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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

 

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I was recently interviewed by Gale Straub for one of my favorite podcasts, She Explores, and you can listen to the episode here:

https://she-explores.com/podcast/because-trails-inspire-sirena-rana-dufault/

Arizona Trail near the Utah Border

Doing book research on the Arizona Trail near the Utah border

From the She Explores Website:

In this episode, you’ll hear:

– How Sirena started hiking at the age of 19
– The impact a car accident and the onset of Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, had on her life and hiking
– Tips for women whose romantic partners aren’t as interested in hiking or backpacking
– The benefits for Sirena of hiking solo
– How to stay connected when you’re off the grid
– What fibromyalgia feels like for Sirena and why she chooses to hike through the pain when she can
– Why section hiking a long trail is a great alternative to thru hiking
– History of the Arizona Trail
– How hiking trails connect communities to hikers and vice versa
– How Sirena started a career in trails
– The work she does through her consulting company, Trails Inspire
– Why promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a key element of her company’s mission statement and how she’s already put that mission into practice
– The book Sirena is working on for Wilderness Press
– Why Sirena recommends hiking the same trail more than once

I have been on the road for what seems like most of the year, most recently I attended Outdoor Retailer in Denver and before that, the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism. For more info about what I was up to at the Governor’s Conference, click here to read an article I wrote about the experience.

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

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

I’m excited to announce that my book project, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, will be supported in part by the Arizona Office of Tourism, and I will be doing a series of articles, social media posts, and presentations for AOT while I am doing the research for the book. I’ll be sharing tips on the best places and seasons to experience the Arizona Trail and its Gateway Communities in advance of the book’s publication by Wilderness Press in Spring 2020. A Grand Canyon-sized thank you to AOT for this collaboration!

Outdoor Retailer Summer 2018

Outdoor Retailer Summer 2018 – rockin my new Purple Rain Adventure Skirt

Outdoor Retailer was a whirlwind of activity as usual. I was on a panel about the 50th anniversary of the National Scenic Trails Act with the Partnership for the National Trails.

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Trails 50 Panel: Luke Kloberdanz from Ice Age Trail, Taldi Walter from REI, Sirena from Trails Inspire, Brandi Horton from Rails to Trails, Amanda Jameson from Granite Gear Groundskeepers

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I attended Spark 2020, a conference before OR which brought together leaders in the effort to provide diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoors. It was a great way to start the event and I’ll have an article out about it on the Gossamer Gear blog soon. Big thanks to Gossamer Gear for sending me to OR, it’s always such a great experience!

Spark 2020 Conference

Spark 2020 Conference

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Loved seeing the Outside Magazine cover every time we went into the show! With Amanda “Zuul” Jameson, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers, Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping

Made the cover photo and the video for Day 1 at Outdoor Retailer along with Teresa Martinez from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Amanda Jameson, and Teresa Baker, from African American Nature and Parks Experience who received an award for her Hike Like A Girl campaign.

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Group shot before heading into the show

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Picnic with Jennifer Pharr Davis and family

I got to meet with my publisher, Wilderness Press, and talk about plans for my book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail. It’s great to be a part of their team!

Meeting with Tanya from Wilderness Press

Meeting with Tanya about my upcoming book with Wilderness Press

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Georgina Miranda from SheVentures and Karla Amador from 52 Hike Challenge

F00C6189-EDDD-4CE7-9722-44052ED56A7EI haven’t been getting out much, but I finally got out to canyoneer down Willow Canyon with my buddy Russ the other day. This canyon is a gem and so close to town!

Canyoneering Willow Canyon

Canyoneering Willow Canyon – photo by Russell James Newberg

Looking forward to more book research for the rest of the summer and fall, working on writing projects and hopefully getting out for some backpacking as well. Thanks for reading!

 

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Exciting announcement: I just signed my first book contract!

To the Arizona Trail - Writer Sirena Rana Dufault

For the next year and a half I will be researching and writing a book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, for Wilderness Press. It will have 26 of the best day hikes on the Arizona Trail combined with lots of interpretive information and photos of the views, history, plants, and more. Each day hike is connected to one of the Gateway Communities for post-hike eats, lodging and other fun things to do in the area.
Arizona Trail Sign - Picketpost Trailhead

Arizona Trail Sign at Picketpost Trailhead near the Gateway Community of Superior

I have wanted to write this book for years! I always get questions about people wanting to go on the AZT that are intimidated by choosing where to hike. The book will have hikes for all seasons and a wide range of difficulty levels from novice to expert. It will also be a resource for people just getting into the outdoors with info on what to bring and desert hiking tips and tricks.

