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

aztyoyofinish

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

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

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

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

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

About UltraPedestrian

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

About the Arizona National Scenic Trail

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona Trail Courtyard Display

Arizona Trail Courtyard Display

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

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

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

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

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

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Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

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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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May 31st

I woke up underneath my juniper tree at my last camp of the Arizona Trail Trek, glad that I had a little time to myself before everyone arrived to hike the last 11 miles to the Utah border with me. I wrote in my journal, something I’d done very little of this hike. Sure, I’d jotted down notes and things to remember, but not the kind of writing outdoors that feeds my soul.

Last camp on the Arizona Trail Trek

Last camp on the Arizona Trail Trek

Scott, who had been on several of my other hikes along the way, popped out at Winter Road around 8:30 am. He’d started in the dark at Jacob Lake and had already hiked 17 miles. He was glad he’d caught me for the final hike into Utah.

Around 9 am, my dad arrived with my mom and other hikers Anne and Steve and my husband Brian came with Levi, the videographer.

Levi, Steve, me, my mom Anna. Anne, and Scott

Levi, Steve, me, my mom Anna. Anne, and Scott

The trail rolled through the sagebrush and in and out of several canyons. It was a gorgeous day with big fluffy clouds and a nice breeze to keep the temperatures down.

Through the sagebrush

Through the sagebrush

The trail went into Larkum Canyon and strange rocks appeared. There are baseball to softball sized round inclusions pitting the rock faces along the trail, I would love to know what causes this.

Larkum Canyon

Larkum Canyon

Round inclusions in the rock

Round inclusions in the rock

A big horned lizard joined the group for a break

A big horned lizard joined the group for a break

The trail climbed out of the canyon and wound through the junipers before coming to a spectacular overlook where we took our lunch break. You could see all the way into Utah, colorful sandstone and rock formations and the Coyote Valley below.

Tantalizing glimpses of Utah sandstone

Tantalizing glimpses of Utah sandstone

The Stateline Trailhead became visible in the valley and I knew my journey was soon coming to an end. We hiked the 22 switchbacks into the Coyote Valley and then through the sagebrush.

Stateline Trailhead below

Stateline Trailhead below

Micro Chicken getting close to traversing the whole state!

Micro Chicken getting close to traversing the whole state!

Makes me want to keep hiking into Utah

Makes me want to keep hiking into Utah

I could see my husband Brian in the distance and he yelled “Arizona Trail!!!” I yelled it back, feeling triumphant. I had just hiked here all the way from Mexico!! I stopped for a picture at my favorite hole in the rock near the trailhead before continuing the rest of the way to the Utah border.

Hole in the rock near the state line

Hole in the rock near the state line

My dad was there to welcome me and Brian had put the Arizona Trail Trek banner up on the gazebo at the Stateline Trailhead. We all cheered as I reached the border and Brian had set up a celebration with champagne and cupcakes to toast the succesful completion of the Arizona Trail Trek.

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, AZ/UT border

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, AZ/UT border

Such a bummer- an empty register!

Such a bummer- an empty register!

Don't make me leave!

Don’t make me leave!

I didn’t have a lot of time to savor the moment, because we were on a schedule to be back in the Gateway Community of Page for the big finale celebration. It was bittersweet leaving the state line- I was so proud of what I’d accomplished with the hike, the events, and raising awareness for the trail, yet now it was over.

The finale was hosted by Sanderson’s Into the Grand, a museum dedicated to the history of commercial river rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Hoss and Karen Sanderson were incredible hosts and cooked up a delicious dutch oven meal and Bob Paluzzi provided the entertainment. It was a fitting place to end the hike, as I will be starting my season as a guide on the river at the end of June.

Bob The Musician

Bob “The Musician” Paluzzi

Hoss Sanderson

Hoss Sanderson

Feel right at home- this is a boat my company donated to the museum

Feel right at home- this is a boat my company donated to the museum

It was a most jovial atmosphere, with people coming up to congratulate me left and right. I got to tell a bunch of stories and celebrate the realization of a dream I have had since 2007. Seven years since I’d first had the inspiration to thru-hike the Arizona Trail and it was totally worth the wait.

