High On A Mountain Top Picacho Peak: The Sunset Vista Trail

Carolyn and I hiked Picacho Peak for the first time and liked it so much that we had to come back and tackle the Sunset Vista Trail. We had hiked the Hunter Trail a two mile steep hike but we wanted to see the Peak from the west side so back towards Tucson we went. The state park website describes the Sunset Vista Trail: 3.1 miles; moderate first 2 miles, becoming difficult; Travels on the south side from the westernmost parking area and goes to the top of the peak. The first 2 miles are moderate, then the route becomes difficult, steep and twisting, with steel cables (gloves are recommended) anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare.

It was a cloudy Friday when we entered the Park. Thankfully the crowds were not to bad in the pursuit of photographing the perfect “poppies” that dot the mountainside in the spring. The poppies were out but not in abundance due to the timing of the rains but it was still beautiful. There were plenty of people around the Sunset Vista Trailhead and there was actually some hikers/photographers that were walking out about a half mile on the trail to check out the views. We took our time enjoying the scenery and the serenity as we encountered only a few hikers on the trail. Fantastic hike that was challenging and awe-inspiring.

The elevation gain is around 2000 feet so it is quite significant but not quite as extreme as the Hunter Trail. This trail had a long metal cable climb to where the Hunter Trail and Sunset Vista Trail combine for your final push to the summit.

 

The cable climb was somewhat nerve wracking and I thought going up it was more intimidating then going down. Definitely would bring a pair of gloves for protecting your hands.

Upon reaching the summit, Carolyn and I returned to our previous tradition of hoisting a craft beer from an Arizona brewery, this time Huss Brewing. I went with the Koffee Kolsch and Carolyn with the Scottsdale Blonde. (stereotypical of us)

The journey backdown was uneventful with a few rain drops and just alone time on the trail. Our total hike time was approximately 2:40 with some rest stops along the way.

Once again we jumped into the car and onward to Tucson for an overnight stay and play at the El Conquistador Hilton in Oro Valley. Another great journey and time well spent. Plus, we returned to Growlers USA for that fantastic Belching Beaver Me So Honey blonde ale.

Some added highlights for Carolyn and I included meeting the “Tortoise” from Hike Arizona. We met him as he finished at the top. We had some fun conversations before heading back. Anyhow, I would highly recommend this hike as it is challenging, less traveled, spring flowers, summit climb, and just beautiful.

 

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High on a Mountain Top: Picacho Peak

High on a mountain top
We live, we love, and we laugh a lot
Folks up here know what they got
High on a mountain top
High on a mountain top
Where the rest of the world’s
Like a little bitty spot
I ain’t comin down no never I’m not
High on a mountain top
High on a mountain top
Loretta Lynn

On a Wednesday night, Carolyn and I decided that we could head to Tucson Thursday afternoon as soon as I got off work and we would hike Picacho Peak. I can’t count the number times I have driven by the state park without ever stopping. That was about to change. We found a room available at my Hilton team member rate and with both of us having the day off, it was a no brainer. Book the room and go.

We got on the road around 2 pm and as I was driving Carolyn was researching the trail to the top and I started to get some anxious feelings. Sounded like we would be in for a difficult climb with some difficult points. We arrived at Picacho State Park paid our fees and started hiking around 3:30 on Hunter Trail. The state park website describes Hunter Trail: 2.0 miles; difficult; begins on the north side from Barrett Loop and goes to the top of the peak. The trail climbs a resistant path typical of the Sonoran desert. The route is steep and twisting, with steel cables (gloves are recommended) anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare.

The trail is something special. Looking and seeing how far you climb and your car getting further and further away is an awesome experience. It is advertised as two miles each way and I tried to keep track on my Nike Running App but it kept stopping because the App didn’t think I was moving. In other words I literally went at a snail’s pace on some areas of the climb. The trails are well maintained and in great shape. Getting to the saddle was uneventful but I was not prepared to do a 250 foot decrease just to go way the heck back up.

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Carolyn heading down from the saddle on west side before heading back up.

Carolyn and I reached the top in about 70 minutes with plenty of rest stops along the way. After all if you are going to put in the effort, you sure should enjoy the scenery. In some places, if you are not paying close attention you could find yourself off the trail. I look over and  I find Carolyn scrambling on the side. I’m over here sweetheart.  I think she liked the mini off road adventure.

