Wow, last time I blogged we were leaving Montana… Now we are back here again for the summer. But first I’ll fill you in on the highlights to remember from our winter… One of the most notable was the day I almost killed my friend at Picacho Peak.
We left Montana for Arizona by was or Utah, where we spent a couple of weeks doing construction for Mike’s two sons house (they bought a house together. Moved the stair in the garage, shored up the back deck stairs, and built a closet in Jed’s bedroom (downstair apartment).
I of course got maximum Grandkid exposure!
We had such a great time in Tucson dancing and visiting the Brett’s, that we were excited to commit to a 6 month work camping stint at a very nice park (Far Horizons RV Resort) in Tucson, right on “the Loop”, the 131 mile bike path in Tucson (see our post from last year). RK and Marsha Owen also visited for a week and we did some Hiking/ Geocaching, and enjoyed Thanksgiving with them.
But the park had an ongoing feud between the park model people and the RV people that overshadowed all the good things at the park. Hard to describe, especially without getting into the weeds, but suffice to say, we decided to leave after 3 months. We moved January 1 to Cactus Country RV Resort, another park in Tucson (without the benefit from work camping, the original park was just too expensive).. But overall Tucson was a bust. Covid had shut down all square dancing. Although did enjoy a lot of pickleball, biking, and it was great to be close to John and Donna Brett again.
In one miraculous coincidence. Jeremy and Robyn Chancey had scheduled Tucson over Christmas. And their family has implemented a tradition of Christmas Kickball. They invite any and all looking for some fun on Christmas, complete with Mimosas and Breakfast Burritos. We felt very blessed that we were local and could join them. We loved meeting Robyns kids. What a fun tradition!
Next Christmas they will be in South Carolina for Christmas Kickball… I don’t think we will make the game.
We moved up to Picacho Peak (halfway between Tucson and Phoenix) for the month of February. This park is pretty remote from civilization so we stocked up on food and planned to just hang out in the park. Lucky for us, June and Gene Bidon came from Colorado to be with us that month too, and Sherry and Gary Gates from Alaska spent a week with us. They have great Pickleball courts, and plenty of action. Cards with our friends in the evenings, sunset picnics, fun times.
Before I get to the hike, the other best thing we did at Picacho was spend the afternoon in Eloy, at the skydiver school watching the skydivers. They continually fall.. We must have seen 60 skydivers land within a couple of hours. I highly recommend that!
The Hike on Picacho Peak
Picacho Peak an Arizona State Park, and a notable landmark in the desert. Picacho Peak RV Resort, was not in the State Park, but at the base of the peak, and unfortunately across the wall from the Interstate, and train tracks. It was very noisy, and for that reason we probably would not go back. But it was beautiful, and every morning I would come outside, and that peak would call to me!
John and Donna had told me that they hikes to the top of Picacho Peak in their youth, and that it was an amazing hike. I felt compelled to hike it from day one. Mike was not particularly interested. Gene said he’d hike with me, but after a couple sessions on the pickleball court, decided he might not be up to it. But still it called to me daily. I wrote to Sherry and ask if she wanted to try when they came. she said sure, that they would hike and if they didn’t want to go the whole way they could turn around.
The Trail Options
The main Picacho trail (The Hunter trail) goes up the front side, is about 3 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 1352 feet. About half way you get to the saddle. The saddle elevation gain is 1000 feet from the trailhead… still not an easy climb. That last half mile to the peak is like rock climbing with cables to pull you up and netting to prevent you from falling off the mountain. Although I would have loved to try that, I didn’t think I’d do that, only get to the saddle.
The Ranger advised me that there is a trail on the back side of Picacho that is much easier (although longer). Two miles on the flat, before switchbacks heading up the back. The total length round trip of the Sunset trail is 5 miles, and an elevation gain of 936 feet. We opted for that one. In fact I thought I’d go up the backside to the saddle. Somewhere along the way Sherry and Gary would turn back, they could take the car and meet us at the bottom of the Hunter trail, meaning Mike and I could come down from the saddle on the front side.
And so it goes : up Picacho Peak
We started early and it was lovely. Gary (whom I guess was somewhat of a reluctant hiker, bless his soul) had worn slip on slick leather soled shoes (or is it bless his soles?). He kept wondering where this turn around point was, while Sherry’s competitive spirit kicked in, and before we reached the switchbacks she didn’t care what the boys were going to do.. she was going to the saddle with me! Oh I should paint the stage. Sherry and Gary are very healthy, but 75… questionably up to the challenge, but we all knew they could turn around if it got too tough…. except by then Sherry was beyond wanting to turn around.
Mike decided to turn around about where we hit the switchbacks. Gary decided to stay with us, for fear Sherry might overdue (good call). Sherry and I started up.
Switchbacks was a very generous term. It was really more of a scramble up the side. We were on our hands and knees a few times, and it just kept getting steeper!
Some young 20 year olds were heading up behind us so we stopped to let them pass. I told them to report back to us what the trail was like. about 5 minutes later they were ahead, pulling themselves up one of the cable areas. Oops, I hadn’t anticipated any cables getting to the saddle, only from the saddle to the summit, which we were not attempting. The kids called down from the top of the cable area saying ahead of them was not as bad as that cable, but worse than the trail we had been scrambling up. I made an executive decision to turn around. That nearly killed Sherry!
There was probably only 100 yards left to the summit, but we might have had a difficult time getting up the cables, heaven forbid if we got up there and had to come back down! Sherry really wanted to finish the goal. I sympathized, but I didn’t want to be responsible for a helicopter evacuation, which is all too common on this mountain. Gary thought we were past due to turn around, so Sherry was outvoted and we started sliding on our butts for the decention.
We got to the flats just about noon on the South side of the peak. Had we gone over the top, we would have been ascending on the shady side. As it was, it was blazing hot with only saguaro cactus and palo verde trees for shade… I should have taken a picture of the three of us standing in line trying to be in the shade of the Saguaro!
We started running out of water. Sherry was overheated. We took a lot of breaks, but she was obviously not doing well. I began to get very worried and called Mike to return up the trail with water and and umbrella. He was actually napping when I called and grumpy as I awoke him. He said he didn’t want to hike anymore so no, he wasn’t coming. I probably should have thought to call a ranger then, but I didn’t… we trudged on. Subsequently, Mike woke up and recognized what I was asking. He rushed back to help.
Oh by the way, just after getting to the flats the 20 somethings came back by. They said they had not gone too much further before the cables got to their fear and they didn’t make it to the top. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to watch some Youtube of the hike beforehand… there are plenty of options! Like this one.
We made it!! (No deaths)
So slowly, but deliberately, we plodded back to the parking lot. Just as we reached the asphalt, Sherry says to me, “I didn’t want to say anything on the trail, but I was really worried, because my chest was giving me pain!” OMG… Thank the Lord! we arrived home with only a great story and tired bodies. We treated ourselves to Dairy Queen that evening for dinner. By then Sherry was stating “Well, we found out physical limits today!” I LOVE that girl!!