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Archive for the ‘Canyoneering’ Category

Happy 2020! This was the first time that I used the One Second Everyday app to record the events of the year. I really enjoyed the experience, it gave me a reason to capture memories of friends, places visited, days at home, and work at my consulting company, Trails Inspire. If you’d like more frequent updates on my wanderings, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena and @trailsinspire. I’d recommend watching the video below full-screen.

Top 10 2019
  1. Finishing my manuscript for Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail
  2. Wildflower superbloom
  3. Visiting family in India after 16 years
  4. Snow in the desert (three times!)
  5. Women on the Road Campout
  6. Wrote and was quoted in quite a few articles and featured in podcasts
  7. Danced a lot
  8. Grand Canyon trips for Anish’s wedding, Diversity workshop and book celebration
  9. Colorado trips for Summer Outdoor Retailer, road trip with my Dad and Project 16x
Thanks to my sponsors, Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and Purple Rain Adventure Skirts for providing me food and gear for my adventures and travels, and thanks to Wilderness Press and the Arizona Office of Tourism for support on my book, which will be released in the Spring. And as always, grateful for my husband Brian’s support of my hopes and dreams.
This year, I am grateful to have visited the ancestral lands of the Tohono and Akimel O’odham, Yaqui, Chiricahua Apache, Western Apache, Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo Nation, and the Yavapai-Apache, Ute and Cheyenne.
Looking forward to putting together my book tour, doing more sections of my Grand Canyon Traverse (hopefully this is the decade I complete it), and trail design and development projects in 2020. Thanks to all who have followed along! If you’re looking for a retrospective about the last decade, check out my post on Ten Years of Sirena’s Wanderings.
Top 10 of the decade with photo collage:
  1. Starting Trails Inspire and creating a career promoting the outdoors
  2. Writing my first book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail
  3. Working as a rafting guide on the Colorado River
  4. Finishing the Arizona Trail twice
  5. Grand Canyon Traverse segments
  6. Volunteering at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson
  7. Arizona Trail Gateway Community Program
  8. Developing my photography skills
  9. Off-trail travel and scrambling, canyoneering and climbing
  10. Trail Design
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Wishing you exciting adventures and personal growth in the coming year, if you’d like to be on the mailing list for the book release and tour, shoot me an email at sirena@trailsinspire.com.
Happy New Year and new decade ahead!

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Happy National Take a Hike Day! This week marks the 10-year anniversary of my blog, Sirena’s Wanderings, thanks to all who have followed along! Whether you’ve found me recently or been reading for years, I appreciate being able to share my stories with you.

Grand Canyon Traverse - South Bass to Hermit

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

I haven’t been posting on the blog much because I have been so busy the last year and a half with my book project, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail. I am thrilled to announce that the first draft of the manuscript was turned in to Wilderness Press on November 1st! It was a phenomenal amount of hiking, writing, photography and research.

The book is geared toward beginners and features the very best sections of the Arizona Trail that are accessible via day hike. Each hike has interpretive information so you can learn about the geology, history, geography, botany or archaeology of the area where you’re hiking. It’s got Gateway Community information so you know the best places to eat and stay after your hike and a section where I share my desert hiking tips and tricks. The projected release date is Spring 2020, send an email to sirena@trailsinspire.com to sign up for my email list for all the details on the book release and tour.

10_5 Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail

Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail along the Gila River – Ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odham

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.

I did a pretty extensive retrospective of the blog last year with lots of photos and links – you can read it here: https://desertsirena.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/nine-years-of-sirenas-wanderings/. Here’s the first photo I uploaded in November 2009 of a double rainbow after hiking out of the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Volunteer Service Project:

Double Rainbow and O'Neill Butte

Double Rainbow and O’Neill Butte

The 11 Traditionally Associated Tribes of Grand Canyon are: Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Las Vegas Band of Paiute Indians, Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Navajo Nation, The Pueblo of Zuni and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

It’s interesting to think of what my life was like back then and how much things have changed. 10 years ago, I had finished my great adventure of section-hiking the Arizona Trail but I had no idea of what the future held. Finishing the AZT was something that had seemed impossible only years earlier, when I was still very sick from Fibromyalgia. I have had this chronic pain condition now for 22 years and though I manage it well, I still have flares from time to time.

