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AZT 10 Year Trailaversary

Celebrating my 10 year Arizona Trailaversary!

Ten years ago today, I completed the last section of the 800-mile Arizona Trail, connecting my steps from Mexico to Utah. I hiked the trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition I have had since 1997, and finished the trail on May 12th, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I can remember the mixture of feelings of sadness and excitement after leaving my last snack break with friends at the Kannally Ranch windmill to hike the final miles. I mostly recall the sadness, the disappointment that my big adventure was over.

AZT Completion hike 2009

Starting the last section at Tiger Mine Trailhead, 2009

Finishing the AZT 2009

Finished the Arizona Trail! Photo by Terri Gay, 2009

Because at the time, I thought that’s all I was going to get. One big adventure before settling down, having kids, and continuing the life script.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was it was the beginning of a giant life shift. Hiking and backpacking, making my own way through the desert, had opened up a whole new world to me and I wanted more.

I had done this big, rugged, scary, intimidating, unfinished long-distance trail, most of it solo. 15 months of hiking, 9 months prior to that of planning. Almost 2 years to the day that I took a hike from the American Flag Trailhead on May 7, 2007 that gave me the idea to try to hike the whole AZT.

So many spreadsheets, phone calls, journal entries, writing to organizations to support my hike, media outreach for my fibromyalgia awareness campaign and fundraiser. There were so few resources for the trail back in those days. When I first sent an email to the Arizona Trail Association for information, I got a paper packet mailed to me. 60 miles of trail remained to be built when I hiked the trail and by the time I finished it had just been designated a National Scenic Trail. Both the AZT and I have come a long way.

One thing that has not changed is my passion for sharing information and inspiring people to get on the trail themselves. That’s why this AZT Day Hikes book project for Wilderness Press is so important to me. It is my way of being a tour guide to all my favorite pieces, stories, and views on the AZT. Ten years later and I’m grateful for all the opportunities that this trail has given me – both personally and professionally.

The last piece that I hiked to complete the trail in 2009 was the Oracle passage #13, ending at American Flag Trailhead. I hiked this piece again yesterday for research for the Day Hikes book and it was a great day of reflection. I celebrated with a piece of tart cherry almond pie from the Oracle Patio Cafe.

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Kannally Ranch Windmill, AZT

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Celebratory tart cherry almond pie from Oracle Patio Cafe

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Ancient metate (grinding hole), reminder that this is the ancestral land of the Apache

Here’s a quote from my journal from that day: “It felt amazing to have finished this epic journey. I am so lucky to have been able to have this experience. I have seen breathtaking deep canyons, high peaks, amazing sunsets, and more wildflowers than I’d ever imagined. I learned a lot about myself, including the fact that I am way stronger than I thought and capable of things I’d never imagined possible. I definitely got the grand adventure that I was hoping for. ”

After all, if I could walk across the entire state of Arizona, what else could I accomplish that I previously thought unimaginable? I even got to hike the AZT again as a thru-hike, taking two and a half months on my AZT Trek in spring 2014 to raise awareness and funds for the Arizona Trail Association.

Without the Arizona Trail hike, I probably would not have been a hiking guide, a river guide, Trail Steward and Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association, or the owner of my own business, Trails Inspire. I now make a living promoting the outdoors through writing, photography, public speaking and trail design.

As for my fibromyalgia, I had ten years without a flare from 2006-2016. Since 2016 it has flared up from time to time and I have learned to manage it by staying active, getting outdoors in whatever way I can, and listening to when I need to take a rest.

I am grateful for my husband Brian, my Dad for being such a big part of my experience, for family, friends, and followers of my accounts and this blog. For the privilege of being able to take the time and energy to walk for 80 days to complete this journey. For companies like Summit Hut, Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and others who have believed in me and my passions. The adventures keep on coming and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’d like to hear me talk about the experiences I’ve had on the Arizona Trail, I’m doing a presentation in Scottsdale for the Arizona Mountaineering Club on Wednesday, May 22nd from 7-9 pm. Details and free registration at this link.

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Excited to be included as a guest on the latest season of Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette!

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!
We talk about adventures, wildlife rehabilitation, living with an invisible chronic condition, and of course, the Arizona Trail and my upcoming book with Wilderness Press. I met Nicole when she was thruhiking the Arizona Trail in 2017, and it was so great to reconnect with her and chat about our experiences. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording it!

https://www.nicoleantoinette.com/podcast/sirena-rana-dufault/

An owl sits atop a Saguaro cactus with the moon visible

Great Horned Owl released back into the desert after being rehabilitated

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It’s that time of the year to look back and I’m grateful to say that personally and professionally, 2018 has been one of the best!

Before I begin, I wanted to highlight a recent story I was a part of for KJZZ Phoenix, the local NPR station. It’s by Stina Sieg, called Take a Hike: Author Explores, Promotes Diversity on Arizona Trails.

