Thursday, December 5, 2013

Scottsdale: Hiking through Old West History

Just a mile and a half north of Pinnacle Peak and the Four Seasons Resort we found ourselves at the end of the road, looking out over a vast expanse of undeveloped land; land, a sign told us, that was once part of Mexico.

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The road we had driven to get here – past numerous housing developments that make up this area in north Scottsdale --  had once been the route of cattle drives.

PicMonkey Collage

We were at Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, the newest section of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  A grand opening celebration took place only weeks before our arrival although the trails that loop through this area have been open since June.

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Once home to a sprawling cattle ranch, this newest recreational facility in the area has a large information center (pictured above),water (for humans and their furry friends), restrooms, an equestrian staging area, 200-car parking lot with plenty of handicapped spaces and parking for two-dozen horse trailers.








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The Trailhead offers some 60 miles of non-motorized, multi-use – hike, bike and equestrian – trails; from beginner to intermediate.  There is even a wheelchair-accessible Jane Rau Trail loop that leaves the main trail near the entrance and provides a scenic loop over the acreage. So many trails to choose from that  it could take days or weeks to try them all out!

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Many lead to, over and around gently rolling hills, Brown’s Mountain, Granite Mountain, Cone Mountain, Cholla Mountain and Balanced Rock.

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We set out to hike up Brown’s Mountain, (the one on the right in the photo above), on a Thursday morning.  You can tell from this empty parking lot that we nearly had the place to ourselves. In fact, we saw six people during the two hours we were on the site of the former ranch.

ScottsdaleNov2013 013A series of switchbacks led up the eastside
                            of the mountain, one of two dormant
 volcanic sites in Scottsdale.


We wore tennis shoes as we’d left our hiking boots home and did just fine until we almost reached the top.

A sign posted at the last portion of the trail -- a steep, narrow trail -- coupled with watching three others with hiking poles slip-sliding their way down, caused us to pass on the last 0.2 miles.










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So we paused near the top for photos (to prove ‘60-somethings’ can still climb mountains) and then it was down the other side to explore more of the land that made up the ranch established by E.O. Brown in 1916 and run by his sons until the 1960’s.

PicMonkey Collage

We found just rusted remains of the ranch in the area we walked. . .

PicMonkey Collage

. . .which fueled our imaginations about life in the real “old West” – not the one we grew up watching on black and white televisions – and sparked plans to return on our next visit to explore a bit further!

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If You Go:
 Brown’s Ranch Trailhead’s address is: 30301 North Alma School Parkway, Scottsdale, Arizona. To get there, take Scottsdale Road or Pima Road north to Dynamite Blvd. Head east on Dynamite. At Alma School Road turn left, and head north.

The loop route we followed was about seven miles in length.  We found this hike to be far less congested than the popular Pinnacle Peak trail and far less difficult than the Tom’s Thumb Trail, also just down the road.

ScottsdaleNov2013 036That’s it for Travel Photo Thursday at TravelnWrite, so saddle up and head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travels.

33 comments:

  1. What a wonderful place to explore, so different from my world, I love the starkness and vast plains...beautiful!

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    1. Hi there, Yes, you have a far more lush and tropical world than the southwestern desert. . .we are looking forward to heading your way in January!

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  2. There are some iconic "western" photos in this batch. Very interesting.

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    1. Thanks for visiting Jan. I'll head over to your blog as soon as I get back to Seattle this weekend!

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  3. Oh, that's too bad that you had to pass up on the last leg.
    This is the landscape I imagine in the west.

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    1. It really is the wild, wild untamed kind of wild west, that's for sure, Marcia!

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  4. Such a beautiful area with fascinating terrain. I'd love to go hiking and exploring there. :-)

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    1. It is beautiful in its own rather stark way. . .I am finding that it grows on me with each visit.

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  5. Jackie,

    Kudos to you and Joel for climbing that mountain, like REAL cowboys/girls!!

    Enjoyed these dramatic pics, Jackie, thank you!

    Poppy

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    1. Poppy, we have 'trained' on the hillsides above Chora Sfakia and Loutro! And doing this hike keeps us in shape for next year's climbs in Crete!!! (Can hardly wait, by the way). Thanks for the visit and happy week ahead. Jackie xx

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  6. I think I would have also skipped doing the last 0.2 miles if I saw better equipped people sliding on the trail. Do any stables nearby do guided trail rides? That would be a very Western way to see this former ranch.

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    1. I didn't see any advertisements for trips through this particular area, but they do offer trail rides in the countryside surrounding Scottsdale. Good idea for them though, there is just too much ground to cover in a short amount of time on foot! Thanks for visiting today.

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  7. We hope to head that way this winter. Great to know about about hiking options.

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    1. Think you would really enjoy them all. And thanks for the visit today, looks like Google finally let you comment. Hope you'll be back -- I need to register on your blog so that I can leave comments there for you.

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  8. I love that image of the housing development vs the cattle drive - it really captures what life in the real “old West” must have been like.

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    1. It was amazing to think that the road through the suburbs was once the route of the cattle drives; the interpretive center there is absolutely one of the best!

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  9. Great to know about this hike Jackie as I'd been thinking about checking out the Pinnacle Peak trails. I'm in Scottsdale on the 24th for a week and although I'd like a few do nothing days I'd also like several half day hikes. Thanks for the heads up.

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    1. I thought of you and your upcoming trip the minute I saw this place. You'd be able to fill all your extra time here, but don't miss Pinnacle Peak! Wish we were going to overlap down there -- maybe next year! I've enjoyed your tales from California.

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  10. Hi Jackie! This looks like a great day out. I don't blame you for missing the top :)

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    1. Now that you've met me, you can understand why I didn't shoot for the top right? Not quite that 'in to' fitness and the out-of-doors! ;-)

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  11. The last time I was in Scottsdale, it seemed we spent most of the time at a mall. This looks like more fun. Do you think it would be even something to consider during the summer? And, I have to ask --- did you see any snakes or scorpians?

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    1. I'd definitely go early in the morning in the summer and take plenty of water, sunscreen and a cell phone just in case of emergency. Don't know if you noticed on the sign in this post, but each directional sign also has an emergency locator number that you can use to direct rescue folks to you in the event of a medical or other emergency. As for the snakes and scorpions, we didn't see either on this section of groomed trail, but there are other trails that weave through rocks and boulders and there I'd be on high alert for those sun-bathing reptiles and other critters. Thanks for visiting, Suzanne!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Suzanne. I am heading to your page soon!

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  13. I love vast open plains - which is why I guess I love Oz so much!
    The sound of the wind whistling though sparse vegetation - and the smell of space ;)

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    1. You nailed it . . .the wind and the expanse. . .much like looking at the ocean and again realizing what a teeny-tiny blip you are in the universe!

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  14. I always enjoy the desert. We haven't spent a lot of time in Scottsdale but we had fun roaming the old town district.

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    1. We really just 'discovered' the Old Town on this last trip and plan to head back on our next. . .it is so interesting to visit the galleries and shops there! Thanks for visiting Patti.

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  15. I've always wanted to do a trip like that. You've inspired me to finally do it.

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    1. Oh, that is great, Michelle. Hopefully you will write about the experience!

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  16. We mainly pedaled but we liked the option to switch to electric. It was just the two of us on the tour and that was nice. wellington electric bikes

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Glad you stopped by today and took the time to leave a note. Hope we'll hear from you often!

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