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Sirena and her dad, Budh Rana - photo by Levi Davis

Sirena and her dad, Budh Rana – photo by Levi Davis

Happy Father’s Day!! My love of travel, nature and photography can be traced back to my dad. I love the times we have traveled together and am so thankful to have had him be my support crew for my adventures.

However, we didn’t always have the best relationship growing up. I sent an entry about it to She-Explores for their Father’s Day podcast and am thrilled to have been chosen for the latest episode. Check it out, my part starts at 25:13 if you want to skip ahead, but all of the stories are worth hearing! http://she-explores.com/podcast/to-dad-from-daughter/

Me and my Dad at the Grand Canyon

Me and Dad at Mt. Peeley Trailhead

Dad in the hole, Stateline Trailhead AZT

Lots of exciting things happening, thanks to all who came out to the After the Fire fundraiser at Sky Bar, we raised $1620 to help rebuild Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson! It was an incredible night and we packed the house. A million thanks to Sky Bar for hosting and to Cabaret Boheme, HipNautique, MoJo Grass, Big D and the Love Muscles, and the Tucson Tribal Belly Dance Collective for donating their talents.

Here’s a couple pics from the evening, full set of photos here. Didn’t get a chance to attend but still want to donate? Visit the online campaign!

MoJo Grass

MoJo Grass

Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller

Nancy and Citan and Janet Miller

Marjani Drum Solo

Marjani dances with live music from Cabaret Boheme

A little sparklier than my usual

A little sparklier than my usual…

I am absolutely heartbroken. Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson had a fire on March 30th that devastated our facility.  Over 30 birds were lost as well as all our supplies, storage, and structures. Volunteers have put together a fundraising effort to help rebuild. Please donate and share this campaign at https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/help-wildlife-rehab-of-nw-tucson-recover-rebuild–2.
On June 10th, there will be a benefit at Sky Bar – 436 N. 4th Ave. from 6-9 pm. Our remaining educational animals Cosmo the Barn Owl and Citan the Harris Hawk will be there as well as live music and entertainment from Cabaret Boheme, HipNautique and the Tucson Tribal Belly Dance Collective. I’ll even be dusting off my dance costume for a number! 100% of the suggested donation of $7 and 15% of Sky Bar sales go toward rebuilding. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1477126375644510 for more details.
After the Fire Wildlife Rehab Benefit 2017
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Aftermath of the fire outside – photo by Chris Bondante


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The bird room after the fire – Photo by Chris Bondante

Our bird room and adjacent outdoor habitats were completely destroyed, along with food, equipment, and other items. The good news is that 86-year old owner Janet Miller is OK and most animals survived and are receiving continued care. Some of the birds lost had been educational animals for over a decade, they will all be missed.

Elfie and Cleo

Both of our educational Elf Owls perished in the fire. Elfie and Cleo brought joy and wonder to all who met them.

Please give what you can, and please continue to share this campaign. This is a kick off that will help us reach short term goals: resuming very limited intake, replacing supplies and equipment that were destroyed by the fire, and continuing care of the many birds and mammals that were unharmed by the fire. Stay tuned for more crowd funding campaigns and fundraising events in Tucson and beyond.  And thank you all so much for supporting this very important work!

Luna and Baby Great Horned Owl

Luna the one-eyed Great Horned Owl was a great surrogate and raised many baby owls so that they could go on to be released.


Baby Great Horned Owls

Baby Great Horned Owls

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Barn Owl that we had been doing physical therapy with to help regain the use of its legs was also sadly lost in the fire.

The Wildlife Rehab receives no public funding and is paid for by Janet herself. Funds will go toward food, medicine, medical supplies, carriers, equipment, and reconstruction. Your support means that we can continue helping wild birds and small mammals recover from injury, illness and orphanhood.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk


Baby Bunnies

Thankfully the baby bunnies were in another room and we did not lose any of them.

Here’s a wonderful video done in 2015 by Tony Paniagua at Arizona Public Media to learn more about Janet Miller and the work she has done running the wildlife rehab for over 20 years. Thank you for your caring and generosity. Click here to donate and share.

A Look Back at 2016

It’s time for the annual look back on my adventures, thanks to all who continue to read along! I haven’t updated the blog as much recently, and putting this retrospective together I can see why- it certainly was a busy year. If you’d like more frequent updates on my wanderings, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena.

I started out the year leading a hike on the Arizona Trail for the BEYOND Tucson event that celebrates community, health and the outdoors to commemorate the people affected by the Safeway shootings in 2011.

Emily Nottingham at the Gabe Zimmerman Memorial

Emily Nottingham at the Gabe Zimmerman Memorial

I went snowshoeing on Mount Lemmon for the first time with my friend Leigh Anne. It was tougher than I had expected and a fun change of pace.

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Snowshoeing Mount Lemmon

Introducing Roscoe to hiking and camping has been a delight- he’s quite the rock hopper and absolutely adorable!

Roscoe

Roscoe

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Roscoe and Petroglyphs, Tortolita Mountains

February started out with a very cold backpacking trip with the Donkeybelles on one of my favorite parts of the Arizona Trail from Picketpost Trailhead to Kelvin. Temps got down to 20 degrees and even Jasmine the Mini-Donkey was chilly!

Jasmine approaches the high saddle

Jasmine approaches the high saddle

Last year, I made the decision to spend more time at the Grand Canyon and commit myself to section-hiking the length of it. I hiked in on my 42nd birthday for a five day trip with friends who had never been to the Canyon before. It was the most amazing way to spend my birthday and I took one of my favorite pictures of all time that night on the Black Bridge. We spent two days in the Clear Creek area before hiking back to Bright Angel and out. When I returned, Brian, Roscoe and I spent a day in Catalina State Park to celebrate.

