Phoenix hiking tours safest Super Bowl bet

by Laurel Darren, Wild Bunch Desert Guides • February 02, 2023

“Laurel was very accommodating in putting together a hiking tour for my friend and me. Excellent communications during planning and our guide was able to customize the hike on the fly to our somewhat limited capabilities. Matt provided light backpacks, water, snacks and I'm sure he had a first aid kit and other items, though we didn't need them. All we really had to bring was our hiking shoes, sunglasses and suntan lotion. He made the hike interesting and informative. I'd gladly book another outing with Wild Bunch Desert Guides the next time I'm in the area.” – Overhead, Portland, Ore., on Tripadvisor, Dec. 2019

A couple of friends all smiles posing in front of a rock formation during one of the recent Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch.(TOP) A couple of sisters are all smiles posing in front of a rock formation during one of the recent Phoenix hiking tours from the Wild Bunch. (COVER) A pair of friends smile broadly with a beautiful vista behind them during another memorable hiking tour in the Sonoran Desert.

When the announcement was made that Super LVII would be coming to the Phoenix Metro Area, I got excited like any resident and local business owner.

February already is frantic around these parts.

Snowbirds annually migrate from the winter weather in much colder climates than the Arizona desert. Plus, there is a glut of guests visiting for big events ranging from the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction, PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open and Major League Baseball’s Spring Training.

But this year is decidedly different with the NFL’s season-ending party coming to town. An extra buzz is in the air.

As a red-blooded American sports chick, I even fantasized about becoming the Hero Girlfriend of the Year by surprising my “Super” boyfriend Brett with tickets to the big game.

I was thinking this might be the only time in my life where going to the Super Bowl could be cheap because it is right here in our backyard.

But then I looked at the price of available tickets in the nosebleed section -- $6,000 – and my fantasy was quickly replaced by reality.

I sighed, “Guess we are going to be watching at the Super Bowl party,” hosted by our favorite neighborhood bar, The Dubliner.

The Super Bowl simply is different from any other big game because it is not for the “average fans” like me and Brett.

Instead, an end-of-the-season party is built around the contest for the league and team officials and their big-moneyed sponsors. Like an exclusive club, the Super Bowl is a place for VIPs to be seen.

That might explain why more than tickets are outrageously priced. One resort I know of comes with a cost of $11,000 per night with a three-night minimum stay – and I don’t even think that includes tickets or transportation to the game.

But while some other local businesses are tripling prices for their services, that is something the Wild Bunch Desert Guides are not doing.

I just don’t think it is fair to jack the rates on our Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours because they happen to land during a certain week on the calendar.

Instead, my small mom-and-pop specialty shop is going the opposite direction and offering a discount -- $20 off solo or group half-day hiking adventures. Use code “supergolf” at checkout when booking online – whether or not you are in town for the golf tournament or super-big football game.

And a reminder: All of our Phoenix adventure tours are totally private and completely customizable -- only you and your family or travel party get a once-in-a-lifetime experience catered to your fitness, skills or special wishes.

Wild Bunch provides medically-trained guides to ensure your safety as well as virtually everything you need except your clothes -- from the gear necessary for your adventure (hiking backpacks, water, snacks or mountain bikes and helmets) to the expertise showing you the way to amazing scenery and memorable experiences.
A Phoenix hiking tours guest pauses to take a picture of a cactus with a rocky landscape as the backdrop.
A Phoenix hiking tours guest pauses to take a picture of a cactus with a rocky landscape as the backdrop.

Super fun on Phoenix hiking tours
The only event I can compare to the Super Bowl is the Fiesta Bowl – a classic college football celebration hosted annually for the last 50 years in our area around New Year’s Day.

The Fiesta Bowl has grown big enough anymore to normally serve as the national championship – or a national playoff semifinal like it did a month ago when Michigan and Texas Christian played in a down-to-the-wire thriller at State Farm Stadium.

But while the Valley of the Sun always is flooded with Fiesta Bowl visitors, one of the big stories in late December was how parents and many people associated with the schools – like the bands and cheerleaders -- couldn't get here because of all the problems with Southwest Airlines.

In case you were under a rock during the holidays, thousands of Southwest flights were cancelled during the busiest travel time of the year, stranding airline passengers in airports from coast-to-coast.

Can you imagine not being able to share in such a big moment in the life of your kids?

But the parents that did make the game this year were lucky to get there.

Tons of people were forced to drive here from Texas and even farther away. But some got the notification on their cancelled flight too late -- so they couldn't even drive and get here in time.

Hearing about those travel troubles on the news made me incredibly sad – as well as a little busier than I’d hoped as the Wild Bunch Desert Guides had its share of guests caught up in the nightmare.

My little mom-and-pop shop has a 48-hour cancellation policy, as described in this past Blog.

The cancellation policy is mainly there to protect my guides, who are independent contractors who depend on that income from our Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours.

Like any hotel or restaurant that takes reservations, a late cancellation also makes it impossible for the Wild Bunch to replace the business turned away because of that booking.

