Telling time has been an obsession of our race since the dawn of it. Time, that is. All cultures and people have mechanisms for telling time and seasons.
Most people—with the exception of my sister-in-law—tell time by phone now. Throughout history, our ancestors used anything from burning ropes to sundials to hourglasses. Even the wristwatch still has its uses and charm. (Refer to my sister-in-law). We know about these things not because we’ve ever personally relied on them for the accurate time, but because they were left by those who came before.
The Main Event
Nestled somewhere near the borders of Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix is a time-piece of history. It’s a rising geographical feature called Hole-in-the-Rock. A local favorite, this 0.38 mile hike (up and down) is easy and rewards you with a fantastic view of the Tempe and Phoenix cityscapes. When you take a moment to sit in the cove at the top and look out over the desert landscape that springs into an urbanized backdrop, it isn’t very hard to imagine what it would have been like to be one of the indigenous peoples who came before.
A convenient and informative plaque at the base of the trail tells the hikers about the origins of this monument—it is naturally eroded sandstone. We also learn that the study of this area by archeologists leads us to believe that the prehistoric people who lived here—the Hohokam—used Hole-in-the-Rock as a calendar device. The plaque explains that the Hohokam successfully farmed the Salt River Valley—basically the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.
Hike, you say?
The hike itself is pretty enjoyable, but don’t expect to be swept away by nature. When we went last, there was some construction going on at the Phoenix Zoo (which almost shares a parking lot with Hole-in-the Rock.
That being said: there is a charming sampling of native Sonoran Desert plants including Creosote Bushes, Palo Verde Trees, and Saguaro Cacti. The different formations of rock you encounter on the way to the top are unique and interesting. I already mentioned the view.
FYI: There are bathrooms available along with water fountains a few yards from the base of the trail. Picnic areas are also available because Hole-in-the-Rock is technically part of Papago Park. It’s a great place to take young kids and people who are not accustomed to hiking. Be smart when it comes to sunscreen.
It might not be as iconic as London’s Big Ben, but Hole-in-the-Rock provides a small dose of history, mild exercise, and a descent view. If you’re in Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, or Phoenix areas and are looking for a way to get a flavor of the desert landscape without having to drive to the outskirts for a hike in the Superstitions, this is a good option.