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge

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Zoroaster Temple

The wildflowers were pretty good this year and I got some quality time for photography near Kelvin and Superior. I also led a hike for the Legends of Superior Trails Fest where I got this awesome shot of a horseback rider and her dog.dsc04085dsc04424

In March, I organized the first annual Arizona Trail Days in Page and took the opportunity to do some exploring around Marble Canyon. I hiked Jackass Canyon and camped on the rim.

Looking down on the big pouroff

Looking down on the big pouroff in Jackass Canyon

Badger Rapid

Badger Rapid

I hiked the first three days of the Arizona Trail with Warrior Expeditions, a program that helps veterans with PTSD “walk off the war” by putting them on long-distance trails. It was awesome to meet them at the Utah border two months later. I also participated in a webinar panel for American Trails on outdoor programs for veterans.

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Warrior Expeditions – Arizona Trail nearing the Utah border

At the end of the month, I hiked into the Grand Canyon again for a 6-day trip from South Bass to Hermit that would connect my line from Tanner to Elves Chasm. That didn’t quite go as planned…

Rainbow

Rainbow – Photo by India Hesse

April 1st started out great, I woke up in the Canyon and was feeling strong. We hiked the Tonto Trail, weaving in and out of drainages. I was on a flat part of the trail when all of a sudden I felt a “pop” in my left calf muscle. Unfortunately, I had a partial tear of the muscle that prevented me from hiking uphill. After some evaluation, I decided to press the SOS button on my DeLorme InReach for evacuation. It was astounding how quickly they responded- the helicopter was there only an hour after getting the call from dispatch.

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This is my sad face because my trip is over and I’m waiting for the helicopter

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At least the views from the chopper were spectacular! Scorpion Ridge at left.

I was told that I needed to be off the leg for six weeks before I could hike again, and thus began the long road to recovery. I had to first rest, then build the muscle back up while making sure that there wasn’t a bunch of scar tissue. I found solace in the fact that the outdoors didn’t need to be epic to be enjoyable.

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Riding with Carrie in the Santa Ritas

One of my favorite characters I wrote an article about this year was Jack Mahler, first person to unicycle the Arizona Trail. Yes, I said unicycle!IMG_4292-0

At the end of April I was feeling up to a short hike to meet my friends Bonnie and Lynn as they finished their section-ride of the Arizona Trail. So proud of these two, Bonnie is the oldest woman to complete the trail and Lynn is the only person to have ridden the AZT twice!

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Lynn and Bonnie on their last mile

In May, I got to support a group who had won a contest with Sierra Magazine for a backpacking trip on the Arizona Trail south of the Grand Canyon. The purpose of the trip was to research threats to the Canyon such as development, mining and deforestation to highlight them for a future article. We met with many groups that are trying to protect it including the Sierra Club’s Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument campaign, Save the Confluence and Grand Canyon Trust as well as officials from Grand Canyon National Park. I was supposed to backpack with them, but my leg wasn’t up to it yet so I was the support crew and then took them on a couple of short dayhikes at the Canyon. If you haven’t already, please head over and sign the petition for President Obama to create the Monument at www.greatergrandcanyon.org. The Sierra Magazine article will be out next year and you can see a preview of the trip here.

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Renae Yellowhorse from Save the Confluence

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South Kaibab Sunset

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Starry night at Grandview with author Jason Mark

In June the heat was outrageous so I headed either for places with higher elevations, water or both. Roscoe and I hiked the Marshall-Aspen loop and saw a bear!

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Hammock Dog

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Oracle Ridge Sunset

I put in for an ambitious Grand Canyon permit for 23 days in October and got the itinerary I wanted. Now I was really going to have to train and get me and my leg in shape! I joined the local YMCA and spent a lot of time training in the pool and with weights. I also took up dancing two times a week.

Work travels took me to Pine and I camped on the Mogollon Rim at Milk Ranch Point after making a stop to feed the baby goats at Fossil Creek Creamery.

Fossil Creek Creamery Kid

Fossil Creek Creamery Kid

At the end of the month I decided it was time to take the leg for its first backpacking trip into Aravaipa Canyon’s East entrance for two nights. The scenery was sublime, the heat was bearable, the bugs were awful. But we saw fireflies so it was all worth it!

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Aravaipa Canyon

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Aravaipa Camp

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Night time in Aravaipa

By July it had been four months since my injury and I tested it with a trip up Mount Wrightson, which went great! Love that peak.

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Feels so good to have made it up the 4000 ft climb up Wrightson – my first big hike since injuring my leg in April

I went to the Grand Canyon after working in Flagstaff and caught some great photos of the Fuller Fire that raged on the North Rim.

Looking at the Fuller Fire on the North Rim from the Grandview Trail

Fuller Fire from Grandview Trail

Finally found time to hike Red Mountain on the way back from the Canyon- what a wonderful place that is! Great rock formations and volcanic landscape.

Red Mountain

Red Mountain

I did some travel outside of Arizona in August- first to Salt Lake City to attend the Outdoor Retailer trade show. What a whirlwind of gear, food, and adventurous folks- I loved it! Got a short hike in at Cecret Lake.

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Cecret Lake Trail

Later in the month, I presented at the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum in Pinetop on the economic benefits of trails. Camped during the Perseid meteor shower and got this fun long-exposure shot:

Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor Shower

I canyoneered down Willow Canyon in the Catalinas with some friends, always a special thing to rappel through rainbows down waterfalls.