For both me and my guides, we already have done our prep work and set aside that time – so, the table is set and dinner is waiting for our guests to arrive.

There also is no waiting list standing at the door for a table to open up – so there’s no way for us to replace lost business like that at the last minute.

Phoenix hiking tours guests navigate a rocky ridge during their memorable adventure with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Phoenix hiking tours guests navigate a rocky ridge during their memorable adventure with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Super fix by hiking tours Phoenix
One of the hardest things about the Southwest Airlines meltdown?

As much as I would hope people are honest, unfortunately there are people that are not.

So, even in a crazy situation like that, which was all over the news, I needed to have guests send me proof that they were not going to get here for a tour inside our 48-hour cancellation policy.

Most guests understood: The problem comes from past guests trying to use the excuse of a cancelled flight to get around our cancellation policy – even if they are in town staying at a local hotel or resort.

Being out too late drinking is not a suitable excuse for not wanting to live up to your commitments.

We actually had that happen again over Christmas with somebody trying to take advantage of the Southwest situation. What those kinds of people don’t understand is that I'm connected to other Phoenix adventure tour companies, and I deal regularly with the concierges at local resorts and hotels.

So, I just need to make a simple call and ask, “Hey is so-and-so on property? Oh, so their flight wasn't cancelled?” Those are the people getting charged fully for cancelling inside our 48-hour policy. 

I have been at this long enough now that I can tell who's sincere when they say, “We're stuck in Boston and we're supposed to be going out with you tomorrow. What’s our options?”

For those weary travelers, we first offered another time for them to enjoy their adventure. But for those still unable to get here? I just gave them their money back, wished them well and said we hoped to see them the next time they reached the Valley of the Sun.

There are circumstances like the Southwest Airlines mess that are out of our control – and the control of our guests – so we have to do what’s right, and my guides understand that a refund is a case-by-case basis.

Some guests are super classy about situations like Southwest, too.

For instance, many that already added a gratuity to the reservation will ask to keep the tip on their credit card for the guide to at least get something for the wasted time of the reservation.

When trying to move guests because of those kinds of circumstances, too, I unfortunately do find sometimes we are sold out the rest of the week or are unable to find a mutually agreeable time.

In those cases, if I get a good vibe from the guest, I will ask if I can charge them a small amount so the guide gets paid something in exchange for their time commitment.

Thankfully, most people are really nice and say, “Absolutely.”

My reward is making sure both essentials are happy – the guest is not on the hook for a full tour, but the guide still gets something.

The Southwest mess did reiterate why I discourage guests from booking Phoenix hiking tours and Phoenix mountain bike tours with us for the same day they arrive. Even a morning adventure after only arriving the night before can get hairy.

Too many things can go wrong. You can miss a connecting flight or get hung up getting out of the airport on time.

So, I always tell our guests that it is easier to get into town, settle in at your resort or hotel, and then start tackling that to-do list 24 hours later. In other words, plan for the unexpected.
Arms raised in front of a majestic Saguaro Cactus, as captured in this photo by friends, is a regular visage during Phoenix hiking tours with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Arms raised in front of a majestic Saguaro Cactus, as captured in this photo by friends, is a regular visage during
Phoenix hiking tours with the Wild Bunch Desert Guides.

Phoenix hiking tours Super time
Another problem experienced during the Fiesta Bowl at the end of December were torrential rains – the kind Phoenix and Arizona as a whole rarely sees.

It is a crazy time here when the weather is weird like that because everybody has expectations of Arizona being all about fun in the sun. Few people bring the right clothes with them to deal with conditions like we had.

So, rain like that messes with our visitors – as well as many of the outdoor activities they want to enjoy.

For example, guests planning to visit the Grand Canyon couldn't go because when it rains here, it’s likely snowing there, and that cancels any adventure company tours.

Companies like Detours American West had to cancel guests for their Sedona and Grand Canyon tours because of dangerous roads.

The big hot air balloons with Hot Air Expeditions can’t go up, either, when there is lots of wind and rain in Phoenix.

And with all the rain, the City of Scottsdale shut down the trails in the Sonoran Desert Preserve so they wouldn’t get damaged by foot or bike traffic. So, we had to use some alternative trails that take the rain better.

Wild Bunch Desert Guides didn't take a hit like some companies because I was on top of the issue before the weather became a problem. I was moving people to better days or times before the bad weather hit.

I was texting or on the phone with guests immediately – and thankfully found solutions for every one of our Phoenix hiking tours or Phoenix mountain bike tours.

I'm proud of my staff for being so flexible and understanding – because we had rain nearly every day, but found some windows of good weather to work with.

It was a lot of extra work on my end, but it was more than worth it to save my guests and guides from dealing with some miserable conditions.

Weather can still surprise you at times despite all of the advances in technology. But if you watch the forecast – and then act proactively instead of reactively – you can avoid lots of problems.

Thankfully, I’m not expecting to see a repeat in the days leading up to Super Bowl LVII. The forecast calls for temperatures hovering around the 70s and barely a chance for any rain.

Go team Wild Bunch! We are fired up and ready to show you a Super time!

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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