I had no idea what was next, but my experiences on the AZT showed me that I could push myself farther than I’d ever imagined. It gave me the confidence for the things that followed: becoming a public speaker and advocate for the outdoors, taking on increasingly difficult outdoor pursuits, getting my jobs as the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association and as a guide on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, and ultimately starting my consulting business, Trails Inspire and writing this book. What a journey! For example, 10 years ago I’d never imagined I’d be doing this:

Willow Canyon - Photo Russell James Newberg

Rappelling down Willow Canyon, photo Russell James Newberg. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui

Wanted to share some articles I’ve been featured in or written, click the links below to read. First is “How to Travel Through the Desert Like a Pro” by Meg Atteberry on the REI Co-op blog, where I share my tips on desert hiking, backpacking and camping.

How to Travel Through the Desert Like a Pro

Paul Fiarkoski of Arizona Wonders attended my talk on Hiking the Arizona Trail for the Arizona Mountaineering Club and wrote up a great article on my story and the AZT.

Tips for hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail from Sirena Rana Dufault

I wrote an article for the Gossamer Gear blog on Tips and Techniques for Dry Camping. It’s a valuable skill to have, especially in the desert. Also reviewed the Ranger 35 daypack and the Silverback 55 backpack I’ve been using for my latest trips.

Tips and Techniques for a Successful Dry Camping Trip

Review: Gossamer Gear’s Ranger 35 and Silverback 55 Meet Rugged Arizona Landscapes

Gossamer Gear Ranger 35 Sirena

Ranger 35 backpack – Photo by Travis Perkins. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui

Grateful to Gossamer Gear for their continued support and proud to be a part of their Ambassador program for many years now. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Huppybar, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts and the Arizona Office of Tourism for their partnerships!

I was featured in Etched Magazine, talking about my favorite hikes and snacks for on and off the trail.

Dates, Goat Cheese and Bacon

Goat cheese, dates and bacon in Grand Canyon

One of my favorite podcasts, She Explores, interviewed me about my volunteer work with Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson. Here’s a video that I made of babies and releases. I also set up a new website for the rehab where you can donate!

Episode 120: Giving Wildlife a Second Chance

Travel journalist Steve Larese interviewed me for an article “The Limit Does Not Exist” in Vie Magazine about what adventure culture means to me.

The Limit Does Not Exist

13_4 Apache Lake Vista

Apache Lake Vista – Ancestral lands of the Apache and Yavapai

After I turned in my book manuscript, it was time to celebrate. And there’s no place I’d rather celebrate than Grand Canyon! I got a permit for three nights in the Hermit and Granite Rapids area and had the most fantastic solo trip. All I wanted to do is sit and watch the river, listen to Granite Rapid, do photography and enjoy my time in the Canyon. It was exactly what I needed.

Hiking down the Hermit Trail

Hiking down the Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon

Granite Rapids Sunset and Moonrise

Sunset and Moonrise at Granite Rapids, Grand Canyon

Granite Rapids from the high scout point

Granite Rapids at night from the high scout point

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Light painted a Saguaro on Granite Beach, Grand Canyon

Hermit Trail Sunset

Sunset while hiking out the Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon

Here’s an old video of me driving a 32′ boat through the same rapids, back in 2013 when I worked for Arizona River Runners. Not the greatest quality, but gives you an idea of scale. Back when I started this blog 10 years ago, I’d never driven a boat before.

I have had to put my Grand Canyon Traverse on hold for the last year and a half for this book project, and this trip has energized me to get back to section-hiking the remainder of the Canyon. It’s going to take some training to get strong enough for off-trail travel with a big pack, but I’m ready for the challenge.

Retrospectives are always fun for me, especially because it gives me the chance to wonder where I’ll have wandered in 10 more years! Thanks again for reading.

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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

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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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What a year this has been! I have been kept quite busy by my consulting company, Trails Inspire, and sadly have not posted much on Sirena’s Wanderings this year. However, this post will catch you up on what’s been going on, there are many links to follow as well to articles I’ve written or appeared in. I thank all the readers that have followed me for the past eight years I’ve written this blog and those who find my posts a resource and inspiration for their hikes.

A Grand-Canyon sized thanks to Gossamer Gear and Huppybar for their support of my adventures! If you’d like more frequent updates on where I’m wandering, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena. Here’s my favorite shot of the whole year, condors J4 and 02 playing queen of the rock in Marble Canyon. Now on to a look back at 2017!