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If you look close o the right you can see Carolyn heading back to the trail.Enter a caption

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Where the Sunset Trail and the Hunter Trail meet up to climb to the summit.

On our initial hike on the east side to the summit, we came across approximately ten hikers coming down. Past the saddle, we ran into another six and on the summit we met two young men on leave from military training. The trail was not populated and gloves really do make a difference when hiking with the steel cables.

Once getting to the summit, we spent 20 minutes just taking in all in. High on this mountain top you can live, love, and laugh a lot. By golly that’s why we do it. Living, loving, and laughing with my girl.

While at the top, one of the young men took our picture and you can see the cars on I-10 and really puts a perspective on the climb.3VxOKQimQa24pVcd7zf4%w

We could even see the snow over on the mountains north and east of Tucson. As you imagine, going up is one thing and coming down is another. The cables become a bit more intimidating on the way down as you want to make sure you don’t lose your footing and bang yourself up. On the initial stretch down, we passed two separate groups of two hikers each heading up. That was the upward bound groups we would see on our trek down the mountain.

On the way to the saddle, you go down only to go back up that 250 foot initial drop from the saddle. That was brutal and thank goodness you could help pull yourself along using the cables. Once we reached the saddle, we hiked down to the trailhead in the shade which was very nice. It took us another 70 minutes total time to get back.

The one thing I failed to mention is the wildflowers. The yellow wildflowers were starting to come out and it a beautiful site to see. Yellow and yellow and yellow against the green is incredible.

Once completing the hike, I would consider this summit hike much more challenging then Piestewa Peak and Camelback. Plus there were no crowds, no music, no trash and away from the city. With that being said, don’t be surprised if I go back soon and try the summit from the Sunset Trail. Sunset trail is longer and wraps around on the west side of the mountain so the sun can be a factor if it is hot outside as you appear to be completely exposed.

Back in the car and onward to Oro Valley we go. As you might suspect by now, our hiking adventures lead to craft beers so we stopped in at Growler USA. Wow! What a selection of craft beers. My Hilton Team member benefits were getting used at the Hilton El Conquistador resort in Oro Valley so it was a no brainer to hit up this tap room. The Belching Beaver Me So Honey blonde ale is a fabulous lighter beer after a hike. Just a touch of sweetness and it had Carolyn and I at first taste. From there I just had to have the Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout. For the stout drinkers, this is a good one.

In the meantime, Carolyn and I both agree that Picacho Peak just soared to the top of our favorite summit hiking adventures.  #lovearizona #highonamountaintop #countrymusic

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Lookout Mountain

Early in January, I decided to get out into the Phoenix City Park system and take on some local hikes that were not far from home. I knocked off Deem Hills and Sonoran Preserve and decided to tackle Lookout and Shadow Mountain trail areas.

First stop was the Lookout Mountain Park on a beautiful Tuesday mid morning trek. I took off on the Lookout Mountain Circumference Trail and headed counterclockwise to Lookout Mountain Summit Trail. Both trails are in great shape and not over trafficked on a Tuesday. Very few folks out enjoying the area so it was quite pleasurable to be out in city park.  The Summit Trail is approximately 500 foot elevation gain in just over a half mile. Great views of the city and surrounding area at the top. Nobody there and I was able to just kick back and read while taking it all in. Spent some time just thinking. I hiked back down and on to the Circumference Trail and looped back around to my starting point. Even enjoyed some flowers along the way.

The total hike was about 4.25 miles with a total elevation gain of 1070 feet. The trails in my estimation would be moderate with some ups and downs along the way. To me there is no such thing as a bad hike. Outdoors, beautiful day, lovely place to clear the mind, but I wasn’t done.

Next stop was Shadow Mountain and I entered in off of Acoma Drive. Knowing little about the trails and with no signage, I just took off and decided to climb to the top of Shadow Mountain. I really had no idea that there was no actual trail to the summit and I had to put myself into some sort of precarious positions but I was determined to get there. Once again another place of beautiful views. I could see right to Shadow Mountain High School’s parking lot and just for a moment I thought I saw Mike Bibby crossing the parking lot. (Ok bad joke but I could see the high school) I’m so glad I found a way to the top but it was a challenge. My personal hike was 1.5 miles and a 600 foot elevation gain. Challenging but exhilarating.

