Hiking is an outdoor activity that covers a lot of ground, literally and figuratively. People who hike do so for a number of different reasons (exercise, health, nature appreciation, social interaction, competition, etc.), and they have so many options of how and where to do this activity. Some folks only think of hiking in terms of backpacking and trekking out into the wilderness for days or even weeks at a time. Others envision hiking as a journey that gets you from point A to point B, or they see it as a test of endurance and distance. Hiking the Appalachian Trail comes to mind.
As with any form of recreation, there may be purists out there who maintain a set of standards or criteria for being called a real hiker. I hope not, because we would certainly fall short. When we hike, my wife and I are no longer interested in “pushing through the pain” to break any records of distance, speed, or difficulty. We are simply enjoying the outdoors and the opportunity to see things for the first time while getting a little exercise. As working professionals, we still operate on fairly busy schedules, so we often find ourselves carving out time to hike. This may mean that we only have thirty minutes or an hour, and we often grab these opportunities while in route. A perfect example was a one-hour excursion we took on our way from Phoenix to Tucson, Arizona, for a short up and back down hike at Picacho Peak State Park.
The drive from Phoenix to Tucson typically takes about two hours. We left Phoenix at about 7:45 in the morning and arrived at Picacho Peak State Park at about 8:45. We changed into our boots, pulled hiking polls out of the trunk of the car, grabbed water and hats and took off on the trail that leads from the parking area to the peak. It is a very rocky but well-marked trail that zigzags up the west slope. It is considered moderate in difficulty, which is a fair assessment. With a few quick stops for me to take some photos along the way, we made it to the overlook in just over thirty minutes. It was a sunny morning with temperatures in the upper 50s F, which was just about perfect.
We are not nearly young enough (admittedly a poor excuse), fit enough, or brave enough to climb rock faces, but we were perfectly satisfied to stop our ascent when we reached the overlook at the base of the jagged outcropping that forms the top of the peak. The view was spectacular looking southeast out across the Arizona desert. Of course, we took the obligatory selfie at this location and absorbed the experience for a few minutes before heading back down the slope.
This out-and-back hike took just over an hour. We were back on the road to Tucson by 11:00 and made it to the city to see some close friends for lunch at noon. More often than not, this is our hiking pattern. We have decided that short hikes like this one satisfy our need to get outside and stretch our legs, breathe in the fresh air, and sometimes enjoy spectacular scenery. Someday, when we are retired, we may have more time for longer hikes, but for now, the short ones are just fine.