California Condor

Condors playing Queen of the Rock

January

At the beginning of the year, I returned to volunteering at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I had taken a break for about a year or so and was so happy to be back! Volunteering there is one of my favorite activities and I am so fortunate to get to specialize in working with raptors – hawks, owls and falcons.Harris Hawk

I filed the official paperwork in January to form Trails Inspire, LLC, my consulting business. Trails Inspire promotes the outdoors through photography, public speaking, freelance writing, and trail project management. Thanks to Wendy Lotze for designing my beautiful logo! Visit the website to learn more – I am currently booking speaking and writing gigs for 2018, contact me at sirena@trailsinspire.com. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook.Trails inspire Square Logo visit www.trailsinspire to learn more!

January 25th marked the 20th anniversary of my accident, when I was hit by a truck while walking across the street. That moment changed my life forever and I wanted to commemorate it with an outing in the Mineral Mountains with my friends Wendy and India. They were very good sports about it even though temps dipped into the 20s.

Hiking up to the ridge

Hiking up to the ridge

As a result of that accident, I developed fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that made me very ill for most of my twenties. I found hiking while trying to manage my condition and it led to wellness and adventures I’d never thought possible. It was a bittersweet trip,  I had gone a decade without a flare. Yet on the anniversary of my accident, I had been in a flare for two months already with no sign of it abating. I tried to find the gratitude in still being able to use my body to get outside. Rather than sit at home and feel bad, I chose to feel bad in nature and keep hiking and backpacking. It helped my mental state immensely.

February

I took a roadtrip from Chicago to Tucson with my dad and we entertained ourselves by using the Roadside America website to find attractions to visit along the way. It even made Nebraska interesting, a feat I formerly thought impossible. We saw the World’s Largest Buffalo Nickel and Ball of Stamps, historic sites, and sculptures ranging from epic to ridiculous.

World's Largest Ball of Stamps

World’s Largest Ball of Stamps

I had an article published about the 5 Best Hikes in Superior for the Pinal Nugget, which gave me a great excuse to visit for research.

Picketpost Mountain

Picketpost Mountain

I hiked to the top of Picacho Peak for my 43rd birthday and again a week later with my nephew Gage. Gage moved to Arizona from Michigan and I’ve really enjoyed introducing him to hiking.

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!

March

Backpacked the first 60 miles of the Sky Island Traverse with Amanda “Not a Chance” Timeoni from Cochise Stronghold East through the Dragoons, over to the San Pedro River and followed the river down to the San Pedro House. I loved hiking among the giant cottonwoods of the San Pedro and there were lots of interesting side trips along the way to see archaeological sites and historic structures. I managed to hike a 20-mile day in spite of being in month five of my fibromyalgia flare. It was a triumph that made me feel better mentally if not physically. Chance was a great hiking partner and I really enjoyed her company. She’s hiked over 14,000 miles on long distance trails since 2009.

Stunning Cochise Stronghold

Stunning Cochise Stronghold


San Pedro River - Sky Island Traverse

Hiking in the San Pedro River to stay cool (and because splashing through the water is fun!)

April

I attempted again to hike from South Bass to Hermit in the Grand Canyon, the hike I’d been helicoptered out of with a torn calf muscle the year before. Alas, the roads were muddy and we couldn’t get to the trailhead so I hiked the Escalante Route from Tanner to Grandview again. Not a bad plan B – the Escalante Route is beautiful and there was a prolific wildflower bloom that was unlike any I’ve ever seen in the Canyon!

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail


Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

India and me at the Unkar Overlook


After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show

After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show


While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

The week after my Grand Canyon hike, my six-month fibromyalgia flare finally subsided and I was so grateful for my renewed health. It had been mentally and physically exhausting to be in pain all the time,  there had been a searing nerve pain in my right scapula along with the accompanying symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression.  I hope that it will be another decade before my next one. No picture because it’s an invisible condition, I look the same whether I’m in a flare or not.

Sadly, upon hiking out of the Canyon, I learned that the Wildlife Rehab had suffered a devastating fire that burned parts of the facility and resulted in the deaths of over 30 of our birds. The saddest part was that three of our educational animals, who we’d had for a decade, perished in the fire. Heartbreaking.

