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A look back at 2015

It’s that time of year again for a retrospective of my travels, let’s see where I wandered in 2015! If you’re a regular reader of the blog, don’t worry, I’ve added a lot of new pics from hikes that didn’t get a write up. Click on the links to open the post in a new tab.

January

I started the year out with a snowy hike on the Arizona Trail up to the High Jinks Ranch in Oracle.

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Explored some peaks and ridges near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground:

Great spot for a break

Great spot for a break

Met with other Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors for some dayhiking near Moab. Loved the slickrock and big views and the company was wonderful!

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Tinajas

Tinajas

Bagged a Cat in the Tucson Mountains:

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Spine of Cat Mountain

In addition, I went on a speaking tour about my Arizona Trail Trek that took me to outdoor stores, hiking clubs and community groups across Arizona. I did 10 talks in under 6 weeks!

February

Took a backpacking trip in the foothills north of Catalina State Park on the Baby Jesus Trail and some unnamed routes.

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Love those Arizona sunsets!

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Backpacking in the Catalina Foothills

Spent my birthday hiking the Sweetwater Preserve with Brian.

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Sweetwater Preserve

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Brian out on the trail

Backpacked a  loop in the Tortolita Mountains and got to experience the awesome Ridgeline Trail.

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

March

Chased Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail from Pickepost to Kelvin, one of my favorite pieces of all. Did some trail maintenance to my passage in the process.

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides

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

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

Hiked the Arizona Trail from Mexico to Patagonia with Warrior Hike, a nonprofit that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails for therapeutic purposes.

Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

Warrior Hike- Arizona Trail/Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

April

The end of March and beginning of April were tough. In 10 days I lost both my father-in-law and my old dog Bailey.

Bailey and Zeus

Bailey and Zeus- both gone but the great memories will live in my heart forever.

My 18-year old nephew Chase visited Arizona from Michigan and I got to take him to the Grand Canyon for his first hike. He’s hooked and can’t wait to come back.DSC02278

And then there was the time I stepped on a rattlesnake and lived to tell the tale (thank goodness it was a cold snake!):

Rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake!

My buddy Bill and his dog Bella and I did the Wilderness of Rocks Loop in the Catalinas. That was one happy water-soaked Lab!

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Love the Wilderness of Rock! Photo by Bill Bens

May

I joined Warrior Hike in the Grand Canyon and enjoyed showing my favorite place to the veterans in the program.

A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down to Phantom Ranch

A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

A perfect day.

A perfect day.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

The International Trails Symposium was held in Portland and I was part of a presentation about outdoor therapies for veterans. I took some time to explore the area and backpacked from Eagle Creek to Whatum Lake and down to Cascade Locks on the Pacific Crest Trail. A gorgeous loop filled with waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. My favorite part was carrying a mere half-liter of water, what a concept for a desert rat!

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Presenting at the International Trails Symposium about my work with Warrior Hike

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Into the Mist

Into the Mist

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

June

Time once again for river season with Arizona River Runners– I decided that this would be my last summer guiding. I will forever cherish the time I got to take people hiking and boating and teach people about the Canyon.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I got a fun little hike in to O’Neill Crater near the ARR warehouse, complete with a small cliff dwelling and tons of rooms and pottery.

Walls on the summit

Walls on the summit

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My friend Carrie was nice enough to teach me how to ride a horse and we took her Arabians out on the Arizona Trail.

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop above Oak Tree Canyon

At the end of the month, little Stu joined our family. It sure was empty without any animals in the house!DSC00038.JPG

July

More river trips and horseback riding. I got to ride on the Las Colinas passage of the AZT, a piece I had helped build. Such a different perspective riding high on a horse!

Riding Las Colinas

Riding Las Colinas

August

I had my last trip of the season on the river, bittersweet to leave. I will miss living in the Grand Canyon, sleeping on the beaches of the Colorado River. I plan on devoting time to exploring more on foot.

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I put a GIF together (sorry it’s a little choppy) from a bunch of pictures that were taken from the other boat of me driving Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs – watch the 35-foot boat disappear into the massive waves!

Hermit Rapid 22,000 cfs

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Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river!

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

At the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum, I participated in a well-attended presentation about trails and communities. It’s so great for me to see how the idea of trails as an economic driver for small towns has really become popular in Arizona. It’s a big part of my Gateway Community Program that I’ve developed since 2011 for the Arizona Trail. I got to paddle the Verde River near Clarkdale and had a wonderful time on the water.

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Summer is the time to head for the high country and I did a hike on the Aspen Draw in the Catalinas with my friends Silver and Leigh Anne and her mini-donkey Jasmine.

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Jasmine, Leigh Anne and Silver on the Aspen Draw Trail

August 15th, the hottest day of the year- it hit 110 in Tucson but I stayed  cool canyoneering the 7 Cataracts of Willow Canyon. Russ and I took our time and spent the whole day rappelling, scrambling and swimming. So glad I finally got to see this beautiful canyon.

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon- photo by Russ Newberg

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Russ on the 3rd rappel in Willow Canyon

Took a hike on the Arizona Trail down Oracle Ridge, which was covered in wildflowers from the abundant rains.

