As we approached the entrance gate to Picacho Peak State Park a nice twenty something ranger greeted us. “Good afternoon, do you have a reservation?” “Yes, Harris, site B-4, two nights.” “Hold please,” a few moments later, “Got it, please hang this from your rear view mirror, and here’s a brochure.” Looking for something to do in the afternoon I asked, “Do you have any hikes here?” He lit up with that question. “Oh yes, my favorite is Hunter Trail. It’s two miles to the summit. There are cables but they are mostly for balance so bring gloves. I did it with my buddies from college just yesterday, on my day off of course. Let me show you where it is on the map.”
As we were driving to our site we decided that sounded like a nice little afternoon hike. Next thing you know it was 3pm and I said, “We better get going or we’ll be chasing daylight.” So we gave chubby Sara a kong with kibble and peanut butter, jumped in the truck, and drove the mile to the trailhead. We filled our camelbacks, grabbed our biking gloves, and started hiking.
We were less than a half mile into the hike and we started seeing cables. We didn’t put on our gloves, hell we didn’t even grab the cable. I’m thinking what’s the big deal, granted it’s steep and the quads are getting worked, but there’s no need to use the cables.
The mass majority never make it to the peak. They turn around at the saddle when they see you have to suddenly descend a long way with cables, and then obviously go up again to get to the peak. We started the initial descent, but yielded to an energetic 12 year old kid who was coming up. Wondering what lies ahead, we asked the kid. He responded all wild-eyed, “Craziest hike ever, good luck. Some parts are straight up and super scary, good luck, good luck.” Five minutes later we ran into his parents. My thoughts were, ok, if they did it we certainly can, even if they are twenty years younger!
We are finally getting close to the peak and both pondering how we are going to get down. Do you go down backwards like on a ladder? One more corner, here we go, the summit! And bam! All I see is a big breast full of milk with a 6 month old latched on. We both try to be polite and look away. Mom continues to milk and starts chatting us up. So does the father of her child. What a couple they were! It’s just another day for them. They do the hike all the time. Last year before the kid, they summited with all three of their dogs, not little dogs, big dogs. He would load one dog up at a time on his back, get through the treacherous cables and catwalk, go back down to get the next dog, then repeat again. Holy f’n cow!
And now it’s time to descend.
It was dark when we finally got down. It’s been about twenty years since I did Angel’s Landing in Zion. My recollection isn’t totally clear, but this hike seemed a lot more difficult and hairy. The peak is only 3,374 ft, but can be seen from downtown Tucson 45 miles away. Total elapsed time for the less than 4 mile hike was 2 hours and 40 minutes, with 2,403 ft of elevation gain. Once a peak has been summited you look at it in a totally different light. Doesn’t matter the peak, Whitney, White, Elbert, even Iron, Woodson and Black Mountain in San Diego County. There’s a real satisfaction and smile when looking up at it. The entire next day I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Picacho.