One does not have to be relegated to an indoor air-conditioned environment to escape the sweltering summer heat. Here are some cold and dark out-of-the-box activities that will get you outdoors and away from that thermostat-controlled milieu.
Ice Ice Blocking
Need a method for turning the summer into a winter wonderland without snow or a sled? Try dabbling in the quasi-sport of ice blocking, which provides a cheap thrill at a brisk price. The only equipment needed is a towel, padded clothing to limit potential bruising to your derrière, and an oversize block of ice ($1.75 at Circle K).
The procedure of successful ice blocking is simple. First, locate a steep hill with short withered grass at a recreational area of choice (as in, a park). Next, fold the towel neatly, place it on top of the ice block and sit down with legs lifted. Finally, press your palms into the side of the ice, have somebody push you from behind, and off you go! Experience the thrills of the wind blowing in your hair as you disappear into a curtain of darkness. As you begin to pick up lightning speed reminiscent of those Jamaican bobsledders, let out a triumphant scream as you descend to the bottom of the hill. The adrenaline rushing through your body will be the guiding force back up that steep hill for another run, and another, and another. 'Til the ice melts.
The trick to a triumphant session of slip-sliding amusement is to lather up the race path with enough ice sweat to effectively coast down the hill. If one block of ice is too small to sit upon, put two blocks side-by-side under the towel, gently rub them, and they will eventually melt and stick together. Be patient, as it will take a few runs down the hill to create a sledding path. Glendale's Thunderbird Paseo Park, 59th Avenue and Thunderbird Road, provides skillful challenges, while Freestone Park in Gilbert, 1015 East Juniper Road, has enough variety for both the novice and the technocrat.
Unless you are walking from climate-controlled office to air-conditioned car, summer exploration in Phoenix is out of the question. However, the blazing sun does eventually set, and an opportunity for nighttime hiking emerges.
Amazing panoramic views of the city lights are just footsteps away on the relaxed 2.6-mile saunter to the top of Lookout Mountain, 16th Street south of Bell Road. Start by going west (counterclockwise) on the Circumference Trail until it meets up with the Summit Trail. Just more than half a mile later, you will be sitting atop the throne reveling in a stunning perspective of the Valley. For a greater sense of remoteness, try the moderately challenging 7.1-mile Pass Mountain Trail in Mesa, Usery Pass Road north of McDowell Road. This hike loops through the western Goldfield Mountains northeast of Mesa and offers a fine sense of tranquility considering its proximity to the greater Phoenix area.
When the time is right, add additional magic to your trek by incorporating the soft glow of the moonlight. Full moons during the summer months occur on June 22, July 21, August 19 and September 17. Estrella Mountain Regional Park offers a ranger-guided moonlight journey a mile and a half to the Gila River and back. To get to the park, take I-10 to Estrella Parkway and head south to Vineyard Avenue. Admission is $5 per vehicle. Call 623-932-3811 for more information.
Nancy Lewis conducts one of the most eclectic moonlight hikes during the monthly Full Moon Hike at South Mountain's Javelina Trail. Fluent Spanish speakers meet monthly to give participants a physical and linguistic workout in a socially friendly atmosphere. Participants meet at sundown in the Beverly Canyon parking lot, 46th Street south of Baseline Road, for the moderately challenging two-hour jaunt. Details at 480-430-9060.
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The dying breed of outdoor movies has come to life over the past few years, and the Valley is located at the center of this revival. Last year's popular Moonlight Movies series produces another sequel this summer at Steele Indian School Park, 300 East Indian School Road. A 50-foot-by-34-foot inflatable movie screen allows film lovers to recite their favorite lines, and vendors are on hand to serve up popcorn, soda and snow cones. At 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25, the park will kick off the official beginning of summer with Ferris Bueller's Day Off, followed by a screening of The Sandlot at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 23. Call 602-444-8618 for details.
Summer movie entertainment is not limited to outdoor parks. Float along in the cerulean waters and contend with fellow inner tubers for prime film viewing position during the Arizona Biltmore's Dive-In Movies, 2400 East Missouri Avenue. Beginning at 7 every Friday and Saturday night through Labor Day, catch a flick on the 20-foot-by-30-foot movie screen while cooling off at the Biltmore's Paradise Pool. The programming is geared toward kid-friendly films and activities ranging from water-balloon launches to inner-tube races. While lifeguards watch the kids splashing away, adults can indulge in the fajitas grill line and the margaritas drink table, open from 4:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, call 602-955-6600, or see www.arizonabiltmore.com.
The old dinosaur of outdoor movie fun, the Scottsdale 6 Drive In (8101 East McKellips Road), is still roaring away with outdoor entertainment. Open since 1980, the theater grounds features the newest Hollywood releases on six screens. Every Tuesday is family night, where admission is $3.50 per adult, children age 11 and under are free, and hot dogs are just $1.50. And unlike indoor moviehouses, you can cuddle and smooch away with your honey without being a bother to others. Maybe you will even watch the movie. Call for 480-949-9451 for showtimes.