Tag Archives: Sonoran desert

Hike: Thompson Peak in Scottsdale, Arizona

Typical Sonoran Desert flora on the gently rolling terrain of the first two miles

Typical Sonoran Desert flora on the gently rolling terrain of the first two miles

Thompson Peak is the third highest peak in the McDowell Range, at 3,982 feet above sea level. The highest elevation—East End—is 4,057 feet, and McDowell Mountain is 4,034 feet.

The antennas on top of that mountain are my goal

The antennas on top of that mountain are my goal

The trailhead after waking on subdivision sidewalk. You may find maps here, but I wouldn't depend on it. Bring your own.

The trailhead after waking on subdivision sidewalk. You may find maps here, but I wouldn’t depend on it. Bring your own.

The out-and-back hike is 9.5 or 10 miles, with a vertical elevation gain of about 2,000 feet. I did it in 4.5 hours, including a 20-minute stay at the summit. I didn’t fool around much. I would call it a strenuous hike, but it depends on your level of fitness.

The colors aren't vivid because it's 10 minutes before sunrise

The colors aren’t vivid because it’s 10 minutes before sunrise

Thompson Peak is on the right

Thompson Peak is on the right

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

The most memorable feature of the hike is the very steep concrete road that takes you to the top. There are three sections of concrete in the last mile of the 4.7 mile trek to the summit. I estimate the steepness at a maximum of 20% grade. That means for every 100 feet forward progress, you rise 20 feet higher. I found  a review by another hiker that estimated the maximum grade at 30%, or even 40%. I was quite glad I had my Leki hiking poles to help me both up and down that steep grade. My maximum heart rate while climbing this steep portion was 172. Slow and steady wins the race.

This moss is growing on the north (shaded) side of a rock since we head a good soaking rain a week ago

This moss is growing on the north (shaded) side of a rock since we head a good soaking rain a week ago

Dirt road in between concrete sections near the summit

Dirt road in between concrete sections near the summit

My hike a few days ago started at the Fountain Hills, Arizona, Dixie Mine trailhead, which is actually in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. After two miles you head east on the Thompson Peak trail and into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Get maps of both areas. The start of the hike is a little confusing because you can’t drive right up to the Dixie Mine Trailhead. You drive through Fountain Hills to the end of Golden Eagle Boulevard, which terminates at a gated community. Just outside the gate, there’s a parking lot and public restrooms. Then you walk through the subdivision on a sidewalk for 10 minutes to the actual trailhead.

Four Peaks way in the distance to the east, on the horizon

Four Peaks way in the distance to the east, on the horizon

It took me 2 hours to reach the summit. Going down the steep concrete road was just as slow as climbing up. I had to be careful not to fall, and short strides were necessary to take some strain off my knees.

kk

About half way up

The first half of the trail to the summit is a great introduction to the Sonoran Desert. You won’t get much overall elevation gain, but lots of up-and-down through washes and small hills. You don’t have to be in very good shape to do it.  The trail is rocky, so you’ll want to wear thick- or stiff-soled boots instead of sneakers.

ll

3/4 of the way up

McDowell Peak on the left?

McDowell Peak on the left?

Judging from the soreness my legs the day after this hike, I got a good training effect out of it. Because of the uncomfortable grade of the concrete road sections, my initial thought was that I wouldn’t do this hike again. I’m not so sure now. Doing it gave me confidence that I could probably tackle Arizona’s Mount Humphreys later this year.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

Scottsdale, Arizona, in the foreground; Phoenix way in the distance

Scottsdale, Arizona, in the foreground; Phoenix way in the distance

Looking south from the near the summit

Looking south from the near the summit

Radio and/or telephone equipment, and God knows what else

Radio and/or telephone equipment, and God knows what else

The fine print is a little disconcerting. Can you tell me more?

The fine print is a little disconcerting

Hike: Pinnacle Peak Park, Scottsdale, AZ

ppp

Half-way up to the highest point

This was just a one-hour training hike covering 2.5 miles and 523 feet of vertical elevation. I started at the west end, walked to the highest point of the trail, then turned around and came back. I carried a 10-lb dumbbell in my knapsack to make the hike tougher.

ppp

Typical trail appearance: mostly gravel

Mostly locals use this urban trail. You’ll see lots of 20–40-year-olds jogging it.

ppp

The west trailhead elevation is 2366 ft above sea level

The weather was sunny, 76° F. I thank God for another day in paradise.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: I start my mileage at the closest road near the west trailhead; it’s about a quarter mile to the formal trailhead marker.

Update Jan. 26, 2015:

I hiked the entire out-and-back trail today, starting from my front door. Carried a 15-lb dumbbell in my pack. Took about two hours. Probably five miles total.

This granite hill is similar to the geology of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma, over a thousand miles away

This granite hill is similar to the geology of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma, over a thousand miles away

East Trailhead, where most people start their hike

East Trailhead, where most people start their hike

Hike: Marcus Landslide Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve

FullSizeRender-3

Yesterday I started my training in preparation to tackle Arizona’ Mount Humphries in June. I and about 20 people from my son’s Boy Scout troop hiked the Marcus Landslide Trail. Near the end of that trail we created a loop by hitting the Boulder Trail, Pemberton Trail, and Rock Knob Trail. Total hike was 5.8 miles in 60-68° F weather.

It’s a mostly flat course and an easy walk. It was no physical strain at all at the time. But I had some muscle cramps in bed last night and some soreness around my hips and thighs today. The soreness is a good sign. I’m embarrassed I’m not in better shape.

The scouts are doing a 20-mile hike in March for the Hiking merit badge. I’ll be right there with them, Lord willing.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Cholla cactus

Cholla cactus

That vertical rock formation in the center is called a mushroom

That vertical rock formation in the center is called a mushroom

Spring In the Sonoran Desert of Arizona

One of Boy Scout Troop 131’s scouts did hid Eagle rank project at Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, Arizona, a few weeks ago. I took pictures of plants on the trail.

Steve Parker MD, Sonoran desert, Arizona

Strawberry hedgehog

Steve Parker MD, Sonoran desert, wolfberry bush, Arizona

Wolfberry plant, perhaps related to the goji berries of China

Arizpona, Sonoran desert, wolfberry , Steve Parker MD

Wolfberries: the largest are 7 x 10 mm

Steve Parker MD, Arizona, Sonoran desert

Banana yucca. Most years these don’t bloom. Looks related to the Joshua Tree, doesn’t it?