A week of hiking in the sunny Arizona desert was exactly what I wanted to do for my last spring break trip, and having my best friend with me only made it that much more fun!
A HUGE thank you goes out to my aunt and uncle who let us stay with them for the duration of our trip and also to my aunt for taking us hiking all around the area. We hiked six different mountains, buttes and bluffs and over 20 miles. We also got to tag along to a Cubs game and visit Hayley’s horse that she had sold to a lady who lives only minutes from my aunt and uncle.
Day 1: Mom and Grandma drove Hayley and I out to the airport around noon so that we could get to our gate early. Our plane was scheduled to leave at 2:30 and arrive in Arizona three hours later. This was my first time flying without my parents and Hayley’s second time flying in general. The flight went by quick and the next thing we knew, we were landing in sunny Phoenix. We picked up our luggage and then my aunt and uncle picked us up and we were off to Portillo’s, a Chicago-based restaurant that served up a delicious slice of chocolate cake.
Later, Hayley and I got settled and then went to the hot tub for an hour or so.
Day 2: Hayley and I ate breakfast on the balcony overlooking the pool and then went to the grocery store to get our lunch and snack supplies for the week. We came back to the condo and lay in the sun and swam a bit. After lunch on the balcony, we went to the Cubs versus Oakland As game at Hohokam Field, just a short walk from the condo. Later, we went to Nello’s for pizza and then drove up South Mountain to see the sunset!
Day 3: After breakfast, Aunt Dorothy, Hayley and I made our way to the Lost Dutchman State Park in the Tonto National Forest to hike in the Superstition Mountains. We decided to hike the Siphon Draw trail to the Flatiron.
We got to hike up the scenic mountain base, scattered with bright yellow blooms, saguaros and other cacti before coming to a steep uphill climb. We were climbing on our hands and knees and some parts of the trail got our adrenaline pumping. We got to our destination, a spot 4,300 feet up on the mountain, but the official Flatiron was another good two hour hike, so we decided to save it for another day since we were watching our time. Overall, this hike was a fun challenge and beauty was found all around. Easily my new favorite! The Smokies are special all on their own, but I have never hiked in anything like the Arizona desert before, so it was a treat for both Hayley and me.
Day 4: We explored Papago Park on this day. First, we hit up Hole-in-the-Rock and then made our way over to some other bigger buttes. We hiked about a mile back to get to the base of a big butte and had a steep uphill climb for the last quarter mile to reach our lookout point that overlooks Phoenix. To get to the lookout point, we had to scramble along a narrow ridge on the butte, which gave us butterflies if we looked anywhere other than straight down at the rock we were climbing! But we have discovered that parts of the trail always look worse than they actually are and we made it safely to the top.
Day 5: We took a trip out to Usery Park in the Usery Mountain range in search of wild horses. We had heard that they could be seen around a small campground where the Salt River and the Verde River converge. We followed wild horse trails up to Coon Bluff and found lots of horse poop, but no horses.
We left Usery Park to head back to the Superstition Mountains to hike a trail called “Hieroglyphics Trail” to Gold Canyon. However, we learned that ‘hieroglyphics’ is the wrong term for these Indian drawings. They are rightly called the Hohokam petroglyphs and are over 600 years old! This trail was four miles total and wound back to the basin of a mountain where we came to a dry waterfall and a small pool, which were very dry from the lack of rain. We saw several rocks with the petroglyphs drawn on them. Some looked like mountain goats, centipedes and birds.
After we saw the petroglyphs, we went to see the new owner of Hayley’s horse whom she hadn’t seen in almost five years! She knew that the lady who bought her horse lived in Arizona, but it just so happened that she lived about 40 minutes away from my aunt and uncle’s condo! Hayley and Immi were reunited and we even got in a quick ride.
Day 6: This was probably the busiest day we had since we had arrived. We wanted to do it big our last day, so we decided to hike two shorter, but steeper hikes. Squaw Peak was first and then we hit up Camelback Mountain.
Squaw Peak was a never-ending steep climb to the top and the huge steps we had to hurdle up didn’t make it any easier. Every time we thought we had reached the top, we rounded a bend and saw that our actual destination was still a challenging hike away. We finally reached the top and were rewarded by the view.
After lunch, we headed over to Camelback Mountain and planned to hike the head of the Camel to the top of its hump. This was probably my favorite hike of the entire trip. At first, I was tired from already hiking Squaw Peak and after eating lunch and relaxing in the sun for a bit, so I wasn’t super excited about the immediate and constant incline that lay ahead. However, once we hit the first hand rail section of the trail where you have to pull yourself up by the rail or climb on all fours up a huge slick rock, I was hooked. The majority of the hike included scrambling over big boulders, which we enjoyed much more than the manmade trail of Squaw Peak.
After our full day of hiking, we headed to the Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale to reward ourselves with some ice cream!
Day 7: Our last day, we walked to the corner grocery store and grabbed a couple of donuts, which were only 75 cents each! I could have eaten one of every kind, but I went with the buttercream filled and the coconut cream pie filled. After breakfast, we hung around the pool for a couple of hours before we had to leave for the airport. The cool water soothed my sunburnt shoulders from the previous day of hiking.
Another adventure-packed spring break in the books and we’ve got the tan lines to prove it!