After the event, we went to Antelope Point Marina, who was kind enough to donate a houseboat for the evening. We stargazed on the top deck and saw many shooting stars. It was a fantastic way to end the hike!

Hanging out on the houseboat

Hanging out on the houseboat

A great way to end a fantastic journey!

A great way to end a fantastic journey!

What an experience. It has been three weeks since I finished the trail and it’s something that I’m going to be processing for a long time.

I wouldn’t have been able to hike across the state without the help of many wonderful people who volunteered their time and talents to make this happen. A million thanks to the following:

  • My sponsors- Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, That Brewery, Peace Surplus, and Summit Hut!!

    Wonderful Sponsors!

    Wonderful Sponsors!

  • All the folks who donated through the Indiegogo campaign or at the events- the Arizona Trail Trek raised $17,800 for the Arizona Trail Association!
  • All the businesses that hosted and the musicians that provided the entertainment at the 13 Gateway Community events- thanks for creating a space for people to enjoy themselves while talking trail!
  • Folks that helped with shuttles and vital water caches up and down the state, volunteering their time and gas money to make the public hikes and backpacking trips happen
  • People that hosted me and my dad in the Gateway communities- thank you for opening your homes to us!
  • My backpacking bestie Wendy Lotze for helping with planning, logistics and food

    Sirena & Wendy at Oracle Ridge Trailhead

    Sirena & Wendy at Oracle Ridge Trailhead

  • Ambika B. for her help with the Indiegogo campaign

    Me and Ambika

    Me and Ambika

  • Sarae Hoff, for designing my sweet Arizona Trail Trek logo

    Sarae made me vacuum-sealed cookies for my hike!

    Sarae made me vacuum-sealed cookies for my hike!

  • Leigh Anne Thrasher and Jasmine the mini-donkey for being so supportive and a delight to hike with!

    Leigh Anne and Jasmine

    Leigh Anne and Jasmine

  • Christy Snow and Jeff Harris for all the wonderful things you do
  • The Arizona Trail Association for being composed of the nicest and most supportive people you could hope to meet- I have made countless friends through the ATA, people who are willing to go the extra mile to support the trail they love so much.
  • My fantastic husband Brian for supporting my dreams and helping at the events when he came to visit me.

    Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

    Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

  • Saving the biggest thanks for last- my dad came out from Chicago for two months to support me on my journey, driving countless miles and running supplies. It was always such a treat to see him waiting for me at the trailhead and I cherish the time we were able to spend together.

    Me and my Dad at the Grand Canyon

    Me and my Dad at the Grand Canyon

Amazing that it all came together as well as it did. There were so many different pieces that had to work properly and I consider myself very fortunate that everyone involved stayed safe and healthy.

So now I’ve hiked the Arizona Trail twice, and am proud to be part of a pretty short list of repeaters. I’d hike it a third time, that’s how spectacular this trail is. Next time it will be southbound in the fall to see a different perspective. Who knows when that will be, for now I’ve got to shift my focus to my upcoming season as a guide on the Colorado River. The only thing keeping me sane after my hike is that I know that I’ll be spending my summer in my favorite place, the Grand Canyon.

Wading in Deer Creek near the Patio

Wading in Deer Creek near the Patio

Incredible light on Conquistador Aisle

Incredible light on Conquistador Aisle

Whether you came to the events and hikes or virtually followed along, it was great to share this incredible journey with you. Thanks for being a part of it!

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May 27-30

After over two months of hiking, the Utah border was now only 5 days away! I left the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and hiked north through the large pines, fir, and aspen. The weather on the Kaibab Plateau, at 9000 ft., was nice and cool and perfect for hiking. I was delighted to find that the horned lizards were all micro-chicken sized! It was so cute!!

