Like many people who live close to a landmark, I am completely clueless about the one near me, Pinnacle Peak. Which is particularly pathetic because I’ve lived at the base of it for 15 years. It serves as a beacon of sorts, providing a touchstone to remind us of just how far away we are from home when we travel around the Valley of the Sun. So, let’s just say hypothetically that one of us is lost and the other won’t ask for directions, we just look for “the Peak” and, voila!, we know which direction is home.
Normally the most attention I pay to it is when I’m playing golf and spot some adroit rock climbers who have scaled its summit. Usually they will wave to us golfers. We always wave back, admiring their gumption – and youth. I usually three-putt those greens due to the obvious distraction. Or at least that’s my story this month.
But curiosity got the best of me last week and I decided to do some research on the Peak in my backyard. The first thing that struck me is that the Peak is almost 3200 feet high. That’s the tip, where all those crazy rock climbers look down on all us crazy golfers. That may not seem high to those of you who live in the mountains, but to those of us in the desert, this is our Mount Whitney.
The area around Pinnacle Peak was originally used by the Hohokam Indians for hunting and food gathering. Later, settlers began to use the area for ranching and mining, and finally, the whole darn place was overrun by golf courses and homes. One vestige of the mining era is that the best cheeseburger in the world can be found Greaswood Flats, an old miners shack right across from the Peak.
In 1994 the city of Scottsdale decided to make Pinnacle Peak a park and built a trail so that everyone could enjoy its beauty. The trail is 3.5 miles roundtrip and will leave you begging for an iron lung on the way up. They conveniently have provided a bench at “Grandview”which they say is so you can sit and admire the the spectacular vista. Usually all I see are my shoelaces, since my head is buried between my knees in an effort to regain regular respiration – and some dignity. The trail only climbs 500 feet from the trailhead to the top, but the older I get the steeper it becomes. I see some young people run the entire trail which I think is highly suspicious and may require some drug testing.
If gasping for air isn’t enough to entice you, you might be attracted to the beautiful plants and animals that inhabit the area. You’re likely to see bobcats, Gila monsters and Diamondbacks – and not the ones with a bat in their hands. But if you do see them you don’t want to run too far off the trail or you might get stuck in a jumping cholla plant, a vicious cactus that does actually jump out and stab you with it’s fishhook spines.
I have promised myself that I will hike the trail more regularly this spring in the fervent hope that I will get in better shape. And, seriously, there is nothing more beautiful than the cactus flowers in the spring. If nothing else, I have found a practical use for the stopping point at “Grandview” – it is the perfect place from which to throw my golf clubs off into a deep, dark crevice, never to annoy me again.