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Archive for the ‘Rafting’ Category

It’s that time of year again for a retrospective of my travels, let’s see where I wandered in 2015! If you’re a regular reader of the blog, don’t worry, I’ve added a lot of new pics from hikes that didn’t get a write up. Click on the links to open the post in a new tab.

January

I started the year out with a snowy hike on the Arizona Trail up to the High Jinks Ranch in Oracle.

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Explored some peaks and ridges near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground:

Great spot for a break

Great spot for a break

Met with other Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors for some dayhiking near Moab. Loved the slickrock and big views and the company was wonderful!

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Tinajas

Tinajas

Bagged a Cat in the Tucson Mountains:

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Spine of Cat Mountain

In addition, I went on a speaking tour about my Arizona Trail Trek that took me to outdoor stores, hiking clubs and community groups across Arizona. I did 10 talks in under 6 weeks!

February

Took a backpacking trip in the foothills north of Catalina State Park on the Baby Jesus Trail and some unnamed routes.

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Love those Arizona sunsets!

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Backpacking in the Catalina Foothills

Spent my birthday hiking the Sweetwater Preserve with Brian.

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Sweetwater Preserve

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Brian out on the trail

Backpacked a  loop in the Tortolita Mountains and got to experience the awesome Ridgeline Trail.

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

March

Chased Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail from Pickepost to Kelvin, one of my favorite pieces of all. Did some trail maintenance to my passage in the process.

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides

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

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

Hiked the Arizona Trail from Mexico to Patagonia with Warrior Hike, a nonprofit that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails for therapeutic purposes.

Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

Warrior Hike- Arizona Trail/Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

April

The end of March and beginning of April were tough. In 10 days I lost both my father-in-law and my old dog Bailey.

Bailey and Zeus

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

My 18-year old nephew Chase visited Arizona from Michigan and I got to take him to the Grand Canyon for his first hike. He’s hooked and can’t wait to come back.DSC02278

And then there was the time I stepped on a rattlesnake and lived to tell the tale (thank goodness it was a cold snake!):

Rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake!

My buddy Bill and his dog Bella and I did the Wilderness of Rocks Loop in the Catalinas. That was one happy water-soaked Lab!

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Love the Wilderness of Rock! Photo by Bill Bens

May

I joined Warrior Hike in the Grand Canyon and enjoyed showing my favorite place to the veterans in the program.

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

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

A perfect day.

A perfect day.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

The International Trails Symposium was held in Portland and I was part of a presentation about outdoor therapies for veterans. I took some time to explore the area and backpacked from Eagle Creek to Whatum Lake and down to Cascade Locks on the Pacific Crest Trail. A gorgeous loop filled with waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. My favorite part was carrying a mere half-liter of water, what a concept for a desert rat!

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Presenting at the International Trails Symposium about my work with Warrior Hike

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Into the Mist

Into the Mist

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

June

Time once again for river season with Arizona River Runners– I decided that this would be my last summer guiding. I will forever cherish the time I got to take people hiking and boating and teach people about the Canyon.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I got a fun little hike in to O’Neill Crater near the ARR warehouse, complete with a small cliff dwelling and tons of rooms and pottery.

Walls on the summit

Walls on the summit

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My friend Carrie was nice enough to teach me how to ride a horse and we took her Arabians out on the Arizona Trail.

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop above Oak Tree Canyon

At the end of the month, little Stu joined our family. It sure was empty without any animals in the house!DSC00038.JPG

July

More river trips and horseback riding. I got to ride on the Las Colinas passage of the AZT, a piece I had helped build. Such a different perspective riding high on a horse!

Riding Las Colinas

Riding Las Colinas

August

I had my last trip of the season on the river, bittersweet to leave. I will miss living in the Grand Canyon, sleeping on the beaches of the Colorado River. I plan on devoting time to exploring more on foot.

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I put a GIF together (sorry it’s a little choppy) from a bunch of pictures that were taken from the other boat of me driving Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs – watch the 35-foot boat disappear into the massive waves!

Hermit Rapid 22,000 cfs

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Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river!

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

At the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum, I participated in a well-attended presentation about trails and communities. It’s so great for me to see how the idea of trails as an economic driver for small towns has really become popular in Arizona. It’s a big part of my Gateway Community Program that I’ve developed since 2011 for the Arizona Trail. I got to paddle the Verde River near Clarkdale and had a wonderful time on the water.

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Summer is the time to head for the high country and I did a hike on the Aspen Draw in the Catalinas with my friends Silver and Leigh Anne and her mini-donkey Jasmine.

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Jasmine, Leigh Anne and Silver on the Aspen Draw Trail

August 15th, the hottest day of the year- it hit 110 in Tucson but I stayed  cool canyoneering the 7 Cataracts of Willow Canyon. Russ and I took our time and spent the whole day rappelling, scrambling and swimming. So glad I finally got to see this beautiful canyon.

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon- photo by Russ Newberg

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Russ on the 3rd rappel in Willow Canyon

Took a hike on the Arizona Trail down Oracle Ridge, which was covered in wildflowers from the abundant rains.

