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Wed, Oct. 16

Johnson: Trailhead thievery in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve
Hiking Arizona

With money tight, my choice of activities to do with my son came down to choosing either the batting cage or the trailhead. We were on our way to a birthday dinner but had a few minutes to enjoy a little time outdoors. I opted for the money saving option of hiking. Not every attempt to keep money in my pocket proves successful, however. Like when my truck was broken into at the Lookout Mountain Trailhead in north Phoenix.

On the way to the summit, I reminisced with my son on the many times I have hiked here. I trained for a 10K here and crashed into a creosote bush on a rocky downhill section of the circumference trail. I have hiked here in all weather, seasons and times of the day. I’ve confronted vandals, storms and hikers with cats on a leash.

Well, I wouldn’t call the latter a confrontation. Neither would I call the thief stealing my son’s Iphone4 out of my truck a confrontation but it’s one I’d like to have.

It took 17 minutes to reach the summit via a primitive but well-worn trail. Hiking is great exercise for little cost. Since cost can be measured in many ways, I soon discovered the cost of not heeding the sign next to my truck: “Do Not Leave Valuables in Your Vehicle.”

Avoid such trailheads.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the door was that a bandana from the console was in the passenger seat. My son noticed his phone was gone along with its charger and ear phones. Then I realized my internal frame backpack was gone and the window latch behind the driver’s seat was broken.

It finally sunk in, “I’ve been robbed!”

After calling the police and the insurance company, I thought, “How cheaply we sell our souls.” The total cost of this free hike ended up being several hundred dollars. But it could have been worse, much worse.

Left behind was my GPS unit, my new iPod, some tools and a key. Though I am a trusting soul, I am also forgetful. So, I have spare keys to both trucks in each one. The key to my other truck was gone. Did the thief grab a key and try it? Finding it did not work, did the robber toss it and move on, leaving the right key untouched? I’ll never know but this one thing I do know, this thief could have driven off with my truck and everything in it just as easily as removing the two items taken.


With all the “since” and “sense” in this experience, the only “cents” I conclude is this: “The best insurance is to have things no one else wants.” In order to keep my premiums down, I have a high deductible. It was not worth filing a claim. It actually made more sense to claim the loss on my income tax return.

There’s more to life than material things and immaterial things (e.g. beauty, courage, risk, generosity, gratitude, shared experiences, etc.) are of far greater value. The greatest blessings in this life are not a function of what I hold in my hand but what’s in my heart.

Locks are for honest people. If someone is going to take it, a lock will not stop them.

Next: Hiking North Mountain, a family affair.

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

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