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon 3rd Rappel

Tried my hand at storm-chasing during the monsoons in search of a good lightning shot. After many many tries, I got this gem- it took my breath away when I saw it for the first time!dsc07211

I did a series of talks about the Arizona Trail at the four Chicago-area REI locations during a trip to visit my family. It was fun to expose new people to the trail, connect with folks I hadn’t seen in years and for my family to see what I do. Got some kayaking in on Lake Michigan and the Fox River.

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Kayaking Lake Michigan with Kristin, my closest friend for 38 years

In September I was in Flagstaff organizing Arizona Trail Days weekend and went on a short hike to see the gorgeous yellow carpet of flowers.

Mormon Lake Flowers

Mormon Lake Flowers

I did a shakedown hike on the Canada del Oro – Red Ridge loop to test out my gear for my big trip and a friend of mine placed my cache buckets in the Canyon during a river trip. After October, they were picked up by two other river trips. I am so fortunate to have the Canyon community to help plan and execute my section hike of the Canyon.

Bucket Caches

Bucket Caches

View from Red Ridge

Looking down the overgrown Red Ridge with the Reef of Rock to the left and Oracle Ridge to the right

October was all about the Grand Canyon! What was supposed to be 23 straight days ended up being one 8-day and one week long trip. It was just good to be out in such a remote area, seeing new parts of this endlessly fascinating place. I can’t wait to see more.

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Scarlet Monkeyflower in Kanab Creek

Flipoff Route rim exit with bonus ominous bighorn skull

Flipoff Route

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Full Moon and The Dome

BIG pothole under Big Point

BIG pothole under Big Point

It was a real treat to be there for the finish of Heather “Anish” Anderson’s Fastest Known Time on the Arizona Trail. She completed the whole 800 miles in just 19 days, 7 hours and 9 minutes. What an accomplishment! Read an article about it that I wrote for Gossamer Gear’s blog here.

Anish FKT Finish

Anish Finishes the AZT FKT!

Sadly, Roscoe came down with Parvovirus and almost died, despite having been current on his vaccinations. We had to administer subcutaneous fluids at home and he didn’t eat for over a week. Thankfully, he made a complete recovery, but it was a really tough 10 days.

In November I chased fall colors in Ash Creek in the Galiuro Mountains and was rewarded with a rainbow of maples!

Happy to be in the maples!

Happy to be in the maples!

The One by Gossamer Gear

The One by Gossamer Gear

Roscoe and I went on our first backpacking trip together, just a couple of miles into the Tortolitas on Thanksgiving.

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Roscoe’s first backpacking trip!

Toward the end of the month, I wasn’t feeling quite right. I was tired and my muscles were really sore and sensitive. It took me a while to realize that I was having a fibromyalgia flare. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the neurotransmitters, I hadn’t had a flare in 10 years. I am still feeling the effects but I am trying to stay active and positive and hope that it will pass soon. No picture to illustrate it, because it is an invisible condition.

December brought me to the town of Cottonwood to do a presentation on economic benefits of trails and advise them on their trails master plan. It was my first time representing Trails Inspire, my new consulting company for trails and communities. I am very excited about this new venture and am in the process of launching the website and social media sites. I will forever appreciate the five years I spent working for the Arizona Trail Association as their Gateway Community Liaison and I am very proud of how the trail has grown in popularity and been embraced by the communities as a result of my work. I will still be working to promote trails through my writing and public speaking as well as consulting communities on how best to connect their residents and visitors to the outdoors.

Old Town Jail Trail, Cottonwood

Old Town Jail Trail, Cottonwood

I took one last trip to the Grand Canyon with my dad and my nephew Gage and the first thing he said was, “I want to go down there- can we come back and go backpacking?” Music to my ears! Saw one of the most spectacular sunsets ever from Desert View, click to enlarge the photo to get the full effect.

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Desert View Sunset, Grand Canyon

To cap the year off, I went on a Christmas hike with Brian, Gage and Roscoe near Catalina and hiked the Sabino-Bear Canyon loop with rushing water and an impressive flow at 7 Falls.

Feeling Festive

Feeling Festive!

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Brian and Me

West Fork and Cathedral

West Fork Sabino Canyon and Cathedral Rock

7 Falls

7 Falls

The coming year is going to be an exciting one and I am looking forward to more time working on my section hike through the Grand Canyon and my new business venture. Big thanks to all the folks I’ve hiked with this year, my husband Brian and parents for being so supportive, to Gossamer Gear for providing me with gear for my adventures and to my readers and followers on social media. Happy New Year to all!

Click here to read Part 1!

The original plan of 23 straight days in the Canyon didn’t work out as planned, but I was still having an amazing time. After 8 days in the Canyon and a rest day playing tourist in Zion, Chris Forsyth drove me out to the Schmutz Spring Trailhead in Tuckup Canyon. I loaded up with a bunch of water and said goodbye to Chris. He was such an amazing help, not only for planning the hike beforehand, but also hiking with me, shuttling me all over the place and endlessly going over plans, backup plans, and backup plans for those backup plans. I also want to thank Rich Rudow, Chris Atwood and Jamie Compos for all their help when I was planning my trip. For the next seven days to Toroweap I’d be solo.

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Thanks Chris!

Indian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

The next morning I started on the Tuckup Route. The descent into the Canyon was easy and I spent some time poking around the artifacts at the “Cubicle Boulder”. There was cowboy stuff, historic glass, and chips of rock from the manufacturing of stone tools.

Happy to be hiking back in!

Happy to be hiking back in!

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Tuckup Trail

Old fencelinedsc00515From the boulder, the route was cairned in the grasses toward Cottonwood Canyon. What an interesting and vast landscape in this part of the Grand Canyon, much different than what I’d previously been through. It was pretty warm and I heard a rattlesnake buzzing- it was a safe distance up the slope and just letting me know of its presence.

