Wind Cave – Usery Regional Park

I dropped my son off at ASU today – he is in the ASU marching band and going to the Sun Bowl. He boarded a bus to El Paso and I headed out to get some more miles in at Maricopa parks so I thought I’d see what was “close” to ASU. Usery is about 20/25 minutes from ASU and since I was already half way there I thought I’d check out the  hiking. Big bonus is that there was no traffic today. Everyone must be off for the holidays!

I parked off Crismon and McKellips  and walked in. Paid my $2.00 entrance fee at the pay station. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was cold when I left my house (42), but it had warmed up to 56 when I started.

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I thought I was on the Crismon Wash trail, but it turns out I was on a trail running parallel to that which was fine. Then I hit Blevins trail took that over to Pass Mountain and then to the Wind Cave Trail. I hardly saw anyone on the first three trails, but Wind Cave is the popular trail there and there were tons of people enjoying the beautiful day.

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Plus these gorgeous views of the “Phoenix” on the mountain! The wind cave trail is rated difficult. It’s not super steep, but it can be narrow and there were some rocks to climb over. The trail is 1.5 each way.

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Coming around the corner to the wind cave which is just a depression in the mountain. There were quite a few people enjoying the view there!

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I can see why so many people love the Wind Cave Trail. It’s a pretty good workout and nice views. It’s really far for me to do regularly, but I’m glad I made the trek out do hike at Usery! 7.6 miles, all flat except for the wind cave trail which was the highlight! December 27, 2017.

 

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Scottsdale Half December, 2017

Scottsdale Half Marathon was on Sunday December 10, 2017. I had run the 12k’s of Christmas the day before as part of the challenge.

Thank goodness it was not cold for the race. This is the third year in a row I have run this race. In 2015 it was freezing cold. I was huddled under a heat lamp! In 2016 it was definitely warmer, but not as warm as this year. I prefer warm weather running so perfect! I don’t want to run in the freezing cold!

Anyway, another race where it’s easy to park and there are plenty of port-o-potties before the start line. On the course they could have used more, there were singles at a couple of points and they always had a line….

As the race was getting ready to start the announcer said to line up by the pacers, but there were no pacers to be found. I’m not sure if or when they got there, but definitely an oops on the pacers part.

The course is boring! You run down Scottsdale Road then over to Hayden and run back. Some of it is on the greenbelt path which is better, but that is not a lot of the course. One or two lanes of the road are closed, and lanes remain open.

Running was OK, I knew I wasn’t going to PR and I hoped to keep a 10 minute pace. I finished at 2:15:30 which is 10:21 min/mile. Up until 10 miles I was right around 10 min/mile so really slowed down the last 3 miles. I need to go to track workouts!!

Anyway, got the medal and got in the food line. Totally disappointing, there were stale bagels, cream cheese, donuts, yogurt and bananas. The expo was super small with no cool giveaways and it took me awhile to hunt down where I was suppose to pickup the challenge medal. The tent was not marked and the first few people I asked had no idea where it was. But, I found it and the challenge medal was really nice. It’s a spinner snowflake with one side for Scottsdale Half and one side for 12k’s of Christmas.

This race gave out jackets, they were delayed because of the fires in California. So I did go and pick that up a week later. They are pretty nice. Better than getting a t-shirt. I also got a nice goodie bag and super nice tank for signing up with NWLB.

I’m not sure if I’ll run this again…maybe if it’s a challenge again!

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12k’s of Christmas

I ran the 12k’s of Christmas in Gilbert, AZ on December 9, 2017. I wasn’t sure what I was getting in for because I only signed up for this race to get the challenge medal since I was also running the Scottsdale Half Marathon the next day and by running both I got an extra medal. Oh, also they were giving out Nothing Bundt Cake at the finish line too.

I signed up for the 12k and I decided to pick up my packet on the morning of. The race didn’t start until 10am, which in running time is super late. I had a 30 minute drive to Freestone Park where the race was. It was easy to find and there were lots of volunteers directing people to the parking area (plenty of parking also).

Packet pickup was easy and I had plenty of time to put my bag in my car. The expo was great! There were lots of tents lined up by the starting area with lots of great vendors with lots of freebies. I strolled through the vendors but didn’t pick up the freebies because I didn’t want to check anything.

