Sunday, February 8, 2015

Picacho Peak State Park, AZ

Almost half way between Phoenix and Tucson lies an ancient landmark called Picacho Peak. Picacho is Spanish for Peak, so Peak Peak translated! Wait until you see...

First, the desert here is a lucious green thanks to all the rain that has fallen this season. The poppies and cacti are starting to bloom and add splashes of colour to the usual brown landscape.

A glimpse of the peak (the one on the far left which is the highest just looks smaller because it's further away) from our campsite. Are you sure you want to do this? Because it kind of looks like a vertical cliff from here.

So, the peak is a 1,500 foot climb from the desert floor, and it's pretty much straight up. Here, Brad is "in the saddle" (he's at the bottom middle and blends nicely into the scenery.) So far, we've climbed 1,000 feet up. Sadly, the next part of the journey takes us down several hundred feet, then back up to the peak.

A beautiful barrel cactus growing out of the rock which is an eroded lava flow, although the actual volcano has yet to be found.

Marilyn climbing straight up a wall. Much of this part of the trail includes pulling ourselves up using cables (imagine being the person who put these cables into the rock?). Upper body strength is a bonus here. And yes, it's a long way down if you fall, so hold on tight.

Finally, after about 2.5 hours, we're at the peak. The spatter of white specks in the valley between Brad and the dark rock to his left is the campground.

Heading back down. Really, for me, coming down is harder than going up. First, my knees don't like the strain. Second, the perspective is a lot more frighteniing as you get to see how far below the valley is, although I'm not afraid of heights (good thing).

This is the toughest section going up or down. The rock provides only tiny points and ledges to balance my stiff hiking boots on. Again, using my arms helps enormously.

Same shot as the last one with a slightly different perspective (the blue dot is me). See how much more scary it is when you can see how far up we are?

Sometimes the space between the cable and the rock is very narrow with barely enough room for my feet. I feel like a mountain goat. Or I wish I was one.

Both Brad and I agree that this is the toughest part of the hike. Here, we are climbing back up into the saddle to cross over from the south to the north side to begin the 1,000 journey down to the parking lot. Not only is this part steep requiring us to pull ourselves up by the cables, but it's HOT. The dark rock is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the late afternoon sun. I think I am going to die. Obviously, I don't.
All in all, I will say that this is the most challenging hike Brad and I have ever done. It is fun only in the way that a sense of accomplishing an almost impossible task can be. If we are ever to hike this trail again, we will need to be in much better shape and about 20 years younger! Cross another one off the bucket list.


  1. Great blog post. Think this will be a hike in my next life time!

  2. Wow! You're both amazing to do it, and the photos and story are fabulous. So proud of you.