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge/AZT

September

I went to Chicago for a visit with family and paddled the Kishwaukee River- we saw a bald eagle fly downstream right overhead!

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Paddling the Kishwaukee River

We had a very successful Arizona Trail Day weekend in Flagstaff and had the Arizona premiere of the movie Unbranded. I highly recommend it, the story of 4 men and 16 mustangs who ride from Mexico to Canada. They used the Arizona Trail for part of their journey and the cinematography is incredible.Unbranded Grand Canyon

Back to Portland for the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West 20th Annual Gathering, but first I joined Grant Sible from Gossamer Gear and friends for a 4-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park. We hit fall colors on the High Divide Loop- a tour of alpine lakes and rainforest.

Mount Carrie

Got lucky with beautiful views of Mount Carrie with blue skies on our side trip to Cat Peak

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake

The ALDHA-West Gathering was so inspirational, I got to see a presentation by Trauma and Pepper about their PCT winter traverse and many others.

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Gave my Arizona Trail talk, there was a lot of interest in the room and I hope we’ll see many of those folks on the AZT in the future. Also got to see Anish days after she set the Appalachian Trail speed record, what fun to be a part of such a dynamic group.

ALDHA West Gathering

ALDHA-West Gathering

October

My friends got married at the Nordic Center in Flagstaff and Brian and I hit the Aspen Loop/AZT for some fall color.

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

I did a canyoneering loop down the East Fork of Lemmon Canyon- a wonderland of giant granite boulders and waterfalls. The final rappel was into the “punchbowl” of Lemmon Pools.

Russ in a granite cave

Russ in a granite cave

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Giant granite boulders in East Fork Lemmon Canyon

Lemmon Pools

Lemmon Pools

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock- photo by Russ Newberg

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

My favorite part of October was finding little Roscoe at Pima Animal Care Center. He was 3 months old with the most adorable little brown face and gigantic paws. Can’t wait till he’s big enough to be my backpacking buddy!

Roscoe

Roscoe- 3 months old

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Roscoe and his buddy Stu

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First hike in the Tortolitas

November

Oh Grand Canyon…how I’ve missed you!  Spent six days solo backpacking from Tanner to Grandview along the Escalante Route and Tonto Trails. Only saw one other person the first five days, it felt like I had the whole Canyon to myself.

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

On Thanksgiving I hiked to the south side of Sombrero Peak, Peak 3263- a fun little bushwhack.

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Hiking up to Peak 3263

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Micro Chicken’s Thanksgiving dinner

Took a hike on the always-attractive Baby Jesus Trail to round out the month.DSC02781

December

Fall comes late to Southern Arizona and I did a Sabino Canyon -Bear Canyon loop to catch the color.

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Sabino Canyon

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

Went for a fall hike in Cienega Creek. Ash trees were the best in the drainage, with some cottonwoods and sycamores still hanging on.

Cienega Creek

Cienega Creek

Tried a new loop near Catalina State Park- a route that connects Alamo Canyon and Buster Mountain was a fun puzzle to follow.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)

Gneiss!

Witnessed my friends Kathy and Ras Vaughan complete the first known Yo-yo (up and back) of the Arizona Trail– what an accomplishment!

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

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

Planned on Christmas and end of the year hikes but got sick with the flu instead. Oh well.

2015 was a year of change and transitions. Some years are tougher than others and this one didn’t come easy- I am looking forward to 2016.

Now for the big news…I decided that I am going to section-hike the length of the Grand Canyon over the next couple of years. I will be connecting a line- some on the south side, some on the north- from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry. The total mileage is somewhere around 600, depending on what routes are taken and there is no trail for most of it. To date, only 27 people have walked through the canyon and of those, only three women. Most of the route I will be taking will be tough bushwhacking and scrambling through one of the most remote, wild and extreme places on the planet.

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Redwall Heart over Nankoweap Rapid.JPG

Redwall heart over Nankoweap Rapid

To date, I’ve hiked from Tanner to Elves Chasm, minus the Gems, for which I have a permit in the spring. The most exciting news is that I am taking the month of October off to hike a big chunk of the Canyon! I am currently figuring out what section I will be doing and who will be joining me.  As much as I enjoy my solo time, safety comes first and I’ll feel more comfortable with someone else there. I haven’t felt this kind of excitement since I first heard about the Arizona Trail.

It’s eight years since I started blogging for my first hike of the Arizona Trail and six on this site- thanks for reading and giving me someone to share my stories with. I wish for good fortune and exciting adventures for all in the new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is my fourth summer working as a guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for Arizona River Runners. My first trip launched on June 9th and I was pretty concerned that I hadn’t adjusted to the heat yet. My trip to Portland and trying to get things squared away with my Arizona Trail job meant that I hadn’t quite acclimated yet. Little did I know, I needn’t have worried- there was a tropical storm that came in that made it unseasonably cool and rainy!

