Preparing for the physical part of four or five western state hunts per year in altitudes up to 10,000 feet is an important and enjoyable part of my life these days. I recently returned from one month of hiking and shooting in an area just north of Phoenix, Arizona. I also had the pleasure of meeting with a number of our LRH vendors and advertisers as well as several very gracious LRH members that I shot steel with. Other trip highlights were attending a couple shooting events as a spectator plus the annual expo put on by the Arizona Fish and Game. All in all a wonderfully LRH focused trip and I look forward to it again next year.
But "Spring Training" on the mountain hiking trails was my favorite event and it gave me an important head start for the year. One of the repeat hiking trails that I used was as pretty as any I have seen anywhere in the US. It is part of a large regional park just northwest of Phoenix. We hit the peak of the brittlebush bloom and the bright yellow flowers lining the steep trails framed a spectacular view of cactus-lined Lake Pleasant down below.
But my most frequently used and most productive “go-to” trail was just one mile from where we stayed. Its trailhead starts at 2,000 feet of elevation and winds its way up to 3,100 feet on the peak of Daisy Mountain. The grade incline varies and includes plenty of short trail sections that I measured to be from 40 to 60 percent on my phone’s inclinometer app.
Arizona is very dry with relatively little trail erosion due to rainfall. I remember looking at how steep some sections were and realizing I had never hiked established trails that steep since most other areas I have hiked do have that kind of erosion potential and therefor trails are kept less steep.
The route up to the peak is 2 miles long according to my GPS and takes me about 50 minutes to the top, making a very time efficient exercise route for my spring training regimen.
I rode my bike in the cool of the morning to the trailhead. I would gain the 1,100 feet of elevation with a few brief pauses on the way up and then make my way back down the same route to my waiting bike.
I always see between 5 and 15 hot air balloons miles off in the distance.They seem to be still but if you watch closely, they are slowly moving to the northwest. Then they finally descend and the adventuring passengers celebrate on the ground with a brace of champagne. Or at least that’s how Kathy and I ended our own balloon ride over the wildebeest filled plains of Africa years ago.
Last summer I wrote of the advantage of using nearby local steep hill hiking as a means of physical training for mountain hunts. I hate exercise indoors and have trouble staying on task long enough to make a real difference. But get me outdoors and I can work pretty hard and long.
My first mountain hunt of 2014 was in the middle of June. I started hiking Wisconsin hills in mid-April when the best natural steep trails were still sometimes muddy and dangerously slippery from spring runoff. My same spring hunt at 8,000 feet in the mountains of Wyoming this year will be even earlier. So being able to start on the dry trails of Arizona in early March was a real advantage to my training program.