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge/AZT

September

I went to Chicago for a visit with family and paddled the Kishwaukee River- we saw a bald eagle fly downstream right overhead!

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Paddling the Kishwaukee River

We had a very successful Arizona Trail Day weekend in Flagstaff and had the Arizona premiere of the movie Unbranded. I highly recommend it, the story of 4 men and 16 mustangs who ride from Mexico to Canada. They used the Arizona Trail for part of their journey and the cinematography is incredible.Unbranded Grand Canyon

Back to Portland for the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West 20th Annual Gathering, but first I joined Grant Sible from Gossamer Gear and friends for a 4-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park. We hit fall colors on the High Divide Loop- a tour of alpine lakes and rainforest.

Mount Carrie

Got lucky with beautiful views of Mount Carrie with blue skies on our side trip to Cat Peak

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake

The ALDHA-West Gathering was so inspirational, I got to see a presentation by Trauma and Pepper about their PCT winter traverse and many others.

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Gave my Arizona Trail talk, there was a lot of interest in the room and I hope we’ll see many of those folks on the AZT in the future. Also got to see Anish days after she set the Appalachian Trail speed record, what fun to be a part of such a dynamic group.

ALDHA West Gathering

ALDHA-West Gathering

October

My friends got married at the Nordic Center in Flagstaff and Brian and I hit the Aspen Loop/AZT for some fall color.

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

I did a canyoneering loop down the East Fork of Lemmon Canyon- a wonderland of giant granite boulders and waterfalls. The final rappel was into the “punchbowl” of Lemmon Pools.

Russ in a granite cave

Russ in a granite cave

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Giant granite boulders in East Fork Lemmon Canyon

Lemmon Pools

Lemmon Pools

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock- photo by Russ Newberg

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

My favorite part of October was finding little Roscoe at Pima Animal Care Center. He was 3 months old with the most adorable little brown face and gigantic paws. Can’t wait till he’s big enough to be my backpacking buddy!

Roscoe

Roscoe- 3 months old

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Roscoe and his buddy Stu

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First hike in the Tortolitas

November

Oh Grand Canyon…how I’ve missed you!  Spent six days solo backpacking from Tanner to Grandview along the Escalante Route and Tonto Trails. Only saw one other person the first five days, it felt like I had the whole Canyon to myself.

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

On Thanksgiving I hiked to the south side of Sombrero Peak, Peak 3263- a fun little bushwhack.

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Hiking up to Peak 3263

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Micro Chicken’s Thanksgiving dinner

Took a hike on the always-attractive Baby Jesus Trail to round out the month.DSC02781

December

Fall comes late to Southern Arizona and I did a Sabino Canyon -Bear Canyon loop to catch the color.

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Sabino Canyon

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

Went for a fall hike in Cienega Creek. Ash trees were the best in the drainage, with some cottonwoods and sycamores still hanging on.

Cienega Creek

Cienega Creek

Tried a new loop near Catalina State Park- a route that connects Alamo Canyon and Buster Mountain was a fun puzzle to follow.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)

Gneiss!

Witnessed my friends Kathy and Ras Vaughan complete the first known Yo-yo (up and back) of the Arizona Trail– what an accomplishment!

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Planned on Christmas and end of the year hikes but got sick with the flu instead. Oh well.

2015 was a year of change and transitions. Some years are tougher than others and this one didn’t come easy- I am looking forward to 2016.

Now for the big news…I decided that I am going to section-hike the length of the Grand Canyon over the next couple of years. I will be connecting a line- some on the south side, some on the north- from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry. The total mileage is somewhere around 600, depending on what routes are taken and there is no trail for most of it. To date, only 27 people have walked through the canyon and of those, only three women. Most of the route I will be taking will be tough bushwhacking and scrambling through one of the most remote, wild and extreme places on the planet.

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Redwall Heart over Nankoweap Rapid.JPG

Redwall heart over Nankoweap Rapid

To date, I’ve hiked from Tanner to Elves Chasm, minus the Gems, for which I have a permit in the spring. The most exciting news is that I am taking the month of October off to hike a big chunk of the Canyon! I am currently figuring out what section I will be doing and who will be joining me.  As much as I enjoy my solo time, safety comes first and I’ll feel more comfortable with someone else there. I haven’t felt this kind of excitement since I first heard about the Arizona Trail.

It’s eight years since I started blogging for my first hike of the Arizona Trail and six on this site- thanks for reading and giving me someone to share my stories with. I wish for good fortune and exciting adventures for all in the new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently I got to be a small part of a friend’s inspiring journey and I wanted to share an article I wrote:

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UltraPedestrian complete the first known yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail! Photo by Armando Gonzales

Coronado National Memorial, Arizona: On December 20th, Kathy and Ras Vaughan of Whidbey Island, Washington became the first people to yo-yo the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail. For 93 days, this adventurous couple—known by their collective trail name as UltraPedestrian—traversed  the state of Arizona twice. Starting at the US/Mexico border on September 18th and hiking to the Utah border, then immediately turning around and heading back to Mexico, the couple covered a total of 1,668 miles. They endured everything from 100-degree temperatures to several snowstorms during an unseasonably wet year.

