Places: Skull Mesa

Currently, I am training to do the Rim-to-Rim hike at the Grand Canyon in May.  I felt pretty close to where I needed to be a few months ago, until I broke a toe and hiking was placed on hold.  One of the best local places to simulate the hike out of the canyon is the hike to Skull Mesa (what a great movie title!).

Skull Mesa-76.jpg

I sit here a day after the hike and gauge where I am at.  To be honest, if I wrote this in the morning, I’d have to admit I felt in pretty bad shape. It was tough to stand – both knees were hurting – I had an agave needle bury itself 3/4 of an inch into one knee and the loose footing on the way down took its toll on the other.

Well, on the plus side, my muscles are not as sore as I thought they’d be.  I have a couple blisters (I need new shoes!).  And the knees are only a bit tender.  After 20+ miles for the day, I’m feeling pretty good.  But I don’t climb a mountain just because it’s there.  I do my best to enjoy and share the journey.

And one of the best reasons to be up there is the chance to see some wonderful petroglyphs  (one of which is pornographic) and metates.

A word of warning in finding these, it requires a couple miles of “bushwhacking”.  And in the desert, it comes with a price.  And in warmer months, I’m told this is serious rattlesnake country.


There is also a a set of ruins even farther in.

And a reminder that you are not alone up there. as this half of a deer leg suggests.

Skull Mesa-158

Skull Mesa is definitely a difficult hike.  It’s steep, rocky and long to make it to the top. It qualifies as a “No Guardrails” hike.   But beautiful and you’ll see things you cannot see anywhere else.   If you are anywhere near Cave Creek, Arizona, give it a try.


Places: Red Rock State Park

There are a lot of places to hike in Sedona, Arizona.  I’ve been hiking in many of the wonderful places, but for some reason had never been to Red Rock State Park.  It’s not that I tried to avoid it, but for whatever reason it had never made it to the top of the list.

I live a little more than an hour to the south side of Sedona, which has some great trails and things to see before even getting to town (Courthouse Butte Trail  being my current favorite).

To be honest, driving close to town is a bit of pain.  And Red Rock State Park requires this effort, which makes it more of a challenge to just make a “morning of it”.  But this past weekend, I made the commitment to do just that.

It has what you’d expect from Sedona – pretty red rocks and some scenic views.  It also has Oak Creek cutting through the middle – surrounded by cottonwood trees.  And now being a desert dweller, I appreciate running water whenever I see it.

From a hiking perspective, the trails are short and generally easy/easy+.  And worth the few hours it takes to walk them all.  I will definitely be back during a during a different season to check it out when the leaves are on the trees.

And Safety First!

Red Rock State Park 09

There’s Something about Balloons and Saguaros!

The cooler seasons in Phoenix means the hot air balloons are in the sky.

For us out there hiking, the balloons add to the enjoyment of being in the desert.

Of course, it’s the definition of being in the right place at the right time. The winds need to blowing the right direction, and you have to be at the right spot of the trail if the pilots (are they called pilots?) bring them low enough where you are.

There is a strange universal appeal about capturing the balloon and saguaro together. In the world social media, these always get the most “likes”.

For the record, I’m scared of heights. It’s not likely I’ll have any photos from the other vantage point. Happy Trails!  And don’t forget to look up!


It’s My Birthday, and I’ll Do What I Want (which is get out early and wander)!

Not much to share, as the pictures speak for themselves. When Phoenix gets a cloudy day, the pre-dawn and sunrises can be amazing. These a combination of Camera (I realize I still want that with me), GoPro, and cell phone. All within about 90 minutes (Lightroom used on some for some “pop”). Happt Trails!

Places: Lost Dutchman State Park

Warm, dusty, rocky and dry.  And it feels like it’s all up hill.  And yes, I like that.  I was able to spend a few hours hiking Lost Dutchman State Park this week.

I wouldn’t expect to find the Dutchman’s gold, but there is plenty of desert things to see if you like rocks…

Or if you like Cactus…

And even if you like to play “Where’s the Old Man”…

Not sure I’d come in the middle of summer during the day, but I’ll be back.



Places: Desert Vista Trail, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix is blessed to have many place to hike.  I have a new favorite locally the Desert Vista Trail.

Desert Vista Trail Phoenix Arizona Hiking

Just north of the city, it offers a nice variety of mountain trials…

and a desert trails with something to look at.

You may even get to see a Coyote.

And somebody circa the 80’s must of had some explaining to do…


Summer Hikes in the Desert

Yep, it’s hot.  Really hot sometimes. So what’s a guy to do when he wants to hike in the summer?  He gets up at 4:30 in the morning and sets out.  

What started out as a personal goal to take 7 sunrise hikes in 7 days has now surpassed 20.  It wasn’t for any particular reason – mostly to break up the summer doldrums.  In the desert, we look forward to summer ending.  And my “for any particular reason” feeling has been well worth it.  The desert is a beautiful place:

I will say that it is starting to feel like somewhat of an addiction and I have done a couple of days of “sidewalk” hiking.  But in Arizona, even in the neighborhood, you never know what you will see.

Like a tarantula crossing for school:

Or a rattlesnake at “guarding” the trail sunrise:

And apart from feeling better,  it is a great time to be out getting some amazing early morning views:

Happy Trails and No Guardrails!

Places:  Lake Pleasant, Arizona  

Ok, so I went to Lake Pleasant and didn’t take any pictures of the lake. But I wasn’t there for the water.  I was there for the sunset.

Lake Pleasant Sunsets-59

And got to see my first couple of wild burros (you have to look close – they didn’t want me anywhere near):

They’ve been pretty elusive for me. Here is the “bigfoot” version (can’t even see the zipper of the suit):

Places: Bryce Canyon Rim Trail

After spending the day before hiking to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona,  my wife and I traveled to Bryce Canyon (we spent the night in Page, Arizona) for our next “Adventure”.

Being from Phoenix, we wanted to take advantage of another day where the temps were not going to be 110 F+ (this is always a good thing)!

Unfortunately, we only had a limited amount of time, so we spent what we could on the Rim Trail, though I was able to sneak a few minutes going into it – if only to wet my appetite for a return trip.

It was well worth it, but a problem was a nearby wildfire continued to fill the canyon with smoke.  It was something you noticed breathing (and the altitude) after a time.

And we pass the source it on the way out.

Smokey Bryce Canyon Wildfire

As always, I had to be “me”!

Places:  Devil’s Bridge in Sedona.

Had a fantasric hike in Sedona, Arizona yesterday with my wife.

Hiking Desert Trail Sedona Arizona

I will say that this moderate+ trail was well worth the effort (and the beat – it soared to 104F).  You do have areas where a little “mountain goat” is needed, so plan accordingly.  As always, you can never bring enough water.  This is a popular trail and it always amazes me to see folks with one little water bottle.  There was actually a 911 call for a lost man who wandered off after feeling ill.  Altitude and heat are a dangerous combination!

But for the trail itself – fantastic!

Photos speak for themselves 

Hiking Sedona Arizona Devil's Bridge Rusty Ward

Hiking Sedona Arizona Devil's Bridge Rusty Ward

Hiking Sedona Arizona Devil's Bridge Rusty Ward

Hiking Sedona Arizona Devil's Bridge Rusty Ward Old Man

And don’t forget the payoff (this is why you are here):

Hiking Sedona Arizona Devil's Bridge Rusty Ward
“Old Man on the Devil’s Bridge”