Saturday, December 28, 2013

Piestewa Christmas

Weather:  60°, sun

Time to summit:  25 minutes, 30 seconds

About this hike:  No new records here, but it sure felt good to get back to Piestewa Peak after a few weeks off.  Was busy this morning, and I ran into several people that I know.

Up until January 2013 when the city closed Camelback Echo Canyon, I never paid much attention to Piestewa.  A Christmas tree on top may be tradition, just as it is on Camelback, but I've never seen it before.
After beginning my descent, I heard a loud, booming megaphone voice from the top.  I'd like to know what he was saying but couldn't make out the words.  Perhaps a mountaintop preacher?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas on Camelback

Weather:  70°, sun

About this hike:  Didn't record my time to the summit.  Camelback Cholla trail is a chore to get to.  And then there's fighting to parallel park on Invergordon Rd.  Needless to say, I don't make Cholla a habit.  However, fighting crowds and traffic to see the annual Christmas tree on top was worth it.

I also took this beautiful panorama (below) looking northeast.  It encompasses the McDowells, Four Peaks, and Superstitions.  Best part was I used my work-issued iPhone's panorama feature.  Might be the only good part of iPhone, but the camera onboard is impressive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shattering Records Again!!

Weather:  70°, sun/clouds, wind

Time to summit:  23 minutes, 44 seconds

About this hike:  Another exciting new record!  Took advantage of a half-day of work, plus some cooler temps to get another hike in.  Otherwise the mountain was not too crowded and it made for a nice, uneventful afternoon.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Soggy Squaw Peak

Weather:  59°, overcast, record-breaking rain had just ended an hour prior

About this hike:  Did not time this hike.  Nearly 3 inches of rain from Thursday to Sunday.  Surprisingly, the trails weren't muddy at all, and as the clouds began to lift, it was actually crowded on this Sunday afternoon.

The Valley was beautiful with clear, clean air, low clouds over the mountains, and even some snow on Four Peaks.  A police chopper flew over low and people waved.  The pilots waved back.  Was an awesome hike with some different scenery.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Superstition Flatiron

Weather:  67°, overcast, wind, rain threatening

About this hike:  First time in over a year at Superstition.  Dark clouds covered the mountain as we drove east along 202.  Driving thru Mesa, a few rain drops began hitting the windshield.  Brought back chilling memories to the first time I ever attempted (unsuccessfully) to climb Superstition.  Rain changing to graupel/snow ended that hike early.

Yesterday turned out being a little better weather-wise.  The clouds eventually gave way to some sunshine.  I don't think the temperature ever made it over 70 degrees, which is fine for a very vertical hike.  The wind, on the other hand, could've been a little less.

I didn't take the time, but we made the Flatiron rim in less than two hours.  Every time I visit Superstition Mountain I'm reminded what an otherworldly, truly beautiful place this is, only a 40 mile drive from Phoenix.  I really need to visit more than once a year...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Nice Saturday at Squaw Peak

Weather:  72°, bright sun, felt very warm!

Time to summit:  24 minutes

About this hike:  Tied the old record! No small feat considering the amount of tourists and other "fair-weather" hikers up there today gettin in the way of we year-round diehards!  Anyway, for a change I slept good and felt good today, and I had no pressing obligations so it made for an enjoyable hike despite the crowds.  Enjoyable, stress-free, uneventful--just the way I like it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Good to be Back...

Weather:  70°, bright sun, windy

Time to summit:  26 minutes

About this hike:  Considering the cooler weather and the fact that I never stopped for a rest break, this time was a disappointment.  Mountain was a little crowded, but not so gridlocked you couldn't keep moving.  After missing the past two Saturdays--although I enjoyed some amazing hikes/climbs in Sedona & Grand Canyon--it felt good to get back to my old stomping grounds today.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Piestewa Peak

Weather:  73°, bright sun, breeze

Time to summit:  25 minutes

About this hike:  Gettin' very crowded on the trail again...but to be expected now that we're into cooler weather.  Today's hike was utterly uneventful, although I did manage to nearly trip twice.  Thankfully no injuries and life goes on :-)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Crowds Returning to Piestewa Peak

Weather:  76°, bright sun

Time to summit:  25 minutes

About this hike:  I pushed it hard and was disappointed that my time was just under 25 minutes (24:56).  Mountain was crowded today, as to be expected now that the weather's getting perfect.  I had to park in the surrounding residential streets--something I haven't had to do in a while.

