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Hiking Picacho Peak

The early start I had envisioned didn’t happen. I was up at 6 a.m. with the sun while the temperature was still a lovely 68 degrees, but Emma didn’t wake up until after 9 a.m, and then with some slight work emergencies and puttering around it was nearly 11 before we found ourselves at the trailhead.

It was also 88 degrees by then, so we were expecting a challenging hike. The Hunter Trail is 2.1 miles to the peak, and climbs 1,500 feet in that short distance. The trail is also rocky and difficult, with numerous switchbacks and several steep sections that require scrambling over sharp eroded lava.

Picacho hike1.jpg

Emma discovered some scat along the trail and asked me if it was indeed animal poop. I teased her by suggesting she pick it up and sniff it. Her response: “I’m not Bert!” (Sorry, Bert, but I think you’ve gained a reputation as a scatologist.)

About 2/3 of the way, the trail doubles back and crosses over the range at a saddle. At this point we had gained about 1200 feet of elevation in about 1.4 miles, and it took about 90 minutes. At this elevation (close to 3,000 feet) it was beautifully cool and the view was stunning. We stopped for lunch and a rest in the shade.

Picacho saddle.jpg

The trail beyond the saddle drops steeply before climbing again, and is not recommended for children under 10 or inexperienced hikers, so we decide to turn around there. Emma was disappointed in this decision. Along the way up, she was telling other hikers of her conquest at Glacier National Park (“12 miles!”) and so bailing out on a difficult hike after only a mile and a half and 1200 feet of vertical ascent was, to her mind, just plain weenie.

Still, coming back down was no picnic, and we were consuming water at a high rate. I drank about 36 ounces of water during the hike and more afterward. Reaching the bottom we found 92 degrees waiting for us.

The good news is that the little roadside village at the interstate highway includes a Dairy Queen … and DQ means Blizzards, which are concoctions of ice cream and ground-up candy bars. That, and a quick cold shower for everyone brought us back to life for the rest of the afternoon while we waited for the heat to abate.

Boondocking report: We used 58 amp-hours yesterday and overnight, mostly to run the laptops, lights in the evening, the refrigerator boost fans, and all three Fantastic Vents. Normally we’d regain all of that in a sunny day (this time of year). But today, with a few hours of laptop time and fans running constantly, we were only able to pick up a net of 23 amp-hours over what we used. So we’re about 35 amp-hours below our total capacity of 300 amp-hours.

That’s not a problem, but it does show that in very hot weather we use more power than we can regenerate. If we had tilting solar panels on the roof we’d probably generate much more power, but I haven’t yet seen the solar panel mount that would work for our situation. Since we can’t readily access our roof, such a system would need to be tiltable from the ground, using a pole or something.

The new dual refrigerator boost fans are working well. Our refrigerator has maintained 40-42 degrees all day, which is a huge improvement over its prior performance in hot weather. We run the fans all day and turn them off at bedtime, when the ambient temperature is below 80 degrees.

There are other little attractions in this area, including an ostrich farm ($5 to feed the birds if you care to), the “Arizona Nut House”, and two more of the ubiquitous tourist souvenir shops operated by Bowlin’s. I think we’ve captured the best of the Picacho Peak area already, so while we might stop in at the nut shop on our way out tomorrow, we’ll pass on the rest of the stuff. Our plan is to head up through Phoenix and into Prescott, where the elevation is much higher and the temperatures are perfect right now.