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Tom’s Thumb to Gateway Day Hike
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
December 23, 2017
by Tamar Gottfried
Trailblazers, all together. [photo by Kate]
back row: Yanis, mimi, Chris, Tom , Debbie, Tom , Ken
front row: Janet, Sandy, Li, Louis, Eileen , Tamar, Cecilia
not pictured: Kate

After a flurry of last minute cancellations due to the impending holiday, 15 Trailblazers met in North Scottsdale before dawn and quickly arranged carpools and car exchange partners and hiking groups. Group 1 with 7 members departed for the Tom’s Thumb Trailhead and Group 2 with 8 members left for Gateway Trailhead.

Group 1 rapidly got gear ready and left in the brisk cool weather to start the steep climb to the Thumb. We were not alone on the trail and even encountered a friendly great Dane in a festive sweater. We reached the saddle and five of us veered off the base of the Thumb, where we had great views of where we started and took a quick break.

Tom’s Thumb. [photo by Tamar]
Enjoying the view. [photo by Tamar]
Found a good spot over here. [photo by Tamar]
Our panorama from the top includes the Four Peaks. [photo by Tamar]
Lunch break. [photo by Kate]

We reunited with the other two hikers at the junction of the East End Trail, rated as “most difficult,” and started down the steep rocky decline. We looked up occasionally from watching our feet to appreciate views of Weaver’s Needle, the Superstition Ridgeline and even the Fountain Hills fountain in the distance. On this part of the journey, there were few other hikers.

Relieved to reach the bottom of this hill, we left on our detour on the Windmill Trail and after 0.4 miles, saw not only the remains of an ancient windmill, but our fellow hikers in Group 2, patiently waiting at an old dead tree that they had decorated with ornamental jackets, backpacks and other bright colors. We happily reunited, snacked, and posed for a large group photo before continuing onwards. We also exchanged keys.

A meeting of the minds. [photo by Kate]
Making our own Christmas tree at the Windmill on Windmill trail. [photo by Kate]

On the way back to the East End/ Bells Pass/ Windmill junction, we saw two javelinas running down and back up a nearby hillside. We stopped to shed another layer of clothing and parted ways.

Group 1 was quickly welcomed by another ascent to Bells Pass, with views of Four Peaks far away and Thompson Peak closer. After a brief windy rest at the pass, we started down yet again. By now we were getting a bit tired, and the trailhead couldn’t come soon enough.

Finally, we reached the well-groomed Gateway Trailhead and easily found the two cars that had been left for us. We drove back to the meeting place and were soon joined by our Group 2 hikers.

While some of us had to leave right away to attend to holiday matters, a bunch of us got yummy sushi, soup, and grilled fish and burgers and enjoyed them on the AJ’s patio. Our hiking efforts had earned us a nice hearty meal and a moment of rest before returning to the holiday bustle.

pictures from the group starting at Gateway Trailhead:
Trailblazers, all together at AJ’s. [photo by Tom]
Starting at the Gateway Trailhead. [photo by Tom]
On the Bell Trail. [photo by Tom]
View from the east end. [photo by Tom]
Kate, Ken, Li. [photo by Tom]
Chris at EE Saddle. [photo by Tom]
Cecilia and Debbie. [photo by Tom]
Tamar at the Windmill. [photo by Tom]
Group at Tom’s Thumb. [photo by Tom]
The hanging tree is only for jackets. [photo by Tom]
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated December 26, 2017