For almost 12 years I have been in a love-hate relationship…
Shame on you for assuming I was talking about my husband. I am talking about Camelback, a little mountain with a big attitude.
Camelback Mountain has an elevation of 2700 feet. It looks like a giant camel resting in the middle of the Phoenix, Arizona metro area. It is an iconic symbol of the city and has become a bit of a fascination of mine. The hike itself is 1.2 miles long and has an elevation gain of nearly 1200 feet. What this little mountain lacks in size, it makes up for with rough rocky trails, high temperatures much of the year, and a steep grade. I have heard the grade of the climb averages 40%, but don’t quote me on that because I simply heard it via word of mouth.
In the year 2000 I moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, days after my husband and I were married. He had lived there for two years already and I had become enamoured with the Southwest. We hiked many different places on the weekends, but it was a hot December day when we took on Camelback for the first time.
I am by no means a regular fitness kind of person (with the exception of Cage Fitness which I will talk about at a later date). I am more of a barrel-into-something-and-hope-for-the-best kind of gal. Cases in point, hiking the Grand Canyon(2 times), riding 150 mile charity rides(2 times), and numerous hikes on Camelback Mountain. All of these events were done with virtually no training on my part, because to repeat, regular fitness is not really my thing.
A friend asked if we wanted to hike Camelback. We said yes, and off we went to hike up the Echo Canyon trailhead. I had no idea what we were about to do. There were extremely steep climbs that made me fearful of how I would ever get down again.
There were boulders to climb and gravel to slip on. There was even wildlife that at first made me wary. But we hiked it, and hiked it again and again and again many times that year. I don’t think there was a time that we hiked Camelback that first year that I ever enjoyed hiking up. Ever. Sometimes I cried, usually I gasped for breath, one time I even stumbled and hit the dirt. As I stood bleeding, I looked up and there were two nuns in full habits and hiking boots coming down the trail. For just a few seconds I was convinced I had died. We all said hello, then I kind of chuckled at myself and continued on.
When we came back home to visit family, I told my relatives of our hikes on Camelback. My Grandpa shared a story with us that back in the late 1930’s he went on a trip across the U.S. and stopped in Phoenix for a while. He talked of camping by the orange groves and the open space at the foot of Camelback Mountain. When I hiked up I always tried to visualize where he camped, but now there is nothing but houses and resorts in every direction.
In 2001 we moved back near where we grew up, but have visited Arizona several times since. Two weeks ago my good friend and I went to Scottsdale for a long weekend. I wanted to show her where I used to live, we both wanted a getaway and we were able to stay with my parents which made the trip very affordable. (Thanks Mom & Dad!) We went hiking with my parents in the McDowell Mountains. I was not aware of how fascinated I must be by Camelback until I was told,
“You’ve been talking so much about that mountain. Let’s just do it.”
So J. and I got up the next morning and did it. It was tough, I’m not going to say it wasn’t. But it was great to hike those rocks again. It was great to see again the characters that hike that mountain every day, some twice my age, passing me or passing me more that once. It was great to see that city again from high above, to share the camaraderie with a bunch of strangers who had just accomplished the same thing. And it was great to share it with a friend who can now maybe better understand my obsession with the collection of sandstone and granite that is Camelback Mountain.