Picacho Peak Hike, a.k.a. Hell Hike

Categories: Fun, Outdoors

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/brdavids/2466388645/

Embark on a culture blog and the sky's the limit, right?

I discovered this the hard way when I volunteered to write about a hike.

I hiked Picacho Peak. And I cried. Four times.

I know I sound like a big old wussy here, but, be warned: Picacho is not for the weak of heart. Even though the trail is a mere four miles, this hike will kick your ass.

I'm an experienced hiker and have spent the last four years regularly exploring Valley trails (Piestawa, Quartz Ridge, Shaw Butte, Dreamy Draw, South Mountain, Usery, Superstitions, Go John, and more).

It's been a goal of mine for quite some time to do Picacho Peak and I really got serious when I heard that budget cuts were putting the state park (located just off the I-10 about an hour out of town on the way to Tucson) at risk for closure.

Read the whole story (with photos) after the jump.

Fortunately, donations from residents in nearby Eloy will keep Picacho Peak State Park open for another 12 months (the other state parks that were slated for closure are staying open, too, read more here).

Let's get one thing straight: I won't be taking advantage of this extension. That doesn't mean you shouldn't -- if you're into risking your own life so you can increase your sense of self-worth, by all means, pay the $7 at the gate and go nuts.

For now, however, allow me to take you on a visual journey of this "Hell Hike" as I like to call it.

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My hiking partner and I took the Hunter Trail to the Sunset Vista Trail that took us to the top. Mile One is a relatively steep climb (similar to Piestawa's Summit trail) and we certainly got our cardio going as we scooted up to the saddle. Note the sign describes the trail as "primitive." We really should have taken that more seriously.

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Here's the view from the saddle. Nice, right? We took some photos of ourselves smiling in the sun and I made friends with a little chipmunk. All in all, things were looking up.

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And then we had to go down this shit. For 250 feet (250 feet that we just climbed up and would have to climb back up after this descent) we hopped on and off our butts and had to hang onto to the wire cable as we lowered ourselves. I get skittish if I stand on a chair so, yeah, this shook me up a bit. It's a little more intense than those damn poles on Camelback Mountain. I foolishly thought this was as "primitive" as it was going to get.

These cables and metal posts driven into rock were originally created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1932 to service a light beacon on the summit. The light beacon is no longer there but a number of stretches that have the 78-year-old trail supports remain.

I guess you could say they are still in good condition -- I mean, we didn't die. But there were a few posts that were a little too jiggly for my liking. After the descent, we started climbing the last mile to the summit and ran into more metal cables. Much to my horror, they just kept getting more and more steep.

I blurted, "Fuck this. I'm not going up that thing," probably four or five times.


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This is what I like to call the Death Chute. I've enhanced and zoomed the photo (below) to give an idea of how very steep this thing was. Of course, my brave hiking partner went first. I followed. At the very end of this stretch (can I just call it a cliff already?), my foot got stuck, I started to hyperventilate, and in my panicked scramble, I scraped my shin.

But I wasn't the only one who ate it. Hiking Partner cut his leg on the wire cable so the poor guy had to end the day with a Tetanus shot at an Urgent Care.

After this, I shit you not, was yet another hairy climb. I was too spooked to pull out my camera. But we walked across a rickety wooden plank to get to the summit -- Indiana Jones-style.

Close-ups of the Death Chute:


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The bottom.


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The top of the Death Chute.


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Tetanus-worthy.


Finally...the summit:

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Here's the view from the top of Picacho Peak. I have to say that was pretty disappointing. Aside from this photo, I don't really remember what it looked like. I was too distracted by the thought of having to get down the Death Chute.

Distance: 4 miles

Time: 3-4 hours

Summit Elevation: 3370 ft.

Hiker's tip: Bring gloves. And Kleenex.

For more information about Picacho Peak, check out azstateparks.com.


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