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Monday, November 10, 2014


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Who knew that the ambrosial, mood-altering magic of fragrance could be so pronounced on a trail dubbed "Turpentine"?  Named for Ericameria laricifolia, a knee-high bush in the sunflower family, the Turpentine Trail in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve celebrates this tenacious plant's olfactory contribution to desert hiking. Instead of the expected nasal membrane singeing vapors, the needle-like leaves of the turpentine bush emit a complex cloud of piney perfume with hints of citrus and sage when pinched gently between the fingers. The late bloomer is at its best during the winter hiking season boasting yellow, broom-shaped blooms from August through December followed by frothy, flightily seed globes.  The plants grow in perfusion throughout the preserve's sandy, crushed granite terrain but are especially robust in the north sector around the Fraesfield and Granite Mountain trailheads, both of which can be used to access the Turpentine Trail. Maps available online coupled with meticulous on-trail signage show numerous ways to weave this trail into a day of exploring.  One option begins at the Fraesfield trailhead with a 1.6-mile trek on Black Hills Trail, to the Turpentine junction. From here, go left and hike 1.4 miles to Whiskey Bottle Trail, veer left and continue 1.6 miles back to the trailhead. This loop has terrific views of the Superstition Wilderness, Four Peaks and the Cave Creek Mountains.
LENGTH: 4.6 miles as described here
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2300' - 2656'
GETTING THERE: Fraesfield Trailhead
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit 36 and go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Blvd./Rio Verde Dr.  Turn right and go 5.6 miles to the trailhead on the left.  No facilities or water.
INFO & MAPS: McDowell Sonoran Preserve, 480-312-7013

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