“We wanted to experience the trail as completely as possible, seeing it in both directions and taking on a challenge that no one else has ever experienced before,” said Ras. The Vaughans thru-hiked the Arizona Trail in spring of 2014, with Kathy establishing the fastest known time for a female in 35 days. Not only is a yo-yo twice as long as a regular thru-hike of the trail, but extreme weather is more likely. They completed the trail self-supported and hiked in and out of the gateway communities, adding 68 miles to their journey to resupply rather than accepting rides.

“Meeting people along the trail and in the gateway communities helped us understand the connection between the people and the places of Arizona,” said Kathy. “The challenge of the trail helped us improvise solutions to the problems that came up, whether it was dealing with gear issues or weather conditions.”

They had a SPOT tracker so that folks could follow along and shared frequent updates from the trail on Instagram and Facebook. I offered to pick them up at the Mexican border at the end of their journey and they let me tag along for the last two miles.

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

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Last steps toward Border Monument 102 which marks the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Congrats to this incredible couple! They will be coming back to Arizona in February for a speaking tour and are writing a book, I look forward to both.

About UltraPedestrian

UltraPedestrian is Kathy and Ras Vaughan, who strive to take on unique challenges and inspire others to “find their own version of epic.” Kathy holds the women’s fastest known time for the Arizona Trail and Ras is credited with innovating Only Known Times, including a sextuple Grand Canyon crossing and a unsupported (no resupply) Washington Traverse on the Pacific Crest Trail. Their website is Ultrapedestrian and they are on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube at @ultrapedestrian.

About the Arizona National Scenic Trail

The Arizona Trail is a continuous path – divided into 43 passages – across the state of Arizona and is open to all forms of non-motorized recreation, including hiking, running, backpacking, horseback riding and mountain biking (outside designated wilderness areas).

The trail traverses four forests (Coronado, Tonto, Coconino and Kaibab); three National Parks (Coronado National Memorial, Saguaro National Park and Grand Canyon National Park); one State Park (Oracle); eight counties; BLM land; and other municipalities.

There are 33 gateway communities located near the trail, which provide necessary services for trail users and benefit from the positive economic impact generated by the outdoor community. The Arizona Trail features more biodiversity than almost any other trail in the nation, and includes all but two of Arizona’s biotic communities.

The Arizona Trail is only the third National Scenic Trail to reach completion (Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail are the other two). The majority of funds supporting the Arizona Trail come from members, donors, business partners, corporations, foundations and grants. For more information, please visit www.aztrail.org.

It’s the last month before the Bighorn Sheep restrictions go into effect in the Catalinas, so I wanted to do something in the area. From January 1st until April 30th, going more than 400 feet off the trail in the management area is prohibited because of lambing season. I had visited Alamo Canyon three years ago with my friend Bill and really enjoyed it- it was time to return.

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Bighorn Sheep Management Area

Alamo-Buster Loop (1)

Catalina State Park Boundary- Buster Mountain to the left, Alamo Canyon to the right

I parked at the Romero Ruins and took the trail for a short distance across the wash and then turned right at a cairn on an unnamed trail with surprisingly good tread. This trail took me to a little waterfall at the state park boundary. It had warmed up enough for me to wet my head in the creek before hiking on.

Waterfall in Alamo Canyon

Waterfall in Alamo Canyon- 2012

A trail continues past the park boundary that stays above the creek on canyon right. I took the trail until a large boulder jam in the creek, where I descended to take a break. There was a huge racket as a pack of javelinas moved to get downstream away from me. The giant striped granite boulders, golden ash trees and running water made for a perfect spot to settle in for a while.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (3)

Giant granite boulders in Alamo Canyon

The gnats descended just as I was going to take a nap and I had to get a move on. I wasn’t in the mood to go farther up the creek, but I was intrigued by a cairned path I’d seen in 2012 that seemed to go up toward the Buster Mountain ridgeline. I’d also seen the top of the route on the ridgeline, today was the day to connect the dots.

The steep route out of the creek took me through an expanse of beautiful banded gneiss on the way to the ridge. It was fun following the well-cairned route. Much of it was on gravel, which made me happy to be hiking up rather than down it.

Alamo-Buster Loop (4)

Hiking up the cairned route to Buster Ridgeline

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)

Gneiss!

I reached the ridgeline saddle and took another extended break. Some of my water had spilled into my pack so I didn’t hit the peak, instead I spent my time taking pictures and even had a little dance party at the saddle.

Alamo-Buster Loop (6)

The route pops out at the saguaro on the ridgeline

I wanted to time my descent with the sunset and started down the steep route down the ridgeline. Tall grasses made route finding a little challenging, it was much more overgrown than in previous trips because of all the rain we’ve gotten this year. Made it off the ridge in the fading light and was excited to see the sunset paint pink and purple stripes above Pusch Ridge.