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really know what 2018 would look like. It ended up being one of the most eventful and travel-packed years I’ve ever had. If you’d like more frequent updates, follow me at @desertsirena on Instagram or you can also view my feed by visiting this website on your computer and clicking on the latest photo in the upper right.

Big thanks to the organizations who have supported my work and adventures this year: Arizona Office of Tourism, Gossamer Gear, REI, the Town of Tusayan, Pima County, Visit Tucson, Wilderness Press, Huppybar, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts and more!

January

Started the year out right with a hike from Superior to Kelvin on the Arizona Trail with my adventure bestie Wendy. This was the seventh time I’ve hiked this 40 miles, one of my favorite parts of the AZT.

Arizona Trail - Gila River Canyons

Fall along the Gila River

Wendy and Stripey Butte - Arizona Trail

Wendy and Stripey Butte

I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to commit myself to writing my memoir and found a place to work on it far away from distractions. It was emotional, revisiting the dark days when I was really sick with fibromyalgia but also inspiring to see how far I’ve come.High Jinks Ranch Lenticular Sunrise

The Arizona Office of Tourism contacted me about partnering with my company, Trails Inspire, to do two talks at the REI flagship store in Seattle and of course I said yes.

I attended Winter Outdoor Retailer with Gossamer Gear and had a great show. I had talked to Wilderness Press at the last summer show about my memoir and an idea I had for a book about the best day hikes on the Arizona Trail. When I saw them at winter show, they gave me the contact for submitting a proposal.

For me, the show isn’t about the gear, it’s about making relationships and learning at the talks and workshops. I was particularly interested in the Indigenous Connections panel and When Women Lead series.

Learning about ancestral land acknowledgements has inspired me to include them in my social media and blog posts. For example, I am based in Tucson, AZ, ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui. I use https://native-land.ca/ as well as other research to determine and acknowledge who’s land I am recreating on.

Indigenous Connections Panel - Outdoor Retailer

Indigenous Connections Panel

February

Hiked Apache Peak on Oracle Ridge, which I’ve looked at for years. Great 360 degree views in every direction! Ancestral lands of the Hohokam.IMG_7759IMG_7760

 

I got a lot done on my memoir in January and continued working on it. Until I got an email from Wilderness Press on a Friday that said they would like a full proposal for the Arizona Trail day hikes book by Tuesday. I was excited, this was the moment I’d been waiting for! Only I got the email about 20 minutes before I left for the airport to do my  talks in Seattle all weekend.

I didn’t see much of Seattle, but the talks went really well! I recorded a short bonus show on the Cascade Hikers Podcast about it. Ancestral land of the Duamish and Puget Sound Salish.Hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail Presentation- Seattle REI Flagship

My brother and his fiance came to visit from Chicago for my birthday and we had a blast hiking 7 Falls in Bear Canyon and the Arizona Trail near Oracle. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.Shawn and Liz at Seven FallsDucks at Seven Falls

My friends India and Wendy got me the most thoughtful present, a metal print of one of my favorite light painting photos I’ve ever done. This was taken on the Black Bridge on the South Kaibab Trail which crosses the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge

I started contracting with Southwest Trail Solutions and Westland Resources on a job near the town of Superior to design a multi-user trails system. Gorgeous country out there and it was super-fun to find ways to put a trail through it! Ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odhamSuperior Trail Layout

March

I climbed Baboquivari Peak with my friends Dave Baker, Gary Hervert and we even got Wendy up there! Baboquivari is the center of the ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham.

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

When I heard that Pima County was going to complete The Loop trail system and have a celebration in mid-March, I got the idea to do a promotional urban hike of the trail. I contacted Pima County and Visit Tucson and they were thrilled with the idea. I even got them to fly Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, the Queen of Urban Thru-Hiking, out to join me. Hike the Loop covered all four riverwalks and two greenways of the system, 80 miles in 5 days.

It was a hike that delivered so much more than I’d anticipated. The views, the history and archaeology, art and amenities were all a fantastic part of the experience. We partnered with local restaurants to highlight Tucson’s UNESCO International City of Gastronomy designation, and interviewed people involved with different municipal projects that helped to create The Loop. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.

Liz and Sirena Hike The Loop Finish

Liz and Sirena completing the 80-mile Hike The Loop

Hike The Loop Group Photo

Hike The Loop group hike with Jasmine the Mini-Donkey

We opened the last day of the hike into the completion celebration to the public and it was so rewarding to take these people, many who had never hiked before, on The Loop. We even had Jasmine the Mini-Donkey and Leigh Anne Thrasher along! Please take the time to watch this video, it is one of my very favorite moments of the year. Liz and I got a lot of media attention, you can watch the highlights here.

