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I had been watching wildflower reports and my schedule for the right time to get away for three days on the Arizona Trail from Picketpost Trailhead near Superior to Kelvin. This 40-mile backpacking trip is one of my favorite pieces of the Arizona Trail in the spring because its dramatic rock formations and views look even better coated in poppies!

I met up with some friends from Superior who were kind enough to shuttle me to Picketpost. It was a gorgeous day after a couple days of rain. The visibility was fantastic and the air crisp and fresh. I got on the trail around 10:30 and saw many groups of equestrians out for a ride as well as a couple of hikers. My pack was loaded down with water and a pair of loppers so that I could do some trail work down by the Gila River. I am the Trail Steward of Passage 16c and I’d heard there was some brushy areas, so I came prepared to do battle with spiny plants.

Picketpost Mountain

Picketpost Mountain

The trail maintenance was a day and a half away, for now all I had to do was hike. I have done these two passages once a year for the last four years and still find it as exciting as the first time. There was water in places I hadn’t seen before, left over from the recent rains. The trail climbs up to what I like to call Stripey Butte Saddle, with great views toward the Pinal Mountains. I ran into a thru-hiker who was on the move, probably trying to make Superior before sundown. I love the views from this spot, but it was still early and I hiked on.

Stripey Butte Saddle

Stripey Butte Saddle

Blue Dicks

Blue Dicks

I filled up water at a cattle tank that was surprisingly clear and tasty. I had seven liters of water and one liter of coconut water as I hiked up to the saddle right before the gate that marks the “trailhead” between Passages 16 and 17. I use the term loosely, hardly anyone actually drives to this spot, the road in is beyond gnarly. I found a great spot for camp with views of Stripey Butte, the Pinals and the trail winding through the next canyon. An almost-full moon rose and illuminated my campsite so well that I didn’t need a light to write in my journal. It was a chilly, somewhat windy night but I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep the night before and woke up well-rested.

Sunset from my camp

Sunset from my camp

In the morning, I was taking my sweet time getting out of camp when Scott Morris and Eszter Horanyi rode up on their mountain bikes. Do yourself a favor and visit their blogs, they are always on some sort of fantastic adventure. They were using the AZT as part of a bikepacking weekend and were looking forward to going into Superior for Mexican food. We had a nice chat about wildflowers and such and they were on their way.

Scott and Eszter

Scott and Eszter

Scott and Eszter on a bikepacking trip

Scott and Eszter on a bikepacking trip

Finally got hiking around 10 am, reached the “trailhead” and soon afterward found a pothole of water in a rocky spot on the trail. Being the desert hiker that I am, I stopped and filtered a liter to drink on the spot and refilled what I’d used the night before. It was 10 miles to the river and I wanted to be able to take my time- and time is water in the desert. The trail contours high above a rugged canyon, passing some spectacular rock formations and craggy peaks. Views opened up into colorful Martinez Canyon and then I reached the high saddle and took a break. I love this saddle, but it makes a bad campsite in the spring, it doesn’t get sun till really late and is a bit of a wind tunnel. Spectacular views though.

This is the "Trailhead"

This is the “Trailhead”

Fantastic Formations

Fantastic Formations

Looking into Martinez Canyon

Looking into Martinez Canyon

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

The trail wound around some cliffs and then began the long drop toward the Gila River. I could see all the way to the Catalinas, 60 miles away as the crow flies. The wildflowers increased in variety and density as I descended, sometimes carpeting the whole hillside. I was giddy with delight! The trail goes by a notable spire with the unofficial name of Dale’s Butte, after the pioneer of the Arizona Trail, Dale Shewalter. It’s quite the landmark.

Penstemon

Penstemon

Globe Mallow and Brittlebush

Globe Mallow and Brittlebush

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides near Dale's Butte

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides near Dale’s Butte

This part of the trail always feels like it is so much longer than 10 miles to get to the river. The trail is great, just circuitous routing to keep a good grade. Near the river, I made a visit to Red Mountain Seep to refill my water. It’s only 0.3 miles up the wash from where the trail hits the river access and there is a blue collection bucket sunk into the ground if you follow the big cairns up the hill. It was a welcome sight, as it had taken most of my water to get there since I had taken so long with pictures and poppy-peeping.