At the end of my hike most of the PHX Fire Department was showing apparently a mountain rescue was about to go down.  Gratefully my hike was otherwise uneventful.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Night Hike - Piestewa Peak

Weather:  97°, dark

About this hike:  Was an impromptu after-work climb with a friend.  I didn't bother taking the time because I knew it wouldn't be my usual fast pace, and rightfully so.  I've come down in the dark plenty of times, but at least half the hike up was just after sunset.  Glad I remembered my headlamp.  Despite the temperature being in the mid-90's it felt pleasant.  Overall a nice night hike.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Saturday at Piestewa

Weather:  84°, bright sun, breeze

Time to summit:  25 minutes

About this hike:  No record broken, but still a good time.  My right knee continues to bother me after my little tumble last Saturday night but not enough to affect my hike...I just made a point of putting weight on the left knee.  The weather's getting a little cooler, and that means bigger crowds.  Otherwise an uneventful hike.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Night Hike & My First Injury!

Weather:  99°, warm breeze, sunset

About this hike:  Got back from a crazy Hawaii trip on a red-eye flight to PHX this Saturday morning.  While I consider myself pretty hardcore, I didn't have any hiking gear in the car, and I was exhausted after no sleep on my flight...needless to say, my Saturday morning tradition didn't happen.

But by 6 pm I was rarin' to get my feet on Piestewa Peak.  I didn't take my time for this hike, mainly because I was stiff and sore having spent 10+ cumulative hours crammed into an airplane seat. I knew it wasn't going to be a record-breaker.

What a beautiful evening.  I reached the summit just after sunset.  A large, puffy white cloud over the McDowell Mountains was shooting out dazzling bolts of lightning.  And there was a warm breeze.  I stayed up on the zen-like summit for a long time just observing, thinking, reflecting... And then on the way down, all was well (I remembered the headlamp this time!) til near the base when I took a tumble.  Not sure how it happened...but I skinned up my hand and knee and hurt my left ankle.  None of it bad though, and my injuries haven't stopped me from working out today (not hiking tho!).  So after 2+ years of hiking Phoenix's and the surrounding mountains, one minor fall isn't a bad safety record.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Weather:  84°, overcast, light sprinkles when at the summit

Time to summit:  24 minutes

About this hike:  Another solid new record!  It was a little cooler this morning, and overcast, but humid.  I had to push hard, as my legs were killing me at the end (a long run last night didn't help).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Laboring Up Piestewa Peak

Weather:  94°, sun, breezy, dust storm in the distance

Time to summit:  26 minutes

About this hike:  No records beat, but despite higher temps, the humidity was a lot lower too.  There was a nice breeze, and by the end of my hike it had ushered in an unwelcome dust storm from the south.  I contemplated waiting it out at the base of the mountain, but opted to drive home and take my chances.  Gratefully, as awful as this one looked, it never really amounted to much.

Dust storm approaching

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Muggy Saturday Morning

Weather:  84°, sun, very humid

Time to summit:  26.5 minutes

About this hike:  Sure didn't set any records today. Was very muggy and rain sprinkled on the drive up to Phoenix Mountains Preserve, but it stopped before I embarked on my hike.  A little crowded today, but otherwise a good, uneventful hike.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cooler Temps & a New Record!

Weather:  84°, sun, breezy, dark clouds to the west

Time to summit:  25.5 minutes

About this hike:  Another new record!  Overnight rain left the Valley cooler, but also muggy.  CenPho didn't seem to get much, and the trails were dry.  An uneventful hike, other than establishing a new record to try and beat.

Storms over the West Valley while downtown was dry & sunny

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Heatin Up Again at Squaw Peak

Weather:  98°, sun, slight breeze

Time to summit:  27 minutes

About this hike:  Considering the heat is back, I'd say my time wasn't too bad this morning.  Uncrowded, and utterly uneventful was this hike.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dry & Clear with a Little Water on Piestewa Peak

Weather:  91°, sun, low humidity, slight breeze

Time to summit:  26.5 minutes

About this hike:  Again the stopwatch app read just over 27 minutes.  I took a few breaks and there was at least one traffic/congestion stop on the trail.  Saying it was a sub-27 minute time is pushin' it, but I'll claim it.  Weather was beautiful, surprisingly not too hot, low humidity, and pollution seemed relatively low...definitely a rare August day in PHX.

