The Phoenix Mountains
OK, to be fair, the Phoenix Mountains, which run east and west from 7th Avenue to 44th Street, aren't really mountains. You know, like the Rocky Mountains. In fact, Omar Turney, who named Squaw Peak, refused to call it a "mountain", so he just called it a peak. Nowadays it's Piestewa Peak, but that's just part of the range of the Phoenix Mountains.
The Phoenix Mountains are exactly the kind of places that I've gone to all of my life, right there in the city and seemingly hundreds of miles away. And the best places in the Phoenix Mountains are easy to find - just look where everyone is going, and go somewhere else.
When I first moved to Phoenix, in the 1980s, I would park my car in the park and go wander over the southern slopes, in an area where there was a tiny old sidewalk. I called it the "pink sidewalk". Nowadays, of course, there are luxury homes there, so I don't go there anymore. But there are a lot of other places, such as a place that I call "Dinosaur Ridge" off of 7th Avenue just south of Peoria. I'm not sure why I call it that, I may have been watching some documentaries on dinosaurs at the time, or I may have always been looking for dinosaurs ever since I was a kid.
My goal is not to climb to the top of anywhere. I will glance at the view of the city that I love, but mostly I'll keep my eyes on the trail. I've been trying to learn the names of native plants, and I'm still not making much headway on figuring out the rocks. I have friends who can identify this stuff, so I'm working on it.
As someone who is interested in Phoenix history, I time travel. If you want to see what Phoenix looked like to the Hohokams, or the pioneers, just walk around the Phoenix Mountains. And all I can think of is how harsh it must have been for them. Sure, it's beautiful desert scenery to us now, but hundreds of years ago it would be have been a terribly difficult place for humans to live.
So if you have some spare time, go visit the Phoenix Mountains. Carry a bottle of water with you, and wear a hat, but you don't have to make it a chore, or a serious workout. Find your own place, and take all of the time you need. And as always, take only photographs and leave only footprints.
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Posted by Brad Hall