Tag Archives: Tom’s Thumb trail

Hank’s First Hike

Hank (son of Tank), a yellow lab

Hank is six months old. Weighs about 60 lb, on the way to 90.

A collection of cairns half way up

Starting at the north trailhead, we made it 3/4 of the way to Tom’s Thumb, three miles round-trip, with 800 feet of vertical elevation.

I needed a selfie-stick

Hank did great on his very first nature hike. No apparent tiredness or soreness from it, whereas my knees were achy for the subsequent 48 hours. This was my first hike since the June trek up Humphreys Peak. On the way down I was wishing I had my trekking poles, but I can’t handle them and a leash.

Steve Parker, M.D.

OMG I’ve Got PFP

My daughter and I at Tom’s Thumb on June 3. She got her good looks from her mom, obviously.

I posted this here a couple weeks ago:

I’ve developed over the last month some bothersome pain in my right knee. It’s not interfered much with my actual hiking, but I pay for it over the subsequent day or two. I’m starting to think this may put the kibosh on my Humphries Peak trek next month.

The pain is mostly anterior (front part of the knee) and is most noticeable after I’ve been sitting for a while with the bent knee, then get up to walk. The pain improves greatly after walking for a minute or less. It also hurts a bit when I step up on something using my right leg. If I sit with my knee straight (in full extension), it doesn’t hurt when I get up. The joint is neither unusually warm nor swollen. Ibuprofen doesn’t seem to help it. These pain characteristics seem classic for something, but I don’t know what, yet….My twice weekly hikes always include a fair amount of elevation gain. I suspect an over-use syndrome, basically a training error. I plan to take an entire week off from hiking and Bulgarian Split Squats, and taking ibuprofen 600 mg three times a day.

The view looking south from the base of Tom’s Thumb

I did some research in the literature and think I’ve got patellofemoral pain, aka PFP or PFP Syndrome. Can’t say I’d heard of it before. Sounds more like a description than a diagnosis. Like saying someone has fever.

This guy posed for my daughter

I got most of my info on PFP from UpToDate.com, but you probably don’t have access to that. You healthcare professionals, click for a 2007 article at American Family Physician. Mayo Clinic has info for muggles. So does American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

I hope she thinks of this hike when she sees Tom’s Thumb from Hwy 101

I may have some age-related osteoarthritis in both knees, but that’s not causing this pain.

My PFP was caused by over-use. Too much hiking with elevation gain and  accelerating my program too rapidly. Also, prior experience taught me that using trekking poles helped take strain off my knees, and I have not been using them.

The newest resident at the Parker Compound. He’s eight weeks old.

I took a week off from hiking while taking ibuprofen 600 mg three times a day, when I could remember it. The combo helped, probably the rest more than the NSAID. Then I did two six-mile walks on the flat without much trouble. On June 3, I hiked Tom’s Thumb trail with my trekking poles, 4 miles round trip, and only had mild discomfort. Most importantly, I learned that I get relief from icing down the knee for 30-45 minutes after I get home.

I’m disappointed I can’t climb Thompson Peak in preparation for Humphries Peak. It would probably kill my chance to summit Humphries (right now I put those odds at 50:50).

Steve Parker, M.D.



Tom’s Thumb Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve


The thumb is sticking up on the horizon on the far left

The thumb is sticking up on the horizon on the far left

You might recall I hope to climb to the summit of Arizona’s highest mountain in June. So I’m in training.

First time I've seen a backhoe doing trail repair

First time I’ve seen a backhoe doing trail repair

I started this hike at the Tom’s Thumb Trailhead at the north end of the preserve. I made it to the base of the landmark then turned around and came back the same way. Total trip length is between 4 and 4.5 miles and I figure a 1000 feet of vertical elevation gain. The footing is mostly gravel/dirt. Lots of folks were hiking it with less sturdy shoes than mine. It took me 1 hour and 50 minutes round-trip.

At the base of Tom's Thumb, overlooking Scottsdale and the Valley of the Sun

At the base of Tom’s Thumb, overlooking Scottsdale and the Valley of the Sun far in the distance

On the way down I was wishing I’d brought my trekking poles to take some of the strain off my knees.

Click for trail details.

The thumb up close and personal

The thumb up close and personal

Hike: Tom’s Thumb – Windgate Pass – East End Trails in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

On March 23, 10 or so scouts and adults from Scottsdale’s Boy Scout troop 131 did the headlined 10-mile hike.  It was preparation for the rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year.  Everyone finished in under five hours. I did it in four hours and five minutes, with few stops.  Total vertical elevation was 2,500 feet.  The trail guide says this is a “very difficult” loop.  The difficulty is mostly in the grade (slope) rather than footing.

Steve Parker MD, hiking, Arizona

The north trailhead for Tom’s Thumb trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Tom’s Thumb is in the middle of the horizon.


Close to the top of Tom’s Thumb trail

Steve Parker MD, hiking, Arizona

Tom’s Thumb is in the middle of the horizon; much more impressive when you’re closer than this.

Steve Parker MD, hiking, arizona

Tom’s Thumb trail

hiking, Arizona, Steve Parker MD,

Tom’s Thumb trail

hiking, Arizona, Steve Parker MD

Saquaro cacti reaching for the sky

hiking, Arizona, Steve Parker MD,

A surprising natural spring probably between trail markers 13 and 14 on Tom’s Thumb trail, about 2,600 feet above sea level and 1,100 feet below the peak

Steve Parker MD, hiking, Arizona

These flowers will probably be gone in a couple weeks, only to return next Spring

Steve Parker MD, hiking, Arizona, exercise

River of rocks created by landslide on East End trail

hiking, Arizona, Steve Parker MD

The intersection of East End trail and Tom’s Thumb trail

hiking, Arizona, Steve Parker, Tom's Thumb trail, Windgate Pass Trail MD

Trails are marked well, so you shouldn’t get lost.