If you are ever looking for longtime Arcadia resident John Heckenlaible, an excellent place to start would be the neighboring mountain ranges, as there are few things he loves more than hiking and climbing.
The Minnesota native moved to the Valley in 1983, leaving behind his parents and six siblings, all for the allure of the great outdoors.
“Growing up, we were cooped up a lot during the long, cold, dark winters, so now I take every chance I can to be outside. It started by taking a short hike and grew into mountain climbing, marathon hikes, epic mountain bike rides, and even competing in desert trail races,” said Heckenlaible.
“The mountains call to me in a way that’s hard to explain. There’s a special sense of satisfaction in bagging a peak,” he said, “as you are standing on your very accomplishment.”
John has hiked all over Arizona, but his favorite experience was hiking the Havasupai Trail. To justify his choice, he said, “If you can visit the Garden of Eden, then why not seize the opportunity?”
However, he has had some not-so-wonderful experiences, including when he fought 80-mile-per hour winds on Humphreys Peak or scrambled to evade a pack of toothy javelinas in the Mazatzal Wilderness.
When not challenging himself with outdoor adventures, Heckenlaible tackles his career with similar energy and commitment. His extensive sales and marketing background has him currently serving as Public Information Officer for Glendale Community College, where he directs all strategic marketing and public relations initiatives.
“It’s so meaningful to be a part of higher education, even indirectly, as our future hinges on a well-educated workforce. Working at a college has had a profound impact on the way I view the world,” he said.
Aside from his classroom learning, Heckenlaible said he was fortunate to learn and grow through mentorships.
“I was fortunate to have so many great mentors along the way, and because I respected these individuals, I have tried to emulate their personal and professional approach to life.”
He has also done his fair share of mentoring while coaching his daughter, Addie, and her soccer team from St. Theresa in a city league for three undefeated seasons. He also served on the school board.
“It’s been so rewarding to cultivate young people and help them discover strengths and capabilities that they didn’t even know they had. Several of my players went on to play soccer in high school and college,” he said with unmistakable pride.
John and his wife, Aimee, have been married for 30 years and have lived in Arcadia all that time.
“We absolutely love Arcadia and its small-town vibe,” he said. “How wonderful that it can sometimes take two hours to walk the dog just because you keep bumping into your neighbors.”
Heckenlaible said he is incredibly proud of the way he celebrates his birthday each year. It begins by climbing six area mountains in a single day, starting with Camelback Mountain, then Dixie Peak and Piestewa Peak, followed by a brief lunch before tackling North Mountain, Shaw Butte and Lookout Mountain.
“As I was once encouraged by one of my mentors, ‘Work like you’ll live forever and play like you’ll die tomorrow.’”