Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hiking matters #453: A traverse of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

Hiking up the "Praying Monk" section of Camelback Mountain
in Phoenix, Arizona
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - In 2012, I did some autumn hikes in Arizona, where my Uncle Larry (a longtime supporter of my adventures) lives (see Hiking matters #313). Two Stateside trips later, I am glad to have come back and sneak in one hike - that of the famous Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. This mountain is so named because "it resembles the hump and the head a kneeling camel" as one guidebook puts it. As we approached the mountain, it indeed looked the part.
Wanting to maximise the trip, I decided to do a traverse of the mountain, ascending via the Echo Canyon Trail, and descending via the Cholla Trail. As the mountain is just 825 MASL, the entire traverse could be done in half a day.
The desert is a very unique environment for hiking - it is very dry and can be, paradoxically, hot and cold at the same time - but the good thing is that the weather is almost always nice. Such was the case when I started hiking. I was enthralled by the cactus and other desert plants that many of them take for granted -- this is always the benefits of coming from another country: you get to enjoy the scenery more.

Because so many people do it - from individual trail runners to families and groups of casual walkers and even tourists - the Echo Canyon Trail is sometimes rated as "very difficult" or "almost like rock climbing" but it is actually just an easy hike with some scrambling. Ever efficient, the park authorities even put metal railings on the moderately steep parts so as to minimise accidents in what is called the "Praying Monk" section.

It did not take long for me to reach the summit, which offered panoramic views of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. From up there you can really appreciate the vastness of the desert, with the plains extending in all directions, interrupted only by occasional (and distant) clumps of highland.

The Cholla Trail was, in my opinion, more scenic than the Echo Canyon, as it passes through a ridgeline with drops on both sides. It reminded me a bit of Mt. Batulao, except that Camelback is more rocky and precipitous. Good thing my La Sportiva shoes did the trick - it was a success, and soon I was having lunch with my uncle in Phoenix! I thank him and my Tita Maricar for another warm welcome in such a beautiful part of the US!

Hiking matters #453: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, AZ
Hiking matters #454: Buford Mountain, Missouri
Hiking matters #455: Castlewood State Park, St. Louis, MO

Hiking matters #454: A loop hike of Buford Mountain in Missouri

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - I had feared that I would a hike-less month in the course of my scholarly visit here in the US - it would have been the first time since 2010 that I'd had a month without hiking!  Thankfully, my colleague Carolyn Powers - who loves the outdoors as much as I do - rescued me from my usual Forest Park walks and we hiked Buford Mountain.
Buford Mountain, a nearly two-hour drive from St. Louis, is part of the famous Ozark Mountains, and  although just over 500 MASL, it is one of the highest mountains in Missouri! Moreover, the trail itself is a good 10.5 miles - which makes for a worthy dayhike.
We started trekking at around 0900H. The weather was forecast to be cloudy but there was actually a light drizzle in the first part of our hike. Fortunately the ground was not muddy and it was a straightforward trek through the forest of oak and hickory, until we reached the ridgeline.

The ridgeline features five peaks, each with a glade. There were ups-and-downs of 100 feet or so, but all very relaxing. The highlight was Bald Knob, which does have a knob-like rock where one could stand and enjoy a view of the Arcadian and Belleview Valleys.

From Bald Knob, we made a descent, and this is we started to see all kinds of wildlife - a turtle, two snakes, a nice lizard, and a tiny frog! Not to mention all the birds Carolyn identified. It was a delight to see al those animals, and the weather also turned for the better; it was sunny by the time we had looped back to the ridge.
By1500H we were back the trailhead, satisfied with the day's adventure. As a bonus, we managed to swing by the Lone Elk County Park in St. Louis, where we saw some buffalo. Altogether, it was a great time in the outdoors! Thank you Carolyn Powers for making it possible!

Hiking matters #453: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, AZ
Hiking matters #454: Buford Mountain, Missouri
Hiking matters #455: Castlewood State Park, St. Louis, MO

Hiking matters #455: Hiking in Castlewood State Park, St. Louis, Missouri

Hiking in Castlewood State Park, Missouri
with a view of the Meramec River
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - I wasn't expecting to have a second hike here in St. Louis but thanks again to my colleague Carolyn Powers, it happened - and on a perfect spring day at that! The destination was Castlewood State Park, which offers great views of the Meramec River. Joining us was Carolyn's dog Kenshin, who proved to be a great companion!

After a quick drive from St. Louis, we went for the 3-mile River Scene Trail. It was immediately forested, and we were surrounded with deciduous trees with freshly-sprouted leaves. It reminded me of some of the mahogany forests we have in the Philippines. Though the highest point in the trail was a mere 124 meters, there were enough ups and downs to make it enjoyable.

Soon we reached the bluffs, and though the view of the river was at first disappointing, it became more and more beautiful as we went further. Aside from the splendid trees - white oak, northern red oak and shagbark hickory - the lush valley was a refreshing sight, animated by different kinds of birds.
It was a Friday but we encountered a lot of people on the trail - which testifies to its place as one of the best hiking spots near St. Louis. Even so there was plenty of lookout spots for everyone. As for the hike itself, I was very easy - and the section along the bluffs was particularly memorable.
Soon we were by the banks of the Meramec, which signaled the end of the hike. Buford Mountain (see Hiking matters #454) was more substantial, but Castlewood was much more scenic, and I'm really very happy to have done it before I leave St. Louis!

