According to the signs along the trail, the Marcus Landslide occurred 500,000 years ago, which is before we moved to Arizona. The landslide itself was only discovered in 2002 by a couple of graduate students who named it after a geology professor who died while leading students on a field trip. The estimates are that the original height of the area was 4100 feet (taller than any of the other McDowells) and that 25.8 billion pounds of debris fell 1300 feet and spread out over an area 4000 feet long and 1650 feet wide. It’s a bit unusual in that the slide spread out over a much longer area than the height of the fall, making the resulting landslide less obvious. In addition to the scenery I love the trail because of the wildlife, it’s a fantastic spot for seeing phainopepla in the winter and with all the boulders I’m hoping an excellent spot for lizards now that they are out of hibernation.
First light falls on the California poppies and Coulter’s lupines blooming in front of the rock formation I call the Guardian. Haven’t had much time and/or energy for hiking the past few weeks but thankful I was able to get out for a few hours last week to see the desert in bloom. This was my first time seeing the Sonoran Desert bloom like this. The picture below is from a few minutes earlier in a slightly different position, clouds in the east mostly blocked the sunrise light but a little bit of red light fell upon the landscape before coming on strong for a few minutes as shown above. I like them both.
We arrived in Arizona a year ago today, how thankful I am we ended up in this wonderful place.
The first bird I saw from the backyard of the new house was a male phainopepla, sitting in a tree in a narrow wash beside our yard. That’s a new one for me, I’ve seen quite a few birds in the backyard of our rental house but until now the phainopepla I had only seen on the trails. I saw this male on the Marcus Landslide Trail where they were numerous this winter, I haven’t been back recently but will soon as the trailhead is only a 10 minute drive from the new house.
In December I arrived when the Tom’s Thumb trailhead opened so I could hoof it out as quickly as possible to photograph this bank of chain fruit cholla before sunrise, with my beloved Guardian looking out over the desert in the background. At that time of year I can hike as fast as I can without worrying about surprising a rattlesnake as they are still hibernating. My favorite shot turned out to be the first one of the desert bathed in the soft blue light before the sun rose above the mountains behind me, but I also like the one below of the same scene bathed in the red light of sunrise.