Saturday, May 22, 2010

Picacho Peak

A week ago my former bishop kindly took me and three teenage Scouts for a hike up Picacho Peak. For those unfamiliar with the mountain, it is a prominent landmark mentioned in Stephanie Meyers The Host. It is also the location of the westernmost battle between Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. It is located about 40 miles north of Tucson along Interstate-10. While I had wanted to hike the mountain several times since moving to Tucson, Arizona four years ago, I never got around to doing it. The hike was challenging for some of the youth that came with us, but they persevered and we finished the hike up the switchback trail that skirts the eastern side of the mammoth rock outcropping before going over the saddle between two peaks. It then heads down the west side of the mountain for several hundred yards before rising back up with some steep climbs where hikers cling to cable railings in numerous locations to scamper up crevices, climb steep rocks, and walk along the edge of small drop-offs.

Until a day or two ago, the state park was scheduled to close, meaning the trails would be closed to the public. Thanks to fund-raising efforts by nearby residents, the park will be able to stay open beyond the original closure date of June 3rd. Since hiking the trail last week, I decided to take my family up just in case they don't get the chance to hike it again. I wasn't certain my kids would be able to hike that far, but we decided to give it a try. Gabs (6 yrs old) and Bells (4 yrs old) hiked the trail with Debs and I, and I carried Erik (2 yrs old) in a child carrier. Because of the difficulty of some parts of the climb, very few young kids make the hike. Besides our kids, the youngest person we met on the trail was six. Both Debs and I were amazed at how well Gabs, Bells, and Erik did. Just after going over the saddle to the west side we got stuck for about fifteen minutes behind a group of middle-age people who work at Raytheon. One in their group was clearly scared of heights. When he finally got down the steep stretch, our daughters climbed right down and went right past the group resting at the base in preparation of starting their ascent again. That group would occasionally pass us while we were resting and vice versa, but seeing our daughters go fearlessly up and down the climbs seems to have temporarily cured the person of his fear of heights. After that he seemed to do much better on all the the steep climbs and descents.

Gabs had no problem with the hike and led most the way. Our calling her a mountain goat just seems to have motivated her to prove that the hike was easy for her. Bells needed some help on some of the steeper parts and the latter half of the hike back due to fatigue. Debs and I did just fine until we rationed our water toward the end of the hike so the kids would have enough to drink. With about 4.5 to 5 liters of water, we knew we would be cutting it close, but we didn't really have a way of carrying much more. Gabs carried one liter, Debs carried two, and I carried the rest in the pack with Erik. As a result, both Debra and I started to cramp some toward the end of the hike--me in the shoulders because of the weight of the pack, and Debs in the calves. We probably really disappointed the half dozen vultures that were circling the area.

We saw a common chuckwalla (I think--the one we saw was a large, dark lizard with a tan tale.) We saw one last week too and one of the Scouts called it a push-up lizard because it does push-ups, but if I'm not mistaken, there are a variety of lizards that do push-ups for one reason or another. Elizabeth, if you want to add a chuckwalla to the list of lizards you have caught, come on down!

It ended up being a great hike with excellent scenery, a good workout, and a trip to a Dairy Queen located a mile or so from the trailhead. Our former bishop treated me and the Scouts to some ice cream at the Dairy Queen last week, and I decided to make it a tradition every time we do the hike. If any friends or family are in the area, you'll have to hike the trail with us.

Bells, Debs, and Gabs stop for a picture before starting the last climb to the summit.

Don't worry, she's not scared as this picture seems to imply. Bells actually sat here voluntarily and is several feet away from the cliff edge. This picture makes it look like she is much closer than she really was.

Some other hikers were kind enough to take our family picture.

This is the mischievous trio at the top! Erik had the easiest hike of the three, rocking back and forth time after time in his child carrier just to make sure his pack animal ride was balanced.

Debs grudgingly stops for yet another picture on the west side as we go down the mountain.

Debs and Bells come down a particularly steep part of the mountain.

This panoramic looks south from the summit of Picacho Peak.


cking said...

looks like a good hike. If you are all so good at hiking, you should do some hiking with me in Utah Vly while your here in Utah:)
and I should make it to Arizona at some point and hike...although it may be getting too hot to hike?

Richins Family said...

Wow! Your kids are amazing for making that hike. I am glad that Bella didn't fall, or any of the other kids for that matter. It was relieving to hear that she wasn't as close to the edge as she looked. Looks like a lot of fun. I bet you all loved the ice cream tradition at the end. Chewy loved the Chuckwalla. She would love to add that to the list of lizards she has caught. I hope you are not too sore, although, that is usually what makes me appreciate a good hike. Way to go! Thanks for sharing.

Em said...

Wow, you are WAY braver than I am!! That's awesome that the kids made it. (And you guys, too)

rantipoler said...

You guys are amazing! Good work.