Phoenix South Mountain Park

So I took time to browse Craigslist while I was staying in Chandler at my buddy Jay’s place and found a sweet deal on a bicycle, pump and lock for $60. Despite the short-lived stay in Arizona, I needed something to get around during the day when everyone was at work.

Highline Canal Trail
The Highline Canal Trail on my way towards Phoenix South Mountain Park

The cross-threaded pedal made me wary about long-distance riding and the crooked seat with broken shocks made for an uncomfortable ride, but with all the accessories I could not turn down the offer. I took the bicycle out the next morning and rode from my friend’s condo in Tempe, AZ to South Mountain, a distance of 15 miles. The route took me through downtown Tempe past much of ASU. I cruised through the area passing multiple bars, restaurants, and urban neighborhoods. I don’t care what people say about the desert lacking humidity. The heat out here gets unbearable in the afternoon. Cycling for hours to reach the mountain made me experience heat stroke despite drinking a 2-Liter bottle of water a few times. By the time I needed to quench my thirst it was already too late. I spent much of my time in the shade out of the sun trying to regain my composure. The route I took put me straight in gang territory. I cycled through the Indian reservation passing a bunch of run-down mobile homes with gang graffiti scribbled over them. The name SUR13 and DUSK drawn in sharpie and spray painted on multiple homes, and stone walls made me use extra caution while cycling through the area. I followed the highline canal trail for 8+ miles to Phoenix South Mountain Park. Vacant buildings covered in gang graffiti popped up on each block I passed. I felt a bit out of place as the only white boy in the area, but everyone I encountered kindly greeted me and I either nodded, said hello or waved back at them as I pedaled on my way to the Preservation.

Saguaro Phoenix South Mountain Park
Saguaro Cactus on Phoenix South Mountain Park

Across from the Scorpion Gulch building shells I locked my bicycle to the Phoenix South Mountain Park signage, which briefly explained the park rules. My feet trudged along through the Sonoran Desert sand as I looked for rattlesnakes and kept my eyes on the herbage. Off in the distance my eyes latched onto the many Saguaro Cacti, their many arms signifying their age, some of which stood there for more than 150+ years. The sun beat down on me burning my arms, chest and some of my back. I stopped multiple times to refuel, eating peanuts, a power bar and drinking more water, but nothing seemed to help my headache. I continued trekking following the trail until it came to an end. Then I made my own trail getting closeups of the cacti and other vegetation as I walked closer to the Nature Trailhead. The best part about the Phoenix South Mountain Park Nature Trail was the signage giving brief explanations of the plant-life and desert animals. I learned the Sonoran Desert was the 4th largest desert in the world and the poisonous animals to watch out for being the rattlesnake, the bark scorpion and brown recluse spider. I walked on following the trail along the road until I reached the peak overlooking Tempe, Arizona. The sound of gunshots echoed through the desert bouncing off the valley’s of the mountains below me. At first I thought a firing range sat beneath me in the city, but I shortly realized people just shot off random rounds into the desolate desert.

Tempe, AZ
Looking down on the city of Tempe, AZ from one of the highest peaks in the park.

I sat there on a rock looking down on the city below me. Behind me a series of cell phone towers perched on Phoenix South Mountain, and to the sides of me, nothing but the arid desert, cacti, lizards and granite rock. I soaked in the peaceful view for as long as I could bear it and eventually plodded down the mountain seeking refuge under a shelter to lower my core body temperature.

Cacti Tempe
More cacti…not sure exactly what type of cacti, but nonetheless, beautiful!