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Aftermath of the fire outside


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The bird room after the fire

I gave a couple of talks in April – the first was about historic sites on the Arizona Trail for the Glen Canyon Natural History Association in Page. You can listen to a radio interview I did about it. It gave me a great excuse to do some exploring in the area and I hiked to the Colorado River via Cathedral Wash and got to see condors sitting on an egg from the Navajo Bridge.Glen Canyon NHA

In Silver City, New Mexico, I gave a talk on Hot Weather Hiking Tips at the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff and also published an accompanying article for the American Long Distance Hiking Association – West.

Canyoneered the Salome Jug in the Sierra Ancha with Meg and Russ Newberg. It was a gorgeous, sculpted pink canyon with lots of fun swims.

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Salome Jug with Russ and Meg


The Jug - Russ Newberg

Salome Jug – Photo by Russ Newberg

I spent some time in Oracle, north of Tucson, volunteering with the Arizona Conservation Corps to maintain my 3-mile section of the Arizona Trail for which I am a steward. My Oracle Adventures: 3 Hikes article was published by the Copper Town News and I got to visit one of my favorite places, the High Jinks Ranch.

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Trail maintenance with Arizona Conservation Corps


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Oracle State Park

May

My nephew Gage went with me on his first backpacking trip, I chose Hutch’s Pool and he did great! It was a toasty hike in but the swimming made it all worth it.

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Gage on his first backpacking trip


Hutch's Waterfall

Hutch’s Waterfall

I advocated for our public lands and urged people to submit their comments for the review of 27 National Monuments by the current administration.

June

In June I started my company’s first big contract – to develop a community trails Master Plan for the Town of Tusayan, Gateway Community to the Grand Canyon and Arizona Trail. I traveled to Tusayan to meet with local business and landowners, the Kaibab Forest and Grand Canyon National Park. After work, I got to visit the Canyon and camp in the forest, it was amazing!IMG_6255

At the Wildlife Rehab, work continued on the facility and I put together a fundraiser event – After the Fire – to supplement the donations that were coming in online. It was a wonderful event at Sky Bar with fantastic entertainment and people really enjoyed meeting our remaining educational animals.

MoJo Grass

MoJo Grass


Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller

Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller


Marjani Drum Solo

Marjani

For Father’s Day, one of my stories about my dad was featured on the She Explores podcast. My dad has been a great supporter of my adventures, but we didn’t always get along when I was growing up.

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

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

July

Right before the monsoon rains comes Saguaro fruit season and this year was incredible – so much fruit! I harvested, dried and made plenty of fruit leather to last the rest of the year.IMG_6237

I visited Aravaipa Canyon for a leisurely trip with lots of hanging in the hammock, coloring, writing and listening to music. It’s always a gorgeous destination and the trip revitalized me for the whirlwind that was the rest of the month.

Aravaipa Canyon

Aravaipa Canyon

Wendy and I had a rare moment in the same town at the same time and we hiked the Florida Trail in the Santa Ritas, a new one for me. Monsoon rains were great this year and when I hiked Pusch Peak, the normally-dry fall was flowing and there was even enough water to take a swim in the canyon!

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Florida Trail


Pusch Peak

Pusch Peak

I attended the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism representing Trails Inspire and reconnected with many colleagues and made new contacts.

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Outdoor Retailer’s last event in Salt Lake City was at the end of the month. There were a number of events about women and diversity and I really enjoyed the sense of community that grew out of them. I wrote a story about it for Gossamer Gear’s blog. I also had a photo featured in Liz Thomas’ Backpacker Long Trails book. It’s a photo from my hike into Grand Canyon with the Warrior Hike veterans program.

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Women Who Lead panel


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Liz Thomas and me

August

After developing and getting responses on a public questionnaire, I held a public meeting for the Tusayan Community Trails Master Plan, which also meant that I got to visit the Canyon again.

Herd of Elk near my camp in Kaibab National Forest

Herd of Elk near my camp in Kaibab National Forest


Huppybar in its Natural Environment

Huppybar in its natural environment

My friend Meg had been wanting to try out backpacking so I put together a trip to the Wilderness of Rock on Mount Lemmon. It was one of the most intense nights of lightning I’ve had and one Meg will not soon forget. A couple of days later, I was in Oracle when they got over 4 1/2 inches of rain in one night!

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock

Brian and I met my dad in Garden Valley, Idaho for the Solar Eclipse. It is hard to describe what a profound experience it was during totality. Brian, an amateur astronomer, had been telling me about this eclipse for the last 10 years and I’m so glad we made the trip. We also got to visit the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, what a treat!

