She’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain

We had an experience this past week that I won’t soon forget…and I hope I won’t soon repeat, either. On Thursday we went with the hiking group from Desert Trails to Picacho Peak which is Spanish for big peak and you’d better believe that it is.

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Here in Arizona, mountains seem to spring from the desert floor, earning them the name Sky Islands. Picacho Peak is right next to I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix and has two trails. We had been told that it was a 5.1 mile round trip STRENUOUS hike. We knew it would be a challenge but we thought we were up for it. We’ve done longer hikes and for short stretches, we’ve even done strenuous hikes but this one takes the cake. While it isn’t considered to be a technical climb, stretches of the trails have cables to assist hikers through particularly precarious stretches. We’re used to hiking with poles but our leaders suggested that we leave them behind and take gloves instead. I wished numerous times that I had had both. (I hate scree, that loose gravel/rock that slides under your feet, uphill or down, and there was lots of it.) Words don’t do a good job describing our day, so I’ll just let you look at the pictures. But before you start, be aware that there are almost always 3 hikers tagging along behind–me, LeRoy and the official leader, Reve. His wife Susan was at the head of the column and he always brings up the rear. No man (or woman in my case) left behind!

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The man in the tie dye is our friend Jerry Swango from Indiana. He’s responsible for most of these pictures. Thanks!

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There came a point near the top that I chickened out with only about a quarter mile or so left, some of the toughest of the day. In my defense, I wasn’t the first of the group to stop and wait for the group’s return. LeRoy said he thought if I hadn’t stopped there, I would have balked at the point where a 2×12 plank was the only way across a gap or maybe at the near-vertical ascent nearing the top. If you look carefully, you can see members of our group on the face of the rock as well as on the path leading to the top of the peak. I took this one from my perch down below.

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This was the view from my vantage point.

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These are from the top.

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LeRoy tried being a mountain goat on the descent from the top. See why I didn’t go up?

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I did get my chance later. We had taken one trail up, the one that started climbing from the parking lot, but we took another one down. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know about this descent ahead of time!

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Once we reached the bottom of the mountain, we had an easier hike, less than two miles, I think, through the desert. We noticed that the plants there seemed to have had more water recently than the ones in our RV park. The ocotillo were all leafed out and some were beginning to bloom, while ours here are still sticks. Even there, though, the saguaros were the predominant feature on the landscape.

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I must say, I was proud of my efforts that day but very thankful for the patient hiking group, without whom we probably wouldn’t have pushed ourselves to finish. Mostly, though, I’m thankful for  my wonderful husband who carried ALL our food and water and anything that didn’t fit in my pockets. He was always there to give me a steadying hand and to laugh and encourage me when I pouted. By the time we got home, we were ready for the hot tub and then a nice Mexican meal for Valentine’s Day. We aren’t likely to have another one quite that memorable next year!

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