Gobbling up Phoenix adventure tours

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • November 22, 2022

“I booked two separate trips with Wild Bunch. Everything was great, from Laurel contacting me and seeing what kind of rides I was looking for, to the guides showing up with everything we needed for the rides, to teaching us about the Sonoran Desert while taking us on rides that suited our ability levels and desires perfectly. We had Rebel for our family group trip, and she was great at keeping an eye on all of us and adjusting our ride after I overestimated the abilities and comfort levels of a couple family members. She taught us a lot of cool things about the desert. I had Robert for my longer solo ride and had a great time. I told him I had already learned about the plant life from Rebel, so we got in a pretty long ride that allowed us to hit quite a few cool sites in the desert and have fun on some great trails. I got a great workout in, which is exactly what I was looking for.” – Ben on TripAdvisor, April 2022

Out concierge friends from the Four Seasons Scottsdale -- Ted and Marcel (second and third from the left) -- were part of a Phoenix mountain bike tours group earlier this month with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.(COVER) Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner Laurel Darren (center in shades) had the pleasure of leading a Phoenix hiking tours group representing every continent on the planet in November (TOP). Our concierge friends from the Four Seasons Scottsdale -- Ted and Marcel (second and third from the left) -- were part of the big smiles produced on a Phoenix mountain bike tours group earlier this month with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides. 

This past month has been the perfect personal appetizer for Thanksgiving Day.

So, even before diving into the turkey and fixings, my heart is full, and my spirit is sated.

Looking around a loaded holiday table in my mind – and picturing the faces of the many people I love and admire and have supported me this year – I am reminded how very lucky I am and how much I have to be thankful for this “Fat Thursday.”

I was reminded again just the other day when my little mom-and-pop specialty shop – the Wild Bunch Desert Guides – finally got to treat two of our biggest supporters to one of our memorable Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Ted and Marcel – the fantastic concierge team at Four Seasons Scottsdale – were able to experience firsthand all the fun they have made possible the last few years by entrusting us to give each of their guests a 5-star rated experience.

Their smiling faces before, during and after their ride truly was better than a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

What an honor and privilege to serve the guys who have served so many over the years.

Because of the faith these heavy hitters have in us, recommendations from Ted and Marcel have meant even more to my growing small business than all of the guests they have sent our way.

Thank you again for believing in me and my guides -- and having the confidence in our ability to make your guests happy and full of joy!

And thankfully this Thanksgiving, Ted and Marcel, are far from alone in enjoying our Phoenix adventure tours, hailing our guiding service and sharing in the amazing growth over the last few years.

Ted and Marcel tear up the trail during their Phoenix mountain bike tour with the Wild Bunch.
Ted and Marcel tear up the trail during their Phoenix mountain bike tour with the Wild Bunch.

Feast on adventure tours Phoenix
I remember those painful early days when the phone never rang and there were no tours on the books moving forward.

I also recall those dark days during the COVID-19 shutdowns when I worried if the Wild Bunch Desert Guides would ever again open for business.

Like cranberry sauce and stuffing at Thanksgiving, those are table-setting staples for me when talking about several of my guardian angels and sharing the undying gratitude I have for my loyal guides.

Jay, Rebel, Don, Matt -- those guys especially have been by my side forever, it seems.

They are the heart and soul -- on the front lines helping build my business -- by taking great care of our guests each and every time.

They are the biggest reason behind all of the great reviews we have received over the years.

The latest and greatest example of that came earlier this month when we waved goodbye to a Phoenix hiking tours group of 77 guests.

It takes a lot of communication, logistical teamwork and raw personal passion and expertise to pull off a flawless, on-the-mark event like that -- and without amazing guides, there is zero way we could have given those ladies an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience like that in our Sonoran Desert.

So, I was overjoyed – with an ample helping of pride on the side – as all of those smiling faces waved back at us. Their giddy chatter and wide-eyed delight on the trail was enough to make anyone’s holiday complete.

I also was honored earlier this month when an old co-worker thought enough of the Wild Bunch to bring an elite bunch of multi-day guides from her current company to town for one of our Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Intrepid Travel is one of the largest small-group adventure companies in the world.

So, not only was that a huge compliment but an extreme pleasure to be alongside some of the best guides in our industry.

While there were several other Phoenix adventure tours that stood out – including a hiking trip in Phoenix that included adventurers from all over the world – these were merely the on-trail highlights of my month ahead of the annual “battle of the bulge.”

The Wild Bunch welcomed a Phoenix hiking tours group of 77 women in November.
The Wild Bunch welcomed a Phoenix hiking tours group of 77 women in November.

Phoenix adventure tours thankful
I would be remiss if I failed to mention I am blessed to have the greatest man sitting beside me at that extended holiday table in my mind.

My long-time boyfriend Brett has been right there, through thick and thin, especially during a tough stretch personally this year when we were caring for both my aging mother and our now dearly departed Plot hound Daisy Mae.

Brett also is the guy who introduced me to summers in Lake City, Colo., where I founded a satellite office offering summer hiking during our extended vacations from the desert heat.