On June 8th, I arrived at the warehouse in Flagstaff to pack up the boats and put them in the water at Lee’s Ferry. The crew was Joe as trip leader, Brie as second boatman, me as the swamper and Brie’s friend Nick as our work-your-way. The morning of June 9th was cool and overcast as the passengers arrived and loaded onto the boats. It’s always a flurry of activity, with lots of questions about the adventures to come. We headed downstream and I was excited to have returned to the Grand Canyon for the summer.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee's Ferry

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee’s Ferry

I was on Joe’s boat and did most of the interp- telling stories about the people, plants, animals, and geology of the place as Joe drove. It stayed overcast and got so chilly that I had to put on a fleece in the middle of the day! Never before seen- we started calling it Junuary.

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

At North Canyon, we pulled in and made camp and folks got settled in to their tents. We made salmon, broccoli, rice and salad for dinner and most went to sleep early. I went for a little hike up North Canyon and listened to music and played with my headlamp and camera. The crew sleeps on the boats, and I had been looking forward to sleeping under the stars, but the strange weather meant I put up a tent. The rain started in the middle of the night, big drops and intense at times.

North Canyon

North Canyon

The next morning, I was trying to cook breakfast when it started raining again. We put up a canopy and went about our business. We had to go through the Roaring Twenties, a series of rapids that are one after the other and people got cold. Joe made the decision to stop at Redwall Cavern after the Twenties were done and make hot soup. It was a real crowd-pleaser and morale booster- amazing what a little hot soup can do for the soul. Of course there was the fact that it was June 10th- a day that historically would have had us running into Redwall Cavern for shade- crazy! Joe and I must have said “Crazy” to each other a hundred times that trip because of the weather. Didn’t get a pic of the soup stop, but here’s one from another trip of Redwall Cavern.

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Mist and low clouds

Mist and low clouds

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

After our soup stop, the mist and clouds began to clear and the sun came out. We stopped at the Little Colorado River for a hike and swim. The LCR was a milky whitish blue from the storms. Camp was at Crash Canyon, a short distance downstream.

Little Colorado River

Little Colorado River

Set up the tent and it rained again that night with a second morning of cooking breakfast under the canopy. The clouds cleared again and it warmed up, which was good because on the third day we were going to run the Gorge, the biggest concentration of large rapids on the whole river. Joe and Brie maneuvered through the rapids with skill and we had an amazing day. There is no rapid on the river more fun than Hermit and we hit it just perfect for the optimal ride! Here’s a video taken by one of my coworkers a couple of years ago of a run through Hermit:

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

We stopped at Shinumo Creek to check out the waterfall, I was interested to see what it looked like, it is a side stream that flash-flooded several times recently. The waterfall is very different and the swimming pool at the base has been graveled in, but it’s still a great place for a stop. Camp was at 110- I could see my camp spot from my 2010 Royal Arch Loop.

Shinumo Waterfall

Shinumo Waterfall

And there's our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and North Bass Beach

October 2010- And there’s our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and Bass Camp. 110 is the beach to the far left of the picture

The next day we commonly call Waterfall Day- how could you not like a day like that? We started with the sublime Elves Chasm- a two-tiered waterfall with a perfect cave to climb up and jump off! This place exemplifies the differences between rafting and backpacking in the Canyon. When I visited on foot, it took three days of a rugged route and 20′ rappel to get there. Rafting, we pull up and it’s 1/4 mile from the boats. It’s great to give a wide range of folks the opportunity to see these amazing places.

Elves Chasm

Elves Chasm

A beautiful day!

A beautiful day!

After Joe and Brie had great runs through the technical Bedrock and Deubendorff Rapids, we stopped at Stone Creek. The warm, clear waterfall was welcome after days of the icy and silty river.

Deubendorff Rapid

Deubendorff Rapid

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Then it was on to the main event: Deer Creek Falls and the hike up to The Patio. Deer Creek is a 174-ft. cascade just minutes from the boat and is a destination in and of itself. My favorite part of the day is the hike up to the Deer Creek Narrows and the Patio. It’s usually pretty warm for the hike up the hill, but once on the Tapeats Sandstone, you get wonderful views up and downstream. The trail turns into the canyon above the waterfall, a slot canyon with the sound of the water rushing below. The trail narrows in a couple places that make it very challenging for the acrophobic. I have ushered countless people across this piece of trail and love helping people overcome their fears to get through the journey. The destination is certainly worth it- the Patio is a wonderland of cottonwoods and waterfalls. It is a place sacred to the Paiute Indians and there are small hand outlines where the ancients used reeds to blow paint over their hands along the trail to the Patio.

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Love this place.

Love this place.

Handprint in Deer Creek

Handprint in Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

We spent some time at the Patio and then hiked down to enjoy the big waterfall for a while before making camp across the river. It was Fajita Night for dinner, a crowd favorite.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Falls

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

In the morning we went through the narrow Muav Gorge and visited Havasu Creek, a tricky place to park and tie up the boats, because we park in a rapid. It’s often called the Swamper Olympics because there are numerous extra lines that have to be tied to make sure the boats are secure. Everyone enjoyed a swim in the blue-green waters of the refreshing creek.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon

After Havasu, we had a couple of hours before the grandaddy of all rapids, Lava Falls. The river falls 37 feet over the span of several hundred yards and it can often be quite a ride. Other times, you hit it a certain way and it doesn’t feel like much. On this day we had a giant full-boat soaking wave cover every inch of the 35-foot rig- it was fantastic!!

