October 22, 2016
The Arizona Trailblazers, as you know them, began as the Motorola Hiking Club in 1996. I remember seeing a flyer near the cafeteria at the Hayden and McDowell plant announcing the forming of a club whose purpose was to bring together Motorolans and their families who share an interest in hiking. Hiking along with camping was something both my husband, Tom and I liked to do. Since our children were now in high school and doing things on their own, we thought this would be a great thing to get involved in.
The first meeting was held in May 30, 1996. We met at the East Valley Sycamore Training Center and was attended by 28 people. The first officers were: Geri Robinson acted as President Pro Tem to get the meeting started. When she asked for volunteers for the other offices, there was a profound silence. I finally spoke up and said I’d be secretary, and when the topic of dues came up, Treasurer was added to my plate. We met once a month, but since summer was upon us those present agreed we’d use the summer months to get the club started so no hikes were immediately planned.
At the August meeting we held elections, and Geri officially became President; Kevin Draper, Vice President; Jeannie Van Lew, Secretary/Treasurer. Then we added Rick Scott, Hike Planning Chairman; Barbara Brackett, Newsletter Editor; and Bill Foster, Education Chairman. We collected dues and accepted membership to the Hiking Club. Twenty-nine (29) people paid dues to become active members (the minimum required by Special Services to become a club is 25).
That evening Rick Scott and Joe Orman announced the first hike for the club: The Lava River Cave Campout near Flagstaff to be held on Aug 24, 1996. 18 folks attended the hike and camped nearby. Highlights were turning off all our flashlights and being thrown into complete darkness, and sitting around a campfire later that evening telling tales and burning marshmallows. The Hiking club was on its way!
In September-October of that year we held a contest to pick a nickname for the Hiking Club, to name the Newsletter and a design for the club logo. The winners were announced at the November meeting:
At the time we were using Motorola’s mail lists as means of communication for members. Remember this is 1996: email was not what it is today. It was difficult to send attachments, pictures and such. We set up a group mailing list throughout GED and SPS.
In March of 1997, Geri gathered up the club officers to discuss the state of the club. She was frustrated with the lack of attendance to the meetings. She felt the membership needed to be more forthcoming for hike ideas and activities. She even had thoughts of disbanding the club!
Thinking that if we had another means of communication for the members, maybe word would get out easier and our attendance would improve. So I went to the Recreation Department and asked if we could have a website. They set us up on the GEG server at http://sstg.geg.mot.com/clubs/hiking. I didn’t have much web experience, but put a few things out there while we looked for a webmaster. Soon, I found myself as the club webmaster. I updated the web with future hike information, tried to keep up with past hike reports, adding photos and including information about the club.
Since the site was maintained by Motorola, only Motorola employees could see it, no spouses, friends or family. Eventually, we decided to set up another website at geocities. Now I had to maintain two websites!
We didn’t disband, and in May of 1997 we had a new slate of officers, led by Mike Wargel as the new president. Meetings soon had to move to the Noble Auditorium at the Motorola Tempe Facility as the club was no longer granted access to the Sycamore Facility. A couple of meetings members brought in a tray of cookies or some chips and salsa. We began to think that maybe more people would attend if we held the meetings at a restaurant where non-Motorolans could also attend and have the ability to eat. After that we started having meetings at Top Shelf on Southern, which I recently discovered is now La Casa de Juana. Things are always changing.
Around 2003 Motorola told the club the company would no longer support us through Special Services, therefore we would no longer have access to the servers for our internal website and we would no longer have access to meeting places inside Motorola facilities. Since we already had an offsite web host and we were meeting offsite, it was an easy decision to disassociate ourselves completely from Motorola, reorganize the club, and change the club name to the Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club.
Around this time the up and down hills were becoming more and more painful to my knees, which had been bothering me for years. Doctors told me I was too young for a knee replacement, so we tried other pain reducers but nothing helped. Tom and I had taken up a new hobby of motorcycle riding, which was much kinder to my knees, and eventually we faded away from the club.
During the time I was active in the club, though, I have seen some beautiful and amazing places in Arizona and neighboring states and had some great experiences because of the Trailblazers.
I’ve climbed peaks like Mt. Humphrey’s, Mt. Baldy, Picacho Peak, and Mt. Graham, to take in the beauty of our state from high above. I’ve hiked into the canyons of Oak Creek, Canyon de Chelly, where we kept hearing our destination was around the next bend, and the Grand Canyon, where I put my toes in the Colorado River. I’ve seen amazing waterfalls in the Sierra Anchas, Ash Creek, 7 Falls, and of course Havasupai. I’ve eaten apples from the orchard in the Superstitions, left my mark in the mailbox atop Picketpost. Been serenaded with guitar and vocals sitting around a campfire in Arivaipa. I’ve seen hoodoo’s near Flatiron, balancing rocks in the Chiricahuas and slot canyons of Paria and Buckskin Gulch. I’ve camped in tents, RV’s, backpacked and even slept in the back of my truck and nearly froze in Death Valley – who knew Death Valley was so COLD! I even attended the last hike of the millennium in Cave Creek on Dec. 31, 1999.
Some hikes we would have 20 or more people. Other times, it may have been just my husband Tom, Mike Wargel, Chuck Parsons, myself and our dog (who carried her own backpack with her water, bowl and snacks). The experiences I have had with this club were all truly wonderful, as I’m sure each of you can attest to.
I’m proud of the small part I played to get the club started and help it grow. Here’s to 20 years of the Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, may you enjoy 20 more!
Jeannie Van Lew