A few people told me that the McDowell Mountains are a very nice place to hike and I’ve been interested in visiting there for a while. I learned a bit more about them from a lady who is in the All Trails Club with the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a group that oversees and cares for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. She was the keynote speaker at a recent meeting for the Arizona Association of Environmental Professionals. The speaker was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the Preserve and she inspired me to really want to visit. I’ve been looking for a place to explore that is somewhat nearby; has an enjoyable drive to and from the location; doesn’t get the quantity of visitors that several of the City of Phoenix trails do; and sort of a home base place to go – this could be the place.
I was hoping to park at the most northeastern section of the Preserve on East 136th Street in Scottsdale but I was thwarted by a sign that read “Private Road” as the pavement came to an end. Luckily, about a quarter mile before I had passed a trailhead and parking area that didn’t look too busy. This was the Granite Mountain Trailhead and I hiked north from there to the crested saguaro at the intersection of the Coyote Canyon and Soapberry Wash trails. It was a beautiful, sunny day that wasn’t too hot.
I believe the birds were thoroughly enjoying the weather as well. Phainopepla’s appeared to be blissfully chasing each other about and doing what I believe were courtship displays by flying straight up and then straight down , perhaps in front of a mate or to show dominance of a territory. Cactus wrens and Gambel’s quail were also very vocal and one of my favorite sights of the day was seeing a northern cardinal proudly singing at the top of a very tall saguaro; northern cardinals are not very common in Arizona like they are in the Northeast.
This was a great day on the trails and I finished it up at my cousin’s home for Easter dinner.