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.