Saturday, January 14, 2012

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak rises from the desert like a sinister and unclimbable fortress.  I saw its stark and distinctive silhouette from 60 miles away from where it stands about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.  As you approach and drive by it on I-10, the peak's shape shifts dramatically, from a narrow spire to an elongated ridge, but its summit still seems unattainable without climbing gear and the agility of a mountain goat.  But within the state park that holds, a difficult, but not too dangerous trail leads  to the top.

I climbed to its summit today and felt good about it, having given up technical climbing because it’s just too dangerous.  That’s a perfectly silly reason and goes against my touted philosophy that danger should increase with age because I have less to lose.  Still my knees get weak and my stomach turns when the only thing holding my life in this world is a tiny foothold or a piton that might not hold.  So I gladly held the fixed cables that make this hike reasonably safe.

The rock here is different from the other basin-range mountains I have visited.  It is black  and appears basaltic, the rock of lava flows.  The geologic map of the area calls it northeast-dipping basaltic and andesite volcanic rock.  I read this after returning and was happy to find my uneducated guess not far from the experts’.  Picacho Peak, they say, was formed 22 million years ago, making it four times older than the Grand Canyon.  Though the rocks of these ranges vary, they all conform, geologists say, to the stretching of this entire region that I discussed in a previous post.

 From the top I looked down on my car.  Without any zoom it appears on the left.  With full optical and digital zoom you can see my white Toyota Tacoma on the right. (You can click on any picture to make it bigger.)

Under the world’s naked skin, an ancient book waits to be read, moments behind themselves, hidden by time layered in reverse order.  Century by millennium, page on page, stacked and waiting.  Water slices into the book and the pages uncurl, stunned with light they have not seen in millions of years, the same light in which our minute lifespans behold them.  Light reveals years melted into each other, squashed and bent, until they are no longer distinct.  In trying to read these pages, I am cast afloat inside meanings and seasons, guided by geologists who seem not to understand, like astronomers viewing ever distant pages of light.  (These two pictures are not of Picacho Peak)


  1. You've got it all wrong, Sharon. A person is more valuable WITH age. There is wisdom to be passed on. Experience. You share both with us. As a diamond is created slowly, your luster increases. Carry on. We are here to appreciate.

  2. Hello dear Sharon, we are done with the Salon here now, and ready for an early nap. Happy to be able to visit your adventures here this time in precarious reaches beyond imagination, I am glad you had sturdy lines to hold and I think Steven is right... about being more precious as you grow older. Much beautiful writing here, as well as beautiful pictures.

  3. staright up cacti showing us the way up. It's too steep, we say, a mountain face so steep we do not dare. Cacti don't seem to mind. If it were only that simple.
    Great pjcs, Sharon. Hang in there. Please not literally!
    Love, Erika

  4. Steven, I am thinking selfishly, you with a kind heart.

    It was a bit precarious, Kathabela, just enough.

    Straight-up cacti
    showing the way up
    it's too steep we say
    so steep we do not dare
    a poem by Erika Wilk

  5. picacho beckons
    I ascend
    peak and I
    age defying
    see the world as one

  6. I have driven by this so many times on my way to LA from Silver City. Thanks for taking me to the top. Southern Arizona is magnificent,
    and being able to go there again with you on your blog is wonderful. Thanks for taking on all of the danger for us and sharing.

  7. Mandy, do you think I look younger than Picacho Peak? Nice poem for the inspiration that mountains bring.

    Yes Michael, climb it on your next drive to Caltech. It's a good, somewhat scary workout, and a great view from the top.

  8. Younger, yes. Older, no. And young at heart - even more. :)

  9. precarious reaches
    beyond imagination
    sturdy lines to hold
    more precious
    as you grow older

    a poem by Kathabela Wilson