Lava Falls

Lava Falls

We pulled up at Angel Camp for our last night and cooked up a steak dinner and celebrated one of the passenger’s birthday with a dutch-oven cake. Afterward, everyone sat and shared their reflections of the trip. It’s always fun to see what parts of the journey stand out to each person.

I snuck away, because I had a surprise for the passengers. If the group is right, the camp is right and I’m not too tired from working all day I put on a short bellydance performance on the beach. This beach was perfect, there was a spit of flat sand that extended along the shoreline. After the group was done, I invited them down and surprised them with a show, complete with music from a portable speaker. It was quite the venue- as I danced I could see the walls of the Canyon and the sky scintillating with stars. Everyone agreed it was a great way to end the night.

The next morning we only had a short distance to go to the Whitmore helipad, mile 187, where the six-day journey ended for our group. The river brings people together and there were many hugs given and promises to keep in touch. We waved as the helicopters took the folks to the Bar 10 Ranch.

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

I feel so fortunate to be able to call the Canyon my home- it is the place that inspires me like no other. I enjoy seeing people from all over the world come to experience the Canyon at a deeper level than just peering over the rim for a day. Seeing people get that sparkle in their eye when I point out something beautiful or interesting or the look of satisfaction that comes from a great hike. What an infinitely fascinating place.

To find out more about the different river trips offered, visit www.raftarizona.com.

In Wildlife Rehab news, we got a Crested Caracara that was hit by a car down by Kitt Peak. The Caracara is a Falcon that acts more like a vulture and is only found in Arizona, Texas and Florida. What a treat to see one up close! To donate to help feed and house the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, use the link below.
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Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

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I’m back! After I finished my Arizona Trail Trek at the end of May, I had a mere three weeks to rest up before starting my season as a guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. I worked five trips this summer and have finally returned back home to Tucson.

Haven’t seen much of this place this year- it was six months and a day from the start of my thru-hike to the end of the season. Needless to say I was exhausted by the end, but after a couple of weeks of rest I am starting to feel like myself again.

Comanche Point and Palisades

Comanche Point and Palisades

On the Arizona Trail on a boat!

On the Arizona Trail on a boat!

Incredible double rainbow over Diamond Creek Rapid

Incredible double rainbow over Diamond Creek Rapid

I am very excited to share with you a short film made by the very talented Levi Davis about the Arizona Trail and the Arizona Trail Trek. It is so much fun to look back on the incredible experience I had this spring- please share it with folks you think might like it!

A million thanks again to all who made this trek possible, I couldn’t have done it without all the wonderful businesses and people who came together to help me achieve my dream of thru-hiking the Arizona Trail.

I’m looking forward to being back volunteering at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson it’s such a treat to be able to work with these fantastic birds and animals. My blog is also going back to raising money for Wildlife Rehab.

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Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Harris' Antelope Squirrel munching on kale

Harris’ Antelope Squirrel munching on kale

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About a year ago, I was buying a present for my nephew at Yikes! toy store in Tucson. It is filled with all sorts of eclectic toys and a small jar filled with tiny rubber chickens caught my eye. The perfect backpacker’s toy, smaller than my pinky finger and weighing nothing at all. I tucked him into my camera case and he went on all sorts of adventures with me this year. So instead of the usual year-end retrospective, I give you the travels of Micro Chicken!

Micro Chicken (or Mic if you’re into that whole brevity thing) started his year out right with a 3-day backpacking trip on the Arizona Trail # 16 & 17 from Picketpost to Kelvin

Micro Chicken aka "Mike" visits Trough Springs on his first backpacking trip

Micro Chicken aka “Mike” visits Trough Springs on his first backpacking trip

In January, I got my first taste of technical canyoneering, and Micro Chicken was along for every rappel and swim:

Micro Chicken's first canyon too!

Micro Chicken’s first canyon too!

Later in January, Bill Bens met Micro Chicken on a hike to Elephant Head in the Santa Ritas. Bill had seen pictures of him, but didn’t realize Micro Chicken’s incredibly small stature:

Bill meets Micro Chicken

Bill meets Micro Chicken

Ride 'em Mic!

Ride ’em Mic!

In February, I went for a hike on the Bellota and Milagrosa Ridge Trails for my birthday. Wendy and I found a magical place called Tequila Spring on the trail and Micro Chicken dove right in.

Uh-oh, look who’s wasted!

In March, I went on my first backpacking trip in Sedona on the Secret Canyon Trail.

Just me and Mic in the red rocks

Just me and Mic in the red rocks

In April, Micro Chicken and I were in Sierra Vista doing Arizona Trail work and decided to take a hike down to the southern terminus of the AZT.

Micro Chicken on AZT #1

Micro Chicken on AZT #1

I also had the second annual Birds, Blues, and Bellydance benefit for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson and Micro Chicken’s feathered friends. Everyone had a great time, we raised about $1000, and I can’t wait until the next one. A million thanks to everyone who donated via the website as well- over $700 this year!

