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Best Of 2013

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Hockey Player

Once the Phoenix Coyotes ownership situation got settled, with IceArizona taking over the team from the National Hockey League — which had grabbed the Coyotes because of their financial hardships — general manager Don Maloney found himself in a buyer's market. Suddenly, every free agent out there was getting shopped to Maloney, who'd had to practically beg good players to come to the desert. And, during the frenzy, the Coyotes were able to land a player they'd long coveted to fill a spot on their roster that they desperately needed to fill. In signing Montreal native Mike Ribeiro to a long-term contract, Maloney filled a five-season void at the center position. What star player would come to the desert when he had no idea where he'd be living a year or two later? Once the ownership deal was consummated, Ribeiro signed a four-year, $22 million contract with Phoenix. Last season, Ribeiro scored 13 goals and a point per game with the Washington Capitals; before that, he'd had a high of 27 goals and 93 points with Dallas. A big reason for his success in the Lone Star State was his association with Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, when Tippett was with the Stars. Tippett, along with Maloney, engineered the deal for Ribeiro, who considers his reunion with his old coach a match made in hockey heaven. It's hoped that Ribeiro, a quality playmaker who led the NHL with 20 power-play assists last season, can help the Coyotes with that formerly dismal part of their game. With Ribeiro taking the ice in Glendale, the Yotes may again move to the top of the Valley's pro sports franchise pile when it comes to success in their sport.

Best Downtown Run

There are few places in downtown Phoenix where you can run unimpeded by traffic. One of those places is the Grand Canal. If you're looking for a nice three-mile jog, start at 15th Avenue and head east. Run by Brophy and Central, past the Brophy baseball field to Seventh Street. Turn around and jog back to 15th Avenue. Boom — you got your three miles in, and you had to cross only two main streets. While you're running, you might also catch a glimpse of the humongous fish that call the canal home. So, the next time you see someone fishing along the bank of the canal, you'll know with a certainty that they aren't crazy — there really are fish in there.

Best Hiking Trail

While the point of many hikes is the scenery on the journey, that's not always the case. Sometimes, the hike itself isn't incredibly spectacular (once the beauty of the Arizona desert has sunk in), but there's a reward at the mid-point that feels so gratifying. One such hike is to the Taliesin Overlook, which is reached from the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, at the end of 124th Street, north of Via Linda, in Scottsdale. There are a few trails up here, but this moderate hike alongside the McDowell Mountains leads to exactly what it sounds like — a view of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. Just as a note, the overlook isn't exactly in Taliesin's backyard, and you'll see a lot of housing built into the desert. That said, if you're a nature purist whose hike is going to be ruined by seeing housing, lighten up. It's a cool view.

124th St. N. of Via Linda, Scottsdale, 85259
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Best Hike for Beginners
Scenic Trail at McDowell Mountain Regional Park

There are quite a few accessible hikes for all ages and levels within the big city, including a handful at South Mountain, but for beginners to experience the best that a day hike has to offer (without feeling so much strain that it brings on feelings of loathing for the outdoors), a trip to McDowell Mountain Preserve is in order. It takes about an hour to drive to this sprawling park way out east in Scottsdale, but it's well worth the time to traverse the 40 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback-riding trails. Aptly named, the Scenic Trail takes hikers through a 3.5-mile meandering path that begins in easy washes and then gently slopes up and through the Lousley Hills. As you follow the loop, you'll stumble on incredible sights like the silhouette of Four Peaks in the distance, the lush land surrounding the nearby Verde River, and classic Sonoran Desert features like fallen saguaro. After a couple hours of hiking, sprawl out for a picnic in the ramadas near the trailhead, or swing through Fountain Hills to quickly get back to civilization and stop for brunch.

16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., Scottsdale, 85255
MAP
480-471-0173
Best Summer Hike

There's much more to Sedona than red rocks, New Age-y retreats, and resorts for out-of-towners. Heading north from Phoenix? Drive through the tourist-crowded city center and into Oak Creek Canyon. Although a ton of great trails surround Sedona, the ultimate must-visit is West Fork. The first portion of the trail — great for families and casual hikers — has plenty of great views of tall, colorful cliff faces, and high desert forest. And it doesn't take long to get to the popular swimming area with sloping rocks to slide down. The creek runs across the trail multiple times, so be prepared to cross over it using fallen logs and slippery stones. But, boy, does it feel good to stop and dip your toes in the cool, fresh water. The views only get better as you hike farther in, and things get pretty quiet after the first couple of miles. Spring and fall are the best seasons to hike West Fork, but summer is wonderful, too. Temperatures most likely will be in the 90s, and the trail is mostly shaded by trees.

Best Winter Hike

A hike of six miles, Trail 53 into Siphon Draw and onward to Flatiron is a perfect representation of the vibrant desert of the Superstitions — and the harsh reality of hiking them. Starting as a gently elevating walk through the wildflower-speckled foothills, the trail veers upward through the smooth and massive draw (which can present the hiker with occasional waterfalls) and through a scrambling, shaded canyon to the top of Flatiron. Along the trail, the scenery morphs constantly, starting from rolling hills to smooth rock surfaces, then a boulder-filled canyon, and eventually the plateau of Flatiron covered in shrubs near the fantastic rock formations at the true summit. In the winter especially, the transition is vivid; coming from the warm and dry desert at the bottom, the summit is a cold and windy place and can even have a bit of snow to offer respite and amusement after a long, tough hike. This difficult hike is a beautiful challenge for those willing to witness the dynamic qualities of the desert along the climb, most visible and most enjoyed without the summer heat weighing you down.

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Best Hockey Player: Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes

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