down and it sure does make you think. The hike itself is quite a climb and the best time to do it is towards evening since the crowds are less and shuttle buses are not so full. After the hike we headed over to the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. Zion Brewery brews their beer offsite and

I highly recommend this place. The Juicy IPA is fantastic. As an added bonus the food is pretty good. (loved the meatloaf) The pub is literally at the front entrance of the park and the views from the patio are fantastic. We learned about Utah liquor laws: to order a drink you have to have food with some exceptions. I suppose that isn’t such a bad idea.

Thursday morning, we headed over to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was a beautiful drive through Zion and up Highway 89. The road out of Zion takes you through the 1.1 mile tunnel which during the day is used in alternating one way directions. Once we arrived in Bryce we found parking fairly easy and were ready for a whole new experience. Our daughter Jordyn has been there and she  recommended the Fairyland Loop Trail which takes you into the Canyon. What a great recommendation. We added some mileage on to the hike by walking on the rim trail.

 

Our hike ended up being about 10 miles and over 2300 feet in elevation gains. As you know you may go down but you have to go back up. Not the most difficult but still quite strenuous. It was very warm inside the canyon walls. (90+) Inside the canyon, we encountered very few hikers which was a great bonus for us. It was magical, breathtaking and probably my favorite hike of all time. The scenery is indescribable and not just to see it but to experience it was something I will always treasure. While taking a short side trail to the Tower Bridge, I encountered my first rattlesnake of the year, the Great Basin Rattlesnake.

Interestingly it never rattled and I was thankful that I spotted it in the rocks. Let’s just say that for the remainder of my hike I was aware of my surroundings. On the trail, the hoodoos are something to behold and are ever-changing. From red to white the rock formations are spectacular. Met some nice people who took our picture at the end of our journey which tends to end with a craft beer from Huss Brewing in Tempe.

We headed back to our home base in Springdale and cleaned up and went to eat at Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. The white pizza (The White Sun) was great and they had a good selection of Utah craft beers on tap. Learned some more about Utah liquor laws. Did you know that all beers on tap can not exceed 4.0 alcohol content. Maybe not such a bad idea. It sure doesn’t distract from the taste.

After two days of some strenuous hiking, I went to bed not knowing how and if I would hike on Friday. Friday morning came and I just had to get up and go with Carolyn. Once again we got on the buses and headed to the Grotto Trailhead and went up the Angels Landing Trail to connect with the West Rim Trail.

 

Once we got away from the Landing Trail we were pretty much on our own.  This hike is considered strenuous for a reason. Elevation gains are constant as you go up and down. We hiked about 12 miles rt which meant we went 6 miles up getting up on top of the rim. The trail one way is about 17 miles long and something we would like to do.  Our elevation gains were over 4500 feet and we did all this in about 5.5 hours. It was also very warm outside. By the time we got back to Grotto, I was beat down. The hike was amazing but I was feeling all that elevation gain and loss. Being out in the wilderness with no humans around is not always easy to do but we were rewarded with a grand hiking adventure. We were on sides of cliffs where the trail was only three feet wide with straight down drops of 400 feet or so. The views of Zion are incredible.

After a rest and clean up at the Hampton, we headed back to Zion Brewery, for some more craft beer to end the evening.

Saturday, we headed off for breakfast and a quiet day of taking the bus and going up to other spots on the bus route. We went to the Narrows area which is closed due to high running water and the Hidden Canyon and Observation Point trailheads closed due to rock fall. We walked along the Virgin River, hung out at the lodge and overall had a relaxing time.

Headed back to the Brewery to listen to some live music from Tom Bennett. He was really good and hopefully I will run into him down the road. He reminded me of a musician friend of mine, a younger John Carpino. In other words, great musicians, storytellers, that are warm, charming, and charismatic. After getting cleaned up we went out on a dinner at the Spotted Dog. The meatloaf was a fantastic mixture of elk, bison, and beef. All grass-fed and the service was awesome. Highly recommend.

Sunday came and we decided to take a different route home by going through Hurricane, Colorado City, Jacob’s Lake, on over to 89 and back down to Phoenix. Ended Father’s Day with a cookout with our daughters.

Road Trip Takeaways.