Brian, Dad and me ready for the eclipse

Brian, Dad and me ready for the eclipse


Bateleur Eagles from Africa

Bateleur Eagles from Africa

September

Took Gage on an overnight to Josephine Saddle in the Santa Ritas and we also summitted Mount Wrightson. Wrightson was my first big peak and I was excited to share the feeling of triumph with my nephew. He absolutely loved it and was amazed at the views and accomplishment. We had an epic sunset on the way back to our camp.

Summit of Mount Wrightson

Summit of Mount Wrightson – 9456 ft.


Sunset from the Baldy Trail, Mount Wrightson

Sunset on Baboquivari from the Baldy Trail, Mount Wrightson

Returned to Tusayan to lay out a potential trail corridor based on the public and stakeholder feedback from the questionnaires and meeting. I worked with Mark Flint, of Southwest Trail Solutions, who has designed miles and miles of trail for Pima County and the Arizona Trail. The layout was a lot of fun and we ended up with 13 miles of new multi-use non-motorized trail. The part I’m most excited about is the Grand Canyon History Trail, an interpretive trail that will tell the human history of the Grand Canyon area from Native American times to the present.

Meadow on the new Tusayan Trail system

Meadow on the new Tusayan Trail system


Mark Flint and Me

Working laying out trail with Mark Flint in Tusayan


Tusayan Sunset

Tusayan Sunset

Unfortunately, I had been having some continued troubles with harassment that escalated to the point of interfering in my new business. It had been a source of stress and anxiety that required me to seek not only legal help but also counseling. When the #MeToo coverage started blowing up in the news the following month, I could relate all too well. Not all harassment is of a sexual nature, but at the base of it all is the same power struggle. I am fortunate to have good friends and family, a supportive husband and a wonderful counselor who have helped to see me through.

Back to adventuring, I had always wondered what Upper Romero Canyon looked like and finally got to see for myself. My buddy Russ and I canyoneered down sculpted granite corridors and rappelled down waterfalls. It was good training for my upcoming big Grand Canyon trip.

Canyoneering Upper Romero Canyon

Canyoneering Upper Romero Canyon


Canyon Tree Frog

Canyon Tree Frog

Got a couple of horseback rides in with Carrie Miracle-Jordan on JJ.

Riding in the Santa Ritas

Riding in the Santa Ritas

One of the most amazing events I’ve ever put together of is Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire. I came up with the idea for the event when Niall Murphy from REI Tucson approached me about doing a presentation. Instead of just me doing my thing, Trails Inspire co-sponsored a multi-sport women’s panel discussion with a mountain biker, an equestrian, a rock climber, an ultrarunner and me, the backpacker. We had 200 people, mostly women, attend at the Tucson Hop Shop and it was everything I’d hoped. Women came away inspired and empowered to take on their own adventures and connected with each other and local community outdoors groups.

Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire

Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire – MC Lisette Wells-Mackovic, Backpacker (me), Ultrarunner Laura Swenson, Mountain Biker Veronique Pardee, Rock Climber Jenn Choi, Equestrian Carrie Miracle-Jordan

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October

My friend Heather “Anish” Anderson came to visit with her boyfriend Adam after they’d both hiked almost 4000 miles on the Oregon Desert Trail, Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trails. Check her Instagram @anishhikes, she’s always up to amazing things. After taking a couple days off, they were ready to hike so we backpacked from the top of Mount Lemmon out to Sabino Canyon so I could test my knees for my Grand Canyon trip. We spent the night at Hutch’s Pool and had a great time and the knees were ready to go!

Pistachio, Anish and me on Mount Lemmon

Pistachio, Anish and me on Mount Lemmon

I presented the Tusayan Community Trails Master Plan to the Town Council and they voted a unanimous yes! Next step is opening the Master Plan for a round of public comment and another public meeting, sometime early next year.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Got to see the Grand Canyon by air thanks to Grand Canyon Helicopters, the flight path went right over the route I was planning to hike. The Butte Fault/Horsethief Route was one of my favorite adventures to date. A whole week of fresh scenery, unusual geology, challenging terrain and logistics and breathtaking beauty. It felt so good to be out there solo, on my own timeline, feeling strong. Quite the different experience than the trip earlier in the year when I’d still been in a fibromyalgia flare. If you’d like to see what gear I bring, you can read this Gossamer Gear article about it.

