I have written several blog entries about hiking, an activity that my wife and I so enjoy and one that I am missing terribly since I broke my ankle last month. I have also written about some of our favorite places to hike, which are often located in areas that offer distant vistas, most particularly mountains and valleys. Truly one of the most spectacular places we have hiked is in Phoenix, Arizona, the city where my wife lived for nineteen years, before we met. She has told me about how, when she lived in the area, she regularly drove to the Phoenix Mountains Preserve to hike the trails on over 6,000 acres of land owned by the city and managed by the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council. The network of trails in the Preserve winds up through small mountains and hills that reach about 2,000 feet above the desert floor and about 3,000 feet above sea level. These elevations, combined with the mostly treeless landscape, provide hikers with incredible views of the enormous valley below and the vast sprawl of the metropolitan city and suburbs.
I traveled to Arizona for the first time in 2008 with my wife, and while we were there, she took me to the Preserve. We hiked up one of the hills, not to the top but far enough to take some great photos that I have used on occasion as computer wallpaper, like the one above. Somehow the mountains in the distance look so much higher than they are because they soar up from the flat, desert floor. There is a very definite contrast between earth and sky in many portions of the west, and this is one of those places. The diversity of plant life in the desert is far greater than most people who have not seen it can imagine. The terrain is rocky and sandy but not too difficult to maneuver. The Preserve is well used and a wonderful recreational asset for the people of Phoenix.