Alamo-Buster Loop (8)

Sunset over Pusch Ridge

The sunset was one of those rare ones that changes and develops different characters way after the sun goes down. The entire mountain took on a subtle pink hue and fiery waves of orange, pink and red streaked the sky. It felt like it went on for hours and I kept stopping to take picture after picture. Timed it perfectly to arrive at the parking lot just as the sunset had finally faded. What a great way to end such an enjoyable day on the mountain.

Alamo-Buster Loop (9)

Ever-changing light

Alamo-Buster Loop (10)

And then the sunset got ridiculously good!

Can it be that it’s already almost 2016? I guess it’s time to put together the end of the year recap. I’ve got some exciting news to share as well- Happy Holidays!

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

November 1-6th

I had three events to work for the Arizona Trail Asociation- two in Tusayan, just south of the Grand Canyon and one in Page. Six days in between and I was determined to spend every second of it in the Grand Canyon. Late Sunday morning, we had a beautiful ceremony for the placement of a memorial bench dedicated to the Father of the Arizona Trail, Dale Shewalter and then I was off to finish writing up the event and last-minute packing. I parked at Grandview and looked for a ride. I didn’t have to look long, parked right next to me was a fellow Grand Canyon enthusiast who had just finished a trip.

Dale Shewalter Memorial Bench in Tusayan

Dale Shewalter Memorial Bench in Tusayan- thanks Dale for having the vision to create this amazing trail across Arizona!

Day 1

I didn’t get hiking until 3:30 pm on the Tanner Trail, but I wasn’t planning on going very far. A mile and a half away is 75-mile saddle with good camping spots. The trail was steep, dropping 1700 feet and rocky through the Kaibab, Toroweap and Coconino. My pack was heavy with six days of food and 5 liters of water- enough to dry camp and have plenty for the descent to the river the next day.

View from Tanner Trail- I am headed for the saddle at the edge of the shadow

View from Tanner Trail- I am headed for the saddle at the edge of the shadow

So happy to be back in the Grand Canyon!

So happy to be back in the Grand Canyon!

It was a warm and windless night, even up at 5600 ft. and I found the perfect spot overlooking 75-Mile Canyon. I could see O’Neill Butte and Horseshoe Mesa and Desert View Watchtower loomed above. Camped under the stars, happy to be back in my beloved Grand Canyon again.

75-Mile Canyon- in a couple of days I'd be camping where this canyon comes out at the Colorado River

75-Mile Canyon- in a couple of days I’d be camping where this canyon comes out at the Colorado River

Day 2

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

The next morning, I had a bit of level trail in the Supai to start my day, contouring under Cardenas and Escalante Buttes. At the Redwall break, there is a short spur trail that goes up to one of the most fantastic views of the Palisades of the Desert, Comanche Point and the Grand Canyon Supergroup area upstream of Tanner. I spent almost two hours looking at the different landmarks and taking pictures.

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

It was so hard to leave, but the day was heating up and the river was still a long way away. I made quick work of the Redwall and the Muav, happy to have my umbrella for shade. The Dox Sandstone is soft and the trail is mushed into the side of the hill, making the left leg higher than the right. I reached Tanner Beach at 2pm and got in the chilly water to cool off.

Tanner Trail through the Dox Sandstone

Tanner Trail through the Dox Sandstone

The river was running brown from the last round of storms in an unbelievably wet year. It didn’t look too silty (whitecaps instead of browncap waves), so I tried it through my Platypus gravity filter. That thing rocks. Filtered with no problems and is a cinch to backflush. Plus I can set up and eat, watch boats go through the rapids and my water is done.

Tanner Rapid

Tanner Rapid

Silt from backflushing my gravity filter. This was with no settling and it worked great.

Silt from backflushing my gravity filter. This was without settling first and it worked great.

I was getting ready to leave a couple of hours later to start the Escalante Route and hike to Cardenas Beach for the night when a man appeared and said he’d be hiking to the Hermit Trail for the next 11 days. I ran into him a couple of times, and was the only person I saw for the first five days. I had a couple miles to Cardenas, small ups and downs through various ravines. Hit the beach just as I was losing daylight. This is also part of the Hayduke Trail, an 800-mile circuitous route that goes from Arches to Zion.

Hiking to Cardenas

Hiking to Cardenas

For the last four summers I have worked as a river guide in the Grand Canyon with Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater. I’ve run the river over 20 times and hiked pieces of the route I’d be traversing, but it was totally different experience to be here solo. Cardenas is always one of my favorite camps, how blissful to have it all to myself on a warm autumn night (and to not have to get up at 4:30 am to make coffee for 30 people). I did some long-exposure photography and set my bed up on the beach.

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Cardenas Beach

The winds kicked up in the middle of the night and I was glad I’d borrowed a tent from a friend. Sleeping under the stars, as much as I love it, was not going to work for most of the trip because of the incoming storm.

Day 3

The next morning the skies were blue above, but as I made the climb to the Hilltop Ruin, I could see dark clouds downstream. Decided to skip the Unkar Overlook spur and keep moving because the rains had started. I put on my rain jacket and my trash-compactor bag rainskirt.

