Hike Report: The Lookout in McDowell Sonoran Preserve


Looking south from The Lookout, you see Thompson Peak in the center. The highest point in the McDowell range is McDowell Peak on the right, about 10 feet higher than Thompson Peak.

This hike is essentially the same as to Tom’s Thumb trail, but instead of taking the short spur going north to the Thumb, you go a tenth of a mile further and take the half mile spur to The Lookout. This last half mile is easy, and rewarded by  excellent view to the south and east.

A prickly pear cactus blossom

My original goal had been to continue walking past this spur, to the west, until I reached a bizarre mountain spring. Bizarre because you’d never expect it in this desert. But after a quarter or half mile, it was getting hot and no one else was on the narrow trail, which was steep and quite rocky. I didn’t know exactly how far it was to the spring. I could see myself getting injured or over-heated, and decided it just wasn’t worth it. I think I’d rather die than call in a rescue party. So I turned around and headed back to The Lookout spur.

Banana yucca

Total distance for this trip was about 6 miles and it took three hours. Loaded with a 10-lb dumbbell and plenty of water, my backpack weighed about 20 lb.

From The Lookout: Phoenix and Scottdale in the distance

I’m impressed with how many young women I see on this trail, either alone or in small groups. I’m glad they feel safe doing it.

Eastern view from The Lookout: Four Peaks on the horizon

I was delighted to see three people on horseback on the trail, too.

Way in the distance is the Fountain Hills, AZ, fountain. It explodes up 300 feet every hour on the hour for 10 minutes.

Did you know that exercise isn’t an effective way to lose fat weight? 90% of weight loss comes from altering your diet. Try one of my diets, like the Advanced Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker MD, Advanced Mediterranean Diet

Two diet books in one

Thoughts on the Denninger Healthcare Reform Plan

The only way to improve U.S. healthcare while bringing costs down is to introduce serious competition for healthcare dollars.

This post is for U.S. citizens since the federales are going to tinker with our health insurance reform very soon. This would be a great opportunity to make helpful changes  to the system. I have no faith they will do it.

Healthcare in the U.S. consumes one of every five dollars spent in the economy. We are not getting our money’s worth, at least judging from average lifespan.

Karl Dennnger has put a lot of thought into the problem over the last decade, and has a concrete legislative proposal that makes a lot of sense. I endorse it. As you consider the possibilities, you need to keep in mind that the cost of healthcare will drop drastically. Not just by 50%. More like 80% or more. Healthcare will be so cheap you won’t even need insurance to pay for most of it.

How are these price reductions possible? Because the Dennniger plan introduces competition and moves us closer to a free market situation without third-party interference from insurers and government.

Here are the major points:

  • All healthcare providers must publicly post (e.g., on the web) prices which apply to everyone. E.g., not  a price depending on which insurance you have, whether you are paying cash up front, etc.
  • All customers must be billed for actual charges at the same posted prices at the time services or product is rendered. This removes the third party (insurer or government). You file the claim and every one pays the same price. In a way, medical care isn’t too expensive; too often it’s “free,” because someone else is paying. So there’s no comparison shopping. You see posted prices and you pay them yourself when you buy gasoline, groceries, cell phones, computers, TVs, cars, and houses. A valid and collectible bill must be consented to in writing before the service or product is provided. Actual price, no open-ended add-ons.
  • No event caused by or a consequence of treatment can be billed to the customer. (I’m not sure I like this. What about unforeseeable complications like C diff infection after antibiotics, or anaphylactic reactions to drugs? Providers could eventually get insurance to cover those costs, but it would be a brand new insurance market.)
  • True emergency patients who are unable to consent must receive the same price for same service as a person who consents to said service.
  • All medical records belong to the patient and shall be delivered to the patient (customer) at the time of service.
  • Auxiliary services (e.g., x-rays, lab work) may not be required to be purchased at the point of use. Example: an orthopedist wants you to get a knee MRI scan on his machine. You can shop around other places for a cheaper or better-quality MRI scan.
  • All anti-trust and consumer protection laws shall be enforced against all medically-related firms, and any claimed exemptions are hereby deemed void. Stiff penalties and fines for violations. Private lawyers must have access to sue.
  • You are free to purchase any medical test you want if no radiation or drug is required to perform the test. (You can already do this in Arizona, but in many states you need a “doctors order” for the test.)
  • There will be no government payments for care or products when a lifestyle change will provide a substantially equivalent or better benefit, when the customer refuses to implement the lifestyle change. (This point needs some fine-tuning. Who decides when and which lifestyle change would provide an equivalent benefit?])
  • Health insurance companies must sell true insurance, to sell any health-related policy at all. No insurance coverage for an event or condition of which you received treatment over the last 24 months.  If an adverse event occurs, insurance pays for all of it. E.g,, if you get an expensive cancer, the insurance company cannot drop you. The insurance must cover, with a selection of available deductibles, all accidental injuries and true life-threatening emergencies. Medical underwriting is permitted (e.g., insurers can charge higher premiums for smokers, couch potatoes, obese folks, etc. I have long thought that people in the top 25% of fitness, determined by a treadmill exercise test, should get a discount on insurance premiums).
  • All health insurers providers selling true insurance, in whole or in part, must provide within their “true insurance” the ability to replace like with like.” (I don’t know what Karl means by this.)
  • Medicare becomes just another insurance provider. No more Part B (outpatient services).
  • Medicaid is repealed entirely.
  • What about U.S. citizens and “lawful permanent residents” who can’t pay for care but still need attention? For true emergencies, the hospital or Emergency Department bills the U.S. Treasury, who pays within 30 days. For non-emergencies, the provider bills the U.S. Treasury and will be paid within 30 days except no billing for government payment if the condition resulted from a lifestyle decision the patient made. After the Treasury Department pays the provider, Treasury will send an invoice to the customer (patient or taxpayer), which may be settled within 90 days at no penalty. If charges are not paid, they become a tax lien subject to collection from refundable tax credits, tax refunds, other entitlement checks (except Social Security retirement), and windfall amounts (either money or property).
  • Repeal all aspects of Obamacare/PPACA.

