Green Boulder Hike (Lost Dutchman State Park)

February 22, 2015
Not specifically a birding day, I needed to get my body into hiking shape again and chose Green Boulder at the face of the Superstition Mountains as my destination in Lost Dutchman State Park.
After parking at the Saguaro Day Use area at 7:30 a.m., I walked west to Siphon Draw Trail, then south (upward) to Jacob’s Crosscut (east) to pick up Prospector’s View Trail.  Thus, I enjoyed a birder-paced trek on a gradual incline up to Green Boulder at 2580’ elevation, a climb of 580 feet.

From the beginning birds and early-blooming wildflowers were all around me. I spotted an American Kestrel on top of a distant saguaro and tried for a photo.  

Penstemon and Brittle Bush
 As I trekked higher, the breeze turned to wind and bird songs changed.  No longer was the Black-throated Sparrow with me; it was now a Rock Wren singing.  When I reached the top of the trail at Green Boulder, a Canyon Wren’s cascading song greeted me.  Also here, was a Canyon Towhee that showed itself for me as I paused for a drink and to enjoy the view.

Canyon Towhee
Looking back toward the campground at the State Park, I snapped this photo showing how it is tucked between the Superstition and Goldfield Mountains.

At the top of the trail, I took time to stretch my knees (grasping an ankle and pulling the lower leg up behind me, heel to buttocks).  The descent looked much steeper than I recalled!  But, this was training my body so I went for it.  Next time I’ll use the walking stick that lives in my car!  Not only was it steep, the path downward started out with loose gravel and buried rock.  Yikes!  Balancing my binoculars and camera in my hands, I then needed to balance my body through this rather daunting (for me) part of the descent.  When I finally reached a somewhat flat portion in the middle of the steep drop, I lifted my binoculars once more to look back up above the Superstition Mountains. This time I saw four White-throated Swifts flying about up there.  (Had been hoping for a Golden Eagle!)

As I dropped down to a more gradual and safer part of the trail, I smiled at the tinkling sound of Black-throated Sparrows.  I was back in their territory.  Then, I heard a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, one of my favorite birds.  I glanced around and noticed it sitting out on a bare limb of a bush.  I hadn’t even called it and there it was.  I watched it for a while and it didn’t move, daring me to go for the photo op.  I did!  Notice how its mostly black under tail has some white ovals on it.  (The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher’s under tail differs in that it is mostly white underneath with a black stripe up the middle.)

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
 From this location, I also took a photo of hikers coming up the trail.  

As you can see, the trail would soon become quite safe and I reached my car two hours from start time.  Not only was it a good hike; it was good birding as well!

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