Red Mountain Seep

Red Mountain Seep

I couldn’t resist a trip down to the Gila River to soak my feet and take a break. The river was so low that I could see a gravel bar that would make walking right across a piece of cake. Not the case all the time. After my refreshing break, I finally got my loppers and my gloves out and geared up to do some trail maintenance as I hiked. My criteria was, if it’s spiny and it’s going to hit someone in the face, it’s got to go. The cutting part went easy enough, it was grubbing the spiny chunks of tree away from the trail that was tough to do without getting all scraped up. I hiked and trimmed until the sun went down and then hiked with my headlamp for a bit until I found a home for the night. Much warmer this night since I had dropped 2000 feet in elevation.

Gila River

Gila River

Sunset along the Gila River

Sunset along the Gila River

The next morning, the Arizona spring wind kicked in and it howled all day long. It kept the temperature down, which was good. I continued my assault against spiny face-slappers as I hiked along, missing the days when I used to get out regularly to do trail work. I took a much-needed break at the river and rinsed some of the dust off. Which was immediately replaced by more dust. Unfortunately, my loppers were getting dull and it was getting infuriating, the blade gnawing at even small-diameter branches of catclaw. Even so, I got most of the big stuff along the river trimmed. The trail in my passage rolls up and down through drainages on The Spine- it is a marvel of engineering that created such a nice trail in such a rugged place. I saw my only person since seeing Scott and Eszter, the rancher from Battle Axe Ranch, out looking for his cows.

Gila River Campsite

Gila River Campsite

Stone Tool

Stone Tool

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

DSC01974

Battle Axe Rancher

Battle Axe Rancher

I passed the A-Diamond Ranch and the trestle bridge and climbed up to the completion monument that was placed when we connected the Arizona Trail across the state in December 2011. The DS carved into the cement stand for Dale Shewalter, pioneer of the Arizona Trail.

Scorpionweed and Poppies

Scorpionweed and Poppies

Trestle Bridge

Trestle Bridge

Completion Marker

Completion Marker

Sunset looking down at the tiny town of Kelvin/Riverside

Sunset looking down at the tiny town of Kelvin/Riverside

The light was fading and I ended up getting back to my car in the dark. It was a great end to a fantastic trip- wildflowers, solitude, trail work, jaw-dropping scenery- I am lucky to have such spectacular places to play in.

Arizona Trail Day and the Colossal Campout is less than 2 weeks away, on March 28th- come out for a full day and night of fun on the Arizona Trail! Register for the hike, mountain bike ride, or horseback ride (BYO Horse) and reserve your camping and meals at http://www.aztrail.org/trail_day/ccmp.html. The Warrior Hike “Walk off the War” veterans will be hiking into Tucson for Arizona Trail Day. We are very excited to have two veterans thru-hiking the trail for Warrior Hike this year.

Jasmine the Mini-Donkey and raptors from Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson will be at Arizona Trail Day- hope to see you there!

Jasmine the Mini-Donkey on the Arizona Trail in the Santa Ritas

Jasmine the Mini-Donkey on the Arizona Trail in the Santa Ritas

AZTrailDay2015 CCMP

Tortolita Superloop

Despite working for a trail organization, I get stuck behind my computer and an endless stream of emails and phone calls. I needed to get away for a quick overnighter and realized I hadn’t hiked the new Tortolita Ridgeline Trail. I worked until 4 and got hiking by 5 on the Tortolitas Superloop. Made it onto the Cochie Canyon Trail for a great sunset- I almost missed the best part of it cause I thought it was over and started hiking again. Found a spot after hiking with my headlamp for a bit that had the only flat real estate around and set up camp. Had an enjoyable evening with a beautiful halo around the moon for photography.DSC01501

Moon Halo

Moon Halo

The next morning, I hiked to the old windmill and got on the connector route over to Wild Mustang. When I reached the saddle, I explored a well-cairned route that seems to go back under the rocky peak and toward Wild Burro Wash.  Something to check out next time. There were great views of the Catalinas and Picacho Peak from the saddle.

Cochie Canyon Camp

Cochie Canyon Camp

Pretty green out here!

Pretty green out here!