Weather coming in west of Hilltop Ruin

Weather coming in west of Hilltop Ruin

As I hiked along the Unkar Wall, I looked back and saw one of the most amazing rainbows I’ve ever seen! Dropped the pack and scrambled to get my camera, trying to take shots without getting the camera soaked before the rainbow disappeared. My heart soared- this is why I hike, for the privilege of seeing exquisite moments like this.

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

I moved on, hiking in the intermittent rain toward Escalante Creek. The trail winds and climbs toward a high saddle and I got another rainbow, a little less intense than the first, but still gorgeous. In Escalante Creek, I found running water and took several liters so I wouldn’t have to settle the increasingly silty Colorado. I took a break at Escalante Beach before my last climb up to access 75-mile Canyon. The route climbs and then turns to give a great view of the slot canyon below. I contoured back to the access point and scrambled down into the canyon. It made me uneasy to break the rule of not being in a slot canyon while it’s raining.

Looking down on 75-Mile Canyon Narrows

Looking down on 75-Mile Canyon Narrows

Rocking the trash-compactor bag rain skirt

Rocking the trash-compactor bag rain skirt

75-Mile Canyon Narrows

75-Mile Canyon Narrows

The cream-colored Shinumo Quartzite slot canyon is a gorgeous place to be. I remembered back to a river trip where I visited not once, but twice in one evening on a full moon. The canyon opened up near the river and I camped at Nevills Beach. Soon after my dinner, it started raining and I got in the tent and fell asleep early.

Day 4

I woke at 4:30 in the morning after plenty of sleep. It was warmer and had stopped raining. Spent some time taking long-exposure pictures and writing in my journal. Yet another thing I love about solo hiking. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and am never bored.

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon)

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon)

There are two routes to the Papago Wall, a low and a high route and I stayed low on the slabs above the water. There is a 30 foot scramble up the wall and then the route climbs to a rubble-choked gully called the Papago Slide. I didn’t have any problems with the wall, but I took my pack off to hoist it up for one part and it would have been easier to keep it on. At the top of the wall, I saw the backpacker I’d met at Tanner below and he climbed up to join me.

Low route to the Papago Wall

Low route to the Papago Wall

Papago Pouroff

Papago Pouroff

Papago Wall

Papago Wall

Micro Chicken on top of the Papago Wall

Micro Chicken on top of the Papago Wall

Having a blast!

Having a blast!

The Papago Slide is a loose and nasty descent filled with every size of rock and I led the way, keeping plenty of room between me and him to avoid rockfall. There is a good route through it and it just takes being thoughtful with your movements. We got to Hance Rapid just as some boaters pulled in to scout from the opposite bank. It was super-fun to watch them go through. I hiked on to spend some quality alone time with Hance.

Papago Slide- loose and steep

Papago Slide- loose and steep

Hance Rapid is the first “10” on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The powerful waves churn through many rocks and holes and it is one of the most technical rapids on the river. To stand beside it on the rocks was incredible and I spent a long time thinking about my summers working as a river guide. I had decided at the end of this season that I will not be returning next summer- a bittersweet decision, but I am glad for all the things I learned, people I met and the opportunity to teach people about this amazing place. I’ve got some things in the works- a new website and lots of writing to do and part of that plan is to spend more time in the Grand Canyon on foot.

Mighty Hance Rapid

Mighty Hance Rapid

The rain was coming in again, so I put my trash compactor rainskirt on and got going. Red Canyon marks the beginning of the Tonto Trail, following the Tonto Platform as it began to rise from the river. The trail climbed and I got a good view of the historic Hance Asbestos Mine and the Granite Gorge. It rained on and off and when the clouds lifted there was a dusting of snow on the upper reaches of the Canyon.

The rising Tonto Platform

The rising Tonto Platform

Trail Antics

Trail Antics

Historic Hance Asbestos Mine

Historic Hance Asbestos Mine

Hello Granite Gorge!

Hello Granite Gorge!

I was trying to get to Hance Creek, my next water source, but all the time spent at the rapids was starting to catch up with me. I was probably going to have to roll into camp by headlamp. The trail contoured through Mineral Canyon and at the dry creek crossing, I heard the most wonderful sound- running water! Up a side ravine from the crossing was an ephemeral waterfall and I made my way over to it. This water meant that I didn’t have to push to Hance Creek and that I could do a dry camp on the Tonto Platform, one of my favorite types of GC camps.

Ephemeral Waterfall in Mineral Canyon

Ephemeral Waterfall in Mineral Canyon

Even as I filtered water, the waterfall went dry. Right place at the right time, I guess. I Tontoured out of Mineral Canyon, looking for a place to camp and found the perfect spot complete with a little wall for a windbreak and nice sitting rocks. The views were outrageously good of Vishnu Temple, Wotans Throne and Angels Gate. It was the coldest night yet and very windy.

Day 5

The next morning, I was treated to an incredible sunrise and I spent hours writing, taking pictures and looking at maps for an upcoming adventure.

Morning on the Tonto

Morning on the Tonto

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Chilly but happy!

Chilly but happy!