Trail north of the Grand Canyon

Trail north of the Grand Canyon

Tiny little horned toad

Tiny little horned lizard

Micro-chicken sized horned lizard

Micro-chicken sized horned lizard

The trail took me to the North Rim Entrance Station, where someone had kindly put out water for hikers. Near the beginning of the Kaibab #101 Trail, there was a fire lookout just a short walk from the trail. It was totally worth the trip and gave me one last view of my beloved Grand Canyon and the San Francisco Peaks.

Thanks for the water and the report!

Thanks for the water and the report!

Fire Lookout

Fire Lookout

Grand Canyon from the Fire Lookout

Grand Canyon from the Fire Lookout

The #101 is a unique experience on the Arizona Trail- traveling through broad, grassy meadows ringed by aspen and fir. There are many small lakes and the hiking is easy. I found a clearing, made dinner, and called it a night. One thing that made my dinners amazing on the AZT was that I added Rising Hy Habanero Olive Oil to each of my meals. It added calories and fat while giving my dinners a kick to keep them from being boring.

Little hiker guy

Little hiker guy

 

Kaibab Plateau Camp

Kaibab Plateau Camp

The next morning, two hikers passed me as I was packing up. It was Free and EZgoing, who are completing the trail by doing big sections at a time. Had a nice chat with them before heading to my next objective: East Rim View.

Free and EZgoing

Free and EZgoing

Lovely!

Lovely!

I got a little water at Crystal Spring and played with my self-timer while waiting for the gravity filter to do its thing.

Killing time while my water filters

Killing time while my water filters

Soon, I caught a view of Marble Canyon, the northern part of the Grand Canyon and House Rock Valley below. This was what I’d been waiting for! The sky was a bit hazy because of fire in the area, but it was spectacular nonetheless. Stopped short of the parking lot at East Rim View and took a long break to enjoy the scenery.

East Rim View of Marble Canyon

East Rim View of Marble Canyon

Eventually, I had to continue northward. I met some guys doing trail maintenance and they congratulated me for being almost done. Such a strange feeling to know it will all be over soon. The trail meandered through meadows and entered Tater Canyon.

Dog Lake

Dog Lake

Tater Canyon

Tater Canyon

A gorgeous day!

A gorgeous day!

I had a great time, traveling through cool meadows while the rest of the state was boiling hot. The trail left Tater Canyon and traveled through an aisle of aspen. I’d love to come back and hike this when the fall colors are happening!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sky darkened, but I didn’t get rained on, though I could smell it in the air. I stopped at Crane Lake for some water and didn’t tighten one of my containers all the way and it leaked into my pack. Thankfully my sleeping bag didn’t get wet.  This part of the trail was closed and rerouted onto the highway when I hiked in 2008, and I was looking forward to seeing a piece of trail I hadn’t seen before. It was getting dark as I ascended Telephone Hill in the burn area. The sunset was interesting with all the burnt silhouettes.

Telephone Hill Sunset

Telephone Hill Sunset

I camped near the trailhead and managed to find an area cleared of burned trees. There were tons of deer running around as I set up camp.

The next morning, I was woken up by deer bouncing past my campsite. My mom flew in from Chicago to join me and my dad, who’d been helping me the whole hike. My parents came out to the trailhead in the morning to visit me and they brought hot coffee and cookies from Jacob Lake. Sweet!

I was not too impressed with the trail north of Telephone Hill- besides being completely burned, it was an old road that often was right beneath Highway 67. It was hazy, but I caught a glimpse of the Vermilion Cliffs in the distance.

Vermilion Cliffs in the distance

Vermilion Cliffs in the distance

Finally, the trail exited the burn area and was back in the pines again. It entered a canyon and traveled along the bottom. This was where I met two Hayduke Trail hikers in 2008, one of which would go on to save one of my dear friend’s Kimberlie’s life when she had a stroke while on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2012. Crazy how life works sometimes. She went on to make a complete recovery and thru-hiked the whole PCT in 2013. Visit her blog to read about it!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I was getting closer to Jacob Lake, I realized it was still early and I didn’t want to be done for the day. Found a great grassy spot and relaxed for a while. I took out my camera and looked at pictures from earlier in the Trek- I saw so many wonderful things and met so many fantastic people. What an experience.

