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Saturday, October 20, 2012

New trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Marcus Landslide Trail: Oct. 20, 2012

approaching some "mushroom" rocks
A little bit of history was made this morning as stewards of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve stepped out on the inaugural guided hike of the brand new Marcus Landslide Trail.  Freshly cut, the new route is an homage to the complex geology of the north side of the McDowell Mountains.  Colorful signs along the trail enlighten hikers about the surrounding terrain---including an explanation of how the area’s signature “mushroom” rocks formed.  But of course, the main attraction is the ubiquitous landslide.  I must add that, to really appreciate this trail, take one of the steward-led hikes.  Our leader today was steward Don, and I was blown away by all his knowledge and professional speaking skills.  Learn about upcoming guided hikes here:
If you didn't know it was there, you'd probably never even notice this massive slump in the mountainside. Discovered in 2002 by a pair of local geologists, the nearly mile-long wreckage  is comprised of an estimated 25.8 billion pounds of rubble---that's enough material to fill Sun Devil Stadium six times.  The slide occurred during the  Pleistocene Ice Age about a half-million years ago when a colder, wetter climate may have instigated the slide which shaved 1,200 feet off the ridgeline releasing energy equivalent to an atomic bomb blast.   The trail, which is named for former ASU geography professor Melvin Marcus, loops among the slide's components giving a comprehensive overview of the magnitude and scope of the event. The hike takes off from the new Tom's Thumb Trailhead (officially opened Oct. 18, 2012) following an easy grade through typical desert scrub with views of the Fountain Hills area, Verde River and Superstition Wilderness.  Incredibly, the preserve receives no tax dollars and is funded entirely by contributions to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy from hikers like you (and generous major contributors). This is pretty amazing when you consider the impressive facilities, quality of staff and meticulous trail maintenance.  So, when you’re checking out upcoming hikes, leave a donation to help ensure ongoing protection of our Sonoran Desert hiking trails.
Preserve steward, Don talks geology

LENGTH: 3.7-mile loop (4.2 miles with optional side trips)
RATING:  easy
ELEVATION: 2800’ – 2,500’
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily
FACILITIES: restrooms, NO water
DOGS: leashed dogs are allowed on trails but not on guided hikes
FEE: NONE-- unless you take a connecting trail into adjacent McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  Then, it’s $2 per person---exact change required for the self-pay permit station.
GETTING THERE:  Tom's Thumb Trailhead:
From the loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess Road exit 36 and continue 5 miles north on Pima to Happy Valley Road.  Turn right (east) and go 4.1 miles on Happy Valley to Ranch Gate. Turn right on Ranch Gate, follow it 1.2 miles then turn right onto 128th St. and continue 1 mile on 128th to the signed trailhead. Roads are paved (finished just this past week!) all the way.
Tom's Thumb trailhead

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy:
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Earthly Musings: the blog of geologist Wayne Ranney
Arizona Geological Survey


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