Joined the list of Badass Women of Tucson, a great series by the Arizona Daily Star. A reporter came out and interviewed Liz and me on The Loop.

I was featured on Coalition Snow’s Tacover Tuesday, where they invite women to talk about their businesses and the outdoors.

The Tusayan Trails Master Plan held a comment period open for 45 days and I ran a public meeting at the end of March for my company Trails Inspire.

I was featured on the She Explores blog: Blaze Your Own Trail, by Hailey Hirst.

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Sirena Rana Dufault on The Loop – Photo Randy Metcalf, Pima County

On March 31st, I started a week-long trip in Grand Canyon from the South Bass Trail to Hermit. That’s the same trip that I tore my calf muscle and had to be evacuated by helicopter on April Fool’s Day 2016. Two years to the day, I was back and walked past the spot without incident. This trip was solo and absolutely wonderful.

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Passing the site of my 2016 helicopter evacuation

Indians in Grand Canyon

Met Hari, a fellow Indian, backpacking deep in the Canyon

Granite Rapid in the Distance - Grand Canyon

 

Grand Canyon Traverse - South Bass to Hermit

Sirena in her natural habitat on a week-long solo trip in Grand Canyon

It also connected up a large piece of the Grand Canyon Traverse for me. Of the 277 river miles, I have now done from Nankoweap at mile 53, to Elves Chasm at mile 117, as well as Tuckup 164 to Toroweap 179.

The Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Paiute, Hualapai, Zuni, White Mountain Apache and Yavapai Apache are all traditionally associated tribes in the Grand Canyon region.

April

After my Grand Canyon trip, I did more trail layout work in Superior with Evan and Neil.

Trails Inspire was featured on The Trail Show, talking about Hike the Loop.

Did a new talk, “From Suburbanite to Adventurer” for Summit Hut Women’s Night, then the next day drove to Silver City, New Mexico to attend the Continental Divide Trail Days event. I gave my presentation on Desert Hiking Tips and Tricks to a packed room. I’ve been told the talk is very good, but a little on the scary side. It’s amazing how comfortable I’ve become in my desert home. Ancestral lands of the Chiricahua Apache.Sirena on the CDTCDT Days Silver City

Swami's presentation on his 12 Long Walks

Cam “Swami” Honan speaking about his 12 Long Walks

May

More trail layout in Superior, trying to get the job done before the sweltering heat.

On May 5th, Hike Like a Girl Day, I appeared on Rosie on the House, a home-improvement radio show that devotes its first hour to the outdoors in Arizona. We had a great time talking about Trails Inspire projects and the Arizona Trail.

The Arizona Office of Tourism and REI sponsored a Force of Nature event and I was invited to speak. Though it was 100 degrees, it was an inspiring event at gorgeous Lost Dutchman State Park. Ancestral land of the Hohokam and Yavapai.

Force of Nature REI Panel

Baby season started at the Wildlife Rehab, makes for long shifts but worth it for the cute! Here’s a collage of my favorite photos of the year with Janet Miller, who runs the facility, in the middle.Top Nine Wildlife Rehab 2018

Did some light painting collaboration in Oracle with my friend Drew at El Rancho Robles.Light Painting at El Rancho Robles

June

I signed my first book contract! Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, coming in Spring 2020 with Wilderness Press. I can hardly believe it, such a dream come true. I have until November 2019 to do the research and writing.Arizona Trail Double Rainbow

The first thing I did after getting my book contract was to get in touch with my friend Cate Bradley. She used to work for the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and is now retired in Silver City. She worked with me to plan out the next year and a half and I am forever grateful.

I also approached the Arizona Office of Tourism for a partnership that would help with my travel expenses while researching the book. They accepted and I am doing several talks and writing a series of articles and social media posts that will be released closer to the publication of the book.

On June 13th, I packed up and left for my first book research trip to the Utah Stateline Trailhead, the Kaibab Plateau, North Rim Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.

It was so much fun, revisiting my favorite parts of the AZT and doing the research and photography. Ancestral lands of the Ute and Kaibab Paiute.Stateline - Sirena on the Arizona Trail

Sirena Arizona Trail Utah Border Obelisk

Arizona National Scenic Trail Obelisk at the Utah Border

In late June, I went back to Chicago because my youngest brother Shawn was getting married and I was the officiant! It was an honor and a beautiful wedding and I’m excited about my new sister-in-law Liz. Ancestral land of the Peoria, Potawatomi and MiamiSirena Officiating Liz and Shawn Rana Wedding

My best friend of 40 years Kristin and I went on a mini-vacation to Wisconsin to go tubing and to the kind of bars where you drive a boat in. Also did some urban night photography.Sirena and Kristin Night Photography

I had a reunion with people I used to work with almost 30 years ago as a video game tip line operator for the Turbo-Grafx 16 video game system. What fun!Turbo Grafx Reunion

July

After 11 days in the Midwest, I was ready to come home. I love my family, but my heart is in the desert.