Windmill in Cochie Canyon

Windmill in Cochie Canyon

Route from Cochie Canyon to the saddle

Route from Cochie Canyon to the saddle

Saddle on the Cochie- Mustang connector route- Picacho Peak at right

Saddle on the Cochie- Mustang connector route- Picacho Peak at right

Catalinas in the distance from the saddle

Catalinas in the distance from the saddle

The route goes past a crested saguaro that has seen better times- a victim of the frost of 2010. I made it to the Wild Mustang and took it to the new-to-me Wild Burro Tank/Goat Corral trail. This trail meanders through the desert until it reaches Wild Burro Tank, a solar windmill with a big metal tank and a wildlife tank with a covered float. I had brought all my water for the two days but took on an emergency liter from the tank just in case. Such a desert hiker.

Crested Saguaro on the route down to Wild Mustang- this is a very rare mutation and no one knows why it happens.

Crested Saguaro on the route down to Wild Mustang- this is a very rare mutation and no one knows why it happens. The Tortolitas seem to have a high concentration of them.

Looking back at the saddle on the right of the small rocky peak

Looking back at the saddle on the right of the small rocky peak

A perfect Saguaro

A perfect Saguaro

Memorial to Molly

Memorial to Molly

Wild Burro Tank solar windmill

Wild Burro Tank solar windmill

After exploring the Goat Corral area I started up the Ridgeline Trail’s lazy switchbacks up to the ridgecrest. The trail construction in the Tortolitas is amazing! The new Ridgeline is a delight! It contours around, swooping this way and that to stay on the ridgeline and offers incredible views down into the Tortolitas as well as views of the Catalinas, Santa Ritas, and Picacho Peak. All of this and wildflowers too, many varieties including some fragrant ceanothus. I was super-excited to be on such a sweet fresh piece of trail so close to my home.

Road that goes out east to Edwin Rd.

Road that goes out east to Edwin Rd.

Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Crested Cactus #2

Crested Cactus #2

Crested Saguaro #3

Crested Saguaro #3

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

The Wild Burro Tank/Ridgeline loop eventually drops you back at Wild Burro just a little ways down from where you started the loop. It’s a great tour of the interior of the Torts. I took the Wild Burro Trail all the way and made it back to my car with out seeing anyone for the entire time I was out. A perfect little getaway.

Ancient Grinding Holes

Ancient Grinding Holes

Old cowboy line shack

Old cowboy line shack

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, Elfie the Elf Owl, Citan the Harris Hawk and Luna the Great Horned Owl will be out and about as part of the second annual Arizona Trail Day and Colossal Campout happening on March 28th. Trail Day is a full free day and night of fun on the Arizona Trail and the birds will be part of our Outdoor Expo, which runs from 12-3 at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Registration is open for the hike, bike ride or equestrian ride in the morning and for nighttime fun at La Selvilla Campground with music by Eb Eberlein and friends, tasty food by It’s Greek to Me and Arizona Trail Ale by the campfire. Free entry to the park and camping for Arizona Trail Day! Visit http://www.aztrail.org/trail_day/ccmp.html for more details.AZTrailDay2015 CCMP

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Elf Owl

Elf Owl

The tagline of my blog is “Exploring the Beauty of Arizona’s Wild Places”, but a couple of weekends ago I got to visit Moab, Utah for a special outing with fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors. I have been a Trail Ambassador since last February and have enjoyed being a part of a group that inspires others through their love of the outdoors. It’s fun to read other Ambassadors blogs and see what adventures they are up to. Part of being an ambassador was getting my Mariposa backpack that I have used since my Arizona Trail Trek. It’s now my go-to pack and this weekend I got to try out another smaller pack for dayhiking, the Type 2 Utility Backpack. Before I arrived in Utah, I had a couple stops to make- the first was the Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center to see the Arizona Trail promo on the IMAX screen. It was amazing to see it so large and know that so many people were going to learn about the Arizona Trail while waiting to see their movie. Then it was on to Page for two Arizona Trail presentations, one at Glen Canyon Visitor Center and one for the Page City Council. Both went very well and the City of Page is very enthusiastic about being a part of the Gateway Community Program.

Lone Rock Beach

Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell

After my Arizona Trail work was done, I made my way to Moab, taking the scenic route through Monument Valley.