Memorable today, this little kid—I'd say about 6-7 years old—loudly announced he had to pee.  After making everyone on the summit turn around, he proceeded to water the north side of the mountain, then announced, "OK, you all can look again...where's the soap so i can wash my hands?!"  I should've offered him my hand sanitizer that's religiously strapped to my hiking pack.  Anyone who knows me knows I don't leave home without a bottle.  Regardless, this kid and his comments were quite entertaining.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Boring in a Good Way - Piestewa Peak

Weather:  92° & sun

Time to summit:  26 minutes

About this hike:  Did it in just under 27 minutes again today, although the stopwatch read 27:09, but hey, I can't help it when there's a traffic jam on the trail.  Wasn't very humid or hot, and while a breeze would've been nice, it was almost a perfect morning to hike (considering it's August in PHX).  Otherwise uneventful.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Record is Official - Piestewa

Weather:  93° sun/clouds and humid

Time to summit:  26 minutes

About this hike:  I know I said I made it in 26 minutes last week, but that was factoring in stops for slow hikers, etc.  I ended up taking just over 27 minutes on the stopwatch.  Today the stopwatch was officially less than 27 minutes.  So new record is set!!

The summit wasn't as gross as last least at first.  I spent quite a few minutes up there.  Then I got up and moved, and suddenly the flies descended upon me, and hence I descended the mountain.  No mountain rescues this morning and no drama.  Just a good hike.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Record for Squaw Peak

Weather:  87° sun and humid

Time to summit:  26.5 minutes

About this hike:  New record set!! Actually the stopwatch said 27:11, but there were a few slow hikers and I had to pause briefly a few times. I decided my adjusted time is sub-27 minutes and therefore a record. While cooler this morning than in the past, it was grossly humid. Rain must've fallen on the preserve last night, as evidenced by numerous large puddles on the trail. This led to swarms of flies and bees and made for an unpleasant stay at the summit, hence why I didn't rest long before heading back down.

Within 5 minutes of my arrival what seemed like the entire Phoenix FD arrived for one of those infamous mountain rescues. There was an older man near the summit who was covered in blood, but conscious and talking.

From bugs, to bloody rescues, to high humidity, this was a gross hike.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Slow Sunset Hike up Squaw Peak

Weather:  105° and sunset/dark

Time to summit:  ~40 minutes

About this hike:  Went with a friend for this uneventful hike.  He slowed me down considerably, and I didn't even take an accurate time; 40 minutes is a guesstimate at best.  There was a nice sunset, and at dark I realized I forgot my headlamp. So I learned how to be extra careful hiking down Squaw Peak in the dark.  Hopefully this will serve as a lesson learned, like forgetting hiking gloves for Camelback.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday at Squaw Typicality

Weather:  97° and sun

Time to summit:  ~28 minutes

About this hike:  Stop watch reset shortly after I started!! So the 28 minutes is an approximation, but close to accurate.  This was a quiet, uneventful Saturday Piestewa/Squaw Peak climb.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Patriotic Duty - Piestewa on the Fourth

Weather:  105° and dark

Time to summit:  ~40 minutes

About this hike:  This was my Fourth of July climb to see fireworks.  Surprisingly it wasn't very crowded.  I parked in a surrounding residential area, but probably could've nabbed a spot in the parking area directly in front of the Preserve's gates.  Speaking of, these were shut, but hike-in access was available (trails stay open until 11; it's parking that closes at sunset).

Once at the summit I could see fireworks from all over the Valley.  Scottsdale/PV had some nice ones, while Surprise, Glendale, and other West Valley cities could be seen off in the distance.  Indian Steele Park in downtown Phoenix had a decent show as well.

Trouble with watching fireworks from a distance is the lack of sensory experience.  They're small.  They're drown out by city lights.  You can't hear the booms and feel the reverb in your chest.  You can't smell the gunpowder (and have ashes rain down into your eyes!).

Am I glad I did this hike on the Fourth once?  Absolutely.  Would I do it again?  Not so sure.  On the way down I met some interesting people whom I assisted by lighting the way with my headlamp.  This scored me  a ride back to my distant parking spot in a Jag XF.  But that's another story...definitely a Fourth not to forget...