Great day of new adventures in another Phoenix City Park. Always like to reward myself with a craft beer, so on the way home I stopped by North Mountain Brewing for  a fine Golden Ale as described by the brewery: A golden ale brewed with Oats, Rye and Arizona Wildflower Honey, giving extra flavor to this easy drinking Ale. I would say my glass was half empty. IMG_2360

Let’s just say it was good.

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Take a Trip, Never Leave the Farm Chapter 3 Section 2

Saturday brought about a nice day to get outdoors and I had the bonus of having the day off from work and the opportunity to go on a hike with lovely wife Carolyn. I’ve been working on knocking off Phoenix city trails in the park system. After a great home cooked breakfast Carolyn and  ventured back out to the Desert Vista Trailhead in the Sonoran Reserve Park.

Last week we hiked approximately 10 miles on a variety of trails from the Desert Vista Trailhead focusing on the southern trails in the area. We were determined to finish the northern trails and chalk up another park off of the list. We started on the Hawk’s Nest Trail and to increase mileage we turned on the Desert Tortoise Trail and hiked it where it ends at the Valle Verde Trail. From there we headed north to the Dixie Mountain Loop.

We hiked counter clockwise on Dixie Mountain Loop over to the Dixie Summit Trail that is about a 1/4 mile out and back summit hike. On Dixie Summit, you get some great views in all directions and it is advertised as extremely difficult. Well it isn’t. The trail has some nice sloping switchbacks and it is a beautiful side trip.

After some time just soaking in the beauty of the day we returned to the Dixie Mountain Loop Trail and hiked over to the Bobcat Trail. This trail is a mile one-way and ends up by a street near a housing development. We did not see a single person on this portion and it was a quick trip to the end and then back to the Dixie Mountain Loop. Carolyn and I continued in our counter clockwise travel over to the Western Vista Trail that is listed as moderate/difficult. We stopped and I checked my running app at the trail head and I knew we were in for a devilish time per my app. We risked it anyhow and I am sure glad we did. Once again a beautiful summit hike on a nice switchback trail.

Carolyn and I thought this trail was more labor intensive then the Dixie Summit. Once again beautiful views in all directions and a significant incline/decline. On this portion we passed a father and his three young children hiking up. We thought that was pretty cool.

After a nice summit, we returned to the loop trail and hiked to Hawk’s Nest Trail and back to the parking lot. For a Saturday, we encountered few hikers and few bikers. We were pleasantly surprised that the trails had few users and of all the Desert Vista Trails these were our favorites. The desert scenery is filled with cholla cacti in stunning color. The rocks, the trail, the cacti, the birds, my hiking partner, made this hike fantastic. No trash, no music, no cyclists running us down and just a few dog turds on the trail.

Of the few hikers we did see, many had their very young children hiking with them. I found this refreshing and helped restore some faith in humanity as these caregivers chose to get the children outdoors and experiencing nature. We ended up doing nine miles with close to 1700 foot elevation gains on our hike.fullsizeoutput_732

This is a hidden gem in North Phoenix. For us city dwellers it is proof that you can take a trip and never leave the farm. After the hike we decided to celebrate like we normally celebrate and that is with a craft beer. This time we chose Huss Brewing in central Phoenix since it was their release party for their Cenpho IPA. This IPA is brewed with fruit harvested in Central Phoenix. How cool is that?VXE0yh3dQhyHUnzFEwPrXw The taproom was packed and we had a great time unwinding and discussing what’s next. Phoenix is a great city with many adventures to be had and I can hardly wait until what lies ahead.

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Take a Trip, Never Leave the Farm Chapter 3 Section 1

After officiating two high school basketball games Friday night in Payson, then a sit-down with my friend Michael sipping on a Clyde May’s Bourbon, I managed to get a decent night of sleep. I woke up Saturday morning as sore as I have been lately with aches and pains in the lower back, feet and ankles but managed to get out and get some coffee before heading back to the mostly cloudy Valley of the Sun. This old age and running on the hardwood floors has taken its toll on my body with multiple pains that make simple things more difficult.

I rolled out of Payson around 8:30 ready to meet up with my spouse, Carolyn who wanted to go for a hike. As part of my journey I have made it my goal to hike on the Phoenix City Park trails to explore areas close to home. I had previously been to the Sonoran Reserve Park in the northern parts of Phoenix and had completed two trailheads for hikes and now was ready to take on another new area and the third and final trailhead location for the park. The Desert Vista Trailhead is located off I 17 and is easily accessed through some newer housing areas.