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Tuckup Trail on the way to Cottonwood Canyon

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake

I contoured into Cottonwood Canyon and found myself a camp on a bench above. I collected some water, hoping I wouldn’t have to use much of it as it was reported to be mineralized. I’d brought quite a bit of water down from the rim with me. As night fell, I was washing my hands when I heard the unmistakable scream of a cat. It was as if someone played the “wildcat noise” sample from a sound effects board. Totally put my hair on edge and I picked up my pot lid and hiking pole and banged it while yelling “Go AWAY!” I saw some eyes reflected in the cottonwood across the creek that stayed there for a while, then they turned and went up the hill. Most likely a bobcat, but holy crap, I’ve never heard such a noise, especially when out solo! It didn’t mess with my sleep, thank goodness. I’d had enough of that this trip.

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Tuckup Trail

Fossil shell

Fossil

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Cottonwood Canyon Camp

The next day I contoured out of  Cottonwood and made my way around the arms of Rocky Point Canyon. Just as Rich Rudow had told me, the Tuckup Route comes and goes, and there’s trail construction in the drainages. Sometimes tough to find, but it’s there.

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So

The route goes in and out of a million gullies of varying depth and size

So many gullies to work in and out of

North of Dome Pocket Canyon, I found some potholes of water and set myself up with my umbrella for a siesta. It was delightful.There are few things I like better than a backcountry nap.

Shade and water are all I need for a siesta north of Dome Pocket Canyon

Siesta spot

Life finds a way

Life finds a way

I worked my way around Dome Pocket Canyon and the first arm of Fern Glen Canyon. There were some potholes marked on my map that I was shooting for. I was getting close and I went to step over a bush. My toe caught a branch and I fell, my shin and knee hitting a projecting piece of sandstone. Good thing I was wearing a knee brace, it took some of the impact and good thing it wasn’t limestone. That would have been a bloody mess. However, it did hurt as I hiked the last bit to camp. Only the morning would tell how bad it was. I had a spectacular sunset and moonrise at the potholes.

Pottery sherd from the rim of a vessel

Pottery sherd from the rim of a vessel

Gorgeous clouds over The Dome

Gorgeous clouds over The Dome

Micro Chicken finds a funky rock

Micro Chicken finds a funky rock

Took a fall about 5 minutes from camp, banged up my knee and shin

Took a fall about 5 minutes from camp, banged up my knee and shin

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Sunset and moonrise with The Dome

The next morning, the shin was sore, and my left knee wasn’t 100% happy. But I figured I’d be ok. I hiked over to the Willow arm of Fern Glen Canyon and took several of liters from Willow Spring, hoping I would find water in potholes and not have to drink it. There was a mineral crust on the walls that was way worse than Cottonwood Spring and the water was also said to cause intestinal distress.

Sunrise

Sunrise

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Walking along

Mineralized walls from the water in Willow Canyon

Mineralized walls from the water in Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon

The way from Willow Spring was tough to follow- there were several routes, some cairned more than others. Lots of cactus to avoid, especially tough when there was only a tiny bench of trail with a prickly pear growing in it. As I got closer to where some potholes were marked on the map, I realized I needed to be on the lower route so I found a rockslide to hike down to access the lower trail. The potholes I was camping at were all dry. I looked everywhere and none of them had any water. This made me nervous. I’d expected to find water in the evening, now there was none. I skipped making dinner and ate snacks that didn’t require cooking instead. It was a restless night and I woke up when it was still dark and got packed up so I could move at first light. Temps had been in the 80’s during the heat of the day.

I had seen a pothole nearby on my map that was supposed to be a good bet, but it was a bit of a bushwhack to get to. I checked there first. Nothing. I was going to have to go back to Willow Spring and get a bunch more of that mineralized water. Better than dying of thirst. I had been told that contouring along Stairway Canyon was arduous and didn’t know how long it would take me. There was no way I was going to risk going ahead with the water I had.

So I made my way back through the cairn maze to Willow Spring, collected 8 liters of water and tried to rehydrate before moving on. My pack heavy with 16 lbs of water, I hiked a third time through the cairn and cactus maze. I got some prickly pear spines in my feet through my shoes and when I stopped to take them out, realized that I’d lost my tweezers! What the heck did people do before the invention of tweezers? I tried with a needle but couldn’t get them out.

Cryptobiotic smile at the end of a tough day

Cryptobiotic smile at the end of a tough day

I stayed on the lower route into a gully along Stairway Canyon and didn’t like the looks of the exit, so I backtracked and hiked up a rockfall to the higher level. The higher level trail had clear trail construction in and out of the gullies, but now I was losing daylight. I’d spent a whole day chasing water. The route hit a saddle on a windswept ridge and I had to call it home for the night. I found a flat spot just big enough for myself that was protected from the wind but surrounded by razor sharp limestone. It was a marginal camp made even worse by the fact that I could actually see where I’d camped the night before.

Marginal camp on the ridge, surrounded by razor-sharp limestone

Marginal camp on the ridge, surrounded by razor-sharp limestone

Despite the marginal camp and the ever-growing intestinal distress, I enjoyed a spectacular full moon rise with The Dome. It was a rough night and I had to get up a bunch of times. Also, there were mosquitoes again- what?

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I had camped at the slickrock at the left side of the picture the night before but the moonrise was gorgeous!!

The next morning, I was shaky and sick from the water. Ugh. As I was getting ready to leave camp, I was taking my camera out of its case and it slipped out of my hand onto the sharp limestone. Good thing for warranties, but that wasn’t going to help me out here. At least it was only the last two days of the trip.