Eventually, hunger won over and I hiked the rest of the way to the trailhead, where my parents met me and took me to Jacob Lake.

Getting closer to Utah!

Getting closer to Utah!

The next morning, I got ready for my last backpacking trip on the Arizona Trail Trek. I planned on hiking to Winter Road, where a group of people would meet me in the morning to hike the final 11 miles to the Utah border. I was pretty sad at the fact that my journey was coming to an end, when I mentioned it to my husband he laughed. Of course you’re sad, he said- your fantasy life where you get to hike all day and get to meet awesome people is almost over.

I met some of the trail stewards for the passage north of Jacob Lake and they joined me for a couple of miles. The terrain changed as I descended, from pine forest into pinyon-juniper. I had followed spring all the way up the state and wildflowers began to appear.

Trail stewards in their natural environment

Trail stewards in their natural environment

Skyrocket

Skyrocket

Delphinium

Delphinium

Mariposa Lily

Mariposa Lily

And then it happened. I turned the corner and there it was through the sagebrush flat- my first glimpse of Utah! Colorful cliffs and mountains to the north stopped me in my tracks and I had a little celebration.

Look- it's Utah!!

Look- it’s Utah!!

The trail traveled through sagebrush, the dirt underfoot was red, and Utah popped in and out of view. Too soon, I was at Winter Road and my day of hiking was over. I found a spot under a juniper with a view of the red domes of Coyote Buttes. I savored every moment of the last sunset of the trail.

Trail through the sagebrush

Trail through the sagebrush

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yay! Thanks to all the folks who put water out for me!

Yay! Thanks to all the folks who put water out for me!

Last sunset of the Arizona Trail Trek

Last sunset of the Arizona Trail Trek

Next up: my last miles into Utah and the completion of the Arizona Trail Trek!

 

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North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail

May 23-26

The Gateway Community of Tusayan, south of the Grand Canyon, welcomed me with a gigantic banner and a fun event at the Big E Steakhouse!

What a welcome!

What a welcome!

After a delicious pancake breakfast cooked by gracious host, trail steward and accomplished long-distance hiker Li Brannfors, I headed out. It was cloudy and as I got into the car, it started sleeting big, mushy drops. By the time I got to the South Kaibab Trailhead, it was clear overhead, but looked like the North Rim was getting pounded.

South Kaibab Trailhead

South Kaibab Trailhead

I was able to get a night at the dorms at Phantom Ranch and a permit for Cottonwood Campground for the following evening, giving me a light schedule of only 7 miles a day. I was looking forward to having time to lounge about in my favorite places on the way. I had been doing high mileage without much of a break and my feet were definitely feeling it.

I was so excited to hike into the Canyon, it is my favorite place in the world and I never get tired of exploring it. The Kaibab Trail is on a ridgeline most of the time and the views are spectacular. I was practically running down the trail, but took plenty of breaks at all my favorite viewpoints.

South Kaibab Trail

South Kaibab Trail

My mind wandered to thoughts of finishing the trail next week in Utah, and I thought to myself, “You should really be here now and appreciate your hike through the Grand Canyon”. Just then, a young man came up the trail wearing a shirt that said The Here And Now- how appropriate! He was from France and we had a nice chat before I continued on.

The Here And Now

The Here And Now

Pack mules at Cedar Ridge

Pack mules at Cedar Ridge

Cedar Ridge with O'Neill Butte to the left

Cedar Ridge with O’Neill Butte to the left

I am particularly enamored of the views of Zoroaster Temple, such an incredible landmark! The hike down was easy and went quickly. Despite clouds all around, I didn’t get rained on at all. I crossed the Black Bridge and made my way down to the Boat Beach on the Colorado River.

