Picacho Peak State Park, AZ

Driving away from the house this morning we had a sense of leaving something behind, which we have rarely felt during our full-time years.  It was awkward, feeling as though the house was the center of our universe, and getting in the Airstream to travel was somehow a deficit.  We have always felt centered by being together, regardless of where we were, but suddenly it was different  today.  It felt like leaving home.  It felt strange.

I think much of this stems from the fact that for three years we regarded the Airstream as our primary home, and the house in Tucson was just one of many places we visited.  Now the house has become our home, and the new center of our universe, and in driving away from it we are abandoning that center for something else.  We left behind our unfinished projects, karate classes, neighbors and friends.  We dropped everything that was in process, locked the door and pulled away.  There’s a sense of not having full closure.  I can see why sometimes people have trouble leaving home, and why they made comments like, “Don’t you get homesick?”

The sun sets early this time of year, and even in the desert southwest the nights are long and cold.  The interior of the trailer shrinks at night (and the exterior gets longer, if you are still towing after dark).  We bumped into each other as we did back in 2005 when we were new to full-timing, and gradually re-adjusted to the practicalities of life inside 200 square feet. Making this adjustment in the middle of the winter is a bit more difficult, which is one reason why I recommend that people who are going to travel full-time start in spring or summer.

But in all other respects, it has been a typical day on the road.  We traveled a mere 70 miles, to this interesting state park near I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix, to meet our friends David, Ari, and William.  Those of you who have followed our  travels for a while may recognize them as the family we traveled with to Mexico last April, and who we visited about a year ago at their home in Ventura, CA.

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Picacho  represents a convenient meeting point between Tucson and Phoenix (where our friends were visiting most recently), but it is also a spot we’ve been meaning to re-visit for some time.  The main feature of the park is a rather abrupt peak that, from a distance, appears unclimbable without ropes.  Once in the park, you’ll discover two routes to the top which merge at a point called “The Saddle.”

In early 2007 we climbed the steeper of the two routes and reached the Saddle, in somewhat intense heat.  The climb is, frankly, brutal and unrewarding in itself, but the view is good.  Going beyond the Saddle to the peak requires more time than we had, and gloves are useful for steep rocky sections and grasping steel cables.

Tomorrow morning we are going to hike at least part of the second trail with David, Ari, and William.  It is longer, at about 3.1 miles one-way, but shallower.    We are not likely to complete the trail, because not everyone in our group is ready for a hike of this nature, but we’ll at least get a good taste of it and we can use that to plan a future summit.

The cold continues today. Around Tucson it warmed into the mid-50s, but here at Picacho it felt cooler, with a breeze.  Still the campground has at least two dozen trailers parked in it (although not many signs of life from most of them).  In the dark the temperature has plummeted again, and we expect to be near-freezing again tonight. Since we chose a non-electric site in the campground, I’ve got the catalytic heater going and it looks like it will have to run all night.  It will be a chilly morning to go on a hike tomorrow, but we’ve got the clothing and gear for it.  Short of driving to Mazatlan or south Florida, we can’t escape the cold this time of year, so we will just have to embrace it.

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