Fat Man's Pass Trail

Hike 5-L-R Loki, Piper
Story and Photos Mare Czinar

Tripel Karmeliet isn’t a natural born hiker; she had to learn. The 8-year old retired racing Greyhound was more accustomed to sprinting from zero to 45 miles per hour in just six strides. It is rare to see a Greyhound on Valley hiking trails. But Tripel’s person is Phoenix resident Julia Sayer, a long-time volunteer with an organization that promotes the adoption of retired racers. Julia explains that with proper conditioning, the breed can make great hiking partners. They’re used to going a very short distance at the highest speed possible on a flat, smooth surface, said Sayer. Most have never even been up or down stairs, so they aren’t used to scrambling over rocky or steep surfaces. If I hike the easier trails, my Tripel does quite well. She’s taken hikes up to six miles in length so far. We started with half-mile walks and slowly built up her endurance. Because they are a highly-specialized breed, anybody thinking about adopting a Greyhound to hike with should be aware of some considerations. Sayer counsels diligence. Greyhounds can learn to take long walks or hikes; you just need to have the patience to allow the hound to build its endurance and learn how to handle challenging surfaces, said Sayer. Some hounds have tender pads, so be aware of your hound’s needs. They’ve never been on rough surfaces, so it may take time to toughen up their feet. Some have a high prey drive, so watch out for rabbits and other critters! No greyhound should ever be off-leash unless in a fenced area.

Given the proclivities of the breed, some trails are better choices than others. Sayer advises that any trail good for young children would also be perfect for greyhounds. My favorite Phoenix area hike is Fat Man’s Pass in South Mountain Park from the Buena Vista Trailhead. It’s not a load of elevation change and it’s fun taking a narrow hound through the narrows of the pass,

The circuit, which uses part of the park’s longest route the National Trail has soft footing, sandy draws, a bizarre natural tunnel, and some amazing views of downtown. Tripel is sometimes joined on her hikes by fellow adopted hounds Piper, Loki and Freya (a rescued Borzoi), who frequent the Gateway Trail in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve because of its easy grade and mostly smooth tread. The trio belongs to breed advocates, Mik and Matt Wilkens. We adopted our first Greyhound, Ebony, in early 1995, said Matt. Less than two months later, we added a second, and by the end of the year, we had founded the original Greyhound promotion group, Lord AAGIís Kennels. Mik went on to share how the “embassadogs” work the crowds to raise awareness of the breed and promote adoption.Now known as Greyhounds of Fairhaven (of which Sayer is a board member), the group has appeared regularly at Renaissance Faires throughout the Southwest. 2018 marks the group’s 22nd year participating in the Arizona Renaissance Festival. You can meet these hiking all-stars (and others) and ask volunteers about adoption options at this year’s festival that runs from February 10th – April 1st, 2018.

South Mountain Park
LENGTH: 4.7 miles roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2360 to 1940 feet

From the park entrance at 10919 S Central Ave, follow the signs uphill to the Buena Vista Lookout parking area. Hike 1.8 miles east on the National Trail to the turn off for Fat Man’s Pass and Hidden Valley. Wiggle thru the pass, hike another half-mile, walk through the natural tunnel then turn left to reconnect with National Trail for the 2.4 mile return leg.


ADOPTION INFO: Greyhound Pets of Arizona (GPA-AZ) : http://www.gpa-az.com/

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