Indian Steele's Fireworks

I park far away--making sure I'm legal :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Camelback Cholla - Third Time's a Charm

Weather:  100° and sunny, minimal breeze

Time to summit:  35 minutes

About this hike:  Did this one impulsively.  I chose not to take my Saturday morning Piestewa hike due to the day's record heat warning.  Today wasn't much fact, a dust storm last night, fires to the north, and high heat makes for a bad air quality day.  But I'm stubborn.  The heat markedly slowed down what is otherwise a hike so easy I usually avoid it.  Regardless, it felt so good to get my boots back on Camelback Mountain and even better to enjoy that zen summit.  There were a few other diehards like myself on the trails.

Only my third time up Cholla, and I'm glad I took advantage of this Monday off work to go climb.  Until Echo re-opens...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday Morning Squaw/Piestewa Hike

Weather:  87°, overcast, slight breeze

Time to summit:  28 minutes

About this hike:  Cool (relatively speaking), got a parking space right by the trailhead, not too crowded...Should've been a record time to the summit.  Unfortunately my legs said otherwise, as I experienced quite a bit of fatigue today.  Could it have been the sleeping pill I took last night?  Didn't tie/beat 27 minutes...again.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Piestewa - Exhausted & Hot!

Weather:  95°, sunny, quickly rising temps

Time to summit:  31 minutes

About this hike:  Experienced a lot of fatigue and a lot of stops to rest.  This killed my time.  Very empty for a Saturday.  Otherwise uneventful

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hot, Uneventful Saturday Piestewa Climb

Weather:  92°, sunny, quickly rising temps

Time to summit:  29 minutes

About this hike:  Beat last Saturday's time by one lousy minute...but I'll take it.  Speaking of last Saturday, Channel 12 never showed the interview I did right after my hike.  I admit I was pretty gross looking (not clothed from the waist up), but I thought I gave a good interview for the camera.  They couldn't even have the decency to put the video on

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Piestewa Peak On TV...

Weather:  92°, sunny, quickly rising temps

Time to Summit:  30 minutes

About this hike:  First really hot hike of the season.  It took me 30 minutes to the top with a number of rest stops.  There was a rescue in progress when I got there, but the trail was still open.  Got interviewed by Channel 12 as I was coming off the mountain.  They asked me questions about the heat, how often I hike, what my records to the top are, what advice I'd give other hikers, etc.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pine Trailhead

Weather:  ~82°, sunny, slight breeze

About this hike:  I got inspired to take this hike almost by accident.  After leaving Natural Bridge State Park, I wasn't quite ready to drive home to Phoenix yet, and I found this trailhead on the map.  There is a clearly-signed, well-maintained Forest Service parking area.  No Tonto Pass is required.

This trailhead joins the Highline Trail, which runs for many miles across the Mogollon Rim, and is also part of the statewide Arizona Trail.  Several paths lead from the parking area.  I took a short walk along the Highline, where grassland eventually gave way to thicker ponderosa pine forest.  This trail runs pretty close to Highway 260, and the traffic noise let you know you weren't too deep into the wilderness.

I also did the Pineview trail, accessed from the Pine Trailhead.  A short hike leads to a wonderful vantage point for viewing the little town of Pine, Arizona.  Signs indicated there were springs further up the trail, but it had been a long day, and I still had a long drive back to Phoenix, so with that one last exhilarating view, I called it quits.

Panorama overlooking Pine from the Pineview Trail

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Weather:  82°, sunny, slight breeze

About this hike:  Hiked all the trails at Natural Bridge State Park.  The Pine Canyon trail runs along Pine Creek and to the bridge.  Signs advise that it is strenuous, which I laughed at, because state park trails are rarely that challenging.  I was in for a surprise.  Mostly rocky path through dry portions of the creek bed leads to the bridge, which you can go under.  That's where it really gets interesting.  The rocks are very slick, and water rains from the top of the bridge constantly. It's basically like a cave.  There is a beautiful blue-green pool of water under the bridge, and I nearly slid into it by accident (swimming is forbidden by signs).  With skull-like formations and stalagmites coming out of the top, the bridge is really a site to see.

I explored the other trails in the park, most of which were just short walks to vantage points.  Interpretive signs line the trails, including one that compares the Virginia Natural Bridge (I actually used to live right near there when I was in VA) to the Arizona one.  All told I spent three hours at Natural Bridge Park, and have to say, the $5 admission fee was well worth it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Horton Spring Trail

Weather:  82°, sunny, slight breeze

About this hike:  Horton Spring trail is just off Highway 260, near Kohl's Ranch (~20 miles north of Payson).  Trail head parking can get tight, but just up the road is a U.S. Forest Service -maintained paved parking area with plenty of spaces and latrines.  Best part is, no Tonto Pass needed to park here.    