Agathla Peak

Agathla Peak

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

I had the following day to kill before most of the Ambassadors arrived in Utah, so I went on a hike on the Devil’s Garden Trail in Arches National Park. This trail, the longest in the park, takes you to 8 arches in 7 miles. It was a chilly but beautiful day with patches of white snow and ice on the red rock. It made me happy to have my microspikes for the slippery parts.

AZT Mobile in Utah

AZT Mobile in Utah

Navajo Arch

Navajo Arch

Arches - Devil's Garden

Arches – Devil’s Garden

Partition Arch

Partition Arch

Micro Chicken getting eaten by the crazy rock

Micro Chicken getting eaten by the crazy rock

After an incredible sunset at Balanced Rock, I headed to the Moab Retreat House to meet the other Trail Ambassadors. What a group- some of the most well-known names in hiking and all with fantastic stories to tell.

La Sal Mountain Sunset

La Sal Mountain Sunset

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Sunset at Balanced Rock

The next morning, we headed to the Gold Bar Canyon-Jeep Arch-Culvert Canyon loop. It was a wonderful hike that included scrambling through slickrock drainages to Jeep Arch.

Hello Colorado River!

Hello Colorado River!

Scrambling up the canyon

Scrambling up the canyon

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Approaching Jeep Arch

Approaching Jeep Arch

Disco strikes a pose

Disco from The Trail Show strikes a pose

Slickrock perch

Slickrock perch

We then climbed on slanted slabs up to the Gold Bar Rim for superlative views of the Colorado River below.

Heart-shaped linked tinajas

Heart-shaped linked tinajas

Gold Bar Rim Pano

Gold Bar Rim Pano

Twinkle living on the edge

Twinkle living on the edge

A cairned route looped us back to the car via Culvert Canyon. Trail Ambassador Will Rietveld, ultralight guru and expert in the Moab area, led all the hikes. It was so nice to be able to follow someone and not have to navigate for a change. We had a little daylight left, so some of us went back to Arches and hiked the Windows Trail before going back to Balanced Rock for sunset. Touristy but still very pleasant. I love how anything that is not a rock-lined trail in Arches is called “primitive” and comes with stern warnings.

Balanced Rock Sunset

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

The next day, we went to the Needles District of Canyonlands, and hiked the Lost Canyon to Peekaboo Trail. We had hoped to go to Peekaboo Spring, but were stopped by an uninviting icy traverse along sloping slickrock.

Needles District, Canyonlands

Needles District, Canyonlands

Bearclaw descends the ladder

Bearclaw descends the ladder

Dirtmonger and Bearclaw

Dirtmonger and Bearclaw, who got married on the PCT last summer

Slickrock Snorkel

Slickrock Snorkel

Granaries

Granaries

Icy in the shady spots

Icy in the shady spots

I didn’t care where we ended up, as long as I was enjoying the outdoors with new friends. The landscape was dotted with gorgeous tinajas- slickrock pockets full of water after recent rains. The other Trail Ambassadors, most from cool, wet climates probably couldn’t understand my giddiness over such a small amount of agua. Grant Sible, president of Gossamer Gear, joined us and it was so nice to meet him and Glen Van Peski, who founded the company. There was an international contingent as well- Tomo from Japan who owns an ultralight backpacking store in Tokyo, Hiker’s Depot. I sent some Arizona Trail maps back to Japan with him.

Tinajas

Tinajas

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Me and Grant Sible

Me and Grant Sible

One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to talk trails with others who are just as obsessed as I am. We kept intersecting parts of the Hayduke Trail and geeked out with the guidebook, trying to figure out where it ran in the area. Plans for adventures big and small were discussed and tips and tricks exchanged. It was a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed the fact that there were so many women represented, including Heather “Anish” Anderson, who has the PCT unsupported speed record and Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, who has the Appalachian Trail unsupported speed record. Always inspiring to meet ladies who kick ass! In the evening, some people asked me if I had a presentation with me about the Arizona Trail. Of course- that’s what I do for a living! I got to give my full slideshow and I’m pretty sure I left some people dreaming of future thru-hikes of the AZT. I even got a mention on the latest episode of The Trail Show (at about 52:00). There were two more days of Ambassador fun, and Outdoor Retailer after that, but I had to leave in order to be home on the 20th for my husband’s birthday. No missing that date, no matter how much I wished I could hike some more! I took the scenic route back through the Grand Canyon and met Levi Davis, the wonderful videographer who produced the promo, so that he could see his work on the IMAX screen. It was fun to watch it again with him. Levi is so incredibly talented, I highly recommend him.

