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.