Black Bridge and the Boat Beach below

Black Bridge and the Boat Beach below

Me with Sumner Butte and beautiful Zoroaster Temple

Me with Sumner Butte and beautiful Zoroaster Temple

Black Bridge

Black Bridge

It was so fun to be at the Boat Beach with the rest of the day to myself. I dunked my feet in the icy river, then set up under a bush to take a nap. Just the way I wanted to spend the afternoon.

Feet in the icy Colorado River!

Feet in the icy Colorado River!

I checked into the dorm and went to dinner at Phantom Ranch. All you can eat vegetarian chili, salad and cornbread- topped off with chocolate cake for dessert! Went back to the Boat Beach and on the way visited and pet the mules in the corral. I had the most wonderful time stargazing and enjoying having the beach all to myself. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime, and we stop at Boat Beach just to fill our water jugs at the faucet, then go on with our trip.

I didn’t get to sleep until really late and the next morning was woken by the call for breakfast. I wasn’t eating at the ranch, so I packed my stuff up and headed to my next destination- Ribbon Falls. The North Kaibab Trail was full of rim-to-rim runners, many who were really rude. It was most unfortunate. I found a place to dip my feet in Bright Angel Creek and watched as people rushed by.

Love this place!

Love this place!

Bright Angel Creek

Bright Angel Creek

I hoped that Ribbon Falls wouldn’t be too crowded, and miraculously, on a Saturday during Memorial Day weekend, only two parties visited during the many hours I spent at the falls. I just love this waterfall, no matter how many times I’ve been here, it’s always a treat- kind of how I feel about the rest of the Canyon. It rained on me for a little bit, just enough to be refreshing.

A great place to spend the afternoon

A great place to spend the afternoon

View from behind the falls

View from behind the falls

Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls

Hanging garden on the side of Ribbon Falls

Hanging garden on the side of Ribbon Falls

Loud little fella

Loud little fella

Around dinnertime I left Ribbon Falls to hike the rest of the way to Cottonwood Campground. I found Michael E, a fellow thru-hiker, at the campground. It was so nice to have someone else to talk to who could understand the mixed emotions I was having now that the end of the hike was coming up soon.

The next morning I was out of camp by 7am and excited about my hike out of the canyon. Couldn’t resist dunking my feet at the waterfall by the trail, so I took a short break.

Trailside Waterfall

Trailside Waterfall

Purple Nightshade

Purple Nightshade

Michael caught up with me and we ended up leapfrogging the rest of the way up the trail. It was a perfect day, not too hot given that it was the end of May. The miles fell under my feet easier than ever before- it’s amazing what 700 miles of conditioning can do! I took a bunch of breaks for pictures and scenery and still managed to get to higher elevations before it got too hot.

What a trail!

What a trail!

North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab Trail

Gaining Elevation

Gaining Elevation

Such a wonderful hike, each layer it’s own geological story. I’m always conflicted about which is my favorite- sometimes I’m convinced the Supai is the most attractive, then I think about how incredible the Redwall is, and then there’s the ancient schists that make up the Granite Gorge…

I crossed the last footbridge and started up toward the Supai Tunnel. Ordinarily, this part of the hike feels like it takes forever, but this time the tunnel appeared so quickly I was a little sad that my hike through the Canyon was mostly over.

Supai Tunnel

Supai Tunnel

Michael and I took a break at the tunnel, then continued the climb to the rim. Temperatures were great and fresh-faced, clean-smelling tourists in flip flops began to appear. I love the view from the Coconino Overlook and part of me wished that I could hang out and take a nap. Which would have been impossible, since it was a busy Sunday filled with tourists. Finally, one couple decided to take pictures jumping right near the edge and I took that as my cue to leave.

