Q&A: Celebrate National Trails Day With the CVL Hike Club

With hundreds of miles of trails available in Arizona, there is no shortage of adventure. But according to Kathleen Fitzpatrick, an American Hiking Society board member, people often lack the motivation to explore the outdoors if they don’t have someone to go with them. That’s one of the reasons she started the CVL Hike Club a decade ago. With National Trails Day approaching (it's next Saturday, June 6), the club is planning an 8-mile round-trip hike on the Horton Creek Trail east of Payson. We talked with Fitzpatrick about her club and the event.

Tell us about CVL Hike Club. Why did you start it?
It’s 10 years old now. I moved to Arizona in 2002 and didn’t really know a lot of people here. So I started joining other people’s hiking clubs, and I got tired of paying to participate, but I also didn’t want to hike alone. So when I started working at Coe & Van Loo [Consultants, a Phoenix engineering-services firm], I had suggested to the president that we start a hiking club. I’ve got about 350 names on my email-blast list, and it ranges from clients, to friends of friends, to people we’ve met on the trail.

What is an average hike like?
I plan hikes for once a month. The groups range in size from six to 12 people, and sometimes we’ve had as many as 28. Usually it’s people that are either by themselves and don’t want to hike alone, or that we’re going someplace cool. I try to mix it up. We’ve done some rafting, kayaking ... we’ve done all kinds of fun stuff. I had Peter Ensenberger, former Arizona Highways director of photography, do a photo seminar for us. I try to do things that will appeal to all levels of people. We’ve had a painting seminar where we had an artist I met through the Grand Canyon Association come and do plein-air painting.

Is your club only for experienced hikers?
We have beginners, we have small kids; I’ll let people know if it’s a dog-friendly, kid-friendly hike, if there’s a lot of rocks. Usually I would say the fitness level is you can be a very beginner, a young, fit person, but a beginner hiker. The oldest person I’ve had on the trail was 87, but he was super fit.

What is National Trails Day?
Trails awareness was started in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, and the American Hiking Society decided to sort of take the charge since they’re the national voice for hiking trails. National Trails Day evolved during the late 1980s and 1990s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor-industry leaders and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System.

How does your club plan to celebrate National Trails Day on the Horton Creek Trail?
National Trails Day is June 6 this year; it’s usually the first Saturday of June every year, and that’s a national event. This will be our hike club’s third year doing a Trails Day event. Kim Hanna’s Camping for Foodies is about gourmet cooking on the trail or in camp. She’s going to do a whole cooking demonstration for a late lunch or early dinner for everyone who comes hiking with us. She’s going to show people how you can make gourmet food out in the wild. [To RSVP for the event, email Fitzpatrick at [email protected] or call her at 602-828-3723.]

Why is hiking awareness important to you?
It’s important to me because it’s like anything: The more people are vested in something, the more they’ll be likely to take care of it. If you’re out and on the trail, you usually have a more vested interest in being conscientious of taking care of it. Plus, I think being out in nature and being out on the trails is a great way to connect with the outdoors.

Any rules in the club?
The rule we have in the hike club is no work is discussed on the trail, and everyone is completely happy to abide by that rule.

Photo: George Rocheleau | Horton Creek

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