Monsoon season was welcome, I got quite a surprise to find that hundreds of spadefoot toads were living right outside the place we moved to last year. Their songs on monsoon nights were incredible.Spadefoot Toad

I helped organize a reunion of the Crazies, the trail crew I volunteered on for many years. Many of these guys are in their 70’s and 80s now but some are still doing trail work. We had such a nice time reminiscing and catching up on Mount Lemmon.Crazies Reunion

The second half of July is all about conventions: first, the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism (AZGCOT), then Outdoor Retailer (OR) summer show. I gave a presentation on attracting tourists to your town through trails and my Tusayan Trails Plan at AZGCOT. A highlight was seeing author Roger Naylor receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and then getting to chat with him afterward.

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

Sirena with Debbie Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism

I attended the Spark 2020 conference before OR, it focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and was a great opportunity to meet with others doing this work. I also got to meet some Instagram friends in real life like Karen Ramos from Get Out, Stay Out, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers and Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping. Ancestral lands of the Sioux, Ute, Cheyenne and Arapahoe.

Spark 2020 Conference

Spark 2020 Conference

Love this Outside Magazine cover!

Love this Outside Magazine cover! First thing folks saw as they entered OR. WIth Amanda “Zuul” Jameson, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers and Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping

At OR, I sat on a panel celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Scenic Trails Act. Proud to be representing Trails Inspire and to be called on as an expert on the Arizona Trail and Gateway Community development. It was also the first show where I didn’t have to look for a book deal, because I already have one 🙂

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel at Outdoor Retailer

Meeting with Tanya from Wilderness Press

With Tanya Twerdowsky from my publisher, Wilderness Press

August

Got to canyoneer Willow Canyon with my friend Russell James Newberg. Go check out his amazing paper art!

Willow Canyon - Photo Russell James Newberg

Canyoneering Willow Canyon – Photo Russell James Newberg

I was featured on She Explores podcast, Because Trails Inspire and had a great time talking with Gale Straub about trails, adventures, and my background.

Celebrated 15 years of marriage with Brian!Brian and Sirena Dufault

Did a couple of swimming hikes in Sabino and Tanque Verde Canyons with friends old and new.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon

Sirena and Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

Lydia and me in Tanque Verde Canyon

Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

 

I went up Mount Lemmon with Stina Sieg from KJZZ to film the story that was referenced in the beginning of the blog on diversity in the outdoors.

Gave my Hiking the Arizona Trail talk at the Chandler REI with the Arizona Office of Tourism. They live streamed it and it was so neat to see people checking in from all over the world!

Topped the month off with an overnight in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. It was a wildflower wonderland, I saw over 30 different kinds! Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.Flower Collage 1

September

I saw that the sunflowers were going wild on the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff, so I set out on a road trip to capture them and do more book research. Ancestral lands of the Western Yavapai, Hopi and Apache.Runner with sunflowers - Arizona Trail, Buffalo Park

Outdoor Project included me in their Women in the Wild series, make sure to look at the other women featured, it’s a great list!

Trails Inspire signed the Phase 2 contract for the Tusayan Community Trails Plan, which will largely focus on environmental studies in compliance with federal NEPA regulations, tribal consult through the Kaibab National Forest and an interpretive plan for signage.

The proposed Grand Canyon History Trail will focus on the story of the associated tribes as well as the history of tourism in the region.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan Map - Public Comment

On National Public Lands Day, I went to the Vermilion Cliffs to see the Peregrine Fund release four California Condors. It was majestic to see the massive birds take to the skies, free for the first time.

Visited the Kaibab Plateau to get the first of the fall colors on the Arizona Trail at East Rim Viewpoint. I had hoped that this certain grove of aspen would be changing in Tater Canyon and I hit it just perfectly! Ancestral lands of the Northern Paiute and Ute.East Rim View - Tater Canyon AZT

Then I was back to my favorite place in the world, Grand Canyon. The upper part of the North Kaibab Trail is in the book and I was hoping to get some fall photos there as well. When I arrived they were just starting to change. I had a little time to kill so I went to the Backcountry Office and got a walk-in permit for a night at Bright Angel Campground and one at Cottonwood CG.

Writing in the Hammock

Writing in my hammock

I was so excited, I hadn’t been all the way down the North Kaibab since 2014 and I had such a good time. My friend Ranger Della was down there and we got to catch up. It was so good to visit the Colorado River and Ribbon Falls, soak in Bright Angel Creek and enjoy the marvel that is the 14 miles that make up the North Kaibab Trail.Sirena North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

The last couple of years, I have taken a leisurely approach to hiking out of Grand Canyon and it has made it so much fun! I had seven miles to hike out and 4200 feet of elevation gain. I took ten hours, waking up early and getting on trail at first light to beat the heat, but then taking long breaks, enjoying the scenery, taking photos and videos and savoring the experience.

