ARIZONA – MCDOWELL SONORAN PRESERVE
Photo Experience: My first time at this location was, indeed, a pleasant surprise. The city of Scottsdale is to be commended for creating and maintaining this area. Most of my time here was spent in the Gateway section, although I briefly visited the Sunrise and Ringtail trailheads. The Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve contains a number of trails. I found the Saguaro, the Bajada Loop, the Saguaro Loop, the 104th Street, and the Levee Trails all to have worthwhile opportunities that involve various species of cacti, their blooms, and views of the McDowell Mountains. None of these paths are difficult, although most of them involve a bit of elevation gain. The most important suggestion I would have is to be there early, certainly for optimal lighting but also to be outside in the coolest part of the day. I also found that walking the Desert Park Trail provided some interesting possibilities for sunset silhouettes.
Other Info: Several cautions:
a. Be careful of cacti needles. I speak from experience when I say that having your skin pierced by them is not a fun experience. Be especially wary of Teddy Bear Cholla. The moniker “Jumping Cholla” is well-deserved – they seem to come out of nowhere to imbed themselves in your clothing, your skin, your shoes, or the rubber feet of your tripod legs.
b. Stay hydrated, both internally by taking along and consuming water when you are outside and externally by putting moisturizing lotion on your skin.
c. Use sunscreen.
d. Wear a hat.
There are restrooms at the Gateway Trailhead. Scottsdale has lots of close-by accommodation and restaurant options.