I hiked the high route around the bays and gullies of Stairway Canyon. It went well and I got to see some Bighorn Sheep from above. I was nearing an area with slickrock and possible potholes and found a way to the lower trail. Nothing. All dry. My stomach grumbled.

Cat

Cat

Willow Spring water got me feeling like...

Willow Spring water got me feeling like…

I was heading for potholes that were just south of Big Point all the way out on the rim. At this point I was pretty concerned and going through contingency plans if there was nothing there. Just before noon, I saw a beautiful glimmer in the distance. Water!! As I got closer, I realized why this place was said to be reliable- there was a pothole double the size of a hot tub along with about 10 other good ones. I yelled and cheered and gleefully poured out the rest of my Willow Spring water.

BIG pothole under Big Point

BIG pothole under Big Point

This is my happy water face

This is my happy water face!

I was a day behind schedule but couldn’t fathom the thought of not spending the night at this one of a kind camp. There were views downriver with a drop to rival that at Toroweap Lookout. I made the decision to just have a really long day the next day, it looked to be about 15 miles. The rest of the day was spent lounging about, enjoying the view, and cooling off and rehydrating with the sweet, sweet water. It was my last solo camp of the trip and I spent a while writing about my experiences. Camped next to a juniper and enjoyed one last bright red sunset over Vulcan’s Throne.

Spectacular view downriver of the mouth of Cove Canyon

Spectacular view downriver of the mouth of Cove Canyon

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The next morning I was up and hiking early. I had Big Cove Canyon and then Cove Canyon to work around on my way to Toroweap. There was an option to take a shortcut over the mesa but I stuck to the sweet swoopy trail. Which was sweet and swoopy until I wasn’t on the right level anymore and then had to scramble up or down to correct. Thankfully there was always a break in the cliffs nearby so I didn’t have to backtrack too much.

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Moonlight

Micro Chicken, my adventure companion

Micro Chicken, my adventure companion

Cove Canyon

Cove Canyon

I found the best artifact of the whole trip, a worked Archaic blade that was a gorgeous color. There are three main arms of Cove Canyon, but in reality it is like a fractal- arms break down into smaller and smaller arms and you have to work your way around all of them. It was a lot more routefinding than I had expected.

Archaic blade fragment

Archaic blade fragment

My friend Meg was picking me up at Tuckup Traihead and she had said she’d hike in to meet me. The last three miles are an old road and I was shooting for being on the road before I lost daylight. I really hoped I wasn’t going to have to try to navigate cairns in the dark. By this time I’d been hiking for 12 hours straight with very few breaks. I hit the road before I had to put my headlamp on- success!

Smiling because I am going to make it to the roadwalk before dark

Smiling because I am going to make it to the roadwalk before dark

Meg met me in the dark on the roadwalk, it was great to see her and we hiked the last bit under the Milky Way to the trailhead together. We were almost there when Meg stopped me in mid-sentence to look at the moonrise. It was the perfect end to the trip, a giant orange almost-full moon coming right out the side of Big Point. What a place. The next morning, we visited Toroweap Lookout with the classic view of Lava Falls 3000 feet below. It was a great end to my journey.

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Meg came all the way from Tucson to spend the night at Toroweap and take me back home- thanks Meg!

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End of the journey at Toroweap lookout

I so enjoyed the time I got to spend in the Canyon- the place is endlessly fascinating. I know that each section of my traverse of the length of the Canyon will come with its own challenges, it’s the price of admission to such a rugged and wild place. I’m already daydreaming about what section I plan on doing next.

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to urge President Obama to designate the Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument that would expand the protection of the Grand Canyon against development, mining and other threats to this wonder of the world. Map of the proposed monument below, learn more at www.greatergrandcanyon.org.

GGCHNM_ValuesMap

GGCHNM_ValuesMap

The original plan: 23 days of backpacking through the Grand Canyon from the North Bass Trailhead to Whitmore Wash, October 1-23. At the beginning of the year, I had planned to hike a big chunk of the Grand Canyon in October. I am working hiking the length of the Canyon in sections, it’s a project I will be chipping away at for the next several years. I agonized over maps choosing a route and itinerary, put my permit request in four months in advance, placed food and supply caches via a friend’s river trip and trained all summer long to be in shape. So many friends helped me plan- shout out to Rich Rudow, Chris Atwood, Jamie Compos and especially Chris Forsyth for answering my endless questions.

Even before I got on the road, I ended up having to change my itinerary due to impassable roads and Chris and I getting sick and having to delay our start. The theme of this entire trip was “be flexible and enjoy whatever ends up happening”. Thankfully the illness was short-lived and the next day we were able to hike in via the Bill Hall Trail from Monument Point. Finally!

Monument Point Trailhead taking Bill Hall Trail to Thunder River

Monument Point Trailhead taking Bill Hall Trail to Thunder River

Hiking down to the Esplanade

Hiking down to the Esplanade

I was so excited to finally be at the rim of the Grand Canyon on the cusp of my big adventure, fresh scenery ahead. Chris and I had a great hike down and I was pleased to see that my leg had rehabilitated well from my calf muscle tear that had caused my helicopter evacuation from the Canyon just six months prior. There was water in the potholes on the Esplanade and then the trail descended a jumble of Supai blocks and Redwall to Surprise Valley. True to form, Surprise Valley was hot and I was glad to have my umbrella. The descent to Thunder River promised cool shade and water below and we took a much-needed break at the falls.

