Picacho Peak Hike: December 30, 2016


The view of Picacho Peak heading west on I-10.  Like most peaks it looks different depending on the viewing angle.  This is the most dramatic view.


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.



Here’s the view of the peak from the Hunter Trail trailhead.


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.



This is after the initial cables.  And about when Amelia let out a “Damn, I have my zumba shoes on, not my hiking ones.”  I’m thinking how many shoes do you have…



The view of I-10 before the saddle.


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!



The descent brings you down the backside to this intersection.  Now the fun begins.


Fun?  Amelia is seriously pondering turning around.  As you go up you can’t help but to think, damn I have to go down this.


Nice little healthy grove of saguaros between the two steep cabled sections.


Here’s the next precarious section.  And this picture does not give you the true steepness.


The catwalk.  White knuckling the cable.


Southern view, still not at the top yet.


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!



View of the Catalina Mountains from the summit.


Photo courtesy of the guy that puts dogs on his back and summits.


Ominous clouds in the south.  The dogs on his back guy takes nice photos.


He also likes stacking cairns!


And now it’s time to descend.



Being limber and strong helps. There’s a lot of stretching to reach the next foothold.


The descent was easier than our minds worked it up to be, but it was still scary steep.


Luckily it was dead calm.  Strong winds would have really scared the poop out of us!


Chasing daylight!  We are off of the steep descent, up next the steep ascent to the saddle.


Amelia and her zumba shoes, pulling on the cable up to the saddle.


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.

Airstreaming Arizona: December 26, 2016 – January 1, 2017


Saguaro, pronounced Sa-WAH-ro. Native to the Sonoran Desert and just plain ol’ cool.


We spent a wonderful week in Arizona.  Our friends Georgie, Sara’s boyfriend, Diego, and Greg, or as we affectionally call him Old Man Birch (OMB) were able to join us.  They came out in their truck & camper.  It’s always fun to share the road and adventure with friends.  We stayed in three different spots: Yuma, Catalina State Park, and Picacho Peak State Park.

Like most places in Arizona, Yuma is hotter than Hades in the summer, but habitable in the winter.  The snowbirds love it there.  The population swells by 100,000 during the winter.  The retirees flock in, mostly in RVs, and take up residence in the many RV Parks.  The only time we ever shop at Walmart is when we spend the night in their lot.  It only seems right to spend a little money since they allowed us to stay overnight for free.  The Walmart where we stayed in Yuma had a greeter who was a snowbird from Minnesota and the guy who helped me in the RV/camping department was from Michigan.  He always winters in Yuma.  Both of these guys were easily in their mid 70s and happy to not be in the snow.

Catalina State Park gives you a lot of elbow room.  The space between sites was almost like boondocking in a popular area, but with electricity and water!  There’s a time for boondocking and a time for being hooked up.  The dead of winter, cold weather, and anything above 90 degrees warrants a hook up.  Two years ago we were here and it was stupid cold and we were dumb, staying at a site without electricity.  Lesson learned.  This state park and Picacho Peak both include hot showers with the price.  No hoarding quarters to feed into a slot for a timed shower.  It’s kind of strange having unlimited water usage in the desert, but I guiltily enjoyed it.  Amelia, she enjoys showering in the Airstream.  One more tidbit about Catalina, people from Salida, Colorado love it.  Both of our trips here we’ve ran into people from that small town.

Picacho Peak State Park is right off the I-10.  It’s between nowhere and nothing.  It’s a nice campground, but really just a one or two night max stop.  If you are fit, limber, agile, and not afraid of heights it’s definitely worth the stop, if for nothing else, to hike to the peak.  That’ll be the next post!


There’s three Walmarts in Yuma.  The best one to stay at is off of exit 9.  We landed a choice spot.



Birders are kind of a goofy bunch.  I’m a birder.  Georgie and I went on a guided group birdwatch our first morning in Catalina.  I added three birds to my life list.  Gila Woodpecker, Pyrrhuloxia, and Rufous-winged Sparrow.  Birds 313, 314, & 315.  According to our guide some birders fly in from all over and pay top dollar to see a Rufous-wing.


Our Catalina State Park site.



Amelia, Georgie, and a big old saguaro.


Beautiful sunset in Catalina State Park.  Some followers will get a kick out of my sweatshirt.


It was one of those sunsets that just kept giving.


Winter equals those dreaded short days and dark nights.


And playing games to pass time in the evening.  This a a crazy game called Suspend.


Awesome sunrise at Catalina.


Can you see OMB and Diego?


Upclose shot of a rock in the Montrose pools.


Montrose pools.


Reflecting upon 2016.


Our Picacho Peak State Park site.  I’m declaring us officially proficient at backing in.  Amelia does the driving and I hardly have to guide.  We were giddy like a couple of teenagers when she wheeled it right into the spot.


The view of Picacho Peak while heading east on I-10.


Evening pic of Picacho Peak from our campsite.


Our last evening at Picacho we experienced a heavy downpour.  Rain in the desert is a beautiful thing!