I got going around noon and hiked to Hance Creek. Upstream from the creek crossing are some lovely Tapeats ledges and I settled in for a day of not doing a whole lot. More writing, a short exploration up and downstream, and a nice chat with the other folks that were camped in the area. It was great to have a day to relax.

A beautiful day for hiking on the Tonto

A beautiful day for hiking on the Tonto

Dates, goat cheese and bacon

Dates, goat cheese and bacon

Hance Creek

Hance Creek

Day 6

I’d made a habit of listening to Miles Davis Kind of Blue in the morning while I got packed up and got hiking around 9:30 toward Page Springs. In most seasons this shady, fern-lined place would be a welcome place for a break but today it was so chilly I had to put several layers on while filtering.

Page Spring

Page Spring

I enjoyed the historic trail construction in the Redwall ascent, especially the portion that has a giant quartz vein going through the trailbed. Got to Horseshoe Mesa and took a long break.

Quartz Trail

Quartz Trail

As I hiked up off the mesa I could see the area I’d traversed the last six days and downstream toward Zoroaster and Brahma Temples. Made it through the Supai and it was cold enough to need a fleece and hat while hiking uphill. I love the trail construction in the Coconino- riprap cobblestone and log cribbing to keep the trail on the hillside.

Horseshoe Mesa

Horseshoe Mesa

Trail Construction in the Coconino

Trail Construction in the Coconino

Looking back on my route

Looking back on my route

Coconino Log Cribbing

Coconino Log Cribbing

Patches of ice and snow appeared in the Toroweap and Kaibab, but not enough for me to put my traction on- if I’d been going downhill I’d have put them on for sure. I reached the parking lot feeling a lot better than I’d anticipated and made it over to Desert View Watchtower to see the sun set on my latest adventure.

Snow and ice on the upper Grandview Trail

Snow and ice on the upper Grandview Trail

Sunset at Desert View

Sunset at Desert View

It is hard to express how good this trip was for me. I’ve had a lot of great backpacking opportunities this year, but I haven’t gotten as much solo time as usual. To move through the Canyon for days on foot with time to contemplate life, feeling like I have the whole place to myself- there is nothing better.

Olympic National Park

In mid-September, I went to Olympic National Park for a four-day backpacking trip to write an article, A Desert Rat in the Rainforest, featured on the Gossamer Gear website.

I’ve got a million pictures from that trip, and thought I’d share some of them and tell the story in photo captions.

Goodbye Grand Canyon, I'm headed to the Pacific Northwest!

Goodbye Grand Canyon, I’m headed to the Pacific Northwest!

Gear for Olympic NP- lots more clothes, much less water!

Gear for Olympic NP- lots more clothes, much less water!

Backpacking companions Jake, Ian and Grant

Backpacking companions Jake, Ian and Grant

Grant

Grant “Gorilla” Sible of Gossamer Gear in the mist

Cute log bridge

Cute log bridge in the rainforest on the Sol Duc Trail

Massive trees as we gain elevation out of the rainforest up into the alpine region

Massive trees as we gain elevation out of the rainforest up into the alpine region

Heart Lake

Heart Lake

Camping by a lake, just like home...

Camping by a lake, just like at home…

Got lucky with beautiful views of Mount Carrie with blue skies on our side trip to Cat Peak

Got lucky with beautiful views of Mount Carrie with blue skies on our trip to Cat Peak

Looking down on the Hoh River

Looking down on the Hoh River

Micro Chicken and mighty Mount Olympus

Gorgeous views of Cat Peak

Gorgeous views of Cat Peak

Never before seen- me throwing out water!

Never before seen- me throwing out water!

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows

Gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows

This was the first time I used a Gossamer Gear Q-Twinn tarp. I'll always prefer cowboy camping, but this is a great alternative to a tent!

This was the first time I used a Gossamer Gear Q-Twinn tarp. I’ll always prefer cowboy camping, but this is a great alternative to a tent!

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake

Sol Duc Falls near the end of our loop- touristy but beautiful!

Sol Duc Falls near the end of our loop- touristy but beautiful!

Here’s a slow-mo video of the falls:

Made a stop at Rialto Beach before driving back- I'll have to come and backpack along the coast someday!

Made a stop at Rialto Beach before driving back- I’ll have to come and backpack along the coast someday!

After the backpacking trip, I headed to the American Long Distance Hiking Association- West (ALDHA-West) Gathering at Mount Hood Kiwanis Camp. I gave my Arizona Trail talk and saw many inspiring presentations, including Trauma and Pepper’s talk about their Pacific Crest Trail winter traverse. Caught up with friends I’ve made in the hiking world who are scattered all over the country. What a fantastic way to round out my trip to the Pacific Northwest!

ALDHA-West Gathering

ALDHA-West Gathering- photo by Outdoor Viewfinder

Paddling the Verde River

I was recently in Clarkdale for a presentation about the Arizona Trail and my Gateway Community Program at the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum. It was a great event and I got to talk with many people from small towns across the state who are trying to bring in more tourists and economic development via trails.

Local First Rural Policy Forum

Local First Rural Policy Forum

After the first day of the conference, I visited the Cottonwood Farmer’s Market and met Jef and Ryan from South by Southwest Adventures. They run tours and rentals on the nearby Verde River. We got to talking about the Grand Canyon and they invited me to stop by the next day to check out the shop.