  • Working for Hilton is a great retirement job. Think low room rates for travel.
  • Springdale, Utah is a fantastic, beautiful, fun small town. Never knew.
  • Route 89 is a tough drive. Lots of single lanes and very trafficked and of course crazy drivers. Be safe!
  • Southern Utah reminds me of many places in Arizona. Loved the diversity of the land. We will return.
  • Bryce Canyon is incredible. Very unique and mind blowing.
  • Public Transportation in the National Parks is a great idea and beneficial.
  • Craft beer is alive and well in Utah.
  • Support local musicians. They add to life experiences.
  • Find yourself someone to adventure with. Love traveling with my life partner, Carolyn. Doubles the fun.
  • Remember seeing something and experiencing something are different. Go experience life!

Great road trip and we will return as there are more places left to March into Zion, Bryce, Escalante, and on and on. I leave you with a taste of Tom Bennett from Zion Canyon Brew Pub covering She Talks to Angels. Since Angels Landing is just around the corner, I thought it to be appropriate.

 

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Laughter In The Rain: Sedona Revisited

Once again, off work, back on the road, off to Sedona we go on a Wednesday afternoon. First stop along the way is one of my favorite nano breweries is the Verde Brewing Company. They have come a very long way in perfecting their brews. The Bullpen Bourbon Stout has always been my favorite but Carolyn and I decided to change things up. I went with the Gold Buckle Blonde and Carolyn had the Wildflower IPA. Both excellent and both brewed with local honey. Usually I would go with the IPA and Carolyn the blonde but it appears we have evolved in our craft beer selection. The nachos Elote style were an excellent appetizer. The only negative is the location. I much preferred the previous location but it sounds like they will be working on getting a nicer setup. No matter what, it is worth the stop. Of course we had to do a few cheers and toasts to our friends with birthdays.

On to Sedona we head to our home away from home, the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. I just can’t resist using my benefits at this property and everybody is always so nice. Ran into Irwin who was once an an engineer at the 24th St and Thomas Embassy and who is just a super nice guy. Anyhow, Congratulations to Irwin and his wife as they are expecting their first child. What a great conversation. We spent the night, did our breakfast thing with Jose a super nice server who has been there for something like 17 years. He alone is worth the stop. But we did come to take a hike so with threatening rain we decided to do something completely new to us.

Thursday morning we drove over to the Red Rock High School area off of Upper Red Rock Loop Road to the trailhead for Herkenham Trail. We had looked at maps and decided to make our own loop using existing trails while logging some miles. We went counter clockwise on the Herkenham Trail to the Old Post Trail and turned left. From the Old Post Trail, we met up with the Carroll Canyon Trail and took it to the Ridge Trail and over to the Old Post Trailhead off of Shelby Drive. From there we headed back on another section of the Old Post Trail to the Skywalker Trail and back to the starting point.  According to my AllTrails App, we hiked 6.5 miles, and had a 712 foot elevation gain throughout the hike. It was beautiful and it was private. We encountered two humans, (within first mile) and saw many deer. It sprinkled and it rained but it was beautiful. The first 1.5 miles is basically going down and then you continue to regain elevation on the way back around the loop. Our total hike time was about 2.5 hours at a nice leisurely pace and we were glad that we had some rain gear. We even had some thunderclaps off in the distance that kept us going. The views looking out towards Bell Rock and then the Carroll Canyon area are fantastic.

Once we were finished, we headed our wet selves over to the Sedona Beer Company and dried off and headed back down to the Valley. Oh and by the way the temperature outside? How about a very cool 52 degrees. Yes indeed, it was a great day to be walking hand in hand with the one I love.

Strolling along country roads with my baby
It starts to rain, it begins to pour
Without an umbrella we’re soaked to the skin
I feel a shiver run up my spine
I feel the warmth of her hand in mine
Oh, I hear laughter in the rain,
Walking hand in hand with the one I love
Oh, how I love the rainy days and the happy way I feel inside
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High On A Mountain Top Picacho Peak: The Sunset Vista Trail

Carolyn and I hiked Picacho Peak for the first time and liked it so much that we had to come back and tackle the Sunset Vista Trail. We had hiked the Hunter Trail a two mile steep hike but we wanted to see the Peak from the west side so back towards Tucson we went. The state park website describes the Sunset Vista Trail: 3.1 miles; moderate first 2 miles, becoming difficult; Travels on the south side from the westernmost parking area and goes to the top of the peak. The first 2 miles are moderate, then the route becomes difficult, steep and twisting, with steel cables (gloves are recommended) anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare.

