Sunday, June 20, 2010

Arizona Cardinals Rookies Hike Camelback to Get Acclimated

Sports bloggers were passing a link around yesterday about Arizona Cardinals rookies hiking Camelback. It's been warm lately so it's not surprising to see some of these out-of-state guys appear sort of weak as they arrived at the summit. Judging by the pace of the group shown in the video, they probably got passed by quite a few regulars. If these burly rookies keep hitting the trail, though, it won't be long before they'll be bounding up and down like ibexes.

Here's the link to the video on, (which is where I ripped this still shot).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The "Other" Camelback Mountain

Sometimes it seems like half the info on the Web about Camelback Mountain is about the "other" Camelback Mountain, also known as "Big Pocono."

In my former life as a Queens boy, I knew that my parents had their honeymoon somewhere in the Poconos, but that's about all I knew of the place.

Thanks to my obsession with our local rockpile, I now know that part of the Poconos includes the Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. It's a popular ski area that's filled with folks from New Jersey and New York City every winter. It looks like a great place to have fun in the snow.

By Western standards, the other Camelback is what I'd call a cute, little bump of a ski hill. The vertical drop is only 800 feet. Sunrise has an elevation gain of 1,800 feet, Snowbowl more than 2,000. (Phoenix Camelback = 1,200.)

Poconos Camelback rises to 2,113 feet, says Wikipedia (other sources put the max elevation at 2,050). That's much shorter than Phoenix Camelback, which tops out at 2,706.

Of course, our Camelback is a good deal south of Pennsylvania, and it's in the middle of a desert. Snow that falls on Phoenix Camelback melts quickly (it happens once every few years), so the Poconos provide much better skiing conditions.

In the summer, the Poconos don't bake at 115 degrees or more, either, meaning you can go splashing through mud puddles on a Segway or run a zip line through the trees.

Summer or winter, the other Camelback looks like my kind of place.

(Pictures from

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bee Attack Panics Man, Causes Knee Blow-Out and Mountain Rescue

Hiker Tom Tenkler made the news yesterday after blowing his knee out while running away from some bees.

Several media outlets picked up on this one, and as usual, most ticked me off by failing to include decent info. At least the local Fox affiliate reported that the incident happened on Cholla Trail, which even the so-called paper of record did not.

Firefighters from Phoenix's TRT and Tempe FD took the guy down some sections on a Big Wheel, with rope assist, before flying him out via helicopter on the Cholla side.

I'd rather get stung 50 times and limp with a broken leg off the mountain rather than suffer the indignity of a mountain rescue and the obligatory TV news coverage. But that's just me. Besides, Tenkler may not have summoned rescuers himself. I tried to find his phone number, but neither online White Pages nor Yahoo People Search have a listing for a Tenkler in AZ. Fox was the only outlet that reported the guy's name -- maybe they got it wrong.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Camelback Chuckwalla

Late-spring hiking at Camelback this year has been different: Fewer parking spaces because of the great weather, less time to hike with the new closing hour of 7 p.m. (Jeez, they've gotta to change that!)

One thing is the same: The annual appearance of the friendly chuckwalla.

These handsome, large Sonoran-desert lizards come out when the ground heats up. Last month, On a recent day, I saw what looked like two baby chuckwallas. A couple of weeks later, I spotted this bad boy.

Don't try to catch one or you might hurt it. To escape predators, chuckwallas slip between cracks in the rock and puff up their bodies, wedging themselves in tight. This may work for coyotes (who may just get a drumstick instead of the whole thing) but determined humans would have no problem messing with them.

Seeing a chuckwalla at Camelback is a special treat for nerds like me and out-of-town visitors, some of whom probably wonder if they're Gila monsters. Chuckwallas are much bigger then common fence lizards, more colorful and all-around cooler-looking. They blend in beautifully with Camelback's orange-red hue.

Another neat thing about chuckwallas is their name. Though it sounds like something a hayseed from the Midwest might have thunk up, Wikipedia says it's derived from a Spanish bastardization of a couple of words for the lizard used by two Native American tribes.

The Hohokam, (the group of Native Americans who lived in the Phoenix area for about 1,000 years before leaving a few decades before Columbus' arrival) probably considered chuckwallas a delicious treat -- the Hohokam also ate cholla.

The Wiki article told me something I always suspected: that chuckwallas are basically desert iguanas. No wonder I like them so much: I used to have a pet iguana as a kid. Its name was Whiplash, because it liked to whip people with its tail so hard that it would leave a mark. It also bit me on the nose once. I sold it back to the pet shop I'd bought it from a year later, and found it had gone up in price like a rare coin. I was happy to have the extra money instead of the iguana. But I can't get those sweet little lizard faces out of my head. They're so cute!