AZTmobile

AZTmobile

Ryan and Jef outside South by Southwest Adventures

Ryan and Jef outside South by Southwest Adventures

South by Southwest Adventures

South by Southwest Adventures

I had a break in the late morning and Jef and Ryan got me set up with everything I needed for a couple of hours on the Verde River. (I hadn’t packed any of my river gear, because I was in conference mode) We drove to the lower TAPCO access point and Ryan pointed out some of the spots I’d be passing and dropped me off with a phone number to call once I got to the Tuzigoot access point, 3.5 miles downstream.

Ryan from South by Southwest Adventures drops me off at the TAPCO access point

Ryan from South by Southwest Adventures drops me off at the TAPCO access point

I was thrilled to have some time to myself outdoors- I don’t get much of it when I’m working as a guide. It was in the low 90’s and the water temperature was a delightful 75 degrees. I paddled happily down the river and went through a little chute and another small rapid.

Verde River Reflections

Verde River Reflections

Much of this stretch is knee-deep, but a long, deep pool that Ryan pointed out on the drive up gave an opportunity to get out and float around.

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Did some lounging and swimming in one of the long, deep pools

Did some lounging and swimming in one of the long, deep pools

I paddled to the Brewer’s Tunnel Diversion Dam. Here, you have to exit the river, portage to a small pool, paddle across, then get out and send your kayak down a boat slide and drag back to the channel. I didn’t see anyone on my whole trip except some friendly folks who happened to be at the portage and helped me with my boat. Great timing!

Portage and slide

Portage and slide

I entered a Quiet Zone and many of the houses that were tucked behind the grasses had hammocks or chairs to sit riverside. No one out on a Friday morning, though.

Hammock along the river

Hammock along the river

Willow Creek and Boulders rapids were a lot of fun and I saw a Great Blue Heron on a rock. I floated under the Tuzigoot Bridge and knew that my time had come to an end. Ryan was waiting on shore and we packed up and drove back into town. What a great way to spend a couple of hours! I returned to the conference rejuvenated, just in time for lunch.

An earlier skunk sighting along the Verde

An earlier skunk sighting along the Verde

Great Blue Heron on the rock

Great Blue Heron on the rock

I highly recommend this trip- South by Southwest Adventures also does tours of the Verde if you don’t feel comfortable heading off by yourself or want to learn more about the area.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, we’ve got skunks- tiny ones, big ones, you name it, we’ve got it! Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson and help feed these cute stinky animals!
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Baby Skunks

Baby Skunks

More Skunks!

More Skunks!

Feeding time!

Feeding time!

This is my fourth summer working as a guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for Arizona River Runners. My first trip launched on June 9th and I was pretty concerned that I hadn’t adjusted to the heat yet. My trip to Portland and trying to get things squared away with my Arizona Trail job meant that I hadn’t quite acclimated yet. Little did I know, I needn’t have worried- there was a tropical storm that came in that made it unseasonably cool and rainy!

On June 8th, I arrived at the warehouse in Flagstaff to pack up the boats and put them in the water at Lee’s Ferry. The crew was Joe as trip leader, Brie as second boatman, me as the swamper and Brie’s friend Nick as our work-your-way. The morning of June 9th was cool and overcast as the passengers arrived and loaded onto the boats. It’s always a flurry of activity, with lots of questions about the adventures to come. We headed downstream and I was excited to have returned to the Grand Canyon for the summer.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee's Ferry

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee’s Ferry

I was on Joe’s boat and did most of the interp- telling stories about the people, plants, animals, and geology of the place as Joe drove. It stayed overcast and got so chilly that I had to put on a fleece in the middle of the day! Never before seen- we started calling it Junuary.

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

At North Canyon, we pulled in and made camp and folks got settled in to their tents. We made salmon, broccoli, rice and salad for dinner and most went to sleep early. I went for a little hike up North Canyon and listened to music and played with my headlamp and camera. The crew sleeps on the boats, and I had been looking forward to sleeping under the stars, but the strange weather meant I put up a tent. The rain started in the middle of the night, big drops and intense at times.

North Canyon

North Canyon

The next morning, I was trying to cook breakfast when it started raining again. We put up a canopy and went about our business. We had to go through the Roaring Twenties, a series of rapids that are one after the other and people got cold. Joe made the decision to stop at Redwall Cavern after the Twenties were done and make hot soup. It was a real crowd-pleaser and morale booster- amazing what a little hot soup can do for the soul. Of course there was the fact that it was June 10th- a day that historically would have had us running into Redwall Cavern for shade- crazy! Joe and I must have said “Crazy” to each other a hundred times that trip because of the weather. Didn’t get a pic of the soup stop, but here’s one from another trip of Redwall Cavern.

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Mist and low clouds

Mist and low clouds

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

After our soup stop, the mist and clouds began to clear and the sun came out. We stopped at the Little Colorado River for a hike and swim. The LCR was a milky whitish blue from the storms. Camp was at Crash Canyon, a short distance downstream.

