By Rob Samuelsen

Near the gradual summit of Pistol Hill road in Vail, there is a shoulder pull off and overgrown jeep road on the east side of the road. If you park on the shoulder, you can follow the jeep road to a trail that takes you 540 feet up to the top of Pistol Hill. It should be noted that because this is state land, a permit is technically required, although it begs for civil disobedience. The trail is rocky and steep, but a strong hiker with good shoes can reach the summit in about 15 minutes. On top of the 4,101-foot hilltop, there are crumbling concrete footers from a long-forgotten radio tower. There’s a spectacular view of Colossal Cave park to the east and the greater Vail area to the west. You will likely only share it with a light breeze and random lady bugs.

Some years ago, I had the brilliant idea of watching the various Independence Day fireworks from on top of this promontory, so I summited just before dusk and waited. Knowing that A Mountain was 25 miles away, I brought binoculars to bring more clarity to my spectatorship. Before long, the fireworks started, and I could see them all the way from Sahuarita to Marana, plus many private shows of prohibited and illegal pyrotechnics. The only problem was distance. Even with binoculars, all I could see were tiny little colored specks of light with no sound and certainly no fanfare. It was truly the most underwhelming patriotic celebration I’ve ever seen to commemorate the founding of our great nation.

I’ve also climbed the peak for dawning solace, watching the first glimpse of the solar sphere break the pre-dawn horizon. With all the chaos of the modern world, a sunrise reminds me that each day starts anew with purity and innocence. At first, I was huddled from the morning cold, but as the sun pierced the peak, I gradually stretched out to warm the soul. The cold and dark are replaced with warmth and light. In the cool silence, the penetrating warmth of the silent sun is as rewarding as your first kiss, first child, or first grandchild. It closes the gap between mortality and immortality. It’s repentance and redemption tied into one. A fresh start. An awakening. A renewal. And while sunsets are beautiful, sunrises are redemptive. 

Named after an instrument of violence, Pistol Hill is now about peace. Whether it’s your place of epiphany, your Golgotha, or your Sinai, it is right here, waiting for your next sojourn.

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