It's 8-10 miles out and back from the Horton Spring Trailhead to the actual spring.  This hike was well worth it.  Mostly easy overland trails lead through magnificent ponderosa pine forest and alongside Horton Creek.  The trees must've been oozing sap during my visit, because the forest smelled very fragrant.

The trail ends at Horton Spring and you can actually see where the spring gushes from the side of the mountain.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Piestewa Peak

Weather:  ~82°, sunny, slight breeze

Time to Summit:  27 minutes

About this hike:  Barely made it in fact, it was practically 28.  Then again, I  was slowed by other hikers lumbering along plus a few stops to catch my breath.  Uneventful, but fun.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Piestewa Peak

Weather:  80°, sunny, slight breeze

Time to Summit:  28 minutes

About this hike:  I went backwards on my time!!! With the number of slower hikers I had to dodge, and a couple of heat-related breaks, I guess I should be happy I missed my old time by less than a minute.  Lots of lizards and a squirrel made me jump thinking they were rattle snakes or some other unkind desert wildlife.  Otherwise, a typical and uneventful hike up Piestewa Peak.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Two Hikes in as Many Weekends

Weather:  ~90°  & sunny

Time to Summit:  27 minutes

About this hike:  Did two Saturday hikes, one on April 20, and an evening hike on April 13.  Both times it took 27 minutes to the summit.  Sunset on the 13th was beautiful.  Otherwise these were easy, but uneventful hikes.  Piestewa Peak is quickly becoming to this season what Camelback was to last season.  At least parking's much easier and I can be on the trails after dark.  

Beautiful sunset

City lights from on high...look closely and you can see the radio towers atop South Mountain

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Piestewa Peak

Weather:  ~80°  & sunny

Time to Summit:  30 minutes

About this hike:  Uneventful Saturday morning hike at Piestewa Peak.  Unlike two Saturdays ago when it appeared cops were looking the other way, cars parked illegally on Squaw Peak Drive were being ticketed today.  Glad I discovered easy and legal parking in surrounding residential neighborhoods.  Spring wildflowers in the Preserve are absolutely beautiful.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Piestewa Peak by Night

Weather:  ~85°  & sunny

Time to Summit:  ~28 minutes

About this hike:  Hiked up for the sunset, which was disappointing.  Hiked down in the dark, but I came prepared with my headlamp.  Since Piestewa Peak trails are open until 11pm (parking area closes at sunset, oddly enough), there were numerous other hikers.  Seeing all the flashlights coming down the side of the mountain was pretty cool, like when everyone puts their phones up during a dark concert.  Oh, and to mitigate the parking issue, I left my car in a residential neighborhood just off Lincoln Drive.  Numerous other hikers were in violation of the no parking after sunset rule, but it didn't appear to be getting enforced.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Loved" My Hike Up Piestewa

Weather:  ~70° & rising. Sunny.

Time to Summit:  28 minutes

About this hike:  Haven't done Piestewa Peak since July (and even then I had some "excess baggage" that quit long before the summit!).  I did try a few weeks ago to access it via Dreamy Draw, but after over an hour of navigating labyrinthine trails that don't match the map (not a fan of Phoenix Mountain Preserve) and then finding the summit trail only to hit a "Trail Closed" sign, I gave up.

Had to fight for parking this morning, but learned that it is legal to park in the surrounding neighborhoods.  The Preserve (not the parking areas tho) stays open until 11pm.  I might have a use for that awesome hiking headlamp I bought last summer...

Despite having to dodge tourists and slow hikers, I made the summit in under 30 min.  While a few catch-my-breathe stops were necessary, Piestewa is almost too easy—Camelback please open again soon!!!

This morning a totally in love couple got engaged complete with picnic basket, wine, roses, candles and a ukulele.  Always something unique every hike...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Thompson Peak (~4K) is Off the List

Weather:  76° & sunny

About this hike:  Traffic  on the 101N to Gateway Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran was kind of heavy, but then again it's the weekend of Phoenix Open nearby in Scottsdale.  Parking was abundant at Gateway, and while the facilities are every bit as nice as Tom's Thumb, this one also has running water.

I have often gazed northward at the McDowells from atop Camelback wanting to conquer the mountain with the radio antennas on top (northward—don't confuse with South Mountain!).  I thought this was McDowell Peak, but I was mistaken—it's Thompson Peak.  Regardless, from the Gateway Trailhead it's a long hike up and over Bell Pass to the short Prospector Trail.  Prospector joins the service road that leads to the summit of Thompson Peak and the radio towers.

