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)