I'm sure that I'm not the only person who won't be watching tomorrow's big Superbowl game. If you're looking for something else to do tomorow besides eat too much fattening food and consume too many alcoholic beverages while watching extremely well paid large men pummel each other (not that there's anything wrong with that)...
try a hike at one of the Valley's many natural preserve mountain parks.
These are some pictures from my recent hike of Shaw Butte trail 306 in North Phoenix. It's a 4 mile roundtrip hike that City Parks and Recreation labels moderate to difficult. There are some quite steep sections but the panoramic views from the peaks are worth it.
Trailhead parking for North Mountain (including the Shaw Butte trail where I snapped these pics) is located at 7th Street just north of Peoria (just south of Thunderbird) with a big visitors center on the west side of 7th Street. There's additional, limited trailhead parking at 7th Avenue and 15th Avenue just north of Peoria, and at Central Avenue just south of Thunderbird Road.
The day I was there a bunch of groups were hiking. One group looked like a Father-Son hike, another was clearly a dog lover's group hike. There was also a park ranger leading a nature hike through the park, and I overheard him pointing out local bushes and trees, and explaining how anything can manage to prosper and grow green in the Sonoran Desert.
If you do take advantage of the Valley hiking opportunities, bring water. Most parks don't provide more than a few drinking fountains at the trailhead. Especially for out of town visitors, it's hard to guage how the extremely dry air in Phoenix will affect you. Firefighters are routinely called out to rescue hikers who overestimated their abilities or underestimated their water intake needs. Better safe than sorry. Click here for a list of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation hiking spots.
The photo above is a good illustration of what locals call The Brown Cloud. Unfortunately as metro Phoenix has grown in the past 10+ years, we've developed a pollution problem. We're not Beijing by any means but we've got a growing problem. The City of Phoenix is tackling the air quality problems through various initiatives including increased spending on mass transit, using cleaner fuels in city buses, dust control measures on construction sites, and incentives for home builders who build "infill" projects.
About.com has a brief and informative article about what causes Phoenix's Brown Cloud problem. I'm particularly sensitive to the air quality in Phoenix and days that look like the photo above cause sinus headaches and congestion. But I know of many, many people who never give the Valley's air quality a second thought.
Aside from showing our Brown Cloud, the two photos above show how vast the Valley of the Sun is. The first looks over the southern section of the city; the second photo is of the Northwest Phoenix/Peoria/Glendale area. It's easy to spend 2 hours in a car driving from one corner of town to it's diagonal opposite. I've helped a lot of families relocate here from other parts of the country, and they universally tell me they were glad they heeded advice and found jobs before finding housing. Two hours in the car every day commuting to/from work is no fun!
Hope our readers enjoyed these shots of the beautiful, sunny and warm Valley of the Sun.