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Checking the potholes, often times they are the only water source on the Esplanade layer

River view and Surprise Valley

River view and Surprise Valley

Above Thunder River in Surprise Valley

Above Thunder River in Surprise Valley

Thunder River

Thunder River

We pushed on past the upper campsite, hoping we’d get the sketchy part of the descent over with before dark. We made it with plenty of time, which was good- don’t think I’d want to hike that part by headlamp as we saw some rafters do later that evening. This was the location of my first cache, which was just a mini bucket with two days of food in it and some coconut water for a treat. It started to rain and I set up my tent, The One by Gossamer Gear. The company had sent it over for me to try on my trip and it set up easily with rocks and my hiking poles. As is usually the case, it stopped raining as I got it set up. Tapeats Rapid on the Colorado River provided a great backdrop and I was happy to sleep near the roar of a rapid once again. Only I didn’t sleep. It was one of those awful nights where you have your eyes closed, but never actually rest.

Chris and me in Tapeats Creek

Chris and me in Tapeats Creek

Tapeats Creek and the muddy Colorado

Tapeats Creek and the muddy Colorado

Descent to Tapeats Creek

Descent to Tapeats Creek

Tapeats Rapid

Tapeats Rapid

The next morning, I was happy we had a short day ahead of us and had hopes of a siesta for my sleepy self. We said hi to the boaters and they took my mini-cache bucket out for me. Chris and I chose the low route that goes along the river toward Deer Creek, it was so much fun to walk where I’d only boated before. There was a short scramble down into Bonita Creek that was pea gravel over bedrock, not my favorite combo. We hiked near the Granite Narrows and the low path split into two. We took the low route that stayed just above the narrows and saw the “piano” up close. There was a great overhang for a break with some ancient walls and then we turned the corner and saw the spot that we’d read was exposed. From a distance, it looked impossibly thin with a scary drop off, but as we got up to it, there was a solid rock shelf that gave passage along the cliff’s edge.

Collared Lizard

Collared Lizard

Me with the

Me with the “piano” above the Granite Narrows, 76 feet across at river level

Chris headed for the thin spot on the low route to Deer Creek

Chris headed for the thin spot on the low route to Deer Creek

Deer Creek

Deer Creek

The route eventually climbed and met up with the other route over the Cogswell Butte saddle, then down into Deer Creek just above the Patio. We set up for an extended break and I blew up my mattress for a siesta. Later that afternoon, the river party showed up and we teased them about arriving on foot sooner than they’d floated down. The Patio is a wonderful place no matter how many times I’ve been. It was gratifying to have gotten here on a backpacking trip.

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Eventually, Chris and I descended to the main Deer Creek Falls to get water before hiking along the shore to find a camp. What a place. When we left Deer Creek, the river level was low and so we stuck to rock hopping along the shore. There were sand banks to climb and as I stepped on one of them, it gave out and I jammed my left thumb hard into the ground. Searing pain shot through my hand and by the time we got to camp, I was pretty worried. What would a messed-up thumb mean for the rest of my trip? I was supposed to be canyoneering and scrambling as part of my route. Chris was going to be hiking out the next day and I was going to do the next four days solo. I was so nervous- about my thumb, about being solo, about the enormity of the trip, about the upcoming travel which was rockhopping along the broken-up jumbled shoreline for 7 river miles to Kanab Creek. Which is probably why I once again got absolutely no sleep for the second night in a row.dsc00116

Night 2 camp downstream from Deer Creek

Night 2 camp downstream from Deer Creek

Scorpion Relocation Services

Scorpion Relocation Services

The next morning, when Chris was getting ready to leave I felt awful. Shaky, exhausted, thumb puffy and painful. I’d made a decision in the middle of the night that I was going to try to catch a boat ride with the rafters we’d seen the last two days. They were camped just downstream across the river at a camp called Pancho’s Kitchen that I’d stayed at many a time during river season. I packed up and hiked down to where they could hear me. Lucky for me, I’ve got Italian lungs and they had no problem hearing me get their attention. “Can I get a ride to Kanab?” I yelled. They came over to my side of the river and picked me up. The boatman was Guy and his friend Joe was also in the boat and they helped me get my pack strapped down and PFD on.

Getting ready to thumb a ride downriver

Getting ready to thumb a ride downriver

Success! Caught a ride with Guy and Joe

Success! Caught a ride with Guy and Joe

On a boat again...

On a boat again…

I couldn’t thank them enough! In return, I told them that they had a former river guide on board and told them stories about the river and answered their questions. I’d always worked the big motor rigs so it was a lot of fun for me to be in a small, quiet oar boat. I watched as the rough and rugged shoreline passed by. So glad to have the option to not be rockhopping, and the day was a hot one. I’ll return to do it some other time. We reached Kanab Creek at 11am and Guy and Joe waited to make sure that I could locate my cache. I am so grateful that they were able to give me a ride and wished them best of luck in the rapids ahead. They joked that they’d done good for their river karma by giving me a ride.

Joe and Guy waited to make sure I located my cache at Kanab

Joe and Guy waited to make sure I located my cache at Kanab

I got my cache bucket and found some clear water in the drainage between the creek and the river. Moved down to my own personal-sized beach downstream and set up my umbrella, sleeping pad and pillow for the rest of the day. This cache was a large one with resupply for my food, fuel and first aid and some fun stuff like special treats, coconut water and party lights for camp. It was a fantastic day catching up on my sleep. Spent a bunch of time photographing the Milky Way.dsc00134

That doesn't look good...

That doesn’t look good…

This setup provided me with shade all day long

This setup provided me with shade all day long

Some of the treats I included in my cache

Some of the treats I included in my cache

Private beach at Kanab perfect for catching up on my sleep

Private beach at Kanab perfect for catching up on my sleep

Cached some party lights for nighttime fun!

Cached some party lights for nighttime fun!

