Behind the scenes of the Sun Lakes Hiking Club

Hike Coordinators Greg Jewell, Marilyn Harkins and Dennis Harkins look over new trails. Missing in photo: Al and Ginny Metz.

Hike Coordinators Greg Jewell, Marilyn Harkins and Dennis Harkins look over new trails. Missing in photo: Al and Ginny Metz.

Roberta Arpan

The Sun Lakes Hiking Club is supported entirely by its members. Hike leaders are the backbone of this organization and the hike coordinators are the heart.

In 2010 when Marilyn and Dennis Harkins took over the responsibilities of Hike Coordinator, the club offered two hikes each week and the job description was quite simple, “The Hike Coordinator shall be responsible for organizing monthly hike teams that will plan all regular hikes for the club from November 1 through April 30. The Hike Coordinator shall also assist the hiking teams in planning and executing these hikes.” In the last five years, however, the membership of the club has increased to over 200 enthusiastic participants. With this growth came the need to broaden the scope of hiking experiences to accommodate a wider variety of levels and expectations.

A basic or retread hike was added to the weekly line-up and this last year the club began to schedule an additional intermediate hike on Monday. To accommodate the larger number of hikers, an alternative intermediate hike was also offered on certain Wednesdays.

As the SLHC continued to expand so did the demands on the hike coordinators. Ginny and Al Metz became the hike coordinators for the weekly retread hikes and Greg Jewell has assumed the duties of hike coordinator for the intermediate hikes.

In addition to the already mentioned responsibilities, the hike coordinators recruit leaders for each hike, help with selecting appropriate level hikes, keep and update a master list of hikes to avoid duplications, provide assistance with pre-hikes, print maps and provide driving directions. It is also up to the coordinators to provide information for the monthly Splash articles and the club website.

In their role as hike coordinators for the retreads, Ginny and Al Metz make certain all newcomers are oriented to the club and its procedures, have the needed equipment and are safe on the trail. They also assist with any injuries or problems that occur due to the heat or cacti and become secondary hike leaders when necessary due to the large turnout on many of the hikes.

In addition to the stated responsibilities, Marilyn and Dennis Harkins provide new hiker orientation and leadership field trips twice a year. They also assist the president with the hike leader refresher meetings held in November and January and keep information on leaders updated. They plan extra hiking events, such as the challenge hikes at South Mountain Park, the annual New Year’s Eve Resolution Rock hikes and Tonto National Monument guided hikes.

While the hike coordinators work tireless hours and have an awesome responsibility in keeping the club running smoothly, they are supported by a network of other volunteers (one might call these volunteers the arteries of the club.)

April hikes are listed below. For a more complete and up-to-date description, visit the club’s website at Unless otherwise noted, carpools meet at the Cottonwood parking lot east of the tennis courts at 6:45 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. departure. If you are new to the club, remember to contact the hike leader before the day of the hike.

Monday Advanced Hikes

April 4 – Alta Trail at South Mountain. Leaders Dena Brinkman 206-7427, and Doug Chirhart 883-2834. Note: Meetup at 6:15 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. departure.

April 11 – Fossil Springs Trail in Coconino National Forest near Strawberry. Leader Mei Mei Ahlskog 883-2013.

April 18 – Leader’s Choice at South Mountain. Leader Doug Chirhart 883-2834.

April 25 – Hangover Trail in Sedona. Leader Marilyn Harkins 883-7173.

Monday Intermediate Hikes

April 18 – Horton Creek near Payson. Leader Mike Josephson 248-496-5369.

Monday Retread Hikes – location will be announced on the club website.

April 4 – Leader Bonnie Tasch 802-2836.

April 11 – Leaders Bruce McCorkle 253-0081 and Jim Reid 639-1325.

April 18 – Leaders Tom Chase 895-7819 and Liz Morque 612-201-4213.

April 25 – Leaders Al and Ginny Metz 895-1868.

Wednesday Intermediate Hikes

April 6 – Parker Canyon in Tonto National Forest. Leader Mike Josephson 248-496-5369.

April 13 – Urban Hike in Tempe. Leaders Al and Ginny Metz 895-1868.

April 20 – Fat Man’s Pass and Hidden Valley in South Mountain Park. Leaders Michael Kenny 802-5886 and Denese Anderson 883-8420.

April 27 – Granite Dells and Peavine Trail in Prescott. Leaders Dennis and Marilyn Harkins 883-7173.

Club members are looking forward to the annual End of the Year Picnic and Awards Banquet at Oasis Park in Sun Lakes Country Club on Friday, April 1. On April 4, 55 hikers will leave for the annual Special Hike in Santa Fe. For more information about SLHC, please visit the club website.