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park in the Gateway Community of Flagstaff

Thrilled to be creating a resource that will make it easy to experience this wonderful long-distance trail and its communities without having to do the whole 800 miles.

Now it’s time to get to work! I won’t have a lot of time to post on this blog but I’ll be sharing photos and video of my research process as I go along on my Instagram @desertsirena and the Trails Inspire Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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So much going on! Instead of my usual triplog format, I thought I’d give folks a update on where I’ll be doing presentations and links to recent media I’ve been featured in.

Thursday, April 26th at 7:15 pm – I’ll be doing a brand-new free presentation “From Suburbanite to Adventurer” at Summit Hut’s location at 5151 E. Speedway. I’ll be telling the story of how I got into hiking and the outdoors, sharing stories from my adventures and giving tips on planning your own! This talk is part of their Shop and Talk Shindig with raffles, giveaways, beer and wine from 6 – 8 pm.

1990's Fashion Photos

1990’s modeling photos of a much different Sirena- if I can learn to be outdoorsy, anyone can!

Saturday, April 28th – I’ll be at the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff event in Silver City, New Mexico giving a talk on Desert Hiking Tips at 1 pm, and I am also part of the Thru-Hiker Panel at 3 pm. All presentations are at the Western New Mexico University campus, in the Student Memorial Building 3rd Floor Seminar Room.

Gateway Community of the CDT

Gateway Community of the CDT

Saturday, May 5th – I will be a guest on the popular radio show Rosie on the House, talking about my adventures, Trails Inspire and the Tusayan Community Trails Plan. Click here to find broadcast times in your area or to listen to the show after it’s aired.

Sunday, May 6th – I will be a panelist at the REI Force of Nature Celebration Reunion Party from 10:30- 12:30 am at Lost Dutchman State Park. The event is free but registration is required. The Force of Nature initiative celebrates women in the outdoors and I’m excited to be a part of this event. From the description:

“It’s a social opportunity to meet women who share your interests in the outdoors, learn about women-focused programs and organizations with a women’s panel discussion from women leader’s in the Phoenix outdoor community and relax with good company! REI will provide activities, free entry to the park for those registered, and of course some rad giveaways. This event is free to attend. All that is required is a sense of adventure and the readiness to be inspired!”FON Reunion (4)-page-001

Hope to see some of you at these events, all are free to the public!

Here’s a couple of  articles that have featured either me and/or my company Trails Inspire:

I’m excited about my interview with one of my favorite website/podcasts She Explores: Blaze Your Own Trail

Thrilled to be chosen as one of the Arizona Daily Star: Badass Women of Tucson

Badass Women of Tucson

The most popular podcast for long distance hikers, The Trail Show, featured The Loop as their April Trail O’ da Month: The Trail Show #70: The Loop

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Hike The Loop

I also wrote a piece about my experiences and diversity in the outdoors for Gossamer Gear’s blog,

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

As far as adventures go, Hike The Loop was a complete success! I hiked 80 miles in 5 days along with award-winning author Liz Thomas on Pima County’s urban trail system. We had so much fun exploring the parks, art, food and communities on The Loop and our hike into the Completion Celebration was fantastic. We invited the public to join us on the last four miles and they had a wonderful introduction to the trail system. Visit the Trails Inspire blog for detailed media coverage from the journey.

Check out the Facebook Live videos and the Trails Inspire Instagram for lots more photos and videos of Hike The Loop! Here’s my favorite, an interview we did with three women who joined us on the public hike. This is what Trails Inspire is all about:

I climbed Baboquivari Peak again with my dear friends Dave Baker, Wendy Lotze and Gary Hervert. That place is magical and challenging and I am fortunate for any time spent there.

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Baboquivari Peak Summit

Baboquivari Peak Summit

The biggest news, however, is that I finally got the section of Grand Canyon done that I had to get helicoptered out of in 2016 after tearing my calf muscle! I spent a wonderful week solo from South Bass to Hermit. I’ll get to writing it up sometime soon, still going through the many photos and videos.

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Walking past the evacuation site from 2016

Not only did I get that section done, it connected a big chunk of my line through Grand Canyon, 65 river miles from Nankoweap to Elves Chasm. Piece by piece, I’ll get the whole thing hiked someday.

