It all started 27 years ago when 10 to 15 active hikers found themselves with a common pursuit: finding new and interesting places to explore around the Sun Lakes area. Soon this group was gathering on Monday mornings by the Cottonwood flagpole and leaving Sun Lakes at 6:30 a.m. sharp for an adventure on one of the many Arizona hiking trails. In the beginning, this group was comprised mostly of men (i.e. alpha dogs). However, as this group became more established, men began to bring their wives. As couples infiltrated the membership, it is reported that the demeanor of the club changed; a feminine touch “softened the edges” and “gelled the club into a group in which there was a blend of adventurous hiking and having fun.” When couples got together, they not only enjoyed friendly camaraderie on the trail but also planned – usually on a member’s patio – other social gatherings.
Officially, the Sun Lakes Hiking Club was incorporated in 1987 largely due to inspiration from Paul Seibert, co-founder along with Leo Fontaine. Seibert, who had hiked in Arizona for several years, wrote interesting articles for the Sun Lakes Splash that piqued the curiosity of other Sun Lake residents. As a strong leader, Seibert soon became known as the “dictator of the Sun Lakes Hiking Club.”
Today the club boasts 111 active members comprised of couples as well as men and women who hike without a significant other. As the membership expanded so did the hiking options. On Mondays, hikers can choose a challenging hike or a hike going at a slower pace. A third weekly hike offered on Wednesdays also starts from the Cottonwood Country Club parking lot and is a compromise of the two Monday hikes.
The 2013-2014 SLHC season ended in April when several members went on a mini-vacation to Sedona. They hiked five trails in three days. In addition to some of the classic Sedona trails, new and exhilarating hikes were also explored.
While the official hiking season will not resume until November 2014, anyone interested in hiking this summer may wish to meet in the southeast corner of the Cottonwood Country Club parking lot near the HOA building at 6:15 a.m. on Monday mornings. The hike that day will be determined by those gathering.
Remember the rules of summer hiking: carry lots of water; protect your skin from the blazing sun by using sun screen, a wide brim hat and sun glasses; choose a hike in a higher elevation with lots of shade; hike with a buddy; and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
For those wishing to learn more about the Sun Lakes Hiking Club, contact club President Brian Hill at 480-802-1050 or email BrianFHill@aol.com. You can also visit the club’s website at http://www.meetup.com/Sun-Lakes-Hiking-Club.
A thank you goes out to Ron Weary who supplied the historical information for this article.