Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Picacho Peak

Veteran's Day Hike!
November 11, 2014
Picacho Peak

Happy Veteran's Day! We are thankful for all who have served and are currently serving. Tonight we talked a bit about how different next year's Veteran's day will be, after Curtis has begun his service. For today, we were thankful for a day off from school so that we could fit in another hike.

One year ago today, we went to Picacho Peak State Park for the first time. Our main goal was letterboxing, and we planned to go as far as we could. We were able to get 5 out of 6 letterboxes, and at the fifth one we decided to have lunch and call it a day. Altogether, we hiked about 2 miles. How cute. ;)

Picacho Peak, while heading North on I-10. 11/11/13

A while later, Curtis was looking up the trail, and he learned that to get to the peak, it required using cables to get up some rather steep parts. I heard that and instantly thought, nope, I'm good. I'm fine with never ever doing that. Silly me... I think that a lot, actually. Curtis or his friends will tell me about a hike, and if it's much more challenging than anything I've done, I'll usually forget about it and think that I'll be completely content with my life if I never, ever do it. That's how I felt about hiking Mt. Humphreys, and we all know how great that turned out! So of course, somehow I was convinced to go today, and I did not regret it... I never regret these adventures. :)

Curtis looking for a letterbox. 2013
 There's a lot of history around this area. The Skirmish at Picacho Pass occurred here during the Civil War. There's a memorial set up that we enjoyed looking at last year, and since then Curtis has done a lot of research. If you want to know more about it, Curtis has written a great summary of the Civil War in AZ here.

Desert scenery around Sunset Trail. 2013

The view of Picacho Peak from where we stopped last year. 2013

The desert of Pinal County. 2013

Us last year - hiked 2 miles. 2013

 Today, we enjoyed sleeping in, playing with our puppy, and running some errands before finally heading out to Picacho Peak. It's 45 minutes North of Tucson right off the I-10 - if you've ever driven between Phoenix and Tucson, you've probably seen it - it's one of the most unique peaks around here. We began our hike at 10:30, though we really would have benefitted from starting earlier. It's all desert out there, and the sun just beats down on you. 

We took the Sunset Trail, which is 6.2 miles roundtrip. It starts on the far North side of the park, makes its way up, down, and around many gullies before it finally decides to start ascending to the peak. At that point, the trail completely consists of loose rocks that slide everywhere, and the trail is steep, narrow, and difficult to find sometimes. In the last mile, it gets so steep that they put in cables to help you make it up the difficult rock face. I don't have any pictures of the entire way up because we were so focused on making it [alive]. But after two hours... we made it!

Us today - at the peak! Hiked 6 miles!
 As always, the views and the feeling accomplishment make a great reward for all the hard work. We spent a bit of time relaxing, eating, geocaching, and picture taking.

On Picacho Peak - facing Northeast

Facing North
Panorama of Picacho Pass

Facing South - the Catalina Mountains are in the distance.

All of I-10 seen from the peak
 After this, we began our hike down. We finally pulled out my phone to capture the memories of our first experience cable-hiking. As it turns out, it was actually more difficult going down than going up!

On our way down - these are the cables we had to walk up/down!
It's harder going down than going up.
And the trail goes where??

With every set of cables, we had to decide if it were better to go down facing forward or backward. I tried both ways, and prefer facing forward if it's an option. They designed it so that there would be places to put your feet the whole way up or down, but when going down it's almost impossible to see the crevices where your feet should go. Pair that with having to look down at how high you are, and it's a nightmare for someone scared of heights! When I was going up, I went as fast as I could without looking down so that I could get it over with, and the adrenaline carried me up. Not so with going down!

Straight down!
Gloves - completely necessary.
 We had stopped to buy cheap gloves before hiking, and it really paid off. Even though they didn't offer traction on the slick cable, they really did protect our hands, so we highly recommend bringing some if doing hiking like this!


Curtis demonstrating going down backwards.

I look like a midget! Going down our last set of cables!
 I was also really thankful to have Curtis behind me when we were going up, and in front when we were headed down, so that if I fell he could catch me. ;) It really helped having him in front when I was going down though, he helped me find my footing when I started to panic. Over all, I'm very thankful that we had this experience so that we're ready for it in the future!

Yes, these go straight up...

Now we can proudly say we stood on that peak!

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