If this year had gone according to plan, I’d be writing my Best of Daring Dayhikes 2020 article now, and it would feature Joshua Tree National Park, some National Monuments and state high points, and a trip to Peru. We mostly stayed home, and these trips didn’t happen. Bummer.
I wondered what to write, and then I thought to myself. “Hmm. This is the Internet, and readers don’t know if I actually traveled anywhere. Wouldn’t they prefer seeing some exotic destination and a bit of sunshine?” So pretend I never mentioned staying home, and read about our great adventures!
In March, we visited my family in Tucson, Arizona. We did our usual hiking in Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area, and we also borrowed a car for a several day side trip. This included an ascent of Picacho Peak (just off of I-10 on the way to Phoenix). This solitary peak has amazing views!
We then drove into California for three days at Joshua Tree. We stayed near the park’s north entrance at Twenty-Nine Palms. My favorite hike was Warren Peak / Panorama Loop, but Willow Hole was also great. We had great weather: not too hot or windy, and excellent visibility. Fascinating rock formations, interesting vegetation, and the terrain made a nice mix of hiking and scrambling.
Back in Tucson, we had lots of great Mexican food. We also drove to the top of Mount Lemmon to do the Wilderness of Rock loop hike. This trail winds through an otherworldly maze of boulders, and has enough elevation change that it features a few different biomes. We had a near encounter with a mountain lion, which fortunately kept a reasonable distance but gave us ample time for observation. (I’ll post the pictures when this actually happens.)
Our big trip for the year was going to be in the Peruvian Andes. Because we needed some high altitude training, in August we went to Colorado to add Mount Elbert (14,440’) to our state high points collection. This hike is actually among the easier of Colorado’s “fourteeners” (peaks above 14,000 feet). We’ve done similar distances and elevation gains, but never starting this high. We took a lot of breaks and breathed heavily in places, but we got through it with time to spare. Again, we were helped by ideal weather. Also, we met Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at the summit. Surprisingly, he’s a big fan of this blog.
Peru in September. Although technically winter in the Southern hemisphere, it’s not that cold because of proximity to the equator, and this time of year avoids the rainy season. We took a multi-day guided hike to the Macchu Picchu ruins, with llamas carrying our camping gear and food, so that we could travel with just daypacks. (I’m not making this part up; this is how the guided hikes work.) The hike employs the popular Inca Trail, and there were several groups from several tour companies on the trail and at our campsites. All the people in our group were strong hikers, so on the day we were to reach Macchu Picchu we struck out early at a brisk pace and got to the Sun Gate before the crowds arrived. A great experience.
Outside of Cusco, Peru, we did the Via Ferrata. (Via Feratta literally means “iron road”. It’s a sort of mountain climbing obstacle course with everyone clipped onto safety cables). Scary in places, but fun. It tooks us to the SkyLodge Hotel, with its glass pod rooms hanging from the side of a cliff. We didn’t stay though. All the rooms were booked for a destination wedding. We took ziplines down.
Our final Peruvian highlight was a hike to Vinicuna, the “Rainbow Mountain”. This mountain is literally striped with colors. It was possibly the hardest hike of the year, both because of the elevation and because we had already had a pretty tiring trip. Along the way I had the insight that led to my Nobel Prize in Chemistry, but I won’t bore you with that.
Okay, we didn’t do these things. We were going to; maybe in a better year. Let me know if you’d like to come along.