Me and Levi at the Arizona Trail Exhibit

Me and Levi Davis at the Arizona Trail Exhibit

If you’d like to see the Ambassador exploits on Instagram, search the tag #GGUtahAdventures for a real treat! I’m now on IG @desertsirena. I look forward to more outings with this fantastic bunch! I may even plan a Trail Ambassador outing in my neck of the desert. In Wildlife Rehab news, I got called in to fly a Red-Tailed Hawk who’s recovering from an injured wing. Got some distance, needs to be flown some more to rehab the wing.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk- why is it looking at me like that?

Anniversary of my Accident

“Be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success- you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.” –Olive McGloin, first woman to yo-yo the PCT

I was watching a video this morning with this quote and the words really hit home for me today- the 18th anniversary of my accident. In 1997 I was 23 years old and had just started my last semester studying archaeology at the University of Arizona. I walked across the street to get some change for laundry when a girl driving a pickup truck didn’t look where she was turning and hit me in the back. Eyewitnesses said that I flew up four feet in the air before landing on the pavement. I didn’t break any bones, but that accident caused me to develop Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, and my life was changed forever.

I think back to the days when it was hard for me to walk around the block without being in excruciating pain or the months I spent in bed. When I started hiking with my dog Zeus and we’d do the 2-mile Canyon Loop at Catalina State Park I’d pay for it for days with incredible fatigue and stabbing pains. The days when I took pill after pill prescribed by doctors who didn’t know what to do with me and my Fibromyalgia. The flares that would last for months, keeping me wondering if I would ever live a normal life again. Wondering what the future held for me and my broken body.

Me and Zeus on the Canyon Loop

Me and Zeus on the Canyon Loop

It’s been almost a decade since I had my last Fibromyalgia flare, but that doesn’t mean that the fear doesn’t still linger in the back of my mind that it will come back. Whenever I have started a big challenge, like my Arizona Trail section-hike or working as a guide on the river in the Grand Canyon, I’ve worried that it will be the thing that ultimately sends me into a flare. Last year’s combination of my Arizona Trail thru-hike and river season was the ultimate test. If you include the planning process, it was nine months of intense stress and physical activity. And though afterwards I was drained, depressed, and tired- which felt a lot like Fibromyalgia- it wasn’t. It was just garden-variety post-hike blues and I got over it.

Through it all, my husband Brian has been there. We met just months after the accident, after the bumps and bruises had healed and before it got really bad. He has been there even when I was absolutely no fun to be around, a depressed, angry, achy lump on the couch. I am lucky to have such a partner.

Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

Brian and Me

I don’t talk a lot about that part of my life, mainly because I’m so relieved that I don’t have to feel that way anymore. But every year on the anniversary I can’t help but think about how tough it was to pull through the dark days, when I despaired at what I thought my future would be like. In those days of wondering about whether I was ever going to be able to live without pain and fatigue, I never would have believed it if you told me I was going to hike across Arizona twice. I could barely hike across my own neighborhood! It’s amazing how far I have come and it was worth every bit of the fight to get my health back.

Last weekend, I was with fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors (blog coming soon, I promise!) hiking in Utah. I was so proud to be able to be a part of the community and keep up with such a fit group of folks. Sad, pained, fatigued me from 15 years ago would never have believed it.

Needles District, Canyonlands

Needles District, Canyonlands

Montrose Canyon Waterfalls

Canyoneering Montrose Canyon- December 20th, 2014

I had been swamped with work and needing to get out, so when Russ put out a call for folks to go canyoneering, I jumped on the chance. There had been a big winter storm and while most would avoid canyons flowing with snowmelt in December, I was willing to brave cold temps for the reward of seeing this place I’d looked down upon on my way to Romero Pools. Immediately out of the parking lot, the big wash was running and we knew the canyon was going to have a great flow.

We hiked the Romero Canyon Trail to the ridge that separates Montrose from Romero canyons and had a short bushwhack down to the creekbed. Took a break to gear up- I hoped my 3/2 wetsuit was enough for the icy waters. It was a beautiful day and bright golden ash trees dotted the canyon. My waterproof camera has a cracked screen and wasn’t too happy about being submerged, so the pics are all from Dan’s camera.

