Picacho Peak State Park
February 3rd, 2001
All Photos © 2001 Ting Vogel

Casa Grande Ruins
Approaching Picacho Peak
Picacho Peak
View of Peak from Ranger Station
Picacho Mountains East of the Ranger Station

From the Casa Grande Ruins, we drove south to Picacho Peak State Park. "Picacho" means "peak" in Spanish, so it's the "Peak Peak". In 1862, Picacho Peak was the site of a Civil War battle between Union soldiers from California and Confederates from Texas.

Even though Picacho Peak resembles a volcano, it is really a faulted, tilted, lifted, and eroded slab formed from lava flows and granite intrusions. It's about 1500 feet tall, and stands more or less alone in the desert plain, right next to I-10 about 35 miles north of Tucson.

We started our hike on the Calloway Trail. The trail is lined with beautiful California Poppies although since the poppies are in Arizona, they are probably Arizona Poppies now. After all, immigrants do assume the identity of the locale they immigrated to! The Calloway Trail turned out to be a fairly steep out-and-back jaunt up to the notch between the main peak and the spikier subsidiary peak to the east. From the benches at the end of the trail, there was a sweeping desert vista, with few signs of civilization except for the Interstate and parallel train tracks.

Cacti lined the mountainside and the fields as far as the eye could see in a seemingly endless march towards an invisible battle. Perhaps as the Queen of the Amazons turned her lovers into trees, so it seems some unknown force may have turned those soldiers from so long ago into sentinel cacti. From up close, every cactus looks different, like snowflakes! Some seem to reach their limbs towards the heavens in eternal rejoicing. Others sit forlorn in hopeless abandonment, doomed to spend eternity sitting on the hillside. Some cacti clustered around each other in social groups. Others stand alone in reflective solitude as if pondering the fate of the world. After completing our trip along the Calloway trail, we drove around to the far west side of the peak to hike the aptly named Sunset Trail.

At the base of the Sunset Trail there were several nicely constructed stone and wood Mandanas. We stopped for a brief snack and read the historical marker about the Juan Bautista De Anza Trail leading across the desert plain (I-10 is the modern version of this route) towards California.

Yellow flowers spread in a golden carpet along the side of the Sunset Trail. Up close, they look like mini-sunflowers. Cacti continued on their never-ending march along the fields and hillsides. At one point, Randy remembered he had promised David Gans that he would make a pledge to KPFA. To his surprise, the cellphone signal was at full strength along the mountainside. Must have been a cell phone antenna disguised as a cactus up there somewhere.

A ranger on the lookout for a couple of lost kids came by, and we turned back to follow him out as the sun started to set. After having been caught after dark hiking down the Yosemite falls trail on Christmas Eve one year, we've been very conscious of time and light limitations to our hikes, but not so much so as to make sure that we always carry flashlights...

Trailhead sign
Looking Up To the Side Peak
Picacho Poppy
Approaching the Side Peak
Randy's One-Legged Dance
View of the Sde Peak from the Saddle.
Ting & Randy at the end of the trail
Randy Imitates a Cactus
Up close on the Side Peak
Ting Gives a Little Love
Randy and His Pal Spike
Baby Cacti Growths
Juan Bautista De Anza Trail
Yellow Flowers on Hillside
Up Close
Randy and the Peak
Sun Rays Stream from Heaven
Randy Takes Picture
Randy Hides in Tall Cacti Cluster
Round Cactus with Red Edges
Cacti March Up the Hillside
Cacti March Across the Field
Randy Pledges to KPFA
Shining Cactus
Shining Cactus Arm
The Shaded Side of the Field
This is What the Settlers Saw
Cactus Erectus!

Desert Sunset