Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

It's A Great Time For Winter Hikes

There are some perfect close-to-home places to enjoy the outdoors.

Although we love our annual summer hiking trip to Flagstaff, snow is not my thing. Fortunately, there are a lot of great hikes in and around Phoenix, and since the winter is such a great time to be outside in the desert, we do a lot of hiking close to home. Even if it's just a quick trip to Thunderbird Paseo Park to walk the dog, hiking in Phoenix is awesome this time of year.

Thunderbird Paseo

Thunderbird Paseo is in Glendale, and it is a long (around four miles) narrow park that is actually a flood-control feature. Thunderbird Paseo has bike and pedestrian trails, disk golf, playgrounds, restrooms, and believe it or not - wildlife. I've seen up to five coyotes at a time at Thunderbird Paseo. Keep your dog on a leash!

I've also seen plenty of hawks, jackrabbits, tons of doves, ducks, and even snipe. There is a narrow waterway that meanders down the middle of the park, and there is almost always water in it somewhere, which is why the wildlife flourishes.

My favorite time is when the city hasn't mown the tall grasses down and Rosie (my French Brittany) and I can "bird hunt." We walk through grass that is higher than my waist, and she points birds for me and chases them when I flush them. It's a blast. In fact, that's how I discovered the snipe there one winter. Rosie pointed them for me.

The soccer fields are kept nice and short and green, but other areas can get quite wild and you can almost forget you are in town. There are plenty of trees and if you don't want to walk on the sidewalk trail, venture out into the center and you can follow the dirt trails. It's impossible to get lost, so go for it.

Thunderbird Paseo runs from 51st Avenue and Cactus northwest to 73rd Avenue and Greenway. It's open sunrise to sunset and

parking is available at 59th Avenue just south of Thunderbird Road and at 67th Avenue just south of Greenway Road. Rosie and I met a Friesian horse named Mace there one morning - he actually waved at her! Find out more at http://www.glendaleaz.com/parksandrecreation/ThunderbirdPaseoPark.cfm.

Thunderbird Conservation Park

Another wonderful place to hike is Thunderbird Conservation Park, which is also in Glendale. It's in the Hedgpeth Hills and has about fifteen miles of multi-use trails ranging from easy to difficult. Some of the trails are moderate, but difficult in a couple of places.

We like to take the grandkids and meet friends there and just wander around the hills. There are a lot of really fun hikes and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. There are even viewing blinds in the park. You can find trail maps and a lot more information at http://www.glendaleaz.com/parksandrecreation/thunderbirdpark.cfm.

There are three different entrances to Thunderbird Conservation Park – one on 59th Avenue, one on 67th Avenue, and one on Pinnacle Peak Road.

The address to the park is 22600 N 59th Avenue, Glendale. The best way to decide where to enter is to go to the website and find a hike, then enter the park close to the trailhead. They have a nice downloadable map on the website.

South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park in South Phoenix is a fantastic place to hike. Whether you like to stroll along fairly level ground or you want to test your knees on mountain trails, you're sure to find the perfect trail here. South Mountain has 70 miles of trails! It's an easy park to get to – just get on Central Avenue and head south. Central becomes the park road eventually. Even just driving through the park is fun.

You can visit the education center, have a picnic, watch the birds and animals, and just enjoy being outside in the desert. If you have out of state visitor, be sure to bring them here – they'll get a real taste of the desert, especially if you take them on a little hike.

Download the map here: https://www.phoenix.gov/parkssite/Documents/062880.pdf, and mark yourself out an easy loop if you're with beginners.

If you're up for a bit more walking, try the Bajada Trail. It's about 3.5 miles, but it's out and back - so seven miles. Plan on at least two to three hours unless you really like to walk fast. I prefer to ramble, and stop to take lots of photos.

The Web site lists all the trails and gives difficulty ratings and distances. Beware, though - many of the trails start a ways down another trail. This means that you might have to walk quite a way before you even reach the 3-mile trail you are looking for. Plan carefully.

Be Prepared

As always, even though the weather is cool, bring plenty of water. If you aren't strong enough to carry water you shouldn't be hiking. A walking stick really helps on the rough and downhill spots. I have a TrekPod, which is a walking stick that turns into a tripod simply by unfastening the Velcro strip at the bottom. On top, a round cork handle pops off to reveal a strong magnet that securely holds even a big camera.

The TrekPod comes with two mounts that screw into the bottom of the camera. The mount swivels on a ball, so it's easy to get perfect framing. I absolutely love it. I can set it up in seconds because the camera just sticks on magnetically, set the timer, jump into the picture – and voila! Selfie! Check them out at http://www.trek-tech.com/products/trekpods.html.

Some Things To Bring

Nothing ruins a hike like sore feet, so make sure your hiking shoes are comfortable and they fit well. On the trail is not the place to break them in. Just in case, bring along a few of those new special blister bandages - they are great. I carry a backpack even on short hikes, and although the family likes to poke fun, they are happy that Grandma always has sunscreen, Band-aids, granola bars, maps, water, etc.

I always throw a bandana or two in there as well - they come in really handy for lots of things. If you are bringing along your four-footed best friend, pack along a metal-toothed comb. It's just the ticket if your pooch steps on a piece of cholla. Just flick that darn thing right off.

Now's The Time To Hike

If you've put off hiking because you live in the lowlands and it's too hot to even think about being outdoors, now is the time to get out there and have some fun. We are so blessed with this great winter weather! Find some great trails near your home and stretch your legs.


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