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Monday, September 30, 2019



McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Palo verde trees shade the Latigo trail
Black Mountain seen from Rock Tank Trail
Outdoor recreation opportunities continue to expand in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  The permanently protected swath of Sonoran Desert in north Scottsdale that has over 220+ miles of trails that wind through more than 30,000 acres of pristine territory recently gained a new trailhead. 
WAPA power lines on Powerline Road
Located in the preserve’s northwest corner, the Pima-Dynamite trailhead that opened earlier this year, is part of the City of Scottsdale’s Phase 3 Trail Corridor Plan. The roomy access point is bordered by Pima Road and State Trust Land, Dynamite Boulevard and Stagecoach Pass and has parking for more than 200 passenger vehicles and special spots for horse trailers. While still under development, several trails in the Phase 3 project which involves 3,000 acres of land just west of the Brown’s Ranch trailhead are open for use by hikers, bikers and equestrians. Like all preserve trails, the new cluster of sustainably-designed, multi-use routes offer safe, non-motorized access while protecting native plant and wildlife habitats.
To get a quick look at the Phase 3 sector, make a loop hike on the Latigo, Rock Tank, Hawknest and Powerline Road trails. 
New trails in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve
A map kiosk at the trailhead shows the system layout as well as its connectivity with old-favorite preserve trails to the east.  The circuit begins with a short walk on Powerline Road to the Latigo Trail junction. The 1.1-mile Latigo leg is dominated by views of the Western Area Power Administration high voltage powerline.  Not exactly anybody’s idea of a perfect hiking visual experience, the looming spider-like metal structures have an odd, other-worldly presence.
A stony passage on the Hawknest Trail
When framed by the gangly arms of ocotillo and the gnarly branches of dead ironwood trees, the towers embody technology imitating nature. The juxtaposition of wires and wilds elicits mixed responses from trail users. Is the high-voltage canopy a necessary co-existence or an omen of doom?  It’s a dialectic best not explored when disparaging the juice conduits while pulling up trail apps on your phone. 
Bizarre granite rock forms are common site along the trails
Creosote shrubs line the Rock Tank Trail
Granite boulders on the Hawknest Trail
Wires and wilds on Latigo Trail.
Desert Senna blooms April - October
Hawknest Trail swerves around a granite rock garden
An old mesquite tree on Hawknest Trail
The hike isn’t all power lines, though.  As the route dips and bends, the wires are swallowed by big desert vistas of surrounding mountains and the distinctive forms of Cone Mountain, Pinnacle Peak and Black Mountain.  Hang a left at the Rock Tank trail junction where acres of saguaros, shrubs and hilly terrain mark the transition into a maze of mountain bike routes to the north. 
Sonoran Desert vegetation of Rock Tank Trail
The twisted paths of Dare A Sarah, Scorpion and Snake Eyes trails form a loopy challenge course in an area that, as of this writing, is signed to advise users to use caution because the area is not yet mapped. The trails are indicated on the trailhead kiosk, though. Continue on to the Hawkneck trail junction, turn left and get ready to hike though some narrow stone corridors with bizarre granite outcroppings. Although this leg of the hike also parallels the power lines, Palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees do a good job of hiding them from view. 
Technology imitates nature on the Latigo Trail
The final miles back to the trailhead meld swerving singletrack paths with the straight-shot, bulldozed power line road that is both a backbone trail for pristine back country hikes and an access route for maintenance crews that tend the wires that send power to mobile devise charging stations.  The paradox abides.
LENGTH: 3-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2,339- 2,453 feet
Pima-Dynamite Trailhead: 28777 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit 36, go 6.5 miles north on Pima Road to Dynamite Blvd., turn right and continue 0.1-mile to the trailhead on the left. No facilities at this time. The preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
INFO: McDowell Sonoran Preserve

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