Little Colorado River

Little Colorado River

Set up the tent and it rained again that night with a second morning of cooking breakfast under the canopy. The clouds cleared again and it warmed up, which was good because on the third day we were going to run the Gorge, the biggest concentration of large rapids on the whole river. Joe and Brie maneuvered through the rapids with skill and we had an amazing day. There is no rapid on the river more fun than Hermit and we hit it just perfect for the optimal ride! Here’s a video taken by one of my coworkers a couple of years ago of a run through Hermit:

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

We stopped at Shinumo Creek to check out the waterfall, I was interested to see what it looked like, it is a side stream that flash-flooded several times recently. The waterfall is very different and the swimming pool at the base has been graveled in, but it’s still a great place for a stop. Camp was at 110- I could see my camp spot from my 2010 Royal Arch Loop.

Shinumo Waterfall

Shinumo Waterfall

And there's our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and North Bass Beach

October 2010- And there’s our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and Bass Camp. 110 is the beach to the far left of the picture

The next day we commonly call Waterfall Day- how could you not like a day like that? We started with the sublime Elves Chasm- a two-tiered waterfall with a perfect cave to climb up and jump off! This place exemplifies the differences between rafting and backpacking in the Canyon. When I visited on foot, it took three days of a rugged route and 20′ rappel to get there. Rafting, we pull up and it’s 1/4 mile from the boats. It’s great to give a wide range of folks the opportunity to see these amazing places.

Elves Chasm

Elves Chasm

A beautiful day!

A beautiful day!

After Joe and Brie had great runs through the technical Bedrock and Deubendorff Rapids, we stopped at Stone Creek. The warm, clear waterfall was welcome after days of the icy and silty river.

Deubendorff Rapid

Deubendorff Rapid

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Then it was on to the main event: Deer Creek Falls and the hike up to The Patio. Deer Creek is a 174-ft. cascade just minutes from the boat and is a destination in and of itself. My favorite part of the day is the hike up to the Deer Creek Narrows and the Patio. It’s usually pretty warm for the hike up the hill, but once on the Tapeats Sandstone, you get wonderful views up and downstream. The trail turns into the canyon above the waterfall, a slot canyon with the sound of the water rushing below. The trail narrows in a couple places that make it very challenging for the acrophobic. I have ushered countless people across this piece of trail and love helping people overcome their fears to get through the journey. The destination is certainly worth it- the Patio is a wonderland of cottonwoods and waterfalls. It is a place sacred to the Paiute Indians and there are small hand outlines where the ancients used reeds to blow paint over their hands along the trail to the Patio.

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Love this place.

Love this place.

Handprint in Deer Creek

Handprint in Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

We spent some time at the Patio and then hiked down to enjoy the big waterfall for a while before making camp across the river. It was Fajita Night for dinner, a crowd favorite.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Falls

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

In the morning we went through the narrow Muav Gorge and visited Havasu Creek, a tricky place to park and tie up the boats, because we park in a rapid. It’s often called the Swamper Olympics because there are numerous extra lines that have to be tied to make sure the boats are secure. Everyone enjoyed a swim in the blue-green waters of the refreshing creek.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon

After Havasu, we had a couple of hours before the grandaddy of all rapids, Lava Falls. The river falls 37 feet over the span of several hundred yards and it can often be quite a ride. Other times, you hit it a certain way and it doesn’t feel like much. On this day we had a giant full-boat soaking wave cover every inch of the 35-foot rig- it was fantastic!!

Lava Falls

Lava Falls

We pulled up at Angel Camp for our last night and cooked up a steak dinner and celebrated one of the passenger’s birthday with a dutch-oven cake. Afterward, everyone sat and shared their reflections of the trip. It’s always fun to see what parts of the journey stand out to each person.

I snuck away, because I had a surprise for the passengers. If the group is right, the camp is right and I’m not too tired from working all day I put on a short bellydance performance on the beach. This beach was perfect, there was a spit of flat sand that extended along the shoreline. After the group was done, I invited them down and surprised them with a show, complete with music from a portable speaker. It was quite the venue- as I danced I could see the walls of the Canyon and the sky scintillating with stars. Everyone agreed it was a great way to end the night.

The next morning we only had a short distance to go to the Whitmore helipad, mile 187, where the six-day journey ended for our group. The river brings people together and there were many hugs given and promises to keep in touch. We waved as the helicopters took the folks to the Bar 10 Ranch.

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

I feel so fortunate to be able to call the Canyon my home- it is the place that inspires me like no other. I enjoy seeing people from all over the world come to experience the Canyon at a deeper level than just peering over the rim for a day. Seeing people get that sparkle in their eye when I point out something beautiful or interesting or the look of satisfaction that comes from a great hike. What an infinitely fascinating place.

To find out more about the different river trips offered, visit www.raftarizona.com.

In Wildlife Rehab news, we got a Crested Caracara that was hit by a car down by Kitt Peak. The Caracara is a Falcon that acts more like a vulture and is only found in Arizona, Texas and Florida. What a treat to see one up close! To donate to help feed and house the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, use the link below.
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Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

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