Hiking: Bootleggers Trail, Scottsdale, Arizona

  • Address: 31402 N. 136th St., Scottsdale, AZ
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily
  • Amenities: Passenger vehicle and horse trailer parking. NO RESTROOMS OR WATER

A couple of days ago I wrote about capturing my first “decent” photograph of a Phainopepla while hiking along the Bootlegger Trail off of the Granite Mountain Trailhead which is part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kudos to the citizens of Scottsdale for fostering efforts to support the acquisition of desert lands to be kept in their natural desert form. As you may imagine the population growth in the southwest is booming and native desert is disappearing fast. Land put aside to remain undeveloped is a treasure that can be enjoyed by everyone.

We have hiked other areas of the McDowell Mountain Presserve, but this was the first time at this particular location and we were not disappointed. Below is the view just a few yards away from the parking area.

View from the parking area

What helps to make this area somewhat unique and interesting are the boulders and boulder formations that populate the trail.

Numerous boulders along the trail

As we began to head west, the distant hills loomed large before us.

Granite hills rise up in the distance as we begin the hike.

The essence of the area really cannot be captured in individual photos so I hope the panorama below provides a sense of the expansive, hilly terrain.

A panorama reveals the full scope of the vista

To see a larger version of the panorama, click HERE

This was just one of the many boulder formations we studied as we hiked along the trail.

Interesting boulder formation

Boulder fields with rocks piled on top of each other often surrounded the trail.

Boulder fields with piles of rocks

As we hiked, I spotted a bird atop the granite hill far in the distance. Unfortunately my telephoto lens was not long enough to acquire a very detailed photo, but my guess is that it was a Harris’s Hawk (see the second image).

A distant bird; I think a Harris's Hawk

Closer view of the hawk

This is a description of the Harris’s Hawk from All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

“A handsome hawk of the arid Southwest, Harris’s Hawk is a standout with bold markings of dark brown, chestnut red, and white, long yellow legs, and yellow markings on its face. The most social of North American raptors, these birds are often found in groups, cooperatively attending nests and hunting together as a team. When hunting, a group of hawks surround their prey, flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it. This hawk’s social nature and relative ease with humans has made it popular among falconers and in education programs. “

While this trail is listed as moderate, we are inclined to label it more appropriately as easy. There were some inclines and the path does lead up to the distant hills, but we didn’t find any sections that we felt were strenuous.

Picture of the saguaros in the foreground of the mountains

More pretty boulders with the mountains in the background

The desert is a very harsh environment and death is often in evidence. Once stately saguaros often succumb to damage or drought. Even in death, they grace the area and give evidence to the beauty that is the desert.

Dead saguaro still graces the desert

This was a lovely area with the saguaro straight ahead and the boulder formation off to the right in the shade. There was a small “window” in the bottom, middle portion of the rock formation which enabled us to get a peek of the upcoming distant vista.

A bend in the path with a saguaro and boulder formation

As desert gardeners and proponents of native vegetation we always enjoy seeing clusters of greenery in areas that receive scant rainfall.

Green desert plants contrast with all the brown rocks and land.

At the start of the trail and then again as hikers make their way back toward the parking area, there are distant views of desert mountains and nearby housing developments.

Another set of mountains can be seen off to the south-southeast

We plan to return to the Granite Mountain Trailhead to take other hikes that lead to different areas of this interesting region.

  • Length: 2.9 miles
  • Elevation change: 175 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Use: hiking, biking and horseback riding


Read more Hiking and Exploration posts HERE


All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

© Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017 – JBRish.com

Birds of Arizona – Phainopepla ( Phainopepla nitens )

Yesterday was an interesting day for me as the weather prediction was not excellent, but still fair and relatively mild with a predicted high in the low 80’s and we were eager to take a hike. We decided to select a route off of the Granite Mountain Trailhead (The Bootlegger Trail) which is part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve.

Whenever I hike, I anticipate capturing a picture of a bird that is either better than one that I currently have of that bird or, as a bonus, a bird for which I do not have a picture.

I have seen many Phainopeplas, but I have never been able to take a good picture of one. I also know that this is the time of the year that they visit the Sonoran Desert. I spotted one just 100 yards from my backyard a few days ago, but it was not in a very nice setting so I passed.

Today I was able to take a “starter picture” of a Phainopepla that we spotted along the Bootlegger Trail. I am labeling this a starter because I am hoping to capture a photograph that is even better one of these days!

As I have stated on this blog before, I am an amateur photographer with very limited bird photography experience and just a bit more as a birder. The only camera I have with a long reach is my Canon PowerShot SX50HS and that is the equipment I used for the shot below.

Phainopepla captured at the McDowell Mountain Preserve
Phainopepla captured at the Granite Mountain Trailhead along the Bootlegger Trail which is part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Phainopeplas remind me of Cardinals or Waxwings because of their sleek profile and the tuft. Males are black while females are more grey. Interestingly enough, they have a red eye which is very striking and not always easy to capture in a photograph. I am placing a cropped image below to show more detail even though it may not be as sharp as I would like.

Phainopepla captured at the McDowell Mountain Preserve
A cropped version of the image above

Now I have one more picture for my collection!

Read more about Phainopeplas HERE


File Name: 000017_IMG_0806.CR2
Capture time: 9:28:51 AM
Capture date: November 15, 2017
Exposure: 1/500 sec @ f/7.1
Focal Length: 215mm
ISO: 80
Canon PowerShot SX50HS
Lens: 4.2-215mm
Edited in Lightroom

See previous JBRish posts about birds HERE



All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017