Me and Michael E

Me and Michael E

Micro Chicken loves the Canyon

Micro Chicken loves the Canyon

Coconino Overlook with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance to the right

Coconino Overlook with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance to the right

The last part of the trail is heavily wooded and shady and temps were perfect. I reached the rim and Michael was right behind me. I felt great that I’d had such an easy hike out, and had the rest of the day to relax.

Topped out at the North Rim!

Topped out at the North Rim!

As we were sitting at the trailhead, some guys hiked out, whooping and hollering about how awesome they were for having hiked out of the Canyon. Full of bravado, they turned to us and said, “It’s pretty great down there, you should hike it sometime!” To which I answered, “Yes, we came from the bottom too, but we started our hike at the Mexican border two months ago.” “No way!” they said, and then their faces dropped. “Well, I was feeling pretty great about my accomplishment till I heard that.” It was pretty funny.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing with my dad at my friend’s apartment on the rim and getting ready for the final week into Utah. It was bittersweet knowing that this incredible journey would soon come to an end. Thankfully I’ll be returning to the Canyon at the end of June to start my river season.

Here’s the link to donate to the Arizona Trail Association– every dollar goes right back into protecting and sustaining the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

View from North Rim Lodge

View from North Rim Lodge

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View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

May 15-22

After a wonderful time on the Women’s Backpacking trip, the next day I led a group of folks on a hike from Sandy’s Canyon into Flagstaff. It was so exciting for me to reach Flagstaff on foot- it’s like my second home! The river company I work for in the summertime, Arizona River Runners, is based out of Flag and I spend quite a bit of time there.

Starting our hike into Flagstaff from Sandy's Canyon TH

Starting our hike into Flagstaff from Sandy’s Canyon TH

Hiking under I-40

Hiking under I-40

Hiking through Flagstaff

Trail through Flagstaff

We had a great time on the hike into town and reached Flagstaff around noon. My dad met me and after lunch, took me up to Schultz Pass so that I could hike the remainder of the passage and connect my steps back into Flagstaff. I took a solemn break at the Dale Shewalter memorial and thanked him for his vision of this fantastic trail that connects the state. My friend and co-worker on the river Chelsea was waiting for me at Buffalo Park in the evening and we met some other river folk for dinner.

Elden Mountain

Elden Mountain

Inquisitive Deer

Inquisitive Deer

Memorial for Dale Shewalter- Father of the Arizona Trail

Memorial for Dale Shewalter- Father of the Arizona Trail

Dale Shewalter MemorialThe next day, my husband Brian drove up to Flagstaff to see me and I got to relax a bit before the Gateway Community Event at Wanderlust Brewing Company. What a wonderful event! The place was packed, the weather was perfect for the patio, and the Diamond Down String Band provided tunes for people to dance to. I was honored that members of the Shewalter family attended the event. It just so happened that the event fell on Dale Shewalter’s birthday, totally unplanned but a fantastic coincidence.

Great night for some music, food, and beer at Wanderlust Brewing Company

Great night for some music, food, and beer at Wanderlust Brewing Company

Unfortunately, about 20 minutes before the end of the event, I started to feel sick. Even had to go throw up a couple times before the night was over (and I don’t even drink!). It ended up being a total pukefest back at the hotel that lasted all night long.

The next morning, Brian did all he could to help me out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hike the 10 miles I had scheduled- I was so weak and still felt sick. Thankfully by the afternoon, I was feeling somewhat human and had Brian drop me off at Snowbowl to hike down to Schultz Pass. I got it done, but hiking is no fun at all when you’re tired and have to stop to throw up. In the evening, Brian helped me pack for the next passages. I was so glad that he was there to take care of me and that I hadn’t gotten sick when solo deep in the wilderness.

Peaks!

Peaks!

In the morning, I felt a million times better and one of the ladies from the Women’s trip, Anne McGuffey, came to pick me up to take me to Snowbowl to continue north. She’s planning on a future thru-hike and was excited to see parts of the trail she hadn’t seen before while running support for me. She dropped me off around 10:30 and we planned on meeting at Kelly Tank in the afternoon.