Elfie the Elf Owl

Elfie the Elf Owl

May was an especially exciting month for me and Micro Chicken. I started a summer job working in the Grand Canyon with Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater. What a dream to be able to teach people about the Canyon while having the ride of your life! Micro Chicken was a big hit with all the passengers and one even wrote a limerick about me and Mic.

She came from the windy Midwest

Micro Chicken secured for the quest

Archaeology not fashion

Canyoneering her passion

With fine weather and foul friends she’s been blessed!

Workin' on the river with Micro Chicken

Workin’ on the river with Micro Chicken

Some of Mic's admirers

Some of Mic’s admirers

And then one day on the river, this happened- Micro Chicken met Mega Chicken deep in the Grand Canyon

And then one day on the river, this happened- Micro Chicken met Mega Chicken deep in the Grand Canyon

My work on the river was exhilarating and exhausting and I can’t wait to go back next season. At the end of my commercial river season, I was invited along last-minute on a private river trip just for fun! I of course said yes and Micro Chicken and I joined my friend Chelsea on an 8-day lower-half trip. It was fantastic, and one of the hikes we did was to Thunder River:

Colorado River

Colorado River

Thunder River

Thunder River

In September, I transitioned back into a terrestrial lifestyle and was excited to go exploring closer to home. Micro Chicken and I started doing some peakbagging, usually with an off-trail component. Here’s Mic at Josephine Peak in the Santa Ritas and on top of The Biscuit in the Mustang Mountains near Sonoita.

Micro Chicken bags another summit

Micro Chicken bags another summit

Micro Chicken makes an appearance

Micro Chicken makes an appearance

In October I was up at the Mormon Lake Lodge for the Arizona Trail Rendezvous and Micro Chicken was along on a hike on the Arizona Trail to see some fall colors.

Micro Chicken and Aspen

Micro Chicken and Aspen

I backpacked the Samaniego Ridge Trail and Micro Chicken stood upon the tiny summit of Samaniego Peak after quite the scratchy bushwhack. Someday we’ll do this West Ridge route.

Ridge heading west from Samaniego Peak toward the Baby Jesus Trail

Ridge heading west from Samaniego Peak toward the Baby Jesus Trail

Samaniego Summit

Samaniego Summit

In November I went to see Fall colors in Ash Creek in the Galiuros. Micro Chicken was so excited he wouldn’t sit still so I only have this fuzzy one.

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

Micro Chicken in Ash Creek

Micro Chicken in Ash Creek

December was spent doing off-trail hikes to peaks in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness- Buster Mountain, The Cleaver, Table Mountain. So close to home but so very fun! The best was spending the night atop Table Mountain at the fireplace campsite. Micro Chicken by this time has become quite a dirty bird, but what do you expect when he goes on so many adventures?

Micro Chicken atop The Cleaver- Prominent Point and Mount Kimball across Pima Canyon

Micro Chicken atop The Cleaver- Prominent Point and Mount Kimball across Pima Canyon

Micro Chicken atop Table Mountain

Micro Chicken atop Table Mountain

Time will only tell what kinds of adventures Micro Chicken and I will get into next year. I can assure you that we plan on starting the new year out right!

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

Happy New Year and Micro Chicken and I will see you in 2013!

To donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, click the button below.

Harris Hawk Head

Harris Hawk Head

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Clear Creek Waterfall

Last May, I volunteered on an electrofishing survey with Arizona Game and Fish on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. I hiked in on the Bright Angel Trail and was picked up at Pipe Creek and my trip ended 12 days later at Diamond Creek. The Grand Canyon has always held a special place in my heart as a hiker and backpacker, but seeing it from the river was a wildly intense experience for me.  I was devastated when I left the river last May, not knowing when I would be able to return. I enjoy the Grand Canyon on foot but I had tasted the river life and wanted more.

I was persistent in trying to get a job as a swamper, or boatman’s assistant, for this season. In January I was hired by Arizona River Runners and its sister company, Grand Canyon Whitewater and have six trips scheduled this summer. After months of wondering and anticipation, on May 12th the day finally came for the launch of my first working river trip!  It was such an incredible experience, the crew and guests were fantastic. I truly enjoy teaching people about the desert and the Grand Canyon. I was fortunate to learn from such an experienced and patient crew about the minutiae that goes into making such an intricate trip work.

It was also my first time seeing the entire length of the river, and I can’t wait to go back for more! In fact, I’m packing right now to head out again soon. Instead of the usual blog post, I have tried to describe my trip through the captions on the pictures and videos on my Picasa account. Click the link below to go to the album.

Grand Canyon Whitewater River trip 5-12 to 5-25

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser news, I will be taking a hiatus from volunteering at the rehab for a couple of months because of my new job on the river. I’ll definitely miss seeing faces like this baby Harris Hawk.

Baby Harris Hawk

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What a year this has been- it’s always fun to take a look back at the highlights. If you’re a regular reader, don’t worry- I’ve added a lot of new pictures and videos. Click on the links to go to the original posts.