Meteor and light show

Meteor and light show

Milky Way over the Grand Canyon

Milky Way over the Grand Canyon

The next day, I had a decision to make- I was supposed to have another layover day at Kanab and then hike upcanyon to meet up with Chris and our friends Shannon and Jillian McCumber to go out Kanab onto the Esplanade and over to the 150 mile trailhead. We were coordinating the meetup via my InReach satellite messenger. I decided I didn’t need another day off so I got packed up to start hiking up Kanab Creek. As I went to put my pack on to leave camp, I wrenched my thumb again. Crap. My thumb combined with uncertainty about whether or not we could make it to 150 on the McCumber’s schedule caused me to change the itinerary to hiking out the Flipoff route, a tributary of Kanab Creek. I realized that no matter what plans I’d originally had that the Canyon had other ideas and I had to go with the flow and just be glad that I was spending time exploring my favorite place. I was much happier after letting go.

Kanab Creek

Kanab Creek

I started hiking up Kanab Creek around noon and the canyon had recently flashed, leaving deep pools and sucking mud. It was tough to gauge how deep because you couldn’t see through the water, so I relied on my poles to help. I reached an area with big, flat Muav limestone ledges and set up for a break. After a while, I thought I heard voices. Sure enough, along comes a tour group with Wildland Trekking, out for a 6-day Kanab Creek out and back from Sowats Point. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone, though I had seen the group’s muddy footprints. They were heading the same direction as me and it was nice to know that someone else was there if I needed help the next day scrambling with my hurt thumb.

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Walking the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Walking the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

I camped just inside Whispering Springs Canyon in a lovely little Muav amphitheater with the sound of trickling water lulling me to sleep. No problems with sleepless nights the rest of the trip.

Whispering Springs Falls

Whispering Springs Falls

Muav ledge camp in Whispering Springs Canyon

Muav ledge camp in Whispering Springs Canyon

The next day was challenging as there were quite a few places that required routefinding through boulder jumbles. I managed alright by myself, there were a couple of places where I lifted my pack up and climbed after it. There was a fine silt left by the receding creek that was very slippery, even with my sticky 5.10 Camp Four shoes.

I had three pairs of shoes on this trip. Yes, you heard me right- three pairs. I had planned on doing quite a bit of canyoneering and scrambling on my original route, so I had the Camp Fours. However, the Camp Fours weren’t necessary on most parts of my route and they were giving me plantar fascitis (heel pain), so I decided to bring my comfy Altra Olympus as well. And because I hate wearing shoes in general and had planned to spend quite a bit of time in camp, I had my 4oz foam camp sandals. I cut other weight where I could to make up for the extra shoes- they were worth it and I didn’t get any blisters. Even with 3 pairs of shoes, I was able to keep my weight of my pack down at about 32 pounds to start (with 2 days of food and 3 liters of water).

I ducked into Scotty’s Hollow for water and a lunch break and was thrilled to have a waterfall and pool to hang out at. This canyon was going to be our original exit route onto the Esplanade but I was glad we’d changed it- there was a lot of climbing and my thumb was not up to it.

Scotty's Hollow

Scotty’s Hollow

Flame Skimmer

Flame Skimmer

I reached Showerbath Spring in time to get a shower while it was still sunny in the canyon. What a gorgeous place, it was great to see it for myself after having seen it in so many Hayduke Trail trip reports. I settled in and waited to see if Chris was going to meet me. He was hiking in Flipoff Canyon after dropping Shannon and Jillian off to hike in via Jumpup Canyon. I wasn’t sure he’d make it that evening and was prepared to meet up with him the next day if I didn’t see him. The tour group passed by and I chatted with the guides Stefan and Isaac. After it had been dark for a while I saw a headlamp and assumed it was one of the guides coming to get more water from the spring. Only it was Chris, hiking in the dark after an epic day coming down the Flipoff route into Kanab!

All clean!

All clean!

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Tent is The One by Gossamer Gear

Tent is The One by Gossamer Gear

showerbath_spring_grand_canyon

It was great to see Chris again and hear his tale of routefinding into Flipoff solo and subsequent hike to get to Showerbath Spring. We listened to music and watched the outrageously good star show.

The next day we had a leisurely start, all we had to do was go up to Jumpup Canyon to rendezvous with Shannon and Jillian and then find a place to camp. The going was easier in the creek above Showerbath, though there was still water flowing, even above the source of Kanab Creek. Remnants from the receding flood. There was smoke in the air from a fire on the rim. Chris and I found water in a pothole in Rattlesnake Canyon and dropped our gear for camp nearby. We hiked up Jumpup a short distance and waited on a rock till we heard and saw the McCumbers- so fun to meet up with friends deep within the Canyon! Unfortunately, Shannon was moving slowly on an ankle she’d sprained on day one of her trip. It looked painful and sore. We hiked to our camp and settled in for the evening.dsc00306

Yay! We meet Jillian and Shannon in the depths of Jumpup Canyon

Yay! We meet Jillian and Shannon in the depths of Jumpup Canyon

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The next morning, the water had receded again and the creek above our camp was dry. We hiked up Kanab Creek and out of the National Park boundary into the Kanab Creek Wilderness and Kaibab National Forest. This is part of the area that would be protected under the Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument, for more information and to sign the petition to urge President Obama to designate the monument, visit the link. Hard to believe that there are active uranium mines a short distance away on the rim. Here’s a map, click to enlarge:GGCHNM_ValuesMap

We checked out a side canyon called Crack Baby by canyoneers. The base of the last rappel was beautiful and there was a pothole with water accessible to those willing to scramble around a chockstone. Plus, Crack Baby is super fun to say and spawned it’s own theme song and story!