Do Epic Shit

Do Epic Shit

So there it is – lots of travel, spreading the word about the outdoors and working on my trail project in Tusayan. The Community Trails project is currently in the public comment period until May 7th and you can see the Master Plan that I developed and leave your comment about the plan at this link.Tusayan Trails Master Plan Map - Public Comment

It’s been a crazy-busy spring, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Glad that the company is doing so well and that I’m getting all these fantastic opportunities! Hard to believe ten years have passed since I started blogging at the beginning of my first Arizona Trail hike way back in 2008. Thanks to my readers for your support through the years!

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The Loop is a system of paved, shared-use paths and short segments of buffered bike lanes connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano River Parks with the Julian Wash and Harrison Road Greenways. It extends through unincorporated Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, Tucson, and South Tucson. The Loop connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, workplaces, restaurants, schools, hotels and motels, shopping areas, and entertainment venues. It is 131 miles total linking 30 parks and is the longest public multi-use path in the U. S. Click on the map below to enlarge or this link for an interactive map.4884 upgrade loop map V14 RTP

Starting on March 13th in partnership with Pima County, my company Trails Inspire will be covering all the river parks and greenways in the system, hiking approximately 80 miles in five days. The hike will end at The Loop completion celebration on March 17th at Kino Sports Complex. Trails Inspire is a consulting company that promotes the outdoors via photography, freelance writing, public speaking and trail design. I’ve logged thousands of miles hiking, backpacking, rafting and canyoneering in the Southwest and consider the Grand Canyon my second home. This journey will be a little different than what I’m used to, especially in regards to on-trail ice cream and taco stops 🙂

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Sirena Dufault along The Loop, Tucson

I am excited to be joined by Liz Thomas, who is among the most experienced female hikers in the U.S. and known for backpacking light, fast, and solo.  She is affectionately known as the “Queen of Urban Hiking,” having pioneered and completed routes in 5 cities.  She is an award-winning author, public speaker and advocate for public lands. She will also be giving a talk on thru-hiking at the Tucson REI on March 16th from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.

Liz Thomas Chicago

Liz Thomas on her urban thru-hike of Chicago

During the hike, we will be posting on Trails Inspire’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, as well as The Loop’s Facebook page, doing live feeds and sharing the art, parks, and other points of interest we discover on their journey across Tucson with the hashtag #HikeTheLoop. Each day, we will highlight the food that makes Tucson a UNESCO International City of Gastronomy. We will also be promoting diversity with our message that the outdoors is for everyone.

The hike will end at the Completion Celebration at Kino Sports Complex on Saturday, March 17th. Sign up to join us as we hike the last 4.2 miles from Augie Acuña Los Ninos Park at 5432 S. Bryant Avenue into the Completion Celebration, arriving at Kino Sports Complex. Jasmine the adorable Mini-Donkey will even be along for the hike and event! There will be entertainment and activities for adults and kids alike and a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 11:30. Transportation will be available at 1 pm to shuttle people back to their cars. The hike is free but registration is required through REI at bit.ly/CompletionCelebrationHike.

There are also completion celebrations for The Loop taking place on the 17th at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.The Loop Completion Celebration

Born out of the disastrous floods of 1983, The Loop began taking shape when Pima County taxpayers started investing their Pima County Regional Flood Control District dollars in building soil-cement banks along the metropolitan waterways to guard against future flooding. The County took the opportunity to build along those overbank areas a river park system that has become one of the most popular recreational facilities in the region.

We hope you’ll follow along on social media as we Hike The Loop and join us for the completion celebration on March 17th! See the video below for a taste of what The Loop has to offer.

Loop Celebration-Flyer for Kino Spanish

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Woman with a backpack stands next to a sign that says Arizona National Scenic Trail

Arizona Trail thru-hike completion at the Utah border

Listen to a short interview on Cascade Hikers Podcast about the talk and the Arizona Trail!

I am thrilled that my company, Trails Inspire, is partnering with the Arizona Office of Tourism to bring two presentations on hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail to the REI Flagship store in Seattle, Washington, 222 Yale Street. The AZT traverses “sky island” mountain ranges, the Sonoran Desert, the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest, the Grand Canyon, and 9,000-foot peaks.

I will be doing a photographic tour of the 800-mile trail from Mexico to Utah and sharing stories as well as tips and tricks for planning your own hike!

The talks are free but registration is required – register at the links below.

1:00 – 2:30 pm Saturday, February 10th: https://www.rei.com/event/hiking-the-arizona-national-scenic-trail/seattle/196596

2:00 – 3:30 pm Sunday, February 11th: https://www.rei.com/event/hiking-the-arizona-national-scenic-trail/seattle/196597

 

Please share with friends and hope to see you there!

Here’s a short film on the Arizona Trail and my 2014 thru-hike:

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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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