In January, I volunteered to lead an Arizona Trail trailbuilding crew on a project to reroute the trail off a pipeline road north of Oracle. I started the year with a hike of Agua Caliente Hill and Agua Caliente/La Milagrosa Canyons on the east side of Tucson.

The crew by the lone saguaro

Agua Caliente Hill Trail

La Milagrosa Canyon

My bushwhack to Thimble Peak via Bear Canyon and returning down the gully to Tram Stop 9 in Sabino Canyon was one of my favorite hikes of the year. It had it all- waterfalls, a challenging bushwhack, scramble, and climb to an iconic peak with outstanding views.

Thimble Peak Summit

February started out with a scramble up Battleship Mountain in the Superstitions:

Battleship Mountain

For my birthday, I visited The Wave at the Arizona/Utah border with a carload of fellow shutterbugs- big thanks to Wendy the Permit Whisperer:

The Wave- photo by Angela Romain

Another of my favorite adventures was climbing Weaver’s Needle in the Superstitions. I have admired this spire for years and thanks to my friend Kent Lawrence, I was able to stand on top! Someday, I have to get back up there to spend the night at the sweet little campsite.

Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle

Free Rappel

In March, I kept things local and worked on finishing the trails in the Catalinas. I backpacked a Ventana Canyon Trail to Esperero Trail hike and one from Pima Canyon to Ventana Canyon in the front range. One of my goals for 2012 is to finish off the remaining trails. I also took a trip to the south side of the Santa Ritas for a Gardner Canyon-Wrightson-Crest Tr.- Cave Canyon loop with my friend Chris Forsyth. I feel fortunate to have such good trails for Grand Canyon conditioning here in Tucson.

Santa Ritas and Little Kimball from the Esperero Trail

Near the head of Ventana Canyon

View looking down at Gardner Canyon

April started out with a return to the Royal Arch Route in the Grand Canyon, but this time via Point Huitzil with Chris and Wendy- a trip memorable not only for its rich ancient history and scenery, but also for weather that changed every five minutes and one of the worst sandblastings I’ve endured to date. At least it made for great pictures!

Top of the descent- Royal Arch Creek below

So many layers of petroglyphs

Majestic Fan Island

I hiked the Oracle Ridge-Red Ridge loop and got to see One Park Place. I also did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time- a solo hike from the summit of Mount Lemmon to Catalina State Park in one day via the Romero Trail. Aspens to saguaros in one hike- I love Tucson!

Catalina Camp aka One Park Place

Arizona Trail near Romero Pass

In May, I threw my very first event for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson- the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance benefit. It raised $1000 for the birds and small animals at the wildlife rehab. Look forward to the second annual event this spring! A big thanks goes to my husband Brian for being such a big help with the event and for being supportive of my many adventures.

Gina -photo by Mike Bieke

After the fundraiser, I got to see the Grand Canyon again, but from a totally different perspective of volunteering for 12 days on an Arizona Game and Fish survey on the Colorado River. I fell in love with the Grand Canyon all over again- it was life-changing awesome.

Incredible views abound at every turn

Olo Canyon Waterfall- I got to wake up to this beautiful view

June was a bit of a bummer, as usually happens after an epic experience. Plus, Arizona was on fire and restrictions in the Coronado National Forest went into effect. But before it did, Wendy and I visited Lemmon Pools, which were very low. I was grumpy and did a little bit of wandering in the Tortolitas.

July 7th the fire restrictions were lifted and I took my floatie to Tanque Verde Falls and Romero Pools. Sadly, it was a very dry monsoon season and there was not a lot of swimming happening this summer. I spent a lot of time this summer hiking near the town of Catalina- there’s tons of rock formations, history, and an extensive network of  trails to explore beneath Samaniego Ridge. I saw a baby desert tortoise, one of my favorite wildlife sightings ever! Here’s a video:

In August, Brian and I camped in the Pinalenos and got a respite from the heat. I did a long, hot dayhike of the Palisades Trail to Prison Camp and I satisfied my thirst for swimming at Frog Hollow and Aravaipa Canyon, where I took my favorite video of the year:

Arcadia CG and the Swift Trail in the Pinalenos

Best seat at Frog Hollow!

Sabino Canyon from Palisades Trail

In September, I was offered a part-time job with the Arizona Trail Association as their Gateway Community Liaison. I get to travel and promote the trail to the 25 communities along the Arizona Trail. I feel so lucky to have been chosen for this position! And I get to drive the Arizona Trail Bronco:

Me and the Arizona Trail Bronco

October, I visited Cochise Stronghold for a night on the trail (literally!) and ventured outside of Arizona with Brian for a visit to San Diego. We went sea kayaking into the cave in the picture.  At the end of the month, I was in the Tonto Basin for Arizona Trail work and also summited Picketpost Mountain.

What a view!

La Jolla Sea Cave

The mailbox atop Picketpost

I got to see November’s fall colors on the Canada del Oro Trail, which has been cleared by the Forest Service since my write-up. I also did a threefer of Catalina trails on an overnight backpack: Green Mountain, Bug Spring, and Soldier Trail.