By the time I hiked out, the leaves had changed on the upper part of the trail and I got the fall color I had come to photograph. What a great bonus trip. Ancestral lands of Northern Paiute and Ute.Fall Colors North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

October

Back to Flagstaff for fall colors on the slopes of Mount Humphreys. I had to run to Tusayan to take care of some business so I stopped by the South Rim Grand Canyon and got to see an inversion. I discovered the timelapse function on my Iphone and caught this dance of mist and light.

I attended the SHIFT conference in Jackson, Wyoming and got to meet some other people doing work on diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. Also got to see the Tetons for the first time and was lucky enough to have Jaylyn Gough from Native Women’s Wilderness take me out to see the sunrise in the park. Ancestral lands of the Cheyenne, Eastern Shoshone and Shoshone-Bannock.

SHIFT Conference

SHIFT Conference Emerging Leaders Program

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

For Halloween, I did a solo overnight bushwhack to Table Mountain in the Catalinas and transformed into a butterfly on the summit. Tough hike full of spiny and painful plants but worth it to see the views.

A woman in a skirt carries a large backpack with butterfly wings on top of a mountain

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

November

The Arizona Office of Tourism sponsored a trip to Minneapolis and I gave two talks on Hiking the AZT at the REI flagship location. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a tour of Paisley Park, Prince’s estate. He was such a talented musician and I really enjoyed the experience. Ancestral lands of the Dakota/Sioux and Anishinaabe.

REI Minneapolis

REI Minneapolis

Wrote a retrospective of this blog on the 9-year anniversary of Sirena’s Wanderings with my favorite photos and hikes.

Spent some of the month organizing the book research and photos that I’d completed so far and writing.

Took an impromptu trip to Aravaipa Canyon for fall colors and was thrilled to get this photo.Aravaipa Canyon

Joined Women Who Hike for a group event at the Linda Vista Trail and Summit Hut. Fun to meet like-minded ladies!

Women Who Hike - Traci Edwards Photo

Women Who Hike – Traci Edwards Photo

December

Traveled to Tusayan for a Stakeholders meeting for my trails plan and had to go see the snow covered Grand Canyon. It was super cold (9 degrees at night!) so it was a short trip.Snow at Grand Canyon South Rim

Continued to write and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken so far during the book research process.

Headed down to the Mexican border to surprise Art “Karts” Huesonica at the end of his record setting Arizona Trail hike. He did a calendar year Yo-yo: hiked it northbound in the spring, and southbound in the fall, a distance of 1600 miles!Karts AZT Yo-yo Finish

Watched the Geminid meteor shower from the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson and got some fun light painting shots.Light Painting in the Saguaros

Spent four days in the Copper Corridor on the Arizona Trail hiking and researching the book. I was shocked to see how many wildflowers are blooming, even poppies!Gila River Canyons Flowers AZT

What a year! Thanks to all who have followed along. For years, I’ve said, “This is the year I’m going to write a book”, and I’m so grateful that it has now become a reality.

 

 

 

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Happy nine-year anniversary to this blog! Thanks to all who have followed along, whether it was from the beginning or you found it more recently. I don’t post here as much as I used to, but head over to my personal Instagram at @desertsirena or the one for my consulting company, Trails Inspire at @trailsinspire for more frequent updates. For example – what I wore for Halloween this year on my bushwhack up Table Mountain for a solo overnight:

A woman in a skirt carries a large backpack with butterfly wings on top of a mountain

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

The way that Sirena’s Wanderings came about is that in 2008-09 I section-hiked the Arizona Trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia and kept a website for it. I enjoyed sharing my adventures so when that hike was over, I started this blog. Here’s a collection of my favorite photos from the last nine years. What fun to see the progression of my outdoor skills (and hiking fashion)! Grab a beverage, there’s about 50 photos, most of them have links back to the blog entry for more information.

When I started this blog, if you’d told me that in nine years I’d be working as a professional in the outdoor industry, canyoneering down waterfalls, scrambling and climbing peaks and retired from guiding on the river in Grand Canyon I’d have been incredulous. Who knows what the next nine years will bring?

This is the first photo I uploaded to this blog in 2009:

Double Rainbow and O'Neill Butte

Double Rainbow and O’Neill Butte on the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Service Project

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I love sleeping under the stars! No tent for me unless there’s going to be rain or mosquitoes. 50-Year Trail to Sutherland Gap

 

Samaniego Ridge

Samaniego Ridge from the Baby Jesus Ridge Tr.

