Phoenix hiking tours: Happy New Year!

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • December 31, 2022

“Great owner that cares about her customers! Guides were great and informative! My kids had a blast (on our family spring break trip)! Was able to do 10 miles of bike riding in (the) desert and (the) guides were great at teaching us how to handle the bikes. Would do it again!” – Mark, Detroit, Mich., on Tripadvisor, March, 2022

A female guest navigates a rocky trail surrounded by a scenic backdrop during one of the Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.(TOP) A female guest navigates a rocky trail surrounded by a scenic backdrop during one of the Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch Desert Guides. (COVER) A group of friends are all smiles while posing in front of a cactus during one of our Phoenix mountain bike tours.

If you know me, you are well aware I avoid making anything resembling New Year’s resolutions.

To me, what is the point of making promises to yourself – especially if you are unlikely to keep them?

And why do you need to wait until Jan. 1 to get started on any life changes anyway?

If you want to lose 10 pounds? Eat less and get more exercise. If you want to stop smoking or drinking? Find a healthy replacement for your vice.

And goodness, please refrain from using New Year’s as a crutch. As the Nike ads used to implore – “Just do it!”

Instead, the only realistic resolution to make daily I believe is saying to yourself, “I'm going to participate in whatever comes my way and find the joy in any situation.”

Discovering that happiness was a challenge in 2022 because of some tough moments personally.

But I believe the simplest of approaches is a necessary goal again in 2023 for everyone – including myself and my small business, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

My small mom-and-pop specialty shop offers guided Phoenix hiking tours and guided Scottsdale mountain bike tours – and finding the joy in either of those two activities is an easy thing to do.

A couple of guests admire a rock formation during our Phoenix hiking tours. 

A couple of guests admire a rock formation during our Phoenix hiking tours.

Reflections for Phoenix hiking tours
Instead of making New Year’s resolutions when the ball drops in Times Square, I make sure to review the just-completed year in my head. I want to take stock of my many blessings -- because gratitude is essential to enriching our lives – and especially the lives of those around us.

Not only acknowledging – but actually celebrating that we didn’t reach this point in our journey all alone is a great way to strengthen our relationships and remind us why we love our family and friends.

I have touched on the importance of the people around me many times this year in my Blog – because this year more than others, I needed all of them more than ever before.

I shudder to think what would have become of me without all of the love and support I received during the dueling crises involving my mother and my beloved Plott hound Daisy Mae – and I talked about that in this early 2022 Blog (read).

After years apart because of a difficult relationship, I discovered during a surprise homecoming my mother in mental decline and in desperate need of round-the-clock care. This blow came at the same time last December when a tender paw for Daisy Mae became so much more.

After getting through the holidays – and a few more trips home to my girlhood home in the Midwest to take care of details -- I ended up moving my mom a thousand miles to Phoenix so I could make sure she was getting the attention she needed.

I also made the difficult decision to euthanize Daisy Mae to spare her from further misery after a leg amputation – with the biopsy and further tests discovering cancer had spread all over her body.

And while I was juggling these two challenges, the Phoenix adventure tours travel industry rebounded spectacularly from the worst of the COVID pandemic with the best spring many could ever remember.

So, it was a crazy time for me personally, and I thanked my incredible boyfriend Brett – as well as my amazing guides and other friends -- for endless amounts of support in this Blog (read).

Despite those two personal tragedies, the Wild Bunch Desert Guides experienced so many great highlights in 2022 -- and hosted so many fantastic guests – it truly is impossible to do them all justice.

However, looking back over the last year’s worth of Blogs brought a smile to my face as I was reminded of the Florida teenage ocean conservationists who joined us for one of our Phoenix hiking tours in February.

The pair stopped here with their mothers on the way home after delivering to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles a giant-sized football made from trash found during their beach cleanups in the Tampa Bay area. They even picked up some trash along the trails during their visit here (read).

Also bringing back smiles was a Blog devoted to the Heinly family from Pennsylvania (read).

As annual visitors now to the Valley of the Sun, the Heinlys are “frequent flyers” with the Wild Bunch on the Phoenix mountain bike tours side of my business. They are among the best people I have been blessed to meet thanks to chasing my passion for riding and guiding.

Speaking of great people, I saluted my “Dream Team” in this memorable Blog (read here).

These feelings came pouring out of me at the end of my working summer vacation in Lake City region of the San Juan Mountains, when I needed to recognize both my Phoenix adventure tours guiding crew and the wonderful people of Colorado who have adopted me as one of their own every year I have had the pleasure of visiting.

The summer of 2022 also will be fondly remembered by me because I started offering guided Colorado summer hiking tours on some incredibly beautiful trails during my annual escape from the withering desert heat of Phoenix summers.

The experience brought back memories of my first formative steps in business and sparked ideas for changes in 2023 (read).

I also found time to treat our guests on Phoenix mountain bike tours to an early Christmas present by purchasing a new fleet of bikes this summer (read).

A Phoenix hiking tours guest pauses to take a picture of a species of cactus during a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the Wild Bunch.
A Phoenix hiking tours guest pauses to take a picture of a species of cactus during a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the Wild Bunch. 

Looking ahead to hiking tours Phoenix
But now, it is time to turn the page on 2022 -- and my Wild Bunch Desert Guides have already been looking forward to an even bigger 2023.

Our usual Frantic February actually begins in late January when the Barrett-Jackson World’s Greatest Car Collector Auction visits Scottsdale again.

The PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open follows soon after, and always brings a ton of people and a fun atmosphere to the area.

Major League Baseball’s Spring Training gets going, too – and extends into spring breaks to make for a special brand of March Madness in these parts.

But a Frantic February gets even crazier this year with the NFL’s Super Bowl visiting Phoenix in six weeks.
In anticipation, we have had this list of must-do’s posted for visitors since October.

Beyond that, as our seventh season in business continues, I know from past experience 2023 will be a thrilling joyride -- and I can hardly wait to see what else is right around the corner for our Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours.

I also am looking forward to another summer in Colorado – and a second season of guided hikes there.

But whatever comes my way, I resolve again to find the joy in any situation.

By simply focusing on every day, every tour and every guest, in my own way I am ensuring it will be a Happy New Year.

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 or call 602-663-0842.


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