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Archive for the ‘arizona trail’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

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

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

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

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

About UltraPedestrian

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

About the Arizona National Scenic Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

This spring, I have had the pleasure of helping Warrior Hike, a non-profit organization that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails to “Walk off the War”. They had previously put vets on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail and this year expanded the program to include the Arizona Trail. Along the way, they scheduled events to connect with VFW organizations to help regain the sense of community and brotherhood that is lacking when veterans leave the service. I helped plan their schedule, put them in contact with my Gateway Communities and even got on the trail with them. They started on March 15th- to read my story about backpacking with them the first 50 miles into Patagonia, go to Page 8 in the ATA Spring Newsletter: ATANewsSpring15.

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

I really enjoyed being a part of the team that helped the two veterans, Shawn- who’s trail name is Greyhound and Josh, as they made their way up the state. It is always interesting to see the Arizona Trail through the eyes of someone else and I did what I could to help with logistics and make sure their town stops were enjoyable.

There was one piece of the trail that I was determined to join them for, and that was the Grand Canyon. No surprise there, it’s the crown jewel of the AZT and my favorite place in the world!! I was really looking forward to putting my guide hat on and showing them around. After numerous calls, we were able to secure dorm rooms at Phantom Ranch for May 10th, as well as dinner and breakfast. That meant that I could hike down with just my Gossamer Gear Type 2 daypack- how fancy!! We had breakfast with Wired, who was on her last couple weeks of the Hayduke Trail, and Li Brannfors, Arizona Trail Steward and accomplished long-distance hiker.

Shawn and Josh and me at breakfast with Wired, who's on the Hayduke Trail, and Trail Steward and long-distance hiker Li Brannfors

Greyhound, Josh, Wired, me and Li Brannfors

The morning was beautiful- it had rained and snowed for a couple of days before and the air was crystal-clear. A smattering of puffy clouds was the icing on the cake for one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever had into the Canyon. From the very first switchback on the South Kaibab Trail, Shawn and Josh were blown away by the outrageously fantastic landscape that is the Grandest of Canyons. There’s just really nothing quite like it and no picture or view from the top can prepare you for the layers of goodness contained within.

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

We blew right past Ooh Aah Point, too many tourists on this Saturday morning to stop and look. Instead, we found our own lookout point for reflection and photos. The Canyon was in bloom- wildflowers and cactus alike adding colors to the already spectacular layers of rock.

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Took a short break for snacking at Cedar Ridge and headed down, down, down into the abyss. It’s so much fun to see others see the Canyon for the first time- the excitement of seeing the Colorado at Skeleton Point, the views of the iconic temples of the Upper Granite Gorge, the wonderment of it all.

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

The guys got a little ahead of me while I was talking to another hiker and I ended up hiking from the Tipoff down to the river solo. The South Kaibab Trail, no matter how many times I’ve hiked it, always makes me giddy with delight. I was practically dancing down the trail, I was so excited to be there, descending into the ancient schist and granite. As I neared the tunnel and Black Bridge, I hoped that I might see someone I knew at the Boat Beach, but alas, there were no Arizona River Runners or Grand Canyon Whitewater boats to be found. I’ll be starting my river season next month and can hardly wait to call the Canyon my home for the summer.

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

I took a break at the river but soon it was time to make sure that I got to Phantom in time to meet the guys for dinner. Josh had steak and Shawn and I had their delicious veggie chili, with big squares of chocolate cake for dessert. I fondly remembered the Christmas Dinner that I ate down here a couple of years ago. After dinner, we went to the Boat Beach to hang out by the Colorado River and then to the Silver Bridge to catch the fiery sunset on Zoroaster Temple. It was so much fun to show Josh and Shawn around and get to catch up with them and hear about how they felt about their journey now that they only had a week left to go.