2010

Coming up the South Gully

My first scrambling hike: Ragged Top – Coming up the South Gully- Photo by Bill Bens

 

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Elephant Head – Chino Canyon behind me

Me and the Weaver's Needle

Me and the Weavers Needle – Superstition Mountains, Grand Enchantment Trail

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

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Grand Enchantment Trail – Santa Teresa Wilderness -Holdout Canyon Overlook

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, Grand Enchantment Trail

My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Baldy Saddle, Mount Wrightson: My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Who says the desert is a dry place?

Who says the desert is a dry place? Photo by Bill Bens

Sunset on The Pinnacles

Grand Enchantment Trail – Pinaleno Mountains -Sunset on The Pinnacles

Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

Grand Canyon Service Project– Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

The Royal Arch

My most read post on the site: the tale of mishap and adventure known as the The Royal Arch Loop

2011

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake on a night hike

Free Rappel

Free Rappel on the Weavers Needle

Weaver's Needle

Weavers Needle – I climbed that!

The magic corridor

The magic corridor at The Wave

Huethawali

Royal Arch Route – Mount Huethawali

Big smiles after the best ride of the trip

Big smiles after Lava Falls on my life-changing trip on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon

Rockfellow Dome

Rockfellow Dome, Dragoon Mountains

Volunteers finish up the final piece of trail

Volunteers and agency partners finish up connecting the final piece of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River – Mike Bieke photo

The ATA Bronco

Me and the Arizona Trail Bronco when I got my job as the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association

2012

Sirena contemplating the desert splendor

Sirena contemplating the desert splendor- photo by Wendy Lotze – Gila River Canyons, AZT

Micro Chicken's first canyon too!

Micro Chicken and me in our first canyon – photo by Clint Poole

 

Bill meets Micro Chicken

Bill meets Micro Chicken, my adventure companion since 2011, on Elephant Head

Clear Creek Waterfall

Clear Creek Waterfall  on my first river trip that I worked with Grand Canyon Whitewater as a river guide in Grand Canyon

Fall Colors

Fall Colors in Ash Creek, Galiuro Mountains

View north from atop Table Mtn.

View north from atop Table Mountain, photo by Wendy Lotze

2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Farewell to Zeus, the dog that helped me get into hiking and was my companion for many years

Festive hiking attire

Festive hiking attire in Grand Canyon for Christmas

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Prominent Point!

2014

In 2014, I thru-hiked the AZT and developed the Arizona Trail Trek to promote the trail, the new AZT guidebook that I helped to write, and the Gateway Communities. For 2 1/2 months I hiked, held 12 fundraisers for the trail, took over 100 people on the trail with me on 5 backpacking trips and 7 dayhikes and raised almost $18,000 for the Arizona Trail Association. It was the trip of a lifetime. I’d hike the AZT a third time, it’s that good of a trail.

Arizona Trail Trek Start

Arizona Trail Trek start at Montezuma Pass – my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail took 2 1/2 months from March 14 to May 31st

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle, Arizona Trail – one of the best views in all the Catalinas – India Hesse photo

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

My dad, Budh Rana: best support crew ever! – photo by Levi Davis

Happy to be in the cool pines!

Happy to be in the cool pines! Mogollon Rim, Arizona Trail Trek

What a great group!

What a great group of ladies (and Jasmine the mini-donkey) on the Women’s Backpacking Trip, Arizona Trail Trek

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado Confluence with the Colorado River from guiding season with Arizona River Runners

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH – Holiday backpacking trip in the Santa Rita Mountains, AZT

2015

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy start to the year – New Year’s Day at American Flag Trailhead, Arizona Trail

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here! Ambassador trip with Gossamer Gear

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

A perfect day with Warrior Hike, which helps veterans by putting them on the National Scenic Trails and waterways – 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls, Columbia River Gorge – a magnificent place to be!

Little Colorado River

Leading a hike to the Little Colorado River while working as a river guide in Grand Canyon

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake in Olympic National Park

In 2015, I started working on my Grand Canyon Traverse, hiking the length of Grand Canyon in sections. I’d done sections of the Tonto Trail since 2009 but this meant I’d commit to traversing the whole 277-mile length of the Canyon. Still working on it and about a third of the way through. When I’m done it will be more like 600 miles of hiking.

Hiking to Cardenas

Hiking to Cardenas on a six day solo trip from Tanner to Grandview, Grand Canyon

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon) Grand Canyon

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop, Arizona Trail – photo Carrie Miracle-Jordan

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Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river! My last trip as a river guide with Arizona River Runners

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon rappel – photo by Russell James Newberg

2016

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge, Grand Canyon

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Tore my calf muscle and had to be evacuated by helicopter out of Grand Canyon

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek, Grand Canyon (six months after my injury)

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Sunset and Moonrise on The Dome, Grand Canyon

Happy to be in the maples!

Happy to be in the maples! Ash Creek, Galiuro Mountains

2017

2017 brought a whole new adventure – starting my consulting company Trails Inspire, LLC! Trails Inspire promotes the outdoors via writing, public speaking, photography, and trail design and development.