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

The canyon wasn’t terribly narrow, but still very attractive. We made our way through polished granite boulders and pools filled with amber-colored Catalina tea. The tannins in the water made it hard to see the depth.There were three rappels and quite a few mandatory swims. We had sun to warm up after the first rappel, but it eluded us the rest of the day- just around the next corner. It was a really fun day out, if a little chilly. It was worth it to see and hear all the water.

Montrose Canyon 2nd Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 2nd Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Beautiful Fall Colors in Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Beautiful Fall Colors in Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon Slide- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon Slide- Photo by Dan Kinler

Gneiss! -Photo by Dan Kinler

Gneiss! -Photo by Dan Kinler

One nice thing about this canyon is that it is a very short distance out of the canyon to the Montrose Canyon bench, then an easy flat mile back to the car. We opted to hike out in our wetsuits and harnesses, garnering a couple of interested looks on the way. I had really missed canyoneering, there’s nothing like having all the waterfalls and pools to yourself while the trail above is swarming with people on a Saturday. Love it!

Hiking out in our gear- Photo by Dan Kinler

Hiking out in our gear- Photo by Dan Kinler

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, our educational elf owls might become famous soon! There’s talk of them being filmed for a TV special. I’ll post an update when I know more. Donate and help feed these cuties so they look good for their close-up!
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Elf Owl

Elf Owl

Last year, the Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center installed an Arizona Trail display in the interior courtyard sponsored by Nature Valley. It’s a fantastic display and the Arizona Trail Association was invited to create a promo for the trail that would run in the previews before the Grand Canyon IMAX movie.

Arizona Trail Courtyard Display

Arizona Trail Courtyard Display

I worked with the extremely talented videographer Levi Davis and a whole cast of hikers, bikers, equestrians and runners all over the state to get just the right shots to exemplify the trail’s beauty and biodiversity. Levi also used footage that he had from my Arizona Trail Trek. London-based musician Jonathan Wright generously donated the use of his epic piece of music Undiscovered World to set the mood. Then we were lucky enough to get Tucson radio talent Cathy Rivers from KXCI to record her beautiful voice for the narration. The result is a two-minute tour of the Arizona Trail that will hopefully inspire many journeys. I couldn’t wait to see it on the big screen, so when I was planning on traveling to Page for presentations at the Glen Canyon Visitor Center and the City Council I dropped by to take a look. Here’s the video:

It was amazing to see on the IMAX screen and know that thousands of people a year will be learning about the Arizona Trail. It was also a momentous occasion for me- twenty years ago when I moved to Arizona from the Chicago suburbs, my first stop was the Grand Canyon. But when I arrived it was raining, so I went and saw the IMAX movie while I waited for the storm to clear up. Now I was the one on the big screen! I am so pleased with the way the project turned out. Levi is an amazing artist and really captured the essence of the trail.

We also produced a general version without the bit about the courtyard display that can be used for all sorts of promotions and websites that feature information about the trail.

Pretty fantastic stuff- my presentations in Page went really well and now I’m headed to Moab for a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador weekend. I can’t wait to meet the other Trail Ambassadors- we’re going to be doing dayhikes in the area and I’m sure it will be a blast!

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson news, we’ve got a beautiful Ferruginous Hawk, which is the largest American hawk. Here’s a pic of it and for comparison, a Swainson’s Hawk and a Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Happy New Year! May your 2015 be filled with fantastic adventures!

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!!

For New Year’s Eve I decided to celebrate in the tiny town of Oracle. It’s on the northern side of the Catalina Mountains, and I go there often both for work and play because it’s one of the 33 Gateway Communities on the Arizona Trail. It’s a small but vibrant community with an artsy feel that has many historic guest ranches. As I drove closer to Oracle, gaining elevation on Highway 77, the rain turned into fat, wet snowflakes. I checked into my beautiful room at El Rancho Robles Guest Ranch and relaxed for a couple of hours before going out for the night.

Snow starting to come down at El Rancho Robles

Snow starting to come down at El Rancho Robles

My relaxing room at El Rancho Robles Guest Ranch

My relaxing room at El Rancho Robles Guest Ranch

When I emerged from the room, there was considerably more snow and I was glad that there was a shuttle service running so that I didn’t have to brave the roads filled with scared drivers and partiers. People in Southern Arizona are really bad at driving in any kind of precipitation, but throw a little snow in there and people just can’t deal.