You need a break after all that. Almost done. Hang in there!

I don’t recall Karl recommending a specific deductible amount, but often saw mention of $2,000 as a deductible. “Deductible” is what you pay out of pocket before insurance pays anything. I like a high deductible over “first-dollar” coverage, because the high deductible automatically creates 200 million shoppers who are going to check prices for sure before buying healthcare. (Of 320 million people in the U.S., I’m guessing 200 million are adults.)

Karl favors “catastrophic” policies, as do I. Your car needs new tires every few years, oil changes much more often, and periodic repairs, but you don’t expect car insurance to pay for those non-catastrophic costs.

Who would get hurt by this plan? Lobbyists, insurance and healthcare administrators, drug reps, pharmacy benefits managers, and those who refuse to make healthy lifestyle changes.

I don’t recall Karl addressing unreasonable insurance mandates, managed care plans (like Kaiser Permanente in CA), accountable care organizations, liability reform (we need the English Rule), tax parity (businesses buying insurance for employees get a tax break, but private individuals buying their own policies don’t), or much about enforcement. But he may have; Karl’s a very smart guy.

Steve Parker, M.D.


Hike Report: Sunrise Trail In Scottsdale, Arizona

…with a side trip to Andrews-Kinsey trail.

This is what 50% of the trail looked like from the trailhead to the peak. Is there a rattler in the shade of that rock?

As you might remember, I’m training to summit Humphreys Peak in June. So I’ve been hiking twice weekly, mostly on Pinnacle Peak Trail and Tom’s Thumb Trail. My longest trek thus far has been seven miles. I plan to walk some longer distances and/or carry more weigh in my backpack in the coming weeks. Lately I’ve added a 10-lb dumbbell to my pack.

Yes, this is the trail. From the trailhead to the peak, 10% of it looked like this. You need good footwear for this.

Yesterday I started at the Sunrise Trailhead, made it to Sunrise Peak in about an hour, then walked over to the Andrews-Kinsey trail and followed for about a mile before turning around and heading back to the car. Total trip was about six miles over three hours. I carried the 10-lb dumbbell in my backpack, plus water.

3/4 of the way to the peak, looking down at the trailhead near houses.

Sunrise Trailhead to the peak is a difficult trail by most standards. Steep, rocky, unrelenting. You gain about 1,1000 feet of elevation. My pace was only 1.8 miles per hour. Approaches from Ringtail Trailhead and 136th Street Trailhead are quite likely less steep, but more miles to the peak.

A view of Scottsdale from Sunrise Peak

The Andrews-Kinsey trail was relatively flat, mostly gravel, and had good views. Didn’t see another soul on it.

From the pictures, you can tell there’s not much shade on this hike. What you cannot see is that the mountains themselves will provide shade for this entire trip if hiked in the late afternoon.