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

After a visit to the Phantom Ranch Cantina, the guys were off to bed. But I wasn’t done with the Canyon yet- I hiked out the North Kaibab to the Clear Creek junction and played with my headlamp and long exposures on my camera.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

I stayed up way too late and regretted it when we got the 4:30 am call for breakfast. Nothing like climbing out of the Canyon on no sleep, at least I was only carrying a daypack. After breakfast, we packed up and Josh and Shawn headed north on their last leg of the journey toward Utah. The North Rim was still closed for the season, so I hiked the Bright Angel Trail back up to the South Rim.

Accidentally hit a button I didn't even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

Accidentally hit a button I didn’t even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

I haven’t hiked out on the BA since my very first backpacking trip in 2002- I always take the South Kaibab. I figured I’d try it for a change. I spotted another hiker with an umbrella and got to talking to Meg, who works in the Canyon for the Park Service and lives at Indian Garden. She’s a fellow long-distance hiker and later in the day we saw each other again and she invited me up to her place for lunch. What a view!!!

Met Meg "Little Bug" who works for the NPS

Met Meg “Little Bug” who works for the NPS

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

The rest of the hike up was uneventful- even though the Bright Angel has water stops to make the trail easier, I still way prefer the South Kaibab. Topped out, grabbed some dinner in Flagstaff, and made the long drive back home to Tucson. Another great Canyon trip in the books!

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Four-o-Clock

Four-o-Clock

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Shawn and Josh made their way to Utah the following week and had their celebration in the Gateway Community of Page. I am so happy that I got to be a part of the first Warrior Hike on the Arizona Trail, the outdoors provides healing and time for reflection and it is great to help foster that journey for others. To donate to Warrior Hike, visit http://warriorhike.org/donate/.

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

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Haven’t updated the blog in a while- seems like I’m slowly emerging out of a time warp where I find myself suddenly at the end of April. The last month has been tough- my father-in-law passed away at 71 after a long battle with cancer and then ten days later my 15-year old dog Bailey lost the use of her back legs and we had to say goodbye to her too. So much sadness for me and my husband Brian, we’re finally clawing our way back to normalcy. It makes me dread the day I will lose my dad, supporter of all my adventures and one of the few people that totally understands me. Makes it even more important that I enjoy the time I have with him.

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

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

But on to more pleasant things- I have gotten to do a bit of traveling lately, some for work, some for play. I represented the Arizona Trail Association at the first annual Continental Divide Trail Kickoff event in Silver City, NM. It was a lot of fun and I got to see some of my fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors that I’d met earlier this year. Interesting to see what Silver City has done with the CDTC’s Gateway Community Program. I worked a booth at the Outdoor Expo and it was surprising to hear how many folks were already familiar with the Arizona Trail.

Gateway Community of the CDT

Gateway Community of the CDT

Blue bootprints with the CDT logo take you through town

Blue bootprints with the CDT logo take you through town

Folks at the Arizona Trail Booth

Folks at the Arizona Trail Booth

Found a CDT hiking mini-donkey

Found a CDT hiking mini-donkey

Big Ditch Park

Big Ditch Park

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Allgood, Jabba, Bearclaw, Not a Chance, She-ra and Snorkel on the Long Distance Hiking panel discussion

CDT

CDT

I wished that I had more time to explore the CDT and Gila Wilderness, guess a return trip is in order sometime. My 17-year old nephew Chase visited us from Michigan for Spring Break and at the top of his list was the Grand Canyon. I was excited to introduce someone new to the Canyon and he loved every minute. I bet I have a backpacking companion in the making.

Brian and Chase at the Rim

Brian and Chase at the Rim

Chase on the AZT

Chase on the AZT

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One happy guy!

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

We also took him up Mount Lemmon and did something I’ve never done- hiked to the Mount Lemmon highpoint. It was a fun little route with outstanding views and Chase got to sign his first summit register. We did a couple short hikes on the mountain and enjoyed the sunset.