Crack Baby Canyon

Crack Baby Canyon

As we hiked up Kanab, the Redwall formation got shorter and shorter. We reached the Flipoff Canyon intersection and struck an appropriate pose. The canyon presented some small scrambles and soon we were at the Redwall/Supai contact. Jillian and Chris went to check out some cowboy junk and I took a step to stop and put my pack down for a break. As I did, the boulder I stepped on came loose and fell from its spot and I found myself falling and ended up with my head in Shannon’s lap. Lucky thing it was her lap and not the rock below it that my head landed upon. Scary how quickly things can go south.dsc00353dsc00356

Redwall/Supai contact in Flipoff Canyon

Redwall/Supai contact in Flipoff Canyon

We took a long break at a delightful spot with cottonwoods and running water. The weather had been clear up to this point but we could see clouds mounting. A short time after we left the cottonwoods, it started raining. Lucky for us there was a great overhang for us to wait out the worst of it. We worked our way up the Supai formation, scrambling up or around some pouroffs. Close to the top of the Supai Chris spotted some rock art that we went to investigate.

Beautiful spot for a break in Flipoff Canyon

Beautiful spot for a break in Flipoff Canyon

Waiting out the storm in an overhang

Waiting out the storm in an overhang

Supai Sandstone in Flipoff Canyon

Supai Sandstone in Flipoff Canyon

Petroglyph and pictograph panel

Petroglyph and pictograph panel

And then we were finally on top of the Supai on the Esplanade and worked our way to some fantastic potholes filled with water near an overhang that held an old cowboy camp. The sunset was one to remember and Shannon and Jillian said it was entertaining watching Chris and I be the “sunset paparazzi”, running all over the place to get the perfect shot. After the rest had gone to bed, I spent some time doing long-exposure night photography with the Flipoff.

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Out Flipoff Canyon onto the Esplanade, the top of the Supai layer where good camping and waterholes await

Flipoff Sunset Panorama

Flipoff Sunset Panorama

Stargazing and reflections

Stargazing and reflections

The next morning I found a bunch of sweet lithic chips from stone tool manufacturing in the overhang as well as some other artifacts and cowboy stuff. Then it was time to hike out the Flipoff Route. You could see the 1700 foot rock slide that covered the Kaibab, Toroweap and Hermit layers from our camp. It was going to be a tough one. There were occasional cairns and a path that had old horse poop on it. The footing got looser as we hiked up the slope. It was ok as long as I was heading uphill but traversing was uncomfortable.

Ancient stone tool fragments

Ancient stone tool fragments

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Hiking to the exit, which is the big rockslide that covers the cliffs on the left

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Gaining elevation and looking down on where we camped

Gaining elevation and looking down on where we camped

There were one or two times when I had to will myself to take the next step. We had read about a climb in the Coconino, but never found anything that required us to raise packs like in the route description. More loose and steep uphill brought us to a crack in the Kaibab that led us to the top. Whew! I can hardly believe Shannon did all that on a bad ankle. She is tough!

Loose and steep, but it gets you out of the Canyon

Loose and steep, but it gets you out of the Canyon

Quick break before resuming our scree slope sliding out

Quick break before resuming our scree slope sliding out

Flipoff Route rim exit with bonus ominous bighorn skull

Flipoff Route rim exit with bonus ominous bighorn skull

“Trailhead” by the wildlife guzzler tank far away from anywhere

Chris’ car was parked at the wildlife guzzler, a collection tank for water. I decided to go back into Kanab, Utah to plan the second part of my trip. I couldn’t go on with my original itinerary- not with my thumb the way it was. Also, I wanted to step back my mileages, what I had originally set out to do was too aggressive.

We drove back into Kanab and I decided that I’d take the next day off. Chris suggested we go do the tourist thing in Zion since I had never been. It was a surprising respite to the tough hiking I’d done so far.Look, I'm a tourist!

Chris and I got Asian Fusion for dinner and he gave me his fortune that said “Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference.” I put it in my first aid kit as a reminder. Little did I know how much I’d need that advice for the second half of my trip from Tuckup to Tuweep.

Click here to read Part 2!

URGENT! COMMENT NOW to STOP the Escalade project that threatens to build a tram into the sacred confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. Comment on this proposal by Friday: http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/Legislatio…/…/0293-16.pdf

Digital comments may be e-mailed to comments@navajo-nsn.gov

Comments may be made in the form of chapter resolutions, letters, position papers, etc. Please include your name, position title, address for written comments; a valid e-mail address is required. Anonymous comments will not be included in the Legislation packet.

Please send this to all your friends around the world. Now is the time to make your voice heard! Learn more and sign the petition against the Escalade project here: www.savetheconfluence.com.

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado and Colorado River Confluence

Here’s a video about the proposed project, thanks in advance for writing to comment!

 

REI ChicagoThis week, I’m headed to Chicago for a visit with family with an added bonus- an Arizona Trail speaking tour at all four REI locations! I’m excited to return to share my tour of the trail, stories from my two hikes of the AZT and tips for planning your own adventure. Come learn why this 800-mile trail is one of the top destinations in the Southwest for hikers, bikers, runners, and equestrians.

When I was growing up in Roselle, a northwest suburb of Chicago, I never would have imagined that I’d be returning in my forties for a speaking tour about the wonderful adventures I’ve had. It’s going to be so fun to see family and friends at my presentations!

Here are the dates and registration links. All talks are from 6:30-8:30 pm. Hope to see you there!

August 23rd – REI Schaumburg:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/schaumburg/154331

August 24th – REI Oakbrook:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/oakbrook-terrace/154351

August 25th – REI Chicago:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/chicago/154296

August 26th – REI Northbrook:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/northbrook/154297

Tater Canyon

Tater Canyon

Throw one for me!

Santa Ritas

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

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