It was a cloudy Friday when we entered the Park. Thankfully the crowds were not to bad in the pursuit of photographing the perfect “poppies” that dot the mountainside in the spring. The poppies were out but not in abundance due to the timing of the rains but it was still beautiful. There were plenty of people around the Sunset Vista Trailhead and there was actually some hikers/photographers that were walking out about a half mile on the trail to check out the views. We took our time enjoying the scenery and the serenity as we encountered only a few hikers on the trail. Fantastic hike that was challenging and awe-inspiring.

The elevation gain is around 2000 feet so it is quite significant but not quite as extreme as the Hunter Trail. This trail had a long metal cable climb to where the Hunter Trail and Sunset Vista Trail combine for your final push to the summit.

 

The cable climb was somewhat nerve wracking and I thought going up it was more intimidating then going down. Definitely would bring a pair of gloves for protecting your hands.

Upon reaching the summit, Carolyn and I returned to our previous tradition of hoisting a craft beer from an Arizona brewery, this time Huss Brewing. I went with the Koffee Kolsch and Carolyn with the Scottsdale Blonde. (stereotypical of us)

The journey backdown was uneventful with a few rain drops and just alone time on the trail. Our total hike time was approximately 2:40 with some rest stops along the way.

Once again we jumped into the car and onward to Tucson for an overnight stay and play at the El Conquistador Hilton in Oro Valley. Another great journey and time well spent. Plus, we returned to Growlers USA for that fantastic Belching Beaver Me So Honey blonde ale.

Some added highlights for Carolyn and I included meeting the “Tortoise” from Hike Arizona. We met him as he finished at the top. We had some fun conversations before heading back. Anyhow, I would highly recommend this hike as it is challenging, less traveled, spring flowers, summit climb, and just beautiful.

 

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High on a Mountain Top: Picacho Peak

High on a mountain top
We live, we love, and we laugh a lot
Folks up here know what they got
High on a mountain top
High on a mountain top
Where the rest of the world’s
Like a little bitty spot
I ain’t comin down no never I’m not
High on a mountain top
High on a mountain top
Loretta Lynn

On a Wednesday night, Carolyn and I decided that we could head to Tucson Thursday afternoon as soon as I got off work and we would hike Picacho Peak. I can’t count the number times I have driven by the state park without ever stopping. That was about to change. We found a room available at my Hilton team member rate and with both of us having the day off, it was a no brainer. Book the room and go.

We got on the road around 2 pm and as I was driving Carolyn was researching the trail to the top and I started to get some anxious feelings. Sounded like we would be in for a difficult climb with some difficult points. We arrived at Picacho State Park paid our fees and started hiking around 3:30 on Hunter Trail. The state park website describes Hunter Trail: 2.0 miles; difficult; begins on the north side from Barrett Loop and goes to the top of the peak. The trail climbs a resistant path typical of the Sonoran desert. The route is steep and twisting, with steel cables (gloves are recommended) anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare.

The trail is something special. Looking and seeing how far you climb and your car getting further and further away is an awesome experience. It is advertised as two miles each way and I tried to keep track on my Nike Running App but it kept stopping because the App didn’t think I was moving. In other words I literally went at a snail’s pace on some areas of the climb. The trails are well maintained and in great shape. Getting to the saddle was uneventful but I was not prepared to do a 250 foot decrease just to go way the heck back up.

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Carolyn heading down from the saddle on west side before heading back up.

Carolyn and I reached the top in about 70 minutes with plenty of rest stops along the way. After all if you are going to put in the effort, you sure should enjoy the scenery. In some places, if you are not paying close attention you could find yourself off the trail. I look over and  I find Carolyn scrambling on the side. I’m over here sweetheart.  I think she liked the mini off road adventure.

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If you look close o the right you can see Carolyn heading back to the trail.Enter a caption

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Where the Sunset Trail and the Hunter Trail meet up to climb to the summit.

On our initial hike on the east side to the summit, we came across approximately ten hikers coming down. Past the saddle, we ran into another six and on the summit we met two young men on leave from military training. The trail was not populated and gloves really do make a difference when hiking with the steel cables.

