The first time I went to Arizona this year, I was recommended a hike called “Camelback Mountain” (most certainly because of the shape of the land jutting up from a steam-rolled flat area that looks yes, like a camel lying down for a short snooze). I’d been told this was a challenging hike, and as I started up the path of rickety steps, I began to question Jason’s ability to rate hikes. Sure, there were some stairs. But then there was a very flat path that the geriatric ward would have enjoyed strolling along. I commented on this out loud, so ready for a physical battle. Naturally, in true Runner’s Delight style, about five minutes later I wanted to eat my words.
Had there been mist, it would have parted, but this is Phoenix, and mist there was not. Instead, I just rounded a corner and SHAZAM! There was the first of many climbing-feats, this one so steep that a metal bar had been placed into the rock to help novice hikers make their way up the trail. Even then, of course, I was skeptical. Maybe that was it. The only slope worth noting. Oh, how wrong could I have been?
Immediately around the next curve was another beam-required climb, and after that? Well, a series of rocks and boulders that jutted out in a way that ensured hiking upright was almost impossible unless you were familiar with the terrain. Feeling more billy-goat than lady, I hopped and hobbled up the non-existent trail (seriously, the only way I knew where to go was by following the other hikers) and though only a bit more than a mile in length, it took an hour for me to reach the summit. Once atop the camel’s back, I instantly internally apologized for considering revoking Jason’s credentials to recommend hikes.
Eight months had passed since my last trek up Camelback, and in that time the name had been warped in my brain to “Turtle Rock,” which I promptly referred to it as for our trip (and was confused when Jason could not figure out how to give us directions there). Once we finally figured out what I was talking about, we all had a good time pointing out Turtle Rock whenever we drove by. And finally, we did make our way up the climb again. And no, it was nowhere near easier than last time.
If you go to Camelback Mountain:
Bring Water! It is vital that you have water. This is coming from someone who typically eschews hydrating on the spot when possible, but seriously friends, carry water with you, even if you have to carry the bottle in your hand.
Parking Sucks. Yup, the lot is tiny and there seems to always be a line to get into the lot. While I’m sure the neighbors loath this advice, find a side street about half a mile away and walk to the start of the trail; consider this your warm up. There are lots of “No Parking” zones though, so be aware of where you put the car.
Yield to Those Coming Down. I wasn’t aware of this rule the first time I went up the Turtle, but be sure you let those that are climbing down the mountain pass first when there is a confrontation of hikers. Most hikers won’t be annoyed if you forget this, but it’s the polite thing to do, and when you’re coming back down, you’ll appreciate it.
Dirt Don’t Hurt. Likely, you’ll get a little dirty going up and down, partly from scooting on your backside if you’re scared like me, partly from sitting at the top. Wear comfy clothing, and preferably not jeans.
Mid-day Blues. If it’s spring or summer, go early or late in the day. Noontime hiking in Arizona is pretty much sucksland. Fall and winter can mean going anytime, but be smart and know what the weather forecast is.