I wore red to be festive, but some people had great costumes! Including this family that went as a Christmas train!

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Finally time for the start and we’re ready to run. Nice course mostly packed gravel through the Gilbert riparian area and then around the canal and back to the park.

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There were two bells groups, a cheerleading squad and numerous carolers on the course which made is really festive and fun.

The race was good, plenty of water stations and support. The course does get crowded the last 3k though because there is a 6k which starts a little later and so all of the 6k walkers are still on the course. It did make me feel “fast” because I was running and they were walking so I passed a ton of them.

I finished 4th in my age group with a 1:09:29 which is 9:20 / mile. But I was not close to coming in 3rd…that person finished 8 minutes (exactly) faster than me which tells me I should do some speed work!! But 4th out of 25 in my age group is not too bad.

The medal was nice. My kids loved it. I’m not in love the image, but it’s a really nice quality. The food after was GREAT! A Nothing Bundt Cake, water, banana, apple, bars, crackers, and yogurt. Then out in the expo I picked up a couple other drinks and some chap stick and sunscreen and some other stuff.

I would definitely run this race again and I’m planning on it next year!  Super fun, plenty of bathrooms, easy parking, nice course, good expo and good food! Maybe next year I can work on running for 3rd place!!

 

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Cave Creek Regional Park #100milesin100days

I am continuing my #100milesin100day quest. 100 miles of running/hiking at Maricopa County Parks. I did my first miles at Cave Creek and just logged 8.5 more today bringing me up to 64 miles.

Today is the last day of school (Dec 22) so I headed out after my son left for school. Takes about 40 minutes to drive there. Arrived a little after 8am. It was 35 degrees at the park, but the balloons were out in full force. A few when I entered the park and by the time I started hiking there were as many as 15. It was gorgeous!! My phone doesn’t take good pictures. I really wish I would have had a better camera with me!

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The first time I was at the park I hiked Go John. This time I parked at the visitor center. Thank goodness the bathrooms were open (real ones 🙂 Even though the visitor center was not open yet.

I hiked Overton to Clay Mine which gave me awesome views of the balloons. Clay Mine ends at the camp ground and hit the bathroom there (a real one 🙂 and hiked the Clay Mine trail back to Overton and continued my loop. Overton meets Go John and hiked that back to Overton and to the visitor center. 8.5 miles.
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The campground was pretty full. I only saw one open spot. Lots of out of town campers..Colorado and Washington were well represented. The mine was closed. I see though it will be open for tours tomorrow. Check the website for when it will be open if you are interested in going inside!

The visitor center was open when I got back. It has a few exhibits and some gift shop items. cave creek 1

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Siphon Draw – Flat Iron in the Superstitions

Today we decided to take a drive out to the Superstition Mountains and hike to Flatiron via Siphon Draw. We left at 7:30 in the morning and amazingly traffic wasn’t too bad from Phoenix and we got out to Apache Junction in just under an hour. The trail head is in the Superstition State Park. There is a $7.00 entrance fee. The lady who took our money asked what we were going to do in the park. I said ‘hike siphon draw’ She didn’t miss a beat and asked if we knew what we were in for.’ Hmmm, did she think we couldn’t make it?

Then she gave us some directions. Follow the trail and then when that ends follow the white and blue dots. Great advise and we only went off the trail for one part, and that was because we saw some hikers ahead of us and decided to follow them. It was a dad and his 18 year old son, the son was leading and went off trail more than once.But, we only followed them once 🙂

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The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, so we needed to hike and be down before the storm hit. The trail is clearly marked for maybe 1.5 miles. Then you get into trail finding mode. Since it was a Monday morning there were not too many people out. And seems like everyone we talked to, this was their first time up. Oh, except the 85 year old! He was coming down as we were getting close to the top. He was amazing, looked great and was very friendly! I tell you he was hopping down the rocks!

This trail is about 6 miles round trip. It gains 2,970 feet of elevation. It is very difficult. The last mile gains 1,970 feet and it is climbing up over boulders. If you have climbed Camelback Mountain you know about climbing over boulders, but this is way longer and harder. This trail is very, very hard. Harder than Camelback and Piestewa…and longer…and higher.It took us about 4 hours and 45 minutes.

