For several months now, I have been corresponding with a
woman by the name of Manuela Roigk, who lives in Spandau, Berlin, Germany.
Manuela had first contacted me after consulting our web site for possible
hikes to do during her next trip to Arizona. She was very grateful for my
help, and soon thereafter, we began sending e-mails to each other on a regular
basis - I guess you could say that she became my e-Pal! Our exchanges included
culture and language lessons, as well as tips on hiking trails in Arizona. We
also shared pictures as well as sound and video files.
She and her husband, Detlef, vacation in Arizona every spring. They arrive in
April and stay for several weeks, during which time, they go on several day
hikes in Phoenix and in the surrounding areas. This year, they planned to
arrive in Phoenix on April 19 and do several day hikes in the Phoenix Mountain
Preserve and in McDowell Mountain Park before heading out of town to explore
the Mogollon Rim region. On their way to Payson, they would hike the
Ballentine Trail, using the trail description that we had posted on our web
site. Then, during the early part of May, they would be in Tucson, where they
would do a day hike to Hutch's Pool as well as other hikes in Saguaro National
Now, John and I correspond with a lot of people who write to us to compliment
(or flame) us on our web site. (Fortunately, we've had more compliments than
flames!) We almost always respond to our feedback, too, because we appreciate
all of the comments, both good and bad, that we receive. This, however, was
different than your ordinary run-of-the-mill correspondence. In chatting with
Manuela through e-mail, I felt as though I had made a friend, and now I wanted
to meet this new friend! I suggested to her that we arrange to do a day hike
together - something easy, but also something that none of us had ever done
before. After comparing our schedules and itineraries, we decided to do the
Lost Dog Wash Trail on April 22, just after their arrival in the United
States. It was an easy hike, but none of us had ever completed it yet. During
their first attempt, they had gotten lost, as had we when we hiked it in
We arranged to meet each other at the trailhead on 128th Street, north of
Cactus, at 8:00 a.m. on April 22, a Sunday morning. For us, that was a later
than usual start time - John was a little concerned that it would be too hot
for us to hike if we started that late. On Saturday, though, a huge storm blew
through the state, bringing us cooler than normal temperatures and a perfect
day to hike through the desert.
On Sunday morning, after stopping for bagels at Einstein's, John and I drove
to the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead. We arrived at exactly 8:00 a.m. and found that
Manuela and Detlef were already there, waiting for us. We greeted each other
with hearty handshakes and lots of laughter - especially when I introduced
them to little Mary, who had a very big smile for them! Manuela and Detlef
also had little gifts for us, too, which we decided to open after the hike.
Before we began hiking, we stopped a couple of passers-by and asked them to
take a group picture of us. Then, we started our hike on the Lost Dog Wash
Trail - a three-mile long trek through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The hike
would take us first to the Lost Dog Overlook, at 0.5 miles, then to the
Taliesin Overlook at 3.0 miles.
The trail began with a gradual climb on an old rocky jeep road. After a
quarter of a mile, the trail crests then drops into a drainage; then, it
climbs again before leaving the jeep road. A narrow foot path takes hikers to
the top of the Lost Dog Overlook, which gives hikers a stunning view of
Fountain Hills and all of the mountain ranges to the south and to the west of
Phoenix. (John, of course, quizzed me on the names of the mountain ranges: I
thought that I was looking at the Sierra Estrellas, but instead they were the
After that, the trail began to descend towards Lost Dog Wash - and towards the
point where we had gotten lost before. Fortunately, Manuela had a map, taken
from a brochure about the McDowell Mountains. It wasn't a topographical map,
but it was certainly better than the stick-figure drawing that we had gotten
out of the newspaper! On the back of the map, there were also mileage markers
to help guide us along the trail, so that we wouldn't get lost this time.
We continued along the trail, chatting as we hiked through the beautiful,
pristine desert. Manuela had lots of questions for us - hiking questions for
us, and skydiving questions for John. We also exchanged a lot of cultural
information - everything from vacation time to shopping! (Manuela, for
example, had just purchased a new pair of hiking boots...from Woolworth's,
which still exists in Germany!)
Finally, we arrived at the Taliesin Overlook, which was our destination for
the day. After leaving the washes, the trail merged onto the jeep road again,
and it began to climb gently towards Taliesin Ridge. At the pass, there is a
nice view of a housing development under construction, but the best view is on
the overlook itself, which is at the end of a spur trail that goes off to the
left. From the overlook, you can see Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, as well
as Camelback Mountain, half-hidden by the mountain, and the Phoenix Mountains.
Directly below the overlook is Taliesin, which appeared to be a lot smaller
than I expected it to be.
We lingered at the overlook for about a half an hour while we admired the view
and took pictures. Mary kept us all entertained with her latest trick: holding
her own bottle. (Unfortunately, she also did something that she had not done
in a long time: she spit up on me!) Detlef showed off their newly purchased
GPS, which was manufactured by Garmin. They had purchased it in hopes that it
would help them find their way back if they ever got lost in the desert again.
(We had accidentally left our GPS in the car, but as soon as we returned, John
pulled it out and the two of them compared their toys!)
At 10:00 a.m., we decided to start hiking back to the car - by that time, the
breeze on the overlook was becoming a little too cold to continue standing
there. Since most of the return hike was downhill, it took us less than ninety
minutes to complete the trail, and we made it back to the trailhead before
11:30 a.m. - just in time for lunch.
Upon returning to our cars, John and Mary and I opened our gifts from Manuela
and Detlef. John received a travel kit with a Spandau coat of arms on it (the
perfect thing to pack in his briefcase for his business trip to Fargo!), and I
received a set of note cards with Impressionist paintings on them (i.e. Claude
Monet, my favorite painter). Mary's present was extra special: she received a
little backpack that, as John described, was "Mary-size", and inside of it was
a little Smurf doll!
To thank them for their gifts, John and I took them to lunch that afternoon.
We all went to La Madeleine's, the French bakery/café at Tatum and Shea. We
sat out on the terrace and enjoyed a cool, breezy afternoon with good food and
good conversation. They asked for our advice on trails to hike on the Mogollon
Rim, so we gave them a few suggestions, like Clover Creek and Hell's Gate.
Then, I invited them to come and see me at work so that they could get some
print-outs of these hikes from our web site...and so that they could see the
view from the 32nd floor of Bank One Center! They were very grateful.
As it grew later in the afternoon, we bid Manuela and Detlef goodbye and
wished them luck during the rest of their vacation in Arizona. With that,
another adventure was over, and a nice time was had by all.