Nobody loves the referees, it has been suggested, except by their families and friends -- and that's assuming those officials stay away from working a game involving a favorite team of those loved ones. If so, Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner and operator Laurel Darren is a notable exception – and for one very good reason after one of the Phoenix mountain bike tours she guided recently.
Oktoberfest of Phoenix adventure tours awaits
“We recently hosted a customer appreciation event in the Phoenix area. We were looking for an alternative to golf and our resort concierge recommended Scottsdale hiking tours with Wild Bunch Desert Guides. I highly recommend using Wild Bunch -- Laurel did an excellent job with the logistics and staying in constant communication during the hike planning. We ended with a group of 30 hikers and we chose the Quartz Ridge Trail. It was perfect -- excellent views, a nice, moderate 3-mile hike, and 100-percent satisfaction with our customers. I appreciate that the guides provided the packs, water, and snacks. Thanks so much to Laurel and her team -- we will definitely be back!” – Kimberly Thompson on Tripadvisor, Oct. 2019
Laurel Darren -- owner of Wild Bunch Desert Guides, a highly-rated Phoenix adventure tours company -- pauses to share a big smile during a
mountain bike ride in the Lake City region of Colorado's scenic San Juan Mountains. Darren spent the summer again in Lake City and the work
break "reenergized, refocused and reinforced" her commitment to offering once-in-a-lifetime guided Scottsdale hiking tours and guided Phoenix
mountain bike tours.
LAKE CITY, Colo. -- Just past Labor Day and the final quarter pole now, I can see my vacation finish line coming into full focus.
No longer is the end of my summer days here in Colorado a distant destination. The goal line is quickly gaining on me.
Brett and our dogs and I will pack up the truck and trailer soon to leave the laidback paradise of Lake City and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to return to the hustle-and-bustle of the workaday world in Phoenix, Arizona.
Not that I am regretting jumping back into the rat race. Instead, I am doing so with both feet, ready and raring to hit the ground running.
I find myself refreshed and excitedly looking forward to getting back to the daily grind and the routine rhythms of running my small mom-and-pop specialty shop, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.
While there was plenty of work mixed in – including daily booking calls and emails -- the rest and relaxation of the last three months have re-energized my commitment to delivering guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience on one of our guided Scottsdale hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours.
Not coincidentally, my personal homecoming parade corresponds to the Oct. 2 return to “normal” full-time business hours for the Wild Bunch.
Same as my fellow owners and operators at other Arizona adventure tour companies, my summer retreat was allowed by the industry standard – a restriction to early-morning operating times required by the 100-plus degree summertime temperatures in the Valley of the Sun.
In fact, a couple of my closest colleagues joined me in escaping the pottery-kiln heat to the hills of Colorado – including JJ from Stellar Adventures and Stephanie from Hot Air Expeditions.
Others like my pal Jeff from Detours American West went to California to hit the beach. My friend Anita from Sonoran Outdoor Adventures got even farther away from Phoenix and the business grind by traveling to the European continent to visit Poland this summer.
Many of my incredibly loyal and supremely talented guides also took advantage of the slower summer days to squeeze in a vacation from their other jobs and enjoy some family time, too.
Everyone in the Arizona travel industry gets to live their own lives a little more in the summer because they can.
The dog days of August especially feel like a getaway month where everything seems to drop off.
So, we don’t hear much from our concierge contacts or third-party booking agents. We also fail to get many online or direct bookings, either.
But as the Sonoran Desert heat comes down, so do the Gone Fishin’ signs at more than my highly rated boutique service.
Business starts steadily trickling back in September, and by October, guns are blazing, and we are all back full steam ahead.
Laurel Darren (center) poses with her Lake City mountain bike pals Amanda Hartman (left) and Lydia McNeese (right) during a training ride this summer. The scenic beauty of Colorado's San Juan Mountains provides an incredible backdrop.
Pre-Oktoberfest mountain biking fun
The months of June, July and August have been really fun for me.
Besides reconnecting with myself and my significant other – and our “Summer Family” of friends here in Lake City – I was able to prepare for my first mountain bike race in almost three years.
Spoiler alert for a future Blog: I did awesome at Lake City’s Alpine 50, performing much better than I thought I would.
I credit the outcome to the tons of hours I spent this summer on the mountain bike climbing all over Lake City and the surrounding region at all sorts of different altitudes.
With my Colorado riding pals Amanda Hartman and Lydia McNeese, I hit the hills hard to ensure I was ready for the race’s 6,000-foot elevation gain over a mere 50 miles.
I also hiked those hills nearly every day, many times with the Lake City Hiking Club kicking my tail into high-altitude gear. My faithful Plot Hound Daisy Mae was often loyally at my side on those daily strolls with incredible people in amazing surroundings.
I can not thank my "Lake City family" enough for helping reinvigorate me. They all helped get me back up on a bike and rolling competitively again.
What a fantastic time I have had since arriving May 29.
Getting away from the day-to-day grind this summer allowed me to revisit my personal passion in a bike seat.
There have been any number of things I have neglected or been completely unable to do since the pandemic hit. After the CoVid-19 shutdown ended last fall, rebuilding my small business back better than ever was my primary focus.
So, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides have been an all-consuming obsession, which made it easy to drift away from the hobbies I love to do without much free time to do them.
So, during this summer getaway, it has been nice to be reminded why I became an adventure guide in the first place – and why I love mountain biking so freaking much!
However, because of all that time pedaling, my Blogging has not been as consistent or as frequent as it normally would be this summer!
But now that the mountain bike race is over, it is time for the rat race to begin anew for me.
So, I am preparing for – and looking forward to – the return of normal business hours Oct. 2.
A beaming Laurel Darren takes a Lake City hiking break with her loyal sidekick Daisy Mae in front of the Thirty Mile Trailhead sign with the vast
beauty of Colorado's San Juan Mountains behind them.
Oktoberfest of Phoenix adventure tours
A busy October already is shaping up for Wild Bunch Desert Guides via our online booking.
Already, we are seeing a lot of businesses that had to cancel conventions or corporate outings in 2020 who have rescheduled their group adventures. A lot of travelers who canceled in 2020 because of restrictions or personal reasons also are coming back to book again, which is super cool.
That first weekend – on Saturday, Oct. 2 to be more precise -- we start offering 8:30 a.m. start times again! (YIPPIE!)
The 1 p.m. afternoon start times are back, too! (HOORAY!)
The hike-and-bike combo returns! (WOOT! WOOT!)
Guided Camelback Mountain hiking tours remain in limbo for logistical and safety concerns – but otherwise, the full menu of options is finally available again for guests after Oct. 1.
So, I no longer have to be so mean and such a non-negotiable killjoy by forcing people to wake up early and ruin their vacations with the only offerings of 6 a.m. start times for half-day (3 ½-hour adventure tours) or 7 a.m. for 90-minute hikes or bikes.
Now, the half-day tours can start at 8:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.
The 90-minute adventures can begin at both times – or a special 11 a.m. lunch break start.
Sunset adventures already have crept back into the Wild Bunch picture, too.
Currently, those sunset tours are offered with a 5:30 p.m. meet-and-the-trail option or 5 p.m. pickup, and that lasts until mid-October when the times switch with the earlier-and-earlier sunsets.
And the best news of all?
Every Wild Bunch adventure remains exclusively private to you and your family or travel party. There is no squeezing in Bob from Buffalo or his annoying girlfriend Karen from Cleveland.
This is no bus tour from one of the big box stores.
Instead of flying commercial, you are on a private jet to fun and memorable moments with the Wild Bunch.
Our adventure tours also are completely customizable during the booking process with our details-oriented personalized follow-up.
You are not herded along like cattle on the same well-worn path listening to the same script you could hear on every Jungle Cruise.
Instead, Wild Bunch takes the time to get to know you – and know about your special needs and wishes -- because you are more than a faceless number to us.
With a waterfall highlighting the cavernous surroundings, Wild Bunch Desert Guides owner Laurel Darren has her arms raised reveling in the
natural beauty of her summer vacation from the daily grind of providing memorable Phoenix adventure tours.
Phoenix hiking tours during Oktoberfest
October annually signals the start of “Convention Season” in Arizona, with the temperatures turned down to Easy-Bake Oven levels.
Consistently sunny, 80-degree conditions are perfect for our two most popular attractions – the small-group corporate hikes in Phoenix and family-oriented mountain biking in Phoenix.
Wild Bunch enjoyed a number of great Phoenix adventure tours this summer with some really fantastically fun guests -- and for that, we are extremely grateful.
This was a little bit different from the typical summer because so many people have been traveling because they had cabin fever after being in a quarantine for so long and had to get out and go SOMEWHERE other than home.
But nothing compares to prime time when we see countless business travelers to Arizona – many who want to escape the four walls of their hotel room and do something other than attend a bunch of meetings or hang out in the resort bar.
That is why our 90-minute tour offering is so popular.
My friend Michelle Caldwell – one of my favorite concierges – came up with that idea and it works perfect for the business traveler who needs a good workout or quick break from the monotony of meetings.
Whether choosing a guided Scottsdale hiking tour or Phoenix mountain bike tour, the 90-minute tour option gets people out of the convention, out on the trail and quickly back to the convention or resort.
The 90-minute tour is a quick and easy way to experience the out-of-this-world desert scenery and surroundings and then get back into business mode.
The hour-and-a-half away proves to be a nice work break.
A Phoenix hiking tour with Wild Bunch is just like going out for a walk, and if you are with your colleagues, even better, because you get to know them better and form a stronger business bond.
And just like my summer vacation, you get back to business refreshed and ready to tackle the next work challenge.
The cliché is SOOOO true – all work and no play does dull the senses and stifles the creativity and output of Jacks and Jills everywhere.
You need to get outside and experience life a little to realize your full potential and see the forest of opportunities ahead of you through the tangling, twisting trees full of details.
I have said it before, and I will say it a thousand times after this Blog, but my time away this summer has reminded me again how very important vacation is to ALL of us.
My break recharged my batteries, refocused my resolve and reinforced my commitment to showing guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the Wild Bunch.
I cannot wait to get started again on making your vacation as memorable as mine was this summer.