A trip to Arizona for me is not complete without a visit to Thunderbird Park. Mostly this is because my family lives near one of the trail entrances, so I walk half a mile and my hike begins. Not quite like the 1-2 hour drives I take to get to a trail in Washington.
Not that I’m complaining, nothing compares to the hikes in Washington…yet.
In my previous visits to Thunderbird Park, I stuck to a basic walk following the Coach Whip trail, taking me along three different mountains, but never to the summits. The park is split into three mountains, each with their own summit. One at Arrowhead Point, one on the Cholla Loop, and one on Sunrise Mountain.
The other trails in the image below lead into one of these summits.
I decided to jump on board with the #52hikechallenge this year, where I hike at least 52 times throughout 2018. To make it easy, I started on Jan 2. Ideally I will hike once a week, but there will certainly be weeks I hike more than this (like when I’m hiking 8 days straight in Scotland, or when I’m hiking this summer at an exciting location – for another blog post), as well as weeks I don’t hike at all.
I plan to listen to my body this year more than every before, like yesterday when I chose to go to a spin class instead of hike.
Overall I have no strict rules for this goal, just to make an effort to hike as often as possible. I completed four hikes while in Arizona, three of them at Thunderbird Park in order to hit all three summits. I find it easy to start a commitment like this when I’m in Arizona because the sunshine is motivational.
Plus I have a shitton of extra time, and Thunderbird is so close.
You would never know from the above panoramic photos, but each summit is market by an American flag. This made it more fun for me, because I can’t say the view from the tops are anything to loose your pants over. Instead I used the flag as my victory reward. I did all of these hikes solo, and this park is well populated so I always felt safe.
Each hike gave me a bit over 5 miles by starting where I did on the Coach Whip, but you could easily do more than one mountain at a time.
First up for me was Cholla Loop – a 3.6 mile loop with an elevation of 1350′. The overall gain is a mere 561′ making this trail suitable for most everyone. I started at the same location each time, giving me a few extra miles. This was when I realized there were multiple summits, and this was when I decided to hit all three before I left.
Next hike was somewhat unplanned. I set out with the intention of just walking the Coach Whip (which I did a few other times that I’m not counting) but ended up turning the wrong way. I was heading towards the summit of Sunrise Mountain, and ironically as I hit the summit the sun was starting to set.
Sunset on Sunrise.
I wasn’t planning a full hike, but one thing led to another. I still got 5 miles in on this hike, but had to call for backup because it was getting dark. Instead of walking back another mile and a half or so on the Coach Whip, I got picked up at the Sunrise Mountain trail head. Shout out to my dad and stepmom for coming to save me from coyotes and creeps. This trail is a 4.3 mile loop (I loved the loops!) with a gain of 626′.
Lastly I ventured to Arrowhead Point Trail, which was the shortest of them all with a smaller elevation gain, but the shorter the mileage/gain ratio the more it burns. It’s short, but it gets the lungs burning. This loop is 2.4 miles with a gain of 439′. I was fortunate enough to have the summits mostly to myself.
I sat at this summit for a good 10 minutes appreciating my life.
I’ve officially conquered all of Thunderbird Park, and feel I’m a partial subject matter expert now. I’m excited to continue hiking in various places around the US, and in Scotland. And of course anywhere else I decide to travel to, because the world is my playground.
Q: Did you set any goals for the new year? I think goals should be sent all year long, not just at the beginning.