December 31st, 2016 ~ Day 281
From the moment I arrived to begin this hike, I was in awe. Driving through the park there was a vast expanse of desert with mountains surrounding me in all directions. The landscape damp from all the recent rains. An absolutely beautiful place to be!
I have never been to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, nor had I ever realized it existed until I looked up some information on the 100 miles in 100 days challenge. I knew there were ten Maricopa County Parks and I want to explore each one for this challenge, even if only in a few short miles. So for today I headed to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, driving an hour from my house to the trailhead to explore new territory.
I parked at the Visitor Center on the main road a couple miles from the park entrance. My intent was to do the Scenic Trail Loop. I had no idea where I was going so when I stopped at the visitor center, I found out I could get to the Scenic Trail from Tortoise Trail, which happened to begin from the visitor center. So I grabbed my bag and headed out on the sandy trail through the desert just as the rain began.
I hiked the Tortoise Trail for a half mile or so through intermittent sprinkles. The scenery surrounding me was spectacular. The creosote bushes were so tall. There were patches of grass all throughout the desert. Different plants that I have never seen. I even saw a jackrabbit along the trail.
I soon turned onto the Pemberton Trail and cut over through a parking lot to get onto the Scenic Trail, my intended hike. As soon as I got on the trail I saw this fence and took a picture. This has to be one of my favorite pictures. I just love all the colors displayed.
Hiking along the Scentic Trail there was so many colors to see. The rain had stopped but the sky stayed overcast. I continued to see patches of grass. I have never realized in the nine years I’ve been in Arizona, how green the grass can be in December. It’s the last day of the year and we have grass growing! Amazing!
The trail was made of small sandy pebbles, a well maintained trail, and with the rain it made it much easier to hike through rather than the mud. I came across a few puddles from the rain and had to dodge them. Beautiful in their own right, especially when there isn’t much water to see here. The sun was beginning to peak out through some of the clouds too.
I continued on and as I took a photo of a drop of rain on a branch, I heard them, coyotes howling. Frozen in fear, I listened, the sound coming from the direction I was headed. I stayed there for a moment deciding what to do, until I decided to turn around and head back to the trailhead. I have heard coyotes won’t bother you, but being alone in the middle of the desert isn’t where I’d like to find out.
I made it back to the trailhead in one piece as the sun started peaking out even more. I’m grateful for the three and a half miles I was able to complete. Today was just the beginning of what I plan to explore in this park. I can now say that this is one of my favorite places to hike!