A few left and right turns for several miles takes you off Thompson Peak Parkway, and into a well-considered trailhead approach and parking area at the Gateway Trailhead of the vast McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
First, you drive by one of a pair of attractive walls along the parkway, a generously wide walking path of decomposed granite (DG) in front.
3,974 foot elevation Thompson Peak, with the antennas on top, is distant center. That late “winter” view is stunning, even from the Google Van’s street view!
Once parked, you walk through the open, breezy shelter that was awarded LEED Platinum for the design. The design team included a landscape architect, who had their desert eyes on. They had sensitivity for what makes the Sonoran Desert or any arid land great! It’s so harmonious with the natural place.
The upward swoop of the roof line soars into the blue, the sound of crunchy DG walking.
The use of concrete for seat and other walls, plus structural elements for the rammed earth in columns, works well.
The gap in this wall is probably for drainage out.
What a cool spot for a mini ampitheater, as it defines “only go off the trail here” using the seat walls. The curved forms are a good contrast to the angular mountains and verticals of saguaros.
That smooth DG gives way to the majority of the trail system I saw, small desert rocks left. While not a trail designer, my years of mountain biking the ABQ foothills saw a few places where the small rock was removed, called “sanitizing”.
While smoothing out riding, that sanitizing practice mostly takes away from riders developing technical skills, and it can cause increased erosion of the trail surface.
Until I’m ready to go home, I’ll gradually get better at hiking through rockier sections of trail, though I have to be careful. The small elevation gains are what I can handle, though I might be able to increase those in the next 2 months. I’ll still seek out more smooth trail lengths, as I build back my strength, balance, and stamina.
Some of that may be at the Phoenix Mountains Preserve instead of here.
Expansive views into North Scottsdale are made better across a larger stand of Teddy Bear or Jumping Cholla / Cylindropuntia biglovii. Leafy low desert shrubs like Jojoba / Simondsia chinensis grow more often along arroyos at the drier end of their range.
Notice the differences in the ribs on Saguaro / Carnegia gigantea vs. ribs on their large Compass Barrel / Ferocactus cylindraceus…
Mountain bike tracks…
Good to emphasize these warnings…
Their trail signage is among the best I’ve seen in public open space.
“Hyper-summer” began late in the low desert, but it’s here until I return home with lows about to stay around 80-85F. I intend to continue hiking different trails, though starting at sunrise.
Do you have natural areas you can easily access, which inspire your person and gardening instincts, for your immediate climate and vegetation?
Or do you have that but plan ahead to avoid dangerous weather conditions like here?