Laurel Darren-Simmons, 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. Ol’ Sparkly can be seen out and about on a fancy date night with her step daughter, Bonnie or mountain biking with step son, Holland. 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.
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!!!"
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.
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.