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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


Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Tom's Thumb trailhead opens today.

Tom's Thumb: iconic pinnacle in the McDowell Mountains 
The long awaited Tom's Thumb trailhead was officially opened this morning.  In addition to providing convenient access to hiking and climbing in the northern reaches of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the trailhead also serves as a gateway to the park's newest attraction--the Marcus Landslide Trail.  Sure to be a big draw for geology buffs and casual hikers alike, the 4-mile interpretive route explores Arizona's second largest landslide.  A special grand opening event is planned for this Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 beginning at 8 a.m.. There will be guided hikes, climbing demos and lots of fun things to do in celebration of the return of "hiking weather" to the Valley.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Off the beaten path Sedona fall color hike

Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness, Sedona

Although not apparent from the trailhead, the remote upper reaches of Bear Sign Trail host surprisingly rich woodlands of deciduous trees that transform into a canopy of color in early autumn. To find these hidden thickets, hike on the juniper-and-scrub-lined Dry Creek Trail to the Bear Sign junction, veer left and pick up the trail heading uphill. Much of the path parallels boulder-filled ravines lined with sycamore, willows and cottonwoods eking out a living where water collects among gigantic bounders. Throughout the hike, haphazard webs of Canyon grape vines sprawl in viral abundance forming delicate veils of diffused sunlight. An especially photo-worthy section of the route passes through a concentrated stand of Arizona cypress trees. The spindly trunks and shaggy bark of this tenacious species are marred by claw marks, scat and gnawed stumps-- the “bear signs” for which the trail is named. No worries though, the black bears that roam this area are shy creatures and will usually skulk off unnoticed when roused by approaching hikers. To learn more about hiking in bear country, visit: Southwest Be Bear Aware:

LENGTH: 3.5 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4,800 -5,450 feet
BEST TIME FOR FALL FOLIAGE:  mid-to-late October
From the "Y" intersection of AZ 179 and AZ89A in Sedona go left (toward Cottonwood) and continue 3.2 miles to Dry Creek Road. Turn right, go 2 miles to Vultee Arch Road (Forest Road 152), hang a right and continue 4.5 miles to the Dry Creek #52 trailhead located past the Vultee Arch parking loop on the left. A high clearance vehicle is required on FR 152.

FEE: Red Rock Pass--$5 per vehicle is required
INFO: Coconino National Forest, Red Rock District 928-203-2900