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Fri, Nov. 22

Johnson: Hiking North Mountain, an intergenerational family affair
Hiking Arizona

Last summer I said, “I’d rather hike in a refrigerator than an oven.” Then I focused on higher elevation summits. This year, now that summer has arrived (sort of), I will do what all desert rats do, hike smarter not hotter. Timing is a crucial aspect of this strategy. I say “sort of,” since there is still a trickle of water in Big Bug Creek and the temperatures, have not even hit 100 degrees in Mayer, where I live. That’s pretty cool!

I remember two weeks of 115 degrees plus in May when I started my field work for a botany degree from ASU back in the ‘80s. After that, the warm temperatures we’ve seen so far, have not phased me one little bit. Additionally, with my adult children together on Memorial weekend, we celebrated by hiking where we hiked as a family 30 years ago. It was truly a walk down memory lane. Well, sort of. Some things have changed during the past 30 years.

Moving to Phoenix from Bisbee at age ten, I came of age in the context of hiking by exploring many of the routes around Phoenix. From technical rock climbing on Camelback Mountain to mountain biking across South Mountain, I just couldn’t get enough. I introduced my children to the outdoors on some of these trails, especially North Mountain.

There is a park on the south side and recent developments on the north side have created a vast range of hiking options. As with any of the summits around the Phoenix Metropolitan Area (e.g. Maricopa County Parks, Phoenix Mountain Preserve, etc.), rooftops may be within view. That’s not so unusual, since our very own Prescott Circle Trail includes segments where rooftops are in view.

One of the most exciting aspects of our recent hike on North Mountain was seeing several parents of small children introducing their kids to hiking on the trail to the summit. Since the road is currently blocked, a new route takes you to the top. So, it’s more of real hike than when my kids were kids.

No hike on North Mountain would be complete without donuts. I used to bring them to entice the kids to reach the summit. Now though, my younger son is a competitive body builder and my daughter is a vegan, so only my older son and I enjoyed this treat this time.

Every time I came across someone with small kids, I showed them the evidence that the investment we make in our children by introducing them to things we highly value when they are young, might just stick. That won’t always be the case but that’s OK. They are individuals and must make their own choices, follow their own path.

Nevertheless, let us not neglect the important responsibility and privilege of passing the baton to the next generation of wilderness stewards.

Since summer has been rather mild this year (so far), it can still be a pleasant hiking experience throughout the Sonoran Desert. The air is clear, so the views are great, in spite of the rooftops. Hike early or late in the day to maximize your enjoyment. The people you encounter on the trail are friendly, so a pleasant greeting or a neighborly chat is sure to be part of the experience. It’s great how a hike can bring out the best in people.

Next: Hiking in the Upper Verde River Wildlife Area, plus Fireworks from Glassford Hill

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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