Looking north from Sunrise Peak. These are the McDowell Mountains. Note the trails.

I saw a snake on this trip, just got a brief glimpse of it a foot and a half from me and he was truckin’. It was about 1.5 inches thick, and I’m guessing four feet long. Didn’t look like a rattlesnake. Maybe a bull snake.

I was on the trail at 0740 hrs and was glad to be done three hours later when the temperature was in the upper 80s Farenheit.

I last did this trail in 2013. I didn’t put it in that trip report, but I remember it being particularly grueling, having started at Ringtail trailhead and going to Sunrise trailhead then back to our starting point, a total of 10 miles and 2,000+ vertical feet of elevation.

Let’s Call it KarlCare

Karl Denninger has fleshed out his U.S. healthcare system reform recommendations in a form ready for legislation.

I’ve only read it once and admit I don’t fully understand it. But I can tell already that it would be a major improvement over our current system.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Diets Don’t Work: True or False?

Recipe: Sous Vide Chicken with Sautéed Sugar Snap Peas

Sous vide chicken and sautéed sugar snap peas

Click the pic for our YouTube demonstration.


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 8-9 oz each (225-255 g each) (raw weight)

2.5 tbsp (37 ml) extra virgin olive oil

few sprigs of fresh rosemary (optional)

2 cloves garlic, diced

lemon-pepper seasoning

Montreal Steak Seasoning to taste

garlic salt to taste

Morton sea salt (coarse)

black pepper to taste

9 oz (255 g) fresh sugar snap peas


Choose one of two seasonings: 1) Montreal Steak or 2)  Rosemary lemon-pepper.

Brush one side of the breasts with about 1/2 tbsp olive oil. For Rosemary-style chicken, sprinkle the breasts with lemon-pepper seasoning, sea salt, and pepper to taste. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

For Montreal-style, that seasoning is all you need; it already contains salt and pepper. Rosemary sprigs are optional.

Then cook the breasts in a sous vide device (see video) at 142°F for two hours.

When that’s done, my wife likes to sear the breasts in a frying pan (with a little olive oil) over medium-high heat, 1–2 minutes on each side. The chicken is fully cooked after two hours in the sous vide device, but the searing may enhance the flavor and appearance. It’s optional.

When the chicken is close to being done, sauté the garlic in two oz of olive oil over medium high heat for a minute or two, then add the sugar snap peas and a little garlic salt and pepper to taste, and cook for two to four minutes, stirring frequently.

Number of servings: 2

AMD boxes: 1 veggie, 2 fat, 1 protein

Nutritional analysis per serving:

Calories: 500

Calorie breakdown: 42% fat, 8% carbohydrate, 50% protein

Carb grams: 10

Fiber grams: 4

Digestible carb grams: 6

Prominent nutrients: protein, B6, iron, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, selenium





Guess What Kind of Diet Can Treat Depression?


Olive oil is a prominent source of fat in the Mediterranean diet

From Dr. Emily Deans at Psychology Today:

“This year, finally, we have the SMILES trial, the very first dietary trial to look specifically at a dietary treatment in a depressed population in a mental health setting. Participants met criteria for depression and many were already being treated with standard therapy, meds, or both. The designers of this trial took the preponderance of observational and controlled data we already have for general and mental health and decided to train people using dietary advice, nutritional counseling, and motivational interviewing directed at eating a “modified Mediterranean diet” that combined the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines for Adults in Greece. They recommended eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, unsweetened dairy, raw nuts, fish, chicken, eggs, red meat (up to three servings per week), and olive oil. Everyone in the study met criteria for a depressive disorder.

The experimental arm of subjects were instructed to reduce the intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meat, sugary drinks, and any alcohol beyond 1-2 glasses of wine with meals. There were seven hour long nutritional counseling sessions and a sample “food hamper” with some food and recipes. The control group had the same number of sessions in “social support,” which is a type of supportive therapy that is meant to mimic the time and interpersonal engagement of the experimental group without utilizing psychotherapeutic techniques.

*  *  *

Despite the small size, the results were still statistically significant and better than anticipated. The dietary group had bigger reductions in depression scores at the end of 12 weeks. Remission of depression symptoms occurred in 32.3 percent of the diet group as opposed to 8 percent of the control group.”

Source: A Dietary Treatment for Depression | Psychology Today

The Mediterranean diet: Is there anything it can’t do?