Hiking matters #453: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, AZ
Hiking matters #454: Buford Mountain, Missouri
Hiking matters #455: Castlewood State Park, St. Louis, MO

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

List of groups joining the National Mountain Clean-up Day on May 9, 2015

As of April 29, 2015

Mt. Arayat
Loyola Mountaineers
Charles Pe
Mt. Lantoy (Argao, Cebu)
Kalain Trekkers
Alitzur Clint Villones Rustila
Mt. Makiling
Jepoi Mansibang

Kayo Mountaineers
Migs Siena
Pico de Loro
Team Subi-Monte
Jayson Gregorio
Eskapo Mountaineers (Nasugbu Trail)
Ayang Sanchez and Ernesto Bausel
Mt. Kanlaon
UgyonKatreebu La Castellana Mountaineering
Kristine Fria

Freelance hikers of Cebu
Jessie Lee Ubay
Mt. Binacayan and Pamitinan
Montalban Mountaineering Club
Rupert Sallave-Ecot Yaun
TIP-Mountaineering Club
Joshua Dane Potes 
Manabu Peak
Christopher Lorden Z. Patingo
Dahong Palay Mountaineers
Ernie Fines
Mt. Batulao
Christopher Lorden Z. Patingo
Brian Medez Morgan
Mt. Daraitan
Lakbay Group
Freelance hikers
Carlo Aboboto
Balakayu Mountains, South Cotabato
Joseph Sanchez
Mt. Cabuyao
Discover Islam Baguio 
Bedejim Abdullah 
Mt. Isarog
Hagahag Mountaineering Club
Ted Arel
Mt. Talinis
Alimatok Mountaineer
Adrian Cabrera Pajunar
OsmeƱa Peak
ePerformax Outdoor Club 
Michael Lacostales 
Tarak Ridge
Hayahigh Mountaineers
Roi Renoballes
Mts. Manalmon and Gola
Lakbay Pilipinas
Norman Paul Yang
Mt. Napulauan
Team Malaya
Jacel Picat
Mt. Maculot
Random Act of Kindness (RAK)
Fredrick Laping
Mt. Lanaya, Cebu
Gallopers Mountaineering Association
Harry Secusana
Mt. Mauyog and Manunggal, Cebu
Eskapong Lagaan
July Saso
Mt. Mandalagan
ANB Backpackers
 Alvin Tolentino
Mt. Mayon
Mayon Mountaineers Inc
 Mace del Puerto
0949 941 250
Gulugod Baboy
Sampaguita Mountaineers Club
Joanne/Jigs Jugan.
Mt. Kan-Irag, Cebu
Tribu Tagbu
Fritz Jay Hortelano
Mt. Hanginan, Southern Leyte
Let's Do It Philippines - Southern Leyte
Ronz Epiz & Leony Angkoy

Review the Guiding Document for details. You can add your group by commenting on this page with the following details:

Mountain to be cleaned-up, and trail to be used:
Group (does not have to be a formal organisation):
Contact person:
Contact information:

Important: It is the responsibility of every group to ensure the fitness and preparedness of their participants, to coordinate with the relevant LGU / local officials, and to ensure proper waste disposal.


1. I do not have a group. How can I join the clean-up climbs?
The contact numbers of the organizers are listed in the table above. You can contact them to signify your interest. However, please understand that because not everyone can be at the same mountains at the same time, not everyone can join the initiative. However, everyone is encouraged to organise and join clean ups and other environment-supporting activities throughout the year.

2. Our group has signed up but we do not know how to organize a clean-up climb. How do we go about it?
Organizing a clean-up climb is not rocket science. Basically a clean-up climb is just the act of climbing a mountain to collect trash in the trails, campsites, and points of interest and bringing it down to a place where proper waste disposal is practiced. Please refer to the Guiding Document for additional guidance.

3. What if there are several groups doing a clean-up climb in one mountain?
The reason why I am posting the groups who have already announced their intentions is so that we can avoid such a situation. Groups who have decided on the same destination can discuss among themselves how to work it out. For examples, many mountains have different trails and groups can focus their clean-up efforts in a particular trail. Two or three groups doing a clean-up for one mountain is not a bad especially if these mountains are high-impact to begin with, and have many trash to be collected. The important thing is that groups cooperate with each other and with the local government.

4. How much will participating in the clean-up climbs cost?
It will cost nothing. There will be no registration or other fees. Of course, you will have expenses like going to the mountain, or contributing to the food, transpo, etc, for your own climbs. PinoyMountaineer itself is not the organizer of one big event, but the coordinator of many small events happening at the same time. I want this event to be as 'grassroots' as possible but providing the necessary unity to it.

5. Why do you have to do a cleanup day? Cleaning up the mountains should be done year round!
To this kind of argument, I might as well respond: "Why do you have to celebrate your mother's birthday? Celebrating her should be done year round!" Definitely, making our climbs clean and holding clean-up climbs should be practiced throughout the year. But we need special days to remind us - and to send a message to  others - that mountains should be kept clean, and it is a shared responsibility.

6. Where will Pinoy Mountaineer be during the clean-up day?
I will be doing a clean-up outside of the country - which is part of the reason why I was initially hesitant to schedule the Clean-up Day in May. But I will be coordinating the event with the help of the newly-formed PM Environmental Committee led by Carlo Cunanan. They will also be organising a clean-up.

7. Will there be IDs and event/souvenir shirts?
I know that shirts and IDs are important for hiking events. However, to avoid any financial and logistical issues, any shirt that will be produced as an event shirt will be open source design which groups and individuals can just download and print for themselves and add their logos on it. This logo is now available on PM Facebook page and the Group Page for the NMCD.

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