Having lived in the Valley of the Sun since the early sixties, Jay has experienced many of the wonders that the Sonoran Desert has to offer. He started mountain biking in 1984 when the movement first started, having been a motorcycle desert racer since the 70's, the MTB fit right in and changed his life. Since then Jay has been president of a road cycling club, ridden thousands of miles on road and mtb and participated in numerous charity events raising awareness and funds through cycling for those in need. The passion grew and he became a certified cycling instructor through the League of American Bicyclists, teaching safety, skills and mentoring, both on and off road. Cycling is Jay's life's passion and having retired as an aerospace machinist, he is now living the dream of working part time in a bicycle shop and being a tour guide with the Wild Bunch Desert Tour Guides. "It don't get no better than that"
"Come on out and ride with us!!! You will enjoy the uniqueness of our Desert and landscapes that you can only see on a bike." - Jay
Laurel Darren, a.k.a. Ol’ Sparkly Eyes, lives in a world filled with colorful, shimmering glitter, eccentric knee socks, and fun costumes. A high energy force field around her has created many safe, fun, and amazing adventures by foot and bike here in the beautiful Sonoran Desert.
Arriving in Arizona in 2012 this John Deere corn fed Midwest girl has 30 years of athleticism under her chaps. Ol’ Sparkly eyes has competed in many road running races, road cycling, cyclo-cross and Mountain bikeraces. In 2017 she completed a R2R2R Grand Canyon with a pal in 22 hours and has completed numerous R2R's
Her accomplishments in the racing world include:
30 marathon finishes/ 5 Ultra trail run finishes with one Boston Marathon finish in 2009 * Ironman Louisville Finisher 2009 * Leadville 100 MTB race buckle finisher 2016* Current record holder Single Speed 104 Barn Burner 2016 * many other podium finishes in Single Speed mountain bike category and also geared category. * 6 years of crewing Race Across America (RAAM) with 2016 crew for a SOLO champion.
When not spreading glitter on the trails or insisting guests hug a cactus for a photo, she loves to ride her mountain bike with different groups especially the single speeders. Another favorite is hiking with her Plott hound, Daisy Mae. Ol’ Sparkly Eyes is also involved with many local mountain biking groups including DFMBA and AZ Gravel Rides. Laurel's experience as a senior mountain bike guide for 4 years at Arizona Outback Adventures presented her with opportunities on her journey to create relationships as well as perfect a skill set that includes attention to safety and knowledge of proper trail etiquette. Upon leaving AOA, Ol’ Sparkly eyes was known for the most positive Trip Advisor reviews and was THE most REQUESTED guide for private day tours. Laurel is super fun and loves to give everyone the adventure of a lifetime.
Wild Bunch Desert Guides was born in the imagination of a couple of people who love the desert and all it has to offer. What better way to share this with the countless visitors each year, than to take you ourselves and show you around! Our gang is made up of guides with years of experience here in the Sonoran Desert that have a passion for exploring and a genuine commitment to making adventures safe, fun, and unforgettable.
Bill & Laurel
Matt Kalina grew up long-distance running, canoeing and eating cheese in West Central Wisconsin before pulling up stakes and moving to the dry heat of Arizona in 1999. He has stayed upright and on his feet—for the most part—while trail running, exploration hiking, running, technical canyoneering, mountaineering and everything in between from multi-day backpacking and pack rafting to ultra running while exploring Western wild lands, taking photos along the way. He is a professional Arizona adventure guide for a wide range of active-sports disciplines, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, canyoneering, rappelling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and mountain biking. He and his wife Lisa raise rescued cats, make pizza from scratch every week, run on the Green Belt Path and ride their beach cruiser bicycles around Old Town Scottsdale, Ariz. They surf when they can, run marathons together across the country and are restoring a vintage 1960s 14-foot camping trailer. They are huge fans of all kinds of live music.
Matt holds outdoor certifications including PADI Open Water Diver, Basic Sailing and Wilderness First Responder. He is a avid wilderness conservationist, member of Arizona Mountaineering Club, steward with McDowell Sonoran Conservancy and founding board member of Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument. By day he works as marketing communications manager for Tomcar all-terrain vehicles, manufactured in Phoenix, and as account director for a strategic marketing agency. He was a reporter and editor of a daily newspaper in Wisconsin and a journalist specializing in economic change during his travels in Eastern Europe. Kalina is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Communications Arts Department and former chairman of the City of Scottsdale Neighborhood Enhancement Commission. His most vivid outdoor experience? Fording a glacial river in Denali National Park, Alaska. His all time backcountry fear is being faced with an empty bottle of hot sauce.
Mike, a Buckeye born and raised in Lima, Ohio, has found a love of the Sonoran Desert and all of the Wild that comes with spending as much time as possible outdoors. He grew up playing in the dirt of woods and farmlands, flying model rockets and airplanes, and being a very mediocre football player. During college he found the joy of camping and backpacking in the Appalachian Mountains, and then got his hands on a cheap steel mountain bike while finishing his education at The Ohio State University. Mike's student and professional life revolved around research and design of turbomachinery during this time, and he was hired to configure process gas compressors at the Sundyne Corporation in Arvada, Colorado. During his nine years of residency in Colorado, he started a family with his high school sweetheart wife, Maggie. They have three happy kids: Sam, Ellie, and Bea. Their brood can often be found around a campfire, fishing in a lake, riding mountain bikes, and resting in sleeping bags.
