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Posts tagged ‘north access’

High in the McDowells

With help from my favorite hiking partner, Chris, I finally made it to the highest point in the McDowell Mountains yesterday (4069ft). We started at 4:45am from the North Access and followed a climber’s trail through Mesquite Canyon, up over the 3 Svens, past Marcus Landslide and then up to East End. There’s a Geo cache hidden in the rocks up there with an “I made it” book and I was stoked to be able to add my name 🙂 Rather than go back the way we came, we then followed another climber’s route over to the Tom’s Thumb trail which took us back to the trail head. Four hours and a little more than 1500 ft elevation gain….it was awesome!

We saw deer and the remains of a deer which reminded us there are Mountain Lions up there but we didn’t see one (I was disappointed!). We did, however, see this guy which was pretty cool too. We had stopped to look at the view and after a few minutes, I did what a good photographer should always do and that is to turn around and shoot in the other direction too. This is what I saw. I was so excited I could hardly hold my camera still and wished I could have stayed to see him take off.

Sigma 18-250mm OS (perfect lens for long hikes), ISO 400, f/8, 1/640th sec.

Stomping Ground

Here’s a view from our favorite stomping ground over to our second favorite stomping ground. All within minutes of our house. Love AZ 🙂 CLICK HERE to see a larger version.


Another Tortoise rock face greets us up near Toms Thumb. It was a flat image so I applied a little color/contrast punch using Topaz filters.

Rock Knob Tortoise

My willing climber gives perspective to the Rock Knob Tortoise (on right) and a Giant Head (left).

Marcus Landslide Sunrise

Sunrise over the Marcus Landslide (the rippling ground at the end of the rays) as seen from Sven Tower II. A little chilly this morning but totally worth it. Thanks, Chris, for being my Sherpa. 🙂

Climbing in the North Preserve

The north area of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has fantastic climbing opportunities and Chris spent most of yesterday trying out some of them. The climbers refer to these boulder areas as walls. The one pictured here is called Half and Half Wall. I call it Sleeping Dragon (does anyone else see it?!). From a distance, the climbing doesn’t look that steep but check out the inset image. (Another climber took this shot of Chris just before I got mine). If you’re not familiar with climbing, the ropes are there to catch you if you fall and then used to rappel down. The rest of the time, the climber uses only his hands and feet to get up.

The Arizona Mountaineering Club worked with the City of Scottsdale for five years to work out a plan for access to climbing in the Preserve. Read more HERE.

August Wildflowers

August Wildflowers on North Access to Tom's Thumb trailA summary of the Wildflowers I spotted on Sunday’s hike to Tom’s Thumb. Learn more about these and other Wildflowers in the Preserve in WILDFLOWERS and more.


After the 4th fire engine went by our neighborhood, I looked out the window and got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw the smoke on top of the mountains. I jumped in the car and just 4 miles away I got there in time to see them dropping slurry and water on the ridge that includes Toms Thumb (scroll down for video link). Because of the expertise of our firefighters, the fire was contained to just 200 acres. Whew! The probably cause was electrical sparks from construction on a house at the base of the mountain. Wildfire is a constant threat in the summer and with two thirds of Scottsdale being either Preserve or natural area open space (NOAS), these fires can be a real threat to homes. The last fire that came dangerously close to the neighborhoods up here was in 1995, the year we moved here. That fire destroyed thousands of acres of pristine desert. A real heartbreak. VIDEO:

Video captured with Canon SX1 IS