Windy Point

Windy Point

Chase signs in at the Mount Lemmon Highpoint

Chase signs in at the Mount Lemmon Highpoint

The next day I took Chase to see some petroglyphs near my house and then I suggested we take a short hike in the wash nearby. We were hiking along and all of a sudden Chase said, “Aunt Sirena, you just stepped on a rattlesnake!” Sure, I thought- this coming from the kid that had messed with me all week playing jokes. Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t a joke. I looked back and my stomach dropped as I saw the rattlesnake lying in the shade with an indent in the sand near its tail where I’d stepped on it. Fortunately it was too cold to move quickly, otherwise I’d be writing this while recovering from a massive bite.

Rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake!

Last weekend was the fourth annual Pine/Strawberry Trails Day. I just love visiting this pair of friendly Gateway Communities in the cool pines! It’s baby goat season at Fossil Creek Ranch and I got to feed two-day old kids and put them in their enclosure for the night.

Friendly signs welcome Arizona Trail users to town

Friendly signs welcome Arizona Trail users to town

Pine Trailhead

Pine Trailhead

Double Goats!

Double Goats!

The next day was Trails Day and there were hikes, bike rides, and a birding walk. I hiked a loop with the Llamas from Fossil Creek Ranch and lots of folks stopped by the Arizona Trail booth for info.

On the trail with Llamas from the Fossil Creek Ranch

On the trail with Llamas from the Fossil Creek Ranch

Thru-hikers Toad and Butch

Thru-hikers Toad and Butch

In the evening, I recorded an interview for The Trail Show podcast about the Arizona trail, you can listen to it here (my part starts at 41:13): http://thetrailshow.com/the-trail-show-35-the-gpt/

Last but not least, I traveled to the Arizona Trail’s southern terminus at the Mexican Border to shoot a piece  with Tony Paniagua from Arizona Public Media about the Arizona Trail. It will be a series of short segments about different environments and communities across the state. We’re shooting in Patagonia next.

Nate, me and Tony at Montezuma Pass

Nate, me and Tony at Montezuma Pass

It has been good to stay busy to keep my mind off my recent losses. My house is empty of animals for the first time in 18 years and it feels so strange. I’m really aching for a backpacking trip. Haven’t been out since mid-March, when I hiked 50 miles from Mexico to Patagonia to help get the two Warrior Hike veterans started on their thru-hike. I’ll post about that soon, it was a very rewarding experience.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson news, it’s baby season again! Lots of babies mean lots of mouths to feed- your donation helps to nourish the little ones!

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Baby Killdeer

Baby Killdeer

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Baby Great Horned Owls with their foster mom, Luna

Same Great Horned Owls a week later

Same Great Horned Owls a week later

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

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

Picketpost Mountain

Picketpost Mountain

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

Stripey Butte Saddle

Stripey Butte Saddle

Blue Dicks

Blue Dicks

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

Sunset from my camp

Sunset from my camp

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

Scott and Eszter

Scott and Eszter

Scott and Eszter on a bikepacking trip

Scott and Eszter on a bikepacking trip

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

This is the "Trailhead"

This is the “Trailhead”

Fantastic Formations

Fantastic Formations

Looking into Martinez Canyon

Looking into Martinez Canyon

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

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

Penstemon

Penstemon

Globe Mallow and Brittlebush

Globe Mallow and Brittlebush

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

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

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

Red Mountain Seep

Red Mountain Seep

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

Gila River

Gila River

Sunset along the Gila River

Sunset along the Gila River

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

Gila River Campsite

Gila River Campsite

Stone Tool

Stone Tool

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

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Battle Axe Rancher

Battle Axe Rancher

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

Scorpionweed and Poppies

Scorpionweed and Poppies

Trestle Bridge

Trestle Bridge

Completion Marker

Completion Marker

Sunset looking down at the tiny town of Kelvin/Riverside

Sunset looking down at the tiny town of Kelvin/Riverside

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

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

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

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

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

AZTrailDay2015 CCMP

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

Arizona Trail Courtyard Display

Arizona Trail Courtyard Display

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

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

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

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

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

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Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

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