Mike has tried his hand at racing mountain bikes and running long distance relay races, but soon realized that speed is not his strong suit. But that has not stopped him from focusing on improving his skills and fitness to savor every moment he gets outdoors. His most recent adventures have taken him on mulltiday bikepacking (long distance mountain biking carrying camping gear) trips in Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Baja Mexico, as well as guided enduro riding in the Provence region of Southern France. Mike's family tries to get the most use possible out of their National Parks Pass every year, but also never miss an opportunity to visit a beach.
A chance meeting between Mike and Bill at a kids' playdate, sharing a mutual stoke over mountain bike adventure, led to the opportunity for Mike to join Wild Bunch as a biking and hiking guide. He has grabbed onto this chance, learning about the local history and the natural desert from other guided trips, field books, Sonoran Preserve events, but mostly just getting out there to see, smell, taste, and feel the surroundings. Mike often leaves a little blood and sweat on the trail, all while wearing an endless smile.
Ellen Spatt, a.k.a. Epic Ellen, is a retired Firefighter from Wisconsin who competed in triathlon back home, ultimately becoming a Ford Ironman finisher in 2011. Since moving to AZ four years ago, she has embraced the hiking and mountain biking scene. Mountain bike racing is a new challenge with several podium finishes in 2016 and 2017. Ellen loves to trail run and hike all over the valley. A bucket list accomplishment last year was a solo Rim2Rim2Rim hike/run of the Grand Canyon in under 24 hours! Ellen is a barista at Local Johnny's in Cave Creek, AZ when not spreading her trail love. Epic Ellen is the type of guide who will try anything and teach guests they can do anything they put their mind to. Her enthusiasm and motivational spirit is contagious partner that with fun loving and this outdoor enthusiast will guide you on an amazing and safe adventure.
Rebecca, a.k.a. Rebel, hails from West Virginia (in your best accent say that). Rebel grew up loving the outdoors and playing with the boys. Native American/wild west culture became her passion as her daddy used to bring home photos from his western travels in the U. S. Navy.
Rebel worked loading semi-trucks for 20 years for Rite Aid while moon lighting as an EMT from 1982-1995 and also worked on a Search and Rescue canine specific crew. Rebel has always explored the outdoors via mountain bike and hiking. Her hiking background includes educating people on how to prepare and eat wild edibles and enjoy the surroundings in remote locations.
Rebel has been giving people amazing “yee haw” adventures for Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Jeep Adventures for over 10 years out of Cave Creek, AZ and has been his most loved and requested tour guide for the better half of a decade. Rebel has no fear when it comes to taking guest for a bushwhack hike or mountain bike ride and she carries the appropriate supplies for any situation possible in the desert. When not having a blast jeepin, hiking or riding mountain bike Rebel has her own personal Native American inspired art work she makes and sells, and works as a ranch hand in Cave Creek, AZ. Rebel has been married over 20 years and has 2 dogs.
Rebel along with her plyers ( we say PLIIIIERS for the accent) will give you an adventure that will be educational and maybe a little wild. Rebel is fun and an amazing guide who loves the outdoors and loves to share her knowledge of the desert with others.
Mark joined Wild Bunch after constantly running into Laurel on the trails at Browns Ranch while she was "working." LOL. Always a pleasure to stop and get a hug from--Mark always took the time to make guests feel like they had a new mountain bike pal in Arizona. One day a Facebook message came over and the rest is history. Mark started mountain biking at 16 years old and has lived here in Arizona for 15 years. Don't let his accent fool you though--he has that southern slang that will make you start talking like him when you ride with him. He won't tell you however we will- Mark is a former pro golfer and still helps many people with their swing and game via his personal business -THE GOLF YOGI www.thegolfyogi.com. Mark has also completed over 40 triathlons, 11 -half ironman (70.3) distances and is an Ironman finisher. Mark and his wife are also incredible mountain bikers. Sunday fun day Mark is often hiking or biking with his wife and daughter somewhere in our Sonoran Desert. Mark is super fun and if you are lucky to get him--you may find yourself a golf partner or improve your swing.
Eric Hardwick, a.k.a. HARDWICK! is a transplant to the valley, but may as well have been born in the desert. Bill met Eric in Sedona when he saw a random guy on the side of the road in desparate need of a burrito. From that burrito (and a couple good craft beers) was born a friendship based in passion for everything the Sonoran desert has to offer. When the time came to expand our team, Eric was a shoe-in. We are happy to announce when Hardwick is not guiding his "real" job is a garbage truck driver for Waste Management and we are proud of him for this new endeavor.
"Hi y'all. My name is Eric. I'm married to an incredible lady who understands me and supports me with all my crazy ideas. I have 2 awesome dogs. One is super hyperactive and the other is lazier then a sloth haha. All four of us live in Phoenix, AZ. I am a transplant to Phoenix. I've been here for almost 4 years. I always tell everyone that they'd have to take me out of Arizona on a stretcher. When I'm not working out under a roof you can usually find me doing anything outdoors. Some of my favorites include Mountain Biking and hiking. I love joking around, puns and meeting new people. Best two quotes I ever heard "don't take life so seriously, your not getting out alive". Secondly "do one thing a day that scares you". See y'all on the trail!!!"
Bill is the head honcho and steps into guide pretty regularly. When not working his regular job for Wells Fargo bank, Bill takes care of all the insurance, permit requirements, deals with our bike reps, orders parts and manages the Wild Bunch phone on a rotating basis. Bill has been instrumental in building Wild Bunch.
Bill is a killer technical, downhill mountain biker and has a strong background in camping and the outdoors. That is all he wants to say. LOL