Sep. 1, 2017 – Echo Canyon Trail (2.4 miles out-and-back)
Before departing from St. Louis to Phoenix, I quickly Googled “Top 10 Things to do in Phoenix” and “Hikes in Phoenix”. Camelback Mountain came up as one of the top hikes. Being only 2.4 miles (out and back) with a prime view of the city, I assumed it was a stroll-in-the-park tourist destination.
I was swiftly put in my place.
My hike began at 10:30am. The first section of scrambling* came quickly. Large boulders were paired with a burning metal handrail, as the day was rising above 100 degrees.
After the first scramble, I wasn’t sure I would make it. With my lungs heaving and sweat beading on my forehead, I realized that I had gravely underestimated this hike and I was embarrassed. If a 2 mile hike was whooping me, what chance did I stand in the Grand Canyon? (*A scramble is a steep section of rock or terrain that you must use your hands and legs to get across or over.)
The hike continued to be steep and was dotted with foot-long chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater). The bold, stratified colors of this southwestern desert lizard was similar to the stratification of rock formations. Their coloration follows typical sexual dimorphism, in that the males are more brightly colored to attract the duller gray/brown females.
I would expect a lizard of this size to be an insectivore, but this species is completely herbivorous. Their attempts to soak up the sun were interrupted by passing hikers.
There was another colorful distraction during my hike, commonly known as a Bachelorette Party. This party was optimally color-coordinated to attract mates, but poorly hydrated and not in their natural habitat.
The good thing about always over-packing water and snacks is that I can share and help people along their hikes. It’s hard not to build camaraderie with strangers while suffering up (or down) a mountain together.
The view at the top was a bit anti-climactic as I do not find Phoenix to be a beautiful city. It was all very flat with a couple small hills and maybe an Indian reservation in the distance. I went back down on the same trail, Echo Canyon, but you could also continue down the other side of the mountain on Cholla Trail.
At the end of the hike, I noticed the sign that marked this trail a double-black diamond. I also met a ranger who re-confirmed that Camelback is no joke and that a few people die on it every year. Please never hesitate to offer someone water or food, even if it feels weird or rude to approach them. You may save their lives when they aren’t even aware of their critical condition.
On another note, the ranger also said that sometimes when the helicopters rescue hikers on the trail, they end up flying over pornos being filmed outside mansions in the surrounding area. So, if you do assist someone, perhaps catch the helicopter ride back with them ;).
Cheers to colorful trails!