I found the gold in the Canada del Oro!

Sunset on the Bug Springs Trail

In the beginning of December I took an 8-day Wilderness First Responder Certification class. It was incredibly intense and I learned a lot that I hope I never have to use in the field. On December 16th, I got to attend the completion ceremony of the Arizona Trail– what an honor that was to be able to participate in building the last little connecting piece of trail! I so look forward to the day when I can make a thru-hike happen and experience the now-continuous path across the state.

Volunteers and agency partners finish up the final piece of trail

I also hiked the Pontatoc Canyon Trail and neighboring Peak 5783, a fun bushwhack despite the very healthy shindagger population.

Pontatoc Canyon from Peak 5783

For the second year in a row, I have logged all my hikes on www.hikearizona.com and here are the stats: 572 miles hiked with 105,000 feet of elevation gained, plus immeasurable fun and excitement. I am looking forward to 2012- I have some trips planned already, but some of my favorite adventures are ones that happen spur-of-the moment.

I am so grateful for all the people who donated this year to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson via this blog or the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance event. The rehab is entirely self-supported and every cent counts. I have enjoyed sharing the critters at the rehab with my readers- here’s some of my favorites from this year:

Baby Ringtail

Baby Black-Crowned Night Heron

This is what the baby Raccoon thinks of our food offerings

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk

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Looking back at Lava Falls Rapid

I was fortunate enough to land a volunteer spot on a fish survey in the Grand Canyon conducted by Arizona Game and Fish. I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail on May 17th, excited about what the next 12 days would bring. At Pipe Creek, the four of us that hiked down were met by two small powerboats and we were shuttled a short distance to our camp on river right. I was surprised at the small size of the crew: four boatmen, three scientists and one other volunteer. Our campsite had a great view of Plateau Point and we watched people come out for the sunset. We also spotted a condor, still gigantic even though it was up at the Tapeats level.  We rotated so that there was always one person who had the night off, and I was the first in rotation. Since I had the night off I had to help the cook prepare dinner. Dinner was quite the lavish affair- ribs with potatoes and strawberry poundcake complete with whipped cream for dessert. Much different from my usual backpacking fare of something rehydrated eaten out of a freezer bag! I was a little nervous about the next day- my first time ever on a river running rapids and we had some big ones coming up.

Spring flowers on the Bright Angel Trail

Strawberry poundcake with whipped cream for dessert- not my usual Grand Canyon fare

Well, the weather for my first big day of rapids was less than ideal- rainy and overcast. I got suited up and took my seat on the science boat with the two women scientists Pilar and Robin. I had been nervous before the trip about who was going to be driving my boat. That was, until I realized that the person driving my boat has more nights on the river in the Grand Canyon than any other boatman. Brian Dierker has been on the river for four decades and almost every boatman that we passed on the trip knew him. He provides boat support for scientific trips of all kinds in the Canyon. He also provides marine services for movies, which led to him being cast as Rainey (half of the California hippie couple) in the movie Into the Wild. A big guy with an even bigger personality, we hit it off immediately and I knew I was in good hands.

Suited up for some big rapids on a rainy day

We had 20 miles of river to cover, from Pipe Creek to the South Bass area. The river was running at 23,000 cfs, quite a bit higher than usual. Horn Creek Rapid was up first- I held on as the boat bounced up and down and I got sprayed with icy Colorado River water. Our next big rapid was Hermit, and it was one of the best of the entire trip. There are five waves in succession and the fifth one was gigantic- what a ride! I am a giant fan of roller-coasters and other amusement park rides, but this beat them all! The higher levels had made even the boatmen impressed with Hermit and we all whooped and cheered with giant smiles on our faces. Nervousness about the rapids was gone, and I had a blast running Granite and Crystal, which were kind of washed out from the high flows. We floated by the mouths of all the Gems and made camp at the mouth of Hotauta Canyon. It blew my mind how fast river travel is versus backpacking. It would have taken me 60 trail miles and a week of hiking to travel by the Tonto Trail. The most fun rapid of the trip was Lava, by a long shot. What a ride that was! Even better was watching our tiny powerboats take on the massive water.

Here we go! Horn Creek Rapid is up first

Hermit Rapids- one of the most fun of the whole trip

Brrr!!

Lava Falls Rapid

How'd you feel about Lava, Brian?

Big smiles after the best ride of the trip

We had time in the afternoon to take a nap before having dinner and going to work in the evening. I was too excited to nap, so I hiked a little way up Hotauta Canyon. The canyon is right across from Tyndall Dome and the South Bass/Tonto trail intersection, where I’d been just 6 weeks before. I could see my favorite point camp high above, just an undercut shelf of rock hanging over the Tapeats cliffs. I returned back to camp for dinner and then changed into my raingear for my first night of fishing.

