For the last sixteen years I’ve passed by the mighty Picacho Peak, standing like a lone gunman in the Sonoran desert, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. I’ve often wondered if there are hiking trails that lead to the summit, or if you can only traverse the base of this prehistoric landmark.
A massive winter storm was blanketing the West, wrecking havoc on Thanksgiving weekend travelers. I’ve returned home for the holiday every year, yet 2019 looked to be the one that would prevent me from doing so. My parents asked me to stay home so they wouldn’t worry about me getting into an accident on the road.
So I find myself alone on Thanksgiving morning, driving as a light rain falls. The sun breaks free as I come to the trailhead.
It doesn’t take long before I come to my first cables. Luckily I brought gloves since it was only forty degrees outside, so I grab onto the cables without fear of getting a metal splinter, and pull myself up the slippery rock crags.
I reach the halfway point, although for a moment I thought it was as high as the trail went. I then notice that the trail continues to wrap around Picacho, taking me to the southern facing slopes. More cables to help one climb up narrow slot canyon walls, as well as up and over gaping drop offs.
A few hours later, I finally reach the summit of Picacho, with awe inspiring views of the desert in every direction. I sit up here for a spell, wondering if I can find an alternate direction downward.
Traversing the cables on my descent presents me with a new set of challenges, but with a slow pace and a steady mindset, I make my way down the first section. It was here that I find the trail does split, something I didn’t notice before. I wonder if this new trail will wrap around the base of Picacho heading East and eventually back to my starting point.
I find that the trail goes westward, farther from my original starting point, taking me further into the Sonoran. It seems as though I am now hiking the base of the mighty mountain, but in the opposite direction.
I am not worried though, as my water levels are good and my spirits are high. The unexpected extra miles that I am putting in feel good on my soles, and in my soul. Alone on Thanksgiving, I find myself truly thankful.
Eventually the trail ends at an alternate parking lot, the back way trail to summit Picacho. I walk the asphalt road for a few more miles until eventually returning to my own vehicle, ready to return home.