Trails inspire Square Logo visit www.trailsinspire to learn more!

Trails Inspire, LLC –  Logo design by Wendy Lotze

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Dragoon Mountains, Sky Island Traverse

Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

Escalante Route, Unkar Overlook with India – Photo Mark S.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Getting my first trail design, the Tusayan Trails Master Plan, approved at Town Council

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights – Horsethief Route, Grand Canyon

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte – Horsethief Route, Grand Canyon

2018

In 2018, I got my very first book deal with Wilderness Press to write Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail! It’s due out in Spring 2020 and I’m having the best time doing the research.

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Hiking The Loop, and 80-mile hike on Pima County’s multi-user trail system

Arizona Trail near the Utah Border

Doing book research for Dayhikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail for Wilderness Press near the Utah border

REI Minneapolis

Presentation on Hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail with the Arizona Office of Tourism at the REI Minneapolis, MN flagship store

Wow, that’s a lot of wandering – I so enjoy sharing my adventures with you, thanks for reading! And thanks to my sponsors: Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and Purple Rain Adventure Skirts for all the support over the years. And extra gratitude for my husband Brian – even though he’s not a hiker, he’s been an amazing support crew and partner through it all.

Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

Brian and me at the Patagonia event, Arizona Trail Trek

And by the way, I am still a volunteer at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson and still consider it to be one of the best ways to spend my time. So grateful to be able to do this work.

I’ll be doing my usual year-end wrap-up here next month. Here’s to the next nine years!

Training a Great Horned Owl

Training a Great Horned Owl at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson

 

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Recently, as part of my partnership with the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), I gave my Hiking the Arizona Trail talk at REI in Chandler.  AOT livestreamed the presentation on their Instagram and Facebook and we got people from all over the world tuning in! Below is the presentation, a tour from Mexico to Utah with tips and tricks to plan your own adventure on the Arizona Trail. Plenty of stories, information and my best photos from over a decade on the AZT.

I’ll be doing a series of 8 articles, talks and social media posts with the Office of Tourism during my hike research for my upcoming book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail with Wilderness Press. The articles will start next month, I’ll be sure to share them when they are published.

I’ve given this talk numerous times, but haven’t ever seen a recording of it. As suspected, I talk with my hands. A lot. No matter how brown and East Indian my skin is, the hands are all Italian. Hope you enjoy the presentation!

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle on the Arizona Trail, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

 

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I’m not sure how it got to be almost April without a blog post, but I’m back! So much to catch up on, I’ve been traveling all over the place for work and play. For more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena.

Looking down on the big pouroff

One of my recent adventures –  Jackass Canyon

I love taking my friends and family to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  While on a trip in Olympic National Park last year, I found out that my friend Grant had never backpacked in the Canyon before and I said I’d enjoy being the one to remedy that problem. Things lined up for me to hike into the Grand Canyon on my birthday, February 16th, for two nights in Clear Creek with a night at Bright Angel Campground on either side. We invited Ryan from Maine, who I’d met in Moab last year, and hoped for good weather.

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The route we took – map courtesy of Wilderness Vagabond

We stayed in Tusayan and got a leisurely start after catching up at breakfast with my friend Li Brannfors, who Ryan (aka Guthook) had met on the Appalachian Trail many years ago. Temperatures had been unseasonably hot, yet there was a thick coating of ice on the upper parts of the South Kaibab in the shade of the chimney. Glad to have traction for the short distance, soon the trail was on the ridge in the sun. Always great to be back on the Arizona Trail!

Mule Train on the South Kaibab

Best location I can think of for my birthday!

 We timed it just right for the hike down, many parts were in the shade and it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had on the Kaibab. Perfect weather for a birthday hike. So fun to see the guys react to the enormity of it all and ever-changing beauty of each turn of the trail.  Ryan was able to see the Guthook’s Guides Arizona Trail App that he developed in the field for the first time. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s such a game-changing resource for the AZT.

Kaibab Tunnel

We got a campsite by Bright Angel Creek, the cottonwoods were just starting to sport tiny green nubs. Ryan and Grant turned in after dinner, but not me- I had plans.

The moon was getting close to full and I took my camera and did my thing, visiting the beach and the bridges. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip.

Black Bridge at Night

 

Nighttime at Boat Beach

After a late night roaming the canyon and a leisurely start, we headed out to Clear Creek. I had only dayhiked a part of this trail while staying at Bright Angel. New terrain makes me giddy!

The CCC built the Clear Creek Trail to an amazing standard- it’s always fun to have people along who can geek out over a beautifully built wall or switchback. The trail passed the Great Unconformity- a place where over a billion years of time are missing between the Tapeats Sandstone and Vishnu Schist rock layers. Hard to wrap your head around geologic time, even when it’s staring you in the face.

