First of all, the most exciting thing happened- I got my camera back!!! I lost my camera this summer at the end of my season working on the river in the Grand Canyon. It dropped out of my pack in a side canyon and I thought I’d never see it or the photos again. I hadn’t backed up the SD card, so out of 6 trips I did on the river, I only had pictures for two. Then a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Arizona River Runners saying that they’d been contacted by someone who found my camera. I don’t yet know how or when they found it, but I am so very happy to have the irreplaceable photos back. The best part is the camera still works! I must have accumulated good camera karma from finding and returning the one on Table Mountain in December. Here’s one of my favorites, I’ll put together a blog post of some more soon.
I went on three overnight trips in January: another Night on The Spine near the Gila River with my friend Wendy, a night on Battleship Mountain in the Superstitions and a night on the summit of Picketpost Mountain off the Arizona Trail near Superior, AZ. For a great writeup of our trip on The Spine, visit Around the Next Corner with Wendy.
The trip up Battleship wasn’t to the summit, but to the deck of the boat for the night. When I’d hiked here in 2011, I thought it would be a great place to spend the night. Other than the bizarre January mosquito population, I was right!
I was in Superior planning the Legends of Superior Trails Eco-Tourism Fest coming up onFebruary 16th and figured since I was in the area, why not spend the night atop one of Arizona’s iconic peaks. It was going to be a little cold, but three days of rain had resulted in some of the best visibility I’d seen in a while. The top of Picketpost Mountain was just the place to take in the views.
I started out in the afternoon from the Picketpost Trailhead on the Arizona Trail. My pack weighed down on me the first bit of the hike. I had thoughts of just continuing on the Arizona Trail and picking a nice campsite instead of scrambling straight uphill. Once I warmed up, I got in the zone and all was well. I didn’t see anyone after I left the parking lot- nice to have such a popular hike all to myself.
The temperature was perfect for the climb and I enjoyed working my way through the various obstacles. There was water running in the chute and patches of ice that were easily avoided. As I neared the saddle, the trail got mushier and mushier. It was easier to rockhop than step in the squishy mud.
The trail had water running down it on top of the mountain and the whole summit was saturated from the previous days of rain. As I hopped from rock to rock, they sunk into the trail. Made things a little unstable.
I reached the summit mailbox and the fancy new bench and was so glad I’d decided to spend the night. The views from Picketpost on an ordinary day are outstanding, but the absence of dust in the air made it truly spectacular. I could see so many Sky Islands from here- too many to name. Mount Wrightson, over 100 miles away, was as clear as could be.
I decided to camp right at the summit, rather than look for a more sheltered spot from the wind because I wanted the 360 degree views. There is room for one person right next to the tree that is free of rocks and I called it home for the night.
I hiked out to the cliffs overlooking Superior and was pleased to find a scattering of junipers, my favorite tree. Then it was time for the sunset- some clouds had rolled in making for a beautiful show. The temps plummeted as the sun went down. Since I was staying at the summit, there wasn’t really anywhere I could make a fire without making a huge mess, so I opted for a hot water bottle instead for heat. My dinner from Los Hermanos tasted even better than usual.
I settled in for a long, chilly night. My trusty Exped Downmat had broken and I was awaiting a replacement. I never appreciated how much extra warmth it gave me until I used a friend’s air mattress for this trip. It was breezy and I slept in fits and starts, once waking up for a couple of hours to write in my journal and admire the moonlit landscape. I also got to read through most of the logbooks in the mailbox, which were quite entertaining. Lots of familiar names and one thing that was interesting is how many small kids had been up to the summit.
By morning it had changed from breezy to full-on gusting wind. I ate a quick breakfast and made my way down the hill. The scrambling wasn’t too bad, as my pack was a lot lighter after having eaten my dinner and consumed a bunch of water.
I reached the turnoff from the Arizona Trail and met a group of guys who hadn’t been up before. They looked apprehensively at the mountain as I told them where the route went. I told them that there were folks as young as 4 and as old as 85 years old that had made it up there and they went on their way.
What a great night on the mountain, worth every bit of cold and wind for those killer views. It’s definitely a place I’d sleep again.
In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, it’s the time of year when I start planning the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Fundraiser to benefit Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson. The third annual event will be held on Saturday, April 20th and once again at Sky Bar at 536 N. 4th Avenue has generously donated their fantastic venue for all the fun! Here’s a pic of Elfie and Raja from last year’s event.