Lake City also is where we found another branch of our now-extended family by meeting so many wonderful friends who have become so integral to our lives and enriched our existence in so many ways. Not to leave anybody out -- but Amanda, Lydia and Glenn are among those with seats at the table even though we are more than 600 miles away on the holiday.

Brett also helped make this a “November to Remember” by getting me tickets to see concerts involving two of my musical heroes.

The first was a delayed tour finale for the great Stevie Nicks in her hometown of Phoenix, Az. What a fantastic birthday present for me – and I got to see her with my guy!

I also got tickets to see “The Rocket Man” – Sir Elton John – on his farewell tour. And I got to treat my mom’s caregiver to this show to thank her for all of her hard work.

This Phoenix adventure tours owner also found out recently she is going to become a momma again with the adoption of another Plot hound here soon!

So, while I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving spread as always, you can understand why I feel plenty full already this holiday.

But there always is room for more at my table!

Brett and Laurel pose outside of the Stevie Nicks concert.Laurel (left) hams it up before the Elton John concert in her (TOP) Brett and Laurel pose in front of the marquee at the Stevie Nicks show. (BOTTOM) Laurel hams it up before the Elton John concert in her "Rocket Man" sunglasses.

Adventure tours Phoenix: Desert the dessert
The seventh season of Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours only just started for us Oct. 1, and the Wild Bunch Desert Guides already has been flooded with visitors to the Valley of the Sun.

I am so thankful for all of the guests – and having the honor to show them the beauty of our Sonoran Desert.

And with the Super Bowl coming to town this year – to turn up the heat even more on our usual “Frantic February” (read that blog) -- I can hardly wait to see what else is coming down the trail for my little mom-and-pop specialty shop.

Let’s talk turkey: My business is simple and straightforward with Wild Bunch offering a completely different experience from the big box outlets in town.

Instead of big bus tours to maximize the company’s bottom line, we focus on small groups to better serve our guests with private guided hiking tours in Phoenix or private guided mountain bike tours in Scottsdale.

Our Phoenix adventure tours are only for you – and if not flying solo -- your significant other or family or travel party.

Never will you be asked to share your journey with Nate from Nashville or his girlfriend Gloria from Gainesville or six random college students from Boston like you see from the large corporate providers in town.

With the Wild Bunch, your guide is completely dedicated to only you and yours.

Wild Bunch also works hard to offer the homespun hospitality you expect when you walk into say an old-fashioned confectionary or small local diner or bakery – delighting you with extraordinary quality, value, and service.

We want to get to know your name – and who you are – so we can customize your once-in-a-lifetime experience around both your fitness levels or bike skills and your personal wish list in the desert so we can pick the perfect trail for you.

You are special to us – much more than a booking number. Our Scottsdale adventure tours are not the nameless cattle calls you will find at the big retail vendors herding guests on bus tours.

The Wild Bunch Desert Guides also are experts on the Sonoran Desert – and have a passion for showing you an unforgettable time – as well as being medically trained to handle any emergency on trail to help you and yours safe.

In Thanksgiving terms, we are a feast fit for royalty, and I am ever so thankful when guests accept an invitation to our table.

Laurel at the Elton John show.


About the Author

Laurel Darren is the founding owner of the Wild Bunch Desert Guides, a 5-star rated adventure tour company that offers guided hiking tours and guided mountain biking tours in Arizona’s picturesque Sonoran Desert in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Arriving in the legendary “Valley of the Sun” in 2012 -- from the home of John Deere in the Quad Cities of Eastern Iowa/Western Illinois -- this corn-fed Midwest girl brought 30 years of athletic chops under her chaps. A 3-sport high school standout and former college softball player – who won her conference’s Athlete of the Year award as a prep senior – Darren has graduated to competing in many races as an adult, from road running and cycling, to cyclo-cross and Mountain Bikes, and even Duathlon and Triathlon “Ironman” competitions. Darren was a popular, top-rated senior mountain bike guide at Arizona’s Outback Adventures before branching out to start her own small adventure business in 2016. To book a guided mountain bike tour or guided hiking trip – or a combination of the two adventures – please visit the home page www.wildbunchdesertguides.com or call 602-663-0842.


Recent Blog Posts

Phoenix adventure tours guide all revved up

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is fast approaching the 40th anniversary of the classic movie’s 1986 release. While I work hard – and juggle a lot of side gigs with the same fervor – I identify with the iconic film for a couple of reasons. For starters, I am a Midwestern native, growing up a short car ride away from Chicago and its suburbs, the setting for the high school hookie adventure. And like the main character, I believe in playing hard, too – sharing in Ferris’ motto that, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Which brings me to one of my latest thrill-rides …

Guiding your Phoenix adventure tours

Besides our guests, the guide we provide is the most important element of any Phoenix adventure tours from the Wild Bunch Desert Guides. Our pathfinders deliver the perfect mix of homespun hospitality and local expertise to produce five-star rated Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain biking tours. So, we always take time to match the perfect guide and perfect trail to every guest to help produce the perfect experience.