On the road up to Thompson Peak I encountered a MCSO deputy, but he ignored me, which is good as the language (road may be gated, county property), was unclear on whether or not hiking was allowed up there.  The maps all show the road and tell you the height of Thompson Peak, so I had to assume it was OK.  It was a very strenuous climb, and I nearly turned back at least once, but the view from on top is amazing.  The radio towers are massive and scary, and signs warn of radiation in the area.  I didn't stay at the top for long.

The surrounding scenery is typical Sonoran desert with saguaros, ocotillo, and lots of colorful rocks.  At times this hike was eerie quiet, and I saw some unidentified animal tracks on the trail.  Thankfully every so often I came across other hikers.  Being alone in this harsh desert can get scary.

Round trip, according to the maps I studied, I'd peg this hike at about 13 miles.  I am so glad to say I finally can check this one off the bucket list, but my gosh, I am so sore and paying for it tonight.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tom's Thumb

Weather:  75º & sunny

About this hike:  I’ve heard so much about what an interesting rock escarpment Tom’s Thumb is.  I’ve also heard the recently constructed Tom’s Thumb trailhead in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve makes a hike to it easy.  I just had to check it out for myself.

The trailhead, like the rest of McDowell Sonoran, is nothing short of amazing considering it’s free.  Make sure you look at the maps on City of Scottsdale’s website and follow them carefully to find the trailhead.  It’s on a remote portion of 128th St. way up in North Scottsdale.  Assuming you take the 101N, exit at Pima Rd. (the second Pima exit; there are two) and drive north for a while.  Turn right at Happy Valley Rd, right at Ranch Gate Rd, and one more right onto 128th St.  Reason I give these directions is because Google Maps, GPS systems, etc, will lead astray.  If you enter the address for the trailhead, you’ll end up on a ride through a gated community and to another gate with a big map posted that gives correct directions to Tom’s Thumb Trailhead.  Apparently this is a common problem.  Also note, Google will warn you that 128th St. is unpaved.  Since the construction of the new trailhead, this has changed.  It’s not great pavement, but it’s not dirt road either—easily passable in a sedan. 

Trailhead features paved parking, latrine toilets, interpretive signage, and seating areas.  There is no water at this time, but I noticed hookups on the building, so this may be coming.

I grabbed a map from one of the many boxes at the trailhead and hit Tom’s Thumb trail.  A challenging uphill climb, Tom’s Thumb is very smooth, well-graded trail.  I will admit the actual escarpment was nothing too special, but still glad I’ve done it.  After passing its namesake, Tom’s Thumb trail continues on for several miles and the desert scenery dramatically changes.  The soil shifts from sandy to a red color and from desert scrub to desert grassland.  However, I didn’t continue far beyond this. 

Returning to the trailhead, I also wanted to check out Marcus Landslide trail.  This path goes on for a few miles around what appears to be just more piles of rocks.  Interpretive signs along the way explain that this was a massive rockslide that literally toppled parts of the McDowell Mountains.  It also made some interesting rock formations.  The trail ends in a short loop and then returns to the trailhead.  Amazing views of mountains to the north and Superstition Mtn. and Weaver’s Needle to the east prevail throughout.  

Tom's Thumb up close

Tom's Thumb trailhead from high up on the trail 

Submarine Rock - Marcus Landslide trail

Saturday, January 5, 2013

First Camelback Climb of 2013 & Probably Last for a While...

Hike time:  35 min. to summit

Weather:  ~40º & sunny

About this hike:  Tough!! I don’t know if I’m out of shape after having not done this the past few weeks, or if the colder weather got to me or what. Parking lot was full, but it wasn't too busy and I didn't have to deal with traffic jams and loads of tourists. That said, my time today was awful. I experienced pain in my throat, ears, and head which I can only attribute to the cold.

Upon reaching the summit I got to enjoy the Christmas tree (a little late!) that I've seen every year now since 2011.  However, I was sick to my stomach, and also found myself breathing heavier than normal today.  It's disappointing when you consider I was conditioned to make this hike in the 100º heat of summer. Regardless, this is one of the last weekends to tackle Camelback Echo Canyon trail before it is closed and majorly improved, including the parking nightmare. A little pain is definitely worth it in the end.