It was super windy at the top, but beautiful! Fantastic views! The climb up was really hard, and sometimes going down is even harder, but not really on this hike. I thought I’d have some trouble getting back down, but it was fine. And not as much trail finding. Seems like the trail is a lot easier to find on the way down.  Going down we saw a lot more people going up. I was wondering how they were going to be back down by the time it rained. I don’t think they probably made it unless they didn’t go all the way up.  It was raining on our way home.

This is a wonderful hike! Make sure that you have plenty of time and are in descent shape. This is a hard hike.

 

 

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Hiking Bull Pasture and Estes Canyon

Today is President’s Day and we dragged our high school kids out of bed and drove to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where we hiked two beautiful trails.But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First we stopped at the Visitor Center to get the passport stamp. We got there fairly early…we were at the visitor’s center about 8:30am and there were only 2 other cars in the parking lot.

Organ Pipe is on the Arizona/Mexico border. The visitor center is 5 miles from the border. Organ Pipe was closed for 11 years due to safety concerns with drug running and illegal immigration. It had been dubbed the most dangerous park in the US. It reopened in 2014 with enhanced border security and more rangers. Signs, like the one above and park literature addresses these concerns and tells you to stay away from suspicious people and call 9-1-1 if you have cell service. As a side note, we didn’t see any suspicious people! We barely saw any people at all actually….

So, in order to get to the trail head you drive on a dirt road, it’s a 21 miles loop. Probably 14 miles to the trail head and 7 more to get back to the highway. It is a gorgeous drive and there are lots of places to pull over. There is one other hike off this loop – the arches trail where you hike to the arch below. Looked absolutely beautiful, but could not talk hubby or the kids to doing this hike.

 

Next stop the parking area for Bull Pasture. Again, only two cars in the lot when we got there. There are pit toilets available and some picnic tables.

We hike the Bull Pasture trail up to Bull Meadow. It was a moderate/difficult hike along the side of the ridge. It had rained the last two days so there was water on the trail and we could hear water running off of the Ajo Mountains. It was 1.5 miles up to Bull Pasture

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There were great views of the Ajo Mountain Range – and you could continue on an un-maintained trail to hike to the top of Ajo Mountain, it’s another 2 miles. No takers on that, but we came down from Bull Pasture and then took the Estes Canyon trail back to our car. That was about 2 miles. The Estes Canyon trail is easy and goes down on the canyon floor and you walk among the organ pipe cactus and all the other cactus. And they are huge! I hike in the desert all the time, but these plants are all as tall as me or taller. It’s easy to lose sight of the people you’re with. You can’t see over the these plants!

Both hikes were great, but enjoyed the Bull Pasture trail a little more. I’d love to come back to Organ Pipe and hike some more of the trails. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful hiking!

 

 

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Papago Park hiking!

Today we went and explored Papago Park in Phoenix.

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Trail to Hole in the Rock

Our first stop was Hole in the Rock. I can’t believe I’ve lived here a very long time and never been to this spot! It’s rated really high on Trip Advisor. It’s a short trail that isn’t too steep. You come up the behind the hole and then walk through it. It’s pretty cool and there is a great view of Papago Park, Phoenix skyline and Hunt’s Tomb.

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Then we drove to Hunt’s Tomb. Again, I can’t believe I hadn’t been up to it before. I’ve seen it tons of times from the zoo and from the road. You drive on back through the park by the fishing lakes and park in a little lot. It’s a short hike up to the Tomb where Arizona’s first governor is buried. He was also elected 7 times as governor. A record! And not all in a row.

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Next onto hike the Double Butte Loop in another section of Papago Park. This hike is rated easy and I wasn’t expecting much, but it was a beautiful day and really nice hike. The hike takes you around two of the buttes in the park and by a really cool amphitheater. It’s huge! I’m not sure if it’s ever used, but it’s neat. There are a number of places you can hike right up to the buttes and sit inside them. If you take some of the side trails that go up to the buttes it’s a much harder workout. If you stay on the trail, it stay on the perimeter of the buttes and is pretty flat. Make sure you go up and explore the buttes. Papago Park is a fun place to explore!

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