I have been out to Picket Post Mountain several times over the last couple of years as it's been a good place to shoot photos and hike around the foothills. I have researched the mountain on HAZ and have been amazed that the trail to the top goes right up the front (West) face of the mountain. It just don't look possible as you look at it from the trail head.
So, when Tibber (Angela) asked me to accompany her and RWStorm (Randy) on a hike to the summit of Picket Post, I gladly accepted. In my research, I read Joe's description of the hike, so I was aware that this would not be an easy one, but it was one on my personal wish list. Since Randy had done this trip on previous occasions, he was our trip leader and tour guide (a very good one too)
Angela and I arrived at the trail head early so we had a chance to view the mountain before the sun rose over it's peak. The heavy shadows on this side of the mountain, conceal the route so you have to think that it ain't really there at all, and you're going to have to climb that vertical wall. It was very intimidating to stand there and imagine a trail existed.
When Randy arrived fashionably late (a typical occurrence), we got into our gear and were soon on the well marked parts of the lower trail. The hike goes pretty quick through the now burnt scrub brush, past an old mine site with a few switch backs, always gaining altitude. At around 2,800 feet, the hike is over and now starts the scrambling as the terrain gets increasingly steeper, even precarious in some places.
As you hug a rock wall and go around its face, you will come to a large expanse of rock much like the smooth rock in Siphon Draw. Except this surface isn't smooth at all, instead it's coarse and has lots of much needed grip. It's fairly steep so you have to follow the natural contours and grab for whatever hand and toe holds are available. It was here that we met two guys and a dog (Banjj) heading back down. They had full backpacks and had spent a rough night on the summit. The guy with the dog wasn't a very happy camper and Banjj didn't appear too excited about the adventure either.
Be prepared to grab whatever brush is available to hang on to as the trail (?) spans narrow gaps. In some places, rock walls seem to block further progress, but there's usually a way up or around the obstacles. There are a lot of cactus plants growing out of the worst places, so be aware of what you grab on to. Then there's the unending scree, loose rocks & gravel and ball bearing pebbles to hamper your forward progress.
Eventually you make it through the narrow draw and break out on a sunlit mesa on top of the mountain, and there, off in the distance, is the fabled red mailbox. You made it. The scenery from up here is awesome, we had a near perfect Arizona day when you can almost see forever. There was a haze well off in the distance, but you could still make out Camelback Mtn. to the west. The Flat Iron, Weavers Needle, Four Peaks, Apache Leap, Iron Mtn, to the North and East. And I don't even know all the names of the ranges to the South. It's a full 360 degree experience, and that's why you made the journey to the summit.
Not another person was around and this was Sunday. We had a leisurely lunch up there and Angela even treated us to a Pumpkin Spiced beer that she had packed all the way. It was even amazingly cold after the rigorous hike up here and so refreshing.
Following that too short break, we began our trek back down. Going down can be trickier than the trip up, so be prepared for a slow return. Eventually all the hazards are behind you, the trail head becomes visible again and shortly we were enjoying another cold beer and some home made chocolate chip cookies that I had brought along.
To sum up Joe's 2001 description, he was accurate as far as he went, he just didn't include that the hike is also a climb (non-technical), boulder hopping, scrambling, bush whacking, down-on-all-fours-crawling, rock hugging experience to reach the summit.
Bring plenty of water with you, gloves are helpful in some places and not others, walking pole, yes & no. Great calorie burner following Thanksgiving. Read the interesting story of the mailbox on a plaque inside the door. Scratch this one from your to-do list.