Butte Fault

Butte Fault from the helicopter, Awatubi/Sixtymile saddle below.


Nankoweap Creek

Nankoweap Creek


Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte


Hiking up to Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle

Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle (same as in the aerial photo)


Lava Chuar Sunset

Sunset at Lava/Chuar

Six months after the fire at the Wildlife Rehab, Janet got to move back into her house and ready it to start accepting animals again. Thanks again to all who donated their time, talents and funds to help rebuild. The new structures and aviaries are better than ever, we’ll be doing an open house event once it’s all complete.

November

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, two houses away from my best friend Kristin. We met when I was four and spent our childhood exploring together. My mom was forever sending her brother looking for us in the patch of woods by our house. I moved away in 1994 but we’ve stayed close all these years across the miles. Our lives couldn’t be more different, and she came for a visit to experience a vacation like none she’d had before. I set up a camping and hiking tour of many of my favorite places in Northern Arizona and we had the absolute best time!!Best friends at Grand Canyon

We started out with a night in Flagstaff, then I got to take her to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. It was such a blast, doing all my favorite things, and seeing Kristin experience them with fresh eyes. She was a great sport, and I took her camping in Marble Canyon and to the Navajo Bridge and Lee’s Ferry. The highlight was watching the California Condors play king of the rock, I looked them up and they are both females, born in 2011 and 2013. I have never gotten a chance to photograph them in action before other than soaring way above. We finished the trip with a hike on the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff and then she was back to Chicago. We’re already plotting her return.

Marble Canyon Dance Party

Marble Canyon dance party


Best Friends

Hi there!

Since we lost our educational Great Horned Owl, Luna, in the fire, I started training a new one. It’s been an incredible process to take a wild bird (it can’t be released because of a wing that didn’t heal properly) and work with it week after week to get it used to being comfortable perched on a glove in public.

Training a Great Horned Owl

Training a Great Horned Owl

For Thanksgiving weekend, I got to house sit at one of my favorite spots in all the land, the High Jinks Ranch near Oracle. It was all I’d hoped and I got some great night shots and quality time on the Arizona Trail.Starry night at the Arizona Trail portal

December

Trails Inspire and I were featured in Phoenix Magazine’s December issue in a wonderful article by Mare Czinar.

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

After my Grand Canyon trip in October, I wanted another adventure to look forward to, so I asked my friend Mitch if he knew anyone that could help me climb Finger Rock. On the ascent to the base of the Finger, my quads started cramping. It was confusing, I had consumed what I thought was plenty of water, food and electrolytes, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I was able to make it to the base and decided not to go up the climb, just couldn’t take the chance of cramping up while on rope. I have been consciously practicing gratitude, so after a fleeting moment of feeling bad that I didn’t get to summit, I was able to enjoy the fact that I still got to see a new part of the mountain, take in the amazing views and get epic photos of my friends. What a great day, I’ll be back!

Finger Rock

Finger Rock

My dad came for a visit and we traveled to Whitewater Draw for the sunrise to see the Sandhill Cranes. It was a chilly 25 degrees, but worth it! We stopped for a fall color fix on the Arizona Trail in Cienega Creek from the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead. Fall in December, only in Arizona! Always good to travel with my dad.

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

To round out the year, I teamed up with Mitch and Bill for a holiday hike up Buster Mountain in Catalina State Park. I’ve been hiking with these two since our trip up Ragged Top in 2009 and the companionship is always top-notch.

Buster Mountain Holiday Hike

Buster Mountain Holiday Hike

I’m really looking forward to 2018 – lots of adventures planned, continuing to work on the Tusayan project, and more pieces of my Grand Canyon Traverse. One of the most exciting projects is writing a book about my story – from the accident that caused my fibromyalgia to the outdoor woman I am today. I’ve written several chapters so far and it’s been an amazing experience to revisit how very far I have come. Best wishes to all for the New Year and see you in 2018!

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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

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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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Canyoneering Montrose Canyon- December 20th, 2014

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

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

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

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

Montrose Canyon 2nd Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 2nd Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Beautiful Fall Colors in Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Beautiful Fall Colors in Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon Slide- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon Slide- Photo by Dan Kinler

Gneiss! -Photo by Dan Kinler

Gneiss! -Photo by Dan Kinler

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

Hiking out in our gear- Photo by Dan Kinler

Hiking out in our gear- Photo by Dan Kinler

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

Elf Owl

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