My original goal was to get all the trails done in one day but that wasn’t to be. Carolyn and I didn’t start until close to noon and we had to be back at our condo by six and I was already beat up and sore so I think we did quite well.

We started out on Hawk’s Nest to Desert Tortoise to the Valle Verde, Great Horned Owl going clockwise to a side trail that is not to be missed, the Union Peak Trail. Some great 360 degree views of the valley and a very decent climb UP. pds61QLmSBGfoYQzoVthRgWe came back down, got back on the Great Horned Owl loop finished it and had to rehike part of it to get on the Cactus Wren Trail back to the Valle Verde finishing it where it meets up with the Dixie Mountain loop on over to the Hawk’s Nest and back to the trailhead.

Our hike ended up being 10 miles and we saw few hikers on our figure 8 hike and only a couple bikers. Great time spent in the desert on trails that had only one cigarette butt, some dog turds, a lost facial tissue, and no other trash. We saw two jack rabbits who were of legendary size and looked like those jackalopes. Yes they were that big.

Clearly most of the people hiking take the Dixie Mountain loop and that trail looked busy on a Saturday afternoon. The trails we hiked were harder to get to and involved longer hikes. Trails seemed suitable for trail running and the mountain bikers we encountered were courteous and not ones who would run you over.

fullsizeoutput_720All in all a great hiking day logging 10 miles near the city with close to 1700 feet in elevation gains. My beat up body was even more beat up but my mind was clear and my soul uplifted. Done and in time to hit happy hour at Dick’s Hideaway. It’s just a small hole-in-the-wall next to Luci’s that is hidden away with no signage but it sure is good, usually busy, and a very cool hangout. And if you haven’t tried the mashed potatoes in the green Chile, well you should.

Next up will be the Dixie Mountain Loop Trail, and several others off of the loop. So still taking trips without leaving the farm.

 

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Take a Trip, Never Leave the Farm Chapter 2

Once again I found myself at home on a day that I had off but my lovely wife, Carolyn went off to work. One of my individual goals is to discover all that the Phoenix Parks Department has to offer in the way of hiking trails in the system. Previously I had explored all of Deem Hills and the Desert Hills Trailhead at Sonoran Preserve.

I returned to the Sonoran Preserve for some more hikes and started off on a Sunday late morning at the Apache Wash Trailhead. I usually work Sunday mornings so my opportunities to go to church are few and on this Sunday, I decided to get my worship on in the great outdoors. On arrival, the parking lot was almost full. It was beautiful once again and I hopped on the Indian Wash Trail Loop. The loop was relatively easy and well traveled with bicycles and walker/hikers. Enjoyable trek through the desert as it is greening up and fun just being outdoors. On this loop, little trash minus a couple facial tissues, no butts, but some dog turds. Most of the mountain bikers were courteous minus several who evidently believed they owned the trail. Finished up in time to see a group gathering to do yoga, so of course I went home and off to my own yoga class.

On “Super Bowl Sunday” I returned to the Apache Wash Trailhead and spent an afternoon on the Apache Wash Trail and decided to tackle the remaining trails located at the Desert Hills Trailhead on a rainy Sunday.

On arrival, the first thing I noticed was the lack of vehicles in the parking lot–the rain keeping the hikers and bikers away. That was grand by me. To get to the Badger Brawl Trail, you start on Apache Wash and just walk approximately 4 miles where the trail abruptly ends at 40th St. XikN7xF2S6iZrd+RPjdfrw

The trail was muddy but so nice being out there with nobody around. From the end I walk back a mile or so and cut across to the Cliff Walk Trail that follows the Cave Creek River and ends at Carefree Highway.

No water of course but I was just a bit nervous since I know rains can cause some interesting flash flooding so I stayed alert. Once I hit the end of the trail I walked back on the Esplanade Trail. Again no encounters with any humans. Rain, muddy, but for me just a great way to spend time alone. Once I hit the end of the Esplanade, I actually encountered two on horseback, two on bikes, and four hikers as I returned to the parking lot.