View downstream from Hotauta Canyon

Looking up at my Tonto point campsite from last October- the rocks jutting out on the left

When I’d signed up for the volunteer position, I read that I was going to be night electrofishing. I’d had the process explained to me a couple of times, but it was hard to imagine- now I was going to finally see for myself. Mind you, before this trip I had never even fished with a fishing pole. I was paired with Clay, one of the scientists, and Joe, the boatman who would be driving the powerboat. At 8:30 pm, we started fishing. The boat was equipped with a generator that ran the electrical current via two large silver balls into the water. The boat swept the shoreline, and as the current hit the water, the fish would surface for just a second before sinking or swimming away. I had to catch the fish with my net before it sunk or the boat pulled away, then turn and put it in a cooler filled with water behind me.  Definitely something that took a little practice- it was kind of like a game of Whack-a-Mole. It was hard not to get distracted looking at the moonlit canyon sometimes. After 5 minutes of fishing, we measured and tagged the fish before releasing them back into the river. We repeated this 15 times per night and it usually took us until 1 or 2 in the morning to finish. After we got back from fishing, we’d usually hang out talking on the boats for a while before going to bed. But no matter how late we stayed up, once the sun came over the cliffs at around 7 am, we were all awakened by the hot sun.

Ready for a night of fishing

Netting a fish

Flannelmouth Sucker

Tradition holds that everyone must kiss a flannie

In the morning, we loaded up the two big boats so that they could move downstream toward our next camp. Then we drove back in the powerboats to where we fished to do habitat descriptions of our segments and mark them on the map. It was great to be able to go upstream and see the same area in the light after having fished it the night before. We had a map made of aerial photographs of when the river was running at 8,000 cfs and it was interesting to see how much of the beaches and shoreline was underwater at almost three times the flow. After habitat description, we’d catch up with the larger boats and transfer onto them to run the rest of the way to camp. (we weren’t allowed to ride in the powerboats through the larger rapids) Part of our work also included fishing with poles for catfish three times a day for 20 minutes. After we set up camp, we usually had about four hours to nap, hike, and eat before going to work in the evening and the whole cycle started over again.

Ever-changing scenery

To go into detail about every day would take a novel-length blog entry, so I’ll just hit on some of the highlights and point you to the full set of my pictures for more detail. One of my favorite parts of the trip was how easy it was to get to interesting hiking destinations. The boatmen would take us in the powerboats and pick us up a couple of hours later. The beautiful narrows of Blacktail and National Canyons were just a 15 minute walk away. My favorite hiking destination of the trip was definitely Havasu Canyon. I had never seen the turquoise waters and it was truly breathtaking. We hiked up until we found a good pool and I inflated my floatie and went for a fantastic float. The rest of the group hiked on, but I stayed in the pool and had the place to myself for 20 delicious minutes.

National Canyon

What a sight- the turquoise waters of Havasu Creek

Me, Nick, Robin, and Pilar

Using the floatie in Havasu Creek

Grand Canyon Pink or Speckled Rattler? Either way, it was really angry!

Desert Spiny Lizard

Ruins near Deer Creek

Because ours was a scientific trip, we had to use smaller and less desirable campsites and leave the nice big ones to the private and commercial trips. We also couldn’t stop at Elves Chasm or Deer Creek because there were already groups there. (Good thing I’d been to Elves recently!)  The high water had also drowned a lot of the real estate on the river, but we were always able to find a spit of sand to spread out on. My favorite camp of the trip was in Olo Canyon. There was a perfect waterfall with a pool for my floatie and I got to go to sleep lulled by the sound of the cascade.  I was lucky enough to be able to sleep under the stars on a comfy cot all but two nights.

Olo Canyon Waterfall- I got to wake up to this beautiful view

Sand Verbena

I just adored the river life- it was so much fancier than backpacking! The food alone- there is a reason that river trips are called a “float and bloat”.  The ever-present sound of the river was fantastic and it was so nice to have access to water that didn’t have to be carried on my back. The only unfortunate thing that I didn’t anticipate was that I felt like I was on the river, even when I was not. I had all sorts of issues with my equilibrium, which made hiking interesting. I would wake up and feel like my cot was floating on the river. Even when I came back from the trip, for several days my inner ear was convinced I was still on the boat.

Majestic views abound at every turn

Day 11 and I look so clean! Way different than backpacking.

I am so glad that I got to experience the river in the Grand Canyon for the first time on a small scientific trip with a very experienced crew. I saw the large commercial trips float by, packed with 16 people to a boat and considered myself very fortunate. I enjoyed everyone’s company and learning about the fish was very interesting.

Back row: Brian Smith, Clay, Pilar, Joe Front row: Robin, me, Nick, Brian Dierker, Stevie J

Diamond Peak

Diamond Creek- where the trip ends for me, Pilar, Clay and Nick.

End of my first trip on the river- now when can I come back?

I encourage you to check out my full set of pictures on my Picasa account by clicking the picture below- I’ve added captions describing my trip in greater detail:

Grand Canyon River Trip May 2011

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news: It is baby season at Wildife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson and we’ve had everything from hatchling ducks to baby hawks and owls of all sizes, plus a very tiny and cute ringtail cat. There’s too much cuteness to choose from so I’ll include several pictures in this entry. Your donation goes toward feeding, housing, and providing medical care.

Baby ringtail

Baby Cooper's Hawk

Bunches of inch-long baby quail

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