October 23 Piestewa Peak, Arizona

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Piestewa Peak in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve in Arizona

Piestewa Peak is the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains, at 2,608 feet (795 meters). It is located in Phoenix, in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, about an one hour drive from Casa Grande. We decided to go hike up this peak because I was disappointed at not being able to make it to the top of Picacho Peak, and it was still great weather for hiking in Arizona.

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Ann standing next to a saguaro cactus on the trail up to the summit of Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak is named in honor of Army Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat in the US military, and the first female soldier to be killed in action in the 2003 Iraq War. It used to be called Squaw Peak, and I guess many people in the Phoenix area still refer to it by that name. There was a lot of controversy when the name was changed.

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A cute squirrel checking us out on the Piestewa Peak trail

The Piestewa Peak Summit Trail is climbed thousands of times per week by locals and visitors. It has  great views of Phoenix and the surrounding mountains, and it is not a Via Ferrata trail. However, quite a few hikers do not actually reach the top due to the fact that this trail is more difficult than it looks, with steep, narrow ledges, and rock scrambles. But there were lots of people hiking up and down the trail on the Wednesday morning when we were there. It was a very busy trail; it reminded me of hiking in Yosemite in the summer! But it was reassuring to see all of those people on the trail, as I figured that if they could make it to the top, then we could, too. Granted, everyone on the trail looked fit and in good shape, and mostly much younger than us!

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Ann and Jeff at the top of Piestewa Peak

Still, after climbing Picacho Peak, the trail up to the summit of Piestewa Peak did not seem too hard, and we made it to the top in good time. The summit of Piestewa Peak was not flat or level,  so moving around at the summit was a bit of a challenge. Piestewa Peak is relatively young mountain, formed roughly 14 million years ago with an uplift of the land surface. However, it is composed of much older rock, primarily schist, which is pointed and sharp and angled in many different directions. This is probably a good thing, as it keeps all those hikers from hanging out long at the top!

On our way home to my parents’ house in Casa Grande, Jeff had to stop and take photos of the cotton fields. October is when they harvest the cotton in Arizona, so all of the plants were defoliated and full of big, white cotton puffs waiting for the mechanical picking machines. We are not usually in Arizona when the cotton is ready to harvest; we are usually looking at bare fields or green plants in the fields. The fields are certainly beautiful when the cotton is ready to pick! My mom calls it “Arizona snow” and the fields did almost look “snow covered!”

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Cotton in the fields ready to be picked near Casa Grande

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