Saturday, January 30, 2016

Picacho Peak Hike -Terrifyingly Awesome

I had heard that they had cables attached to the rock... and to get to the top you had to pull yourself up the rock, hand over hand while walking up the steep rock. So I thought, "I'm going to have to see this one for myself."

We always try to get in a hike somewhere along our journey back to Canada.  This time we planned to go thru Utah and Idaho to Walla Walla... and the only way to avoid the cold and snow this time was to hike in southern Arizona.

So I asked our next door neighbours if they would like to join us in hiking that unusual peak along the freeway heading north.

For many years we have driven past this iconic peak along I-10, which is between Phoenix and Tucson... about 40 miles north of Tucson... and we have often said we would like to stop sometime to hike it to the top.

Toy and Suk said "Yes, they would love to join us on this hike... they too had been cruising past it on the freeway thinking the same thing... someday... someday."

Our National Parks Seniors Pass doesn't count here in the state parks... so it cost $7.00 per car, for up to 4 people.  People on foot or bicycles pay $3.00 per person.

Right from the start the views of the mountain and the saguaros were wonderful.

Toy is scrambling up the trail.

Shirley was not sure about doing this hike all the way... and I told her even before we started, "Just hike as far you are comfortable... you don't have go any further than you want to."

As we climbed higher some of the steeper parts of the trail had heavy rebar posts with 3/4 inch cable handrails to help keep your balance and not fall.

It was a perfect day to do this hike... sunny with very little wind.

Shirley was running short on air, so decided to not try to do the summit... didn't want to slow us down. She took this shot of us before we got too far away from her.

It is always interesting to explore along the trail the first time you hike a new trail.

We watched this little peak as we climbed the Picacho Peak.  Apparently the name Picacho means "peak" in Spanish... which is a little redundant... like saying Peak Peak.

About five minutes after Shirley turned back Suk decided to keep her company. We didn't know it at the time, but we were less than ten minutes to the saddle... and I know Suk and Shirley could have made it that far.

But when we got to the saddle our hearts sank when we saw another group coming up from the other side of the saddle. From them we learned that to get to the peak we would have go down quite a lot, using cables before we could change course to head for the summit.

The saddle was in the shade... but Toy used his flash to capture this shot of me.  The view to the Tucson side was pretty impressive.

This was the first time we saw the double cables... one on each side. I was glad to have leather gloves to protect my hands and help get good grip.

There were a few sections of steps made of 8"x8" timbers... like pieces of railroad ties.

We were most happy to stop going down and then start the final ascent to the peak.

It was interesting how the builders of this trail chose to run the cables on each side of the crevice... rather than beside.

They call this kind of assistance with cables "via ferrata," which is Italian for iron road. Examples of via ferrata are more commonly found in Europe, such as the Alps.

As you can see, we found it even more difficult to come down some of these steep sections than to go up them.

This section had a cat walk in addition to a cable to hang onto.

We were both surprised as we made the final approach to the summit to see how many people were just coming down. This is a very popular hike!

I would guess there were over 60 people who hiked up here that morning.

We took each others photo on the peak.

And then I set up my iPhone on a little tripod with timed exposure to get both of us in the photo.

On top of the world... on Picacho Peak.

The view in every direction is truly spectacular... and we had the summit all to ourselves while we were there.

I kept telling myself if I ever started to fall, DON"T reach out and grab the cactus!

It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to reach the summit... and about an hour and 10 minutes to come back down. Much more work to climb up than come down.

Not as many stops to take photos on the return... plus I knew how far we had to get yet on Thursday... Fillmore, Utah was our goal.  That's about halfway to Walla Walla, Washington to our daughter's home.

Shirley watched for me as came back down... and she took at least 25 shots with her Nikon telephoto as I got closer and closer. It was easy to see me with that orange sweat shirt.

The final of the 25 shots... my victory pose.

I really enjoyed this cool video on the Picacho Peak State Park... a lot of history and interesting facts.

As I was coming down I asked a girl going up how she liked the hike.  She answered, "Terrifyingly awesome!" I thought that summed it up pretty well.

This is not a hike for everyone. In the reviews of hiking trails this one is rated "Strenuous." I think that is a notch above "Difficult." Even if you cannot make the peak, I think a reasonable goal is the saddle.

I would like to give credit to Toy, Suk and Shirley for generously sharing their photography, which I used in this blog along with my iPhone shots.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Road to Hana and Pipiwai Trail

Day 8 on Maui we were on our own... our kids and grand kids had all gone home after 7 days together... so we decided to make the most of this day and drive the windy road to Hana Bay... and then another dozen miles further to the Kipahulu Valley to hike up the Pipiwai Trail to the 400-foot Waimoku Falls.

At the beginning of the road to Hana we stopped at Ho'okipa Beach Park to watch the waves and surfers.

Quite by accident we stumbled on a small grove of Rainbow Eucalyptus... it was gorgeous!

Are these the berries of the Rainbow Eucalyptus tree? They were right next to it.

I had to stop to shoot several photos of the foliage... it was so unusual. Interesting textures.

The road to Hana is about 53 miles... which sounds not too far. Except we counted over 60 bridges on this highway to Hana... and 90 per cent of them were single lane traffic!

This greatly reduces the average travel speed down to about 20 miles an hour! After stopping for a picnic at Hana Bay, we didn't get to the trail head to start the hike up to the falls until 2:00 pm.

The first section had a lot of roots in the trail...

It didn't take very long to get to the first falls, the Makahiku Falls... howbeit they were basically dry today.  Their name means, "Water that recognizes no friend."

Hence the sign that warns everyone to stay away from the dangerous edge and not try anything stupid.

The foliage around the falls was very lush and green.

There were a couple of bridges... excellent bridges...

with good views of the stream coming down the canyon. So we were optimistic that we would see water in the 400-foot Waimoku Falls.

Without a doubt the last mile of the hike to the falls thru a bamboo forest was the highlight of the day. It was gorgeous canopy to walk thru.

The bamboo was 30 to 40 feet tall...

and when the wind rustled thru the bamboo it was like a symphony!  The bamboo stalks would strike each other and and the noise was like the beginning of a hail storm on a barn roof. Really cool sound!

There were places where they made really nice steps... with handrails.

And where the ground was soggy they put in boardwalks... really a joy to walk on.

The Waimoku Falls were a great reward! It wasn't at peak water level... but it was impressive.  It was really a tall free-fall pretty straight down.

It would be really cool to be here after some serious rainfall.

We got back to the Jeep by 4 pm and it was a bit of Daytona 500 trip back to Kahului to catch a red-eye special home later that evening.

I stopped at the Haleakala Park Visitor Centre as we were leaving and I asked the name of these colourful flowers on the tall trees. They said they were African Tulip trees.

They were so plentiful we had to stop and shoot a few pictures of them.

There was this fence that begged us to take a photo.  Where else do you ever see a fence made out of surf boards? This is just a small section of a fence about 150 feet long... maybe 80 old surf boards!

I think I slept most of flight back to Phoenix... had a great seat in the exit row. As the plane was on the descent I woke up and took a lot of shots.  Thru them all away except the first one.

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." -Edward Abbey