A total of 10 miles, just a couple pieces of trash, a few dog turds, and few humans. Just lovely. I did see many birds, a couple rabbits, plenty of saguaro and other cacti. And oh the rain. So refreshing, light and my jacket handled it well. All of the trails would be rated easy but were much harder in the rain as they were quite slippery. The trails are quite suitable for running but it appears they probably get used frequently by bikers.

Tired but satisfied and another Phoenix Parks Trailhead knocked off my list. Coming up is the Desert Vista Trailhead and all that it might offer.

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Sweetest Hangover: I Don’t Need No Cure

If there’s a cure for this
I don’t want it
I don’t want it
If there’s a remedy
I’ll run from it
From it
Think about it all the time
Never let it out of my mind
‘Cause I love you
I’ve got the sweetest hangover
I don’t wanna get over
Sweetest hangover
Yeah, I don’t wanna get over
I don’t wanna get
I don’t wanna get over
Ooh, I don’t need no cure
I don’t need no cure
I don’t need no cure
Finally, Carolyn and I get a day off together so after work we jump in the car and head off to Sedona. I am determined to hike the Hangover Cow Pies Loop come rain or shine. For a Friday, the trip to Sedona wasn’t too stressful. A stop at Starbucks gets me energized and a couple hours later our first stop in Sedona is the Sedona Beer Company.
Sedona Beer Company is a hidden gem off of Jordan Road and it has a decent Friday night crowd. First time we have visited since it opened in its current location in August 2018. The place has a great atmosphere with cool ambiance and patio seating as well as indoor tables and bar seating. Got talking to a customer (go figure) who once lived in Payson (1989-90) where his daughter was born and who is one of the owners. I told him we were planning on hiking the Hangover Cow Pies Loop Trail and he gave me some history about the trail. A friend of his helped with creation of the trail and was instrumental in getting it built. Got some some food recommendations and we enjoyed a craft draft with a fantastic chicken breast sandwich and unbelievably good sweet potato waffle fries. Beer choices were the decadent stout and the golden ale.
On to the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock. One of the great benefits of working for Hilton is travel so we have made the Hilton our home in Sedona. Absolutely love the place and the guest service they provide.
After a fabulous breakfast at the resort, we headed out to Schnebly Hill Road and the trail head for Munds Wagon Trail which will we will take to get to Hangover. A cloudy day with chances of rain mid 50’s and a late start around 11:00. We are a bit concerned about rain but have our rain jackets packed. We hike approximately 1.7 miles up Munds Wagon to get to the Hangover Trail. hipMPAYdRamwREVGwIR04AMountain Bikers are to ride further up to Cow Pies and go counter clockwise on the loop. I’m here to say that hikers are best going clockwise by starting at Hangover. We headed up the trail on a series of switchbacks encountering several mountain bikers that were coming down.

You climb and you climb some 1200+ feet into a saddle that is nothing less then spectacular for the views. You can see into the town of Sedona, Highway 89A, Midgley Bridge, and the Oak Creek Canyon. Words cannot adequately describe the views.

The hike continues and Carolyn and I scramble straight up to another ledge that might be less then 4 feet wide. It is very narrow and you definitely cannot have a fear of heights or suffer from any form of vertigo. This hike on the ledge is not for the feint of heart but yet is is exhilarating.

Carolyn and I are hoping the rain will hold off as these rocks can become very slippery when wet. During this time my smart phone and its photo taking is safely in my pocket as we are hiking on the edge. Intense and the rain thankfully holds off. We finally get to the Cow Pies Saddle and the wind comes up and it begins sprinkling. The trek down is not quite as intense but still exciting.

As we look to the north and east we see jeeps on Schnebly Hill and we can see Carousel Rock in the distance. It is just beautiful being out on the edge with the one you love. On our journey down to the trail head our conversation is filled with the wows and excitements of the hike.

What would a hike be without unwinding with a craft beer? Exactly so back to Sedona Beer Company we go for a couple juniper saisons and those incredible sweet potato waffle fries. It just fits. TtSwLmhqQPakWNPgFtRKWAWe unwind, reliving our journey together. We can’t believe how great the hike was. Incredible. When people rate hikes I don’t know how you can rate anything much better then this one. Tough, thrilling, uncrowded, and no trash. Ok I found somebody’s weed pen that they must have dropped. I’m thinking wow, the natural high was all I needed. Some old school disco from Diana sounds appropriate.
It was the sweetest hangover and you know what? I don’t need to cure!
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