Piestewa Peak is the second tallest mountain in Phoenix after Camelback Mountain. Many locals still call the mountain by its original name, Squaw Peak, but it was renamed for Army Spc. Lori Piestewa after her death in 2003. She was the first Native American woman to be killed in action overseas.
Piestewa Peak is located in the Scottsdale area of Phoenix, about 15 – 20 minutes from where I lived in Phoenix. It’s close proximity is probably why I hiked it so many times. The trail to the summit of Piestewa Peak is deceptive. It starts out easy-moderate and then the last section up to the summit is steep. Hiking this trail helped me get in shape, both cardio and strength wise.
This mountain taught me a lot about hiking in the desert, listening to my body, and staying hydrated.
It is always important to pay attention to the weather when doing any kind of outdoor activity, but it is especially crucial in an area where the temperature regularly reaches one extreme or the other. The summers in Phoenix are HOT, exceeding 100 degrees every day. I learned very quickly to wake up early and be at the trail-head by sunrise. By 9 AM it was already hot enough to be miserable on the trail.
I also had to learn to listen to my body. There were days where I didn’t make it to the summit and I had to be okay with that, because there were a few too many times that I didn’t listen to my body and pushed myself to far and I paid for it every time – feeling sick and exhausted for the rest of the day and sometimes into the next.
Staying hydrated is so important! I cannot stress that enough. After my second hike in Arizona, I decided to go from a sometimes hiker to a serious hiker. I went to the local REI and bought a membership and my first hiking backpack with a water bladder. Four years later and I am still using that same backpack. I am able to carry a lot more water with the water bladder. Plus, the water stays colder, especially when you put ice cubes in it too. My backpack also allows me to carry my first aid kit, snacks, extra layers of clothing, and my GPS messaging device that my dad strapped to me when he came to visit a month later (apparently my traipsing around Arizona by myself was stressing my mom out).
When I hike I also carry an extra bottle of water or a Gatorade with me in case someone else needs it. I learned to do that on Piestewa Peak. A woman was hiking it for the first time with her trainer. It took them longer than expected to reach the summit and they ran out of water. I had talked to them on the way up and on the way back down I ran into the woman. Her trainer had ran ahead of her to get water from the car and she was sitting on the side of the trail. There isn’t any shade on Piestewa depending on how the sun is hitting it so she was sitting there with the sun beating down on her, making her feel worse. I had Gatorade with me that I hadn’t opened yet, so I gave it to her. Once she started feeling a little better we slowly continued down to the trail-head. Being dehydrated can become a serious health concern very quickly.
It’s important to pay attention to your own body and to watch for warning signs in others. I think it is important to watch out for our fellow hikers, at one time we were new to hiking too. We all make mistakes.
I highly recommend hiking at least one of the peaks in Phoenix if you ever visit. There are many choose from and they have great views of the city. During my time there, I hiked Piestewa Peak, Camelback Mountain, and Sunrise Peak.