My first stop was the Triangle L Ranch, where there was a fun band and delicious potluck. Normally, I would have spent at least a little time wandering the grounds, but I was wearing inappropriate footwear for so much snow. The ranch holds one of my favorite events, the GLOW Festival, in the fall. Their website describes it well- “Triangle L Ranch offers comfortable accommodations, privacy, easygoing hospitality, and the charm of a rustic, historic ranch setting enhanced by a commitment to the arts.” A wonderful place. I didn’t bring my camera, but here’s a pic of one of their outdoor areas:

Triangle L Ranch

Triangle L Ranch

After a while, I went with some folks to check out the new Ore House Hilltop Tavern. Formerly Don Juan’s Bar, it has new owners and has been completely remodeled. There is a gorgeous outdoor patio and I’ll have to come back sometime when there’s not four inches of snow on the bar.

I went back to the Triangle L to ring in the New Year with some dancing. It was a really fun night, made magical by the ever-falling snow. It finally stopped around 2 am and cleared up. I was glad I took the shuttle, a bunch of folks couldn’t get out of the icy driveway and had to unexpectedly stay the night.

The next morning, I couldn’t wait to go see the Arizona Trail with snow on it. For those who know me, I am not usually a fan of snow. I grew up in the frigid Chicago suburbs and developed a disgust for the white stuff. But snow at low elevations in the desert, frosting the mountaintops as well as the cacti- that is something to see!

Saw this near another room and it made me smile

Saw this near another room and it made me smile

El Rancho Robles

El Rancho Robles

I had to scrape my windshield and windows before leaving, something I haven’t had to do in years. There were abandoned cars all over the place as I drove to the trailhead. Like I said, people can’t deal. American Flag TH was exactly the winter wonderland I’d hoped for. This was my new Sony A6000 camera’s first hike, and what a scene!

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

I hiked a little ways to the north, enjoying the views of the snow-capped Galiuros and giggling about snowy cholla and prickly pear. I love this part of the Arizona Trail with its boulders and expansive views. The American Flag TH is where I originally got the idea back in May 2007 to hike the Arizona Trail and will always have a special place in my heart. Who knew that a simple hike seven years ago would put my life on such an unexpected path?

American Flag Ranch

American Flag Ranch

American Flag Ranch

American Flag Ranch

Snow on Prickly Pear

Snow on Prickly Pear

Then I returned to the trailhead and hiked south on the AZT. At first, I thought I’d just hike a little way in and turn around, but once I got going I realized that I could easily hike up to the High Jinks Ranch. After a short distance, there were no more tracks and it was so beautiful to see the glittering expanse of untouched white. I’ve hiked this part of the Arizona Trail so many times, but never in the snow. It doesn’t last too long at this elevation when the sun comes out.

Snowy Arizona Trail

Snowy Arizona Trail

I approached the High Jinks Ranch and the owner, Dan, invited me in for a cup of tea. Sounded great, as it was pretty chilly outside- the clouds had come in low again. The views from the ranch are expansive and spectacular. Dan rents out a casita on the grounds, which is where I celebrated my 40th birthday last year. The High Jinks is very hiker, biker, and horseback rider-friendly and totally worth a visit if you’re on the Arizona Trail.

Approaching High Jinks Ranch

Approaching High Jinks Ranch

View from High Jinks Ranch

View from High Jinks Ranch

I eventually had to head back down the hill and back to Tucson- my dog Bailey is quite old and I don’t like to leave her at home alone for long when my husband is not around. Before leaving town, I stopped at the Oracle Patio Cafe for a slice of their heavenly pie with homemade whipped cream to go. You could say that the pie was the icing on the cake of a fantastic New Year’s celebration- what a great way to start the year!

Micro Chicken hanging out with the snowman

Micro Chicken hanging out with the snowman

At Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, we recently released some skunks. I found this picture of one of them right before the release. Now they live at the Arlington Wildlife Area southwest of Phoenix.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson

Hooded Skunk at Wildlife Rehab NW Tucson

Hooded Skunk at Wildlife Rehab NW Tucson

Free at last!

Free at last!

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