Sugarloaf Mountain, Wasson Peak, Picacho Peak
By: Pete Yamagata
After attending most of the Southern Arizona Cactus Tour led by Dave Eisenberg, and Frank and Ruth Dobos, I chose to leave the group near the end of the trip, since I was not particularly enamoured of the remaining plans to do hot springs and town-touring.
Having spoken with Tucson resident Triple List Finisher George Hubbard and his wife Carol, they spoke of the peaks to do, for someone like me.
Sugarloaf is the highest point in Chiricahua National Monument. Wasson is the high point of Saguaro National Monument, West Unit. Picacho is the high point of the Arizona State Park of the same name.
Leaving the DPS/HPS group while sight-seeing in Bisbee, I motored north to 1-10 and took a room in Willcox, AZ, to rest up and ready myself for a good day of hiking.
On Wednesday, Dec. 30, 1 awoke early and caught a nice sunrise on the way to Chiricahua National Monument. Spending the morning hiking the Heart of Rocks loop, which features numerous balanced rocks, and a side trip to Inspiration Point, I had plenty of time to make the short, trail walk to the top of Sugarloaf. There is a paved parking lot, and the trailhead has a big board with information. The trail had some hard snow or ice, since it climbs, at first, on the north side of the peak, in shadow this time of the year, but this inconvenience could be avoided.
I reached the lookout at 1:29 p.m., after the 0.9 mile oneway hike. The total time that I spent doing the round trip, with photo stops, was 72 minutes, with 16 minutes spent on the summit. The benchmark is set off from the structure, and there is no register. Some nice views of the ranges to both the east and west are enjoyable with the clear winter vistas. I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking to the "narrows" on the nearby Echo Canyon Trail. Driving to Tucson, I took a room and had a pleasant meal to fortify myself for a two peak climb the next day. I figured by the stats, that I had in my mind, I should be able to climb both peaks even with the shorter days.
Thursday, I arrived at the Hugh Norris Trailhead on the west side of Wasson Peak at 7:01 a.m. The sign here indicated "4.9 miles." Another sign gave a starting elevation of "2,600 feet" (the second digit was obscured, perhaps a "0," also)?
I began hiking at 7:12 a.m. The rosy glow of the dawn sky silhouetted the saguaros, and Baboquivari Peak, 45 airline miles to the southwest. The trail is well-signed, and mileages are given at each junction. I could see that I was doing well. I reached the top at 9:06 a.m. There is a post and register set off from and below the highpoint a couple hundred feet. The morning panorama of Tucson to the east-southeast and the Santa Catalina Mountains to the east northeast made a pleasant view.
Encountering a few hikers coming up as I descended, I returned to the car at 11:01 a.m. I knew that I was doing well and proceeded to the trailhead for Picacho Peak.
This peak is very impressive from 1-10. 1 paid the $4.00 day-use fee at the entrance station, and parked at the "Hunter Trail" parking lot. I was hiking up the wellsigned trail at 12:12 p.m.
Back at home, while looking back at old Sage issues, I detected a trip write-up in the May-June 1980, No. 154 issue, by Bob Michael. His description is still highly accurate, and tells of the several stretches where one uses cables and walkways to climb up the steeper, exposed sections of the route. Perhaps new, though, are the red arrows painted on the rocks. Having done Half Dome, Stonewall Peak (HPS), then repeating on this trip, the High Peaks Trail in Pinnacles National Monument, I am curious about how these routes are designed. There are no steps cut into the rock here, but the posts supporting the cables and walkways are solidly "bolted" into the rock.
Reaching the top at 1:20 p.m., I spotted what I thought to be a falcon flitting about. Another hiker thought that it was a hawk. I mentioned that these birds dive at "240 mph.," but he rebuked me, saying "terminal falling velocity is 120 mph." What's true?
I stayed a few minutes, and took plenty of photos. Notable were the farms to the southeast, and the wide expanse of plains with a few ranges scattered about. I was back to the car after about one hour.
I spent the rest of my auto/hike tour visiting Montezuma's Castle, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and the E.T. Highway.
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