The Great Unconformity


The Clear Creek Trail has spectacular views of many of the temples and buttes of the Canyon, but one stands above the rest: Zoroaster. It is one of  my favorite landmarks and the trail takes a tour around it. I must have five million pictures of that sexy Coconino-capped peak.

After Tontouring in and out of Bradley and Demaray points, we crossed Zoroaster Canyon. Then there was a traverse above the Clear Creek drainage that had great views of Wotan’s Throne and Angel’s Gate before descending into the canyon.

Photo by Ryan Linn

 

Descent into Clear Creek

We set up near the creek and the mice were almost immediately a nuisance. I did some photography before bed, the moon was so bright that it made the long exposures look like daytime.

The forecast was for a slight chance of rain at night and a 30% chance for the following day. The wind picked up and howled through the canyon, defeating any chances of sleep. Morning came and none of us had gotten much rest. We were supposed to have a layover day of exploring Clear Creek. That didn’t sound like much fun with the crazy wind. One day I’ll come back and explore upstream to Cheyava Falls- Grand Canyon’s largest at 800ft.  (only runs sometimes), and downstream to the sideways waterfall and the Colorado River.

Clear Creek Waterfall

Visiting the Clear Creek sideways waterfall while working on a river trip

A lone runner carrying a tiny pack visited our camp, having run from Phantom that morning. He said the winds were worse on the plateau. After a bit of small talk, we found that he was from the town right near where Ryan had grown up in Maine and that they knew the same people. Big Canyon, small world.

It was raining and still very windy. Unfortunate conditions for a layover. We decided to hike out and find a camp closer to Bright Angel to shorten up our next day. The winds were outrageous!! I kept getting pushed to the side, precariously close to prickly pear cactus and sharp-tipped agave.

 The hike back went quickly and we decided to stay on some ledges beneath Zoro in Sumner Wash which were mercifully out of the wind. I had a snack and took off to explore downstream before it got dark. I followed the canyon through the Tapeats and into the schist to pools in pink Zoroaster granite. There are few things I enjoy more than a new side canyon and this was a beauty.

Goat cheese, dehydrated olive tapenade, pepperoni and bacon

 

Zoroaster Temple

 

Vishnu Schist (black) and Zoroaster Granite (pink) pouroff

Did some night photography with Zoro before sleeping on a Tapeats ledge. The moon was outrageously bright and I had to cover my eyes to get any rest.

 The next day was a short jaunt back over to Bright Angel Campground and we took our time savoring the views from the Tonto Platform before hiking down into the canyon. The river looked like chocolate milk from the runoff of the recent rains. Early arrivals of spring wildflowers dotted the landscape.

  

Micro Chicken

The rest of the day was spent lounging about at the cantina, on Boat Beach and at the picnic table under the cottonwood by the turn into Bright Angel Creek.
  The last location was fascinating- it was Friday and a constant parade of backpackers and folks staying at Phantom Ranch streamed by. Grant is the owner of Gossamer Gear and was interested to see what kind of gear people were bringing. Needless to say, most of them did not subscribe to a lightweight philosophy and generally looked miserable as they came into the campground. I can relate, I was one of those people on my first hike down here  in 2001.

After the backpacker parade, it was time for stew dinner at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, a welcome treat after 4 days in the Canyon. The guys went to bed and as usual, I hiked around in the evening, then went to sleep on my preferred place in the campground, the picnic table.

 The next morning we readied for our hike out and got the usual leisurely start after I visited Ranger Della to say hi. It was so nice and cool out and the hike to Indian Gardens was pleasant. We all converged on Indian Gardens for lunch and even though I ate plenty and was drinking lots of water, I felt way more tired than I should have.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The next bit to the 3-mile house dragged on and I told Ryan to go ahead and I’d meet him up top. I took a good break with my feet up and had some Emergen-c. That was the missing piece of the puzzle and I immediately felt better. It had been so cool that I’d not been keeping up with my electrolytes, which made me tired.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The rest of the hike was great, even on a Saturday there weren’t a ton of people on the trail, probably kept away by the solid ice on the trail above the 1 1/2 mile rest house. I reached the rim in good spirits and enjoyed hearing Grant and Ryan’s experiences of the hike out the Bright Angel Trail. We went to Li’s house where we were greeted with tasty beverages and slow-cooker chili. A great end to a fantastic time in the Canyon.

Can’t I just stay here? Photo by Grant Sible

This trip didn’t get me any miles toward my goal of hiking the length of the Grand Canyon, but any time in the Canyon is well spent. My next trip from South Bass to Hermit in April will close the remaining gap for me between the Tanner Trail and Elves Chasm. And in October, I will be hiking a month-long piece of the Canyon and I’m currently trying to figure out the specifics of where I will spend my time. I look forward to each and every step, no matter how challenging.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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