Once getting to the summit, we spent 20 minutes just taking in all in. High on this mountain top you can live, love, and laugh a lot. By golly that’s why we do it. Living, loving, and laughing with my girl.

While at the top, one of the young men took our picture and you can see the cars on I-10 and really puts a perspective on the climb.3VxOKQimQa24pVcd7zf4%w

We could even see the snow over on the mountains north and east of Tucson. As you imagine, going up is one thing and coming down is another. The cables become a bit more intimidating on the way down as you want to make sure you don’t lose your footing and bang yourself up. On the initial stretch down, we passed two separate groups of two hikers each heading up. That was the upward bound groups we would see on our trek down the mountain.

On the way to the saddle, you go down only to go back up that 250 foot initial drop from the saddle. That was brutal and thank goodness you could help pull yourself along using the cables. Once we reached the saddle, we hiked down to the trailhead in the shade which was very nice. It took us another 70 minutes total time to get back.

The one thing I failed to mention is the wildflowers. The yellow wildflowers were starting to come out and it a beautiful site to see. Yellow and yellow and yellow against the green is incredible.

Once completing the hike, I would consider this summit hike much more challenging then Piestewa Peak and Camelback. Plus there were no crowds, no music, no trash and away from the city. With that being said, don’t be surprised if I go back soon and try the summit from the Sunset Trail. Sunset trail is longer and wraps around on the west side of the mountain so the sun can be a factor if it is hot outside as you appear to be completely exposed.

Back in the car and onward to Oro Valley we go. As you might suspect by now, our hiking adventures lead to craft beers so we stopped in at Growler USA. Wow! What a selection of craft beers. My Hilton Team member benefits were getting used at the Hilton El Conquistador resort in Oro Valley so it was a no brainer to hit up this tap room. The Belching Beaver Me So Honey blonde ale is a fabulous lighter beer after a hike. Just a touch of sweetness and it had Carolyn and I at first taste. From there I just had to have the Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. For the stout drinkers, this is a good one.

In the meantime, Carolyn and I both agree that Picacho Peak just soared to the top of our favorite summit hiking adventures.  #lovearizona #highonamountaintop #countrymusic

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Lookout Mountain

Early in January, I decided to get out into the Phoenix City Park system and take on some local hikes that were not far from home. I knocked off Deem Hills and Sonoran Preserve and decided to tackle Lookout and Shadow Mountain trail areas.

First stop was the Lookout Mountain Park on a beautiful Tuesday mid morning trek. I took off on the Lookout Mountain Circumference Trail and headed counterclockwise to Lookout Mountain Summit Trail. Both trails are in great shape and not over trafficked on a Tuesday. Very few folks out enjoying the area so it was quite pleasurable to be out in city park.  The Summit Trail is approximately 500 foot elevation gain in just over a half mile. Great views of the city and surrounding area at the top. Nobody there and I was able to just kick back and read while taking it all in. Spent some time just thinking. I hiked back down and on to the Circumference Trail and looped back around to my starting point. Even enjoyed some flowers along the way.

The total hike was about 4.25 miles with a total elevation gain of 1070 feet. The trails in my estimation would be moderate with some ups and downs along the way. To me there is no such thing as a bad hike. Outdoors, beautiful day, lovely place to clear the mind, but I wasn’t done.

Next stop was Shadow Mountain and I entered in off of Acoma Drive. Knowing little about the trails and with no signage, I just took off and decided to climb to the top of Shadow Mountain. I really had no idea that there was no actual trail to the summit and I had to put myself into some sort of precarious positions but I was determined to get there. Once again another place of beautiful views. I could see right to Shadow Mountain High School’s parking lot and just for a moment I thought I saw Mike Bibby crossing the parking lot. (Ok bad joke but I could see the high school) I’m so glad I found a way to the top but it was a challenge. My personal hike was 1.5 miles and a 600 foot elevation gain. Challenging but exhilarating.

Great day of new adventures in another Phoenix City Park. Always like to reward myself with a craft beer, so on the way home I stopped by North Mountain Brewing for  a fine Golden Ale as described by the brewery: A golden ale brewed with Oats, Rye and Arizona Wildflower Honey, giving extra flavor to this easy drinking Ale. I would say my glass was half empty. IMG_2360

Let’s just say it was good.

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