This is one of the parts of the trail that wasn’t complete when I hiked it in 2008 and the end result is gorgeous!! Winding trail through aspen glades, views of the Peaks and fancy signs telling me I have less than 200 miles until Utah.

Micro Chicken is getting ever closer to Utah!

Micro Chicken is getting ever closer to Utah!

Swooping singletrack through the aspen

Swooping singletrack through the aspen

I reached FR 418 and realized that I’d lost my hiking poles! Shoot. Back up the trail I went and thankfully they were less than 15 minutes away. The Peaks got farther away and I entered the White Horse Hills, covered in downed burned trees but still attractive.

White Horse Hills

White Horse Hills

Anne was waiting for me at dry Kelly Tank and we took a lunch break with the sound of mooing cows. We planned on meeting for camp off of FR 416 near Missouri Bill Hill. The remainder of the day was spent hiking on FR 416, a rocky two-track road.

Roadwalkin'

Roadwalkin’

I reached a gate on the west side of Missouri Bill Hill and could see the next passage through the Babbitt Ranch to the north. I got to the base of the hill and started to look for Anne’s car. No Anne. My feet were pretty tired by this time, I’d already gone 21 miles. I tried to call, but there was no cell reception. Only thing to do is keep hiking. I figured she was just down the road, but it was a tense couple of miles until I found her camp right before dark. My longest day yet- 23 miles since 10:30.

Missouri Bill Hill and the Peaks

Missouri Bill Hill and the Peaks

The next day was spent traversing the Babbitt Ranch- a landscape like no other on the AZT. The “trail” is actually on a series of ranch roads. It is generally a windy area, but on this day there was a red flag warning on top of it- gale force winds all day long.

Volcanic hills and the Peaks

Volcanic hills

I reached Tub Ranch and saw an antelope dash off and a group of horses milling about. Strangely, I saw no cows the entire day.

Horses

Horses

The Peaks receded into the distance and I hiked the dusty, windy road. Anne ended up leapfrogging with me the rest of the day, since she could drive the trail. It was great to have her support and I ended up hiking through the whole ranch in one 22-mile day. It was also helpful to have her around because so many of the water sources I’d normally have relied on were dry. We camped at the Kaibab Forest Boundary.

Windy Roadwalk

Windy Roadwalk

So much wind.

So much wind.

Ranch road walkin'

Ranch road walkin’

The next day Anne left and I backpacked the rest of the way to the Grandview Lookout Tower south of the Grand Canyon. My feet were pretty sore from the previous two days and I was happy to be back on singletrack again. Not a fan of roadwalking.

Thanks Anne!!

Thanks Anne!!

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The trail pleasantly wound through the pinyon and juniper, I skipped the side-trip to Moqui Stage Station as I’d seen the ruins in 2009. I reached Russell Tank, also dry this year. Thankfully a generous trail steward had cached me some water nearby.

After Russell Tank, the trail reached the Coconino Rim and began heading west. I got my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon and it literally stopped me in my tracks. I could see the white Coconino cliffbands and the forested North Rim. Giddy with excitement, I had a little on-trail celebration at seeing my favorite place. Soon enough I’d be hiking through.

I found a spot to camp and then the next morning hiked the rest of the way to Grandview. I climbed the lookout tower (scary but great views!) and then my friend Tom came and got me. Later, I met Levi, the videographer, at the Grand Canyon so that we could shoot some footage. Good thing we didn’t wait for the following day- smoke from the Slide Fire in Sedona had completely obliterated the view.

Grandview Lookout Tower

Grandview Lookout Tower

View from Grandview Lookout Tower

View of the Grand Canyon from Grandview Lookout Tower

The next day I hiked from Grandview to the South Kaibab Trailhead. It was a little anticlimactic because this was my view:

Filled with smoke from the Slide Fire

Filled with smoke from the Slide Fire

Next up: Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon!

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