Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Me and my husband Brian at the All Soul's Procession

Each year, in early November, there is an event in Tucson that makes me giddy with anticipation- the All Soul’s Procession. Here’s the description of how the Procession came to be from the excellent website:

“The All Souls Procession is perhaps one of the most important, inclusive and authentic public ceremonies in North America today. The Procession had its beginnings in 1990 with a ritualistic performance piece created by local artist Susan Johnson, who was grieving the passing of her father. Inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos holiday, Johnson felt she should honor her father in celebration and creativity. The performance was very well received and many artists were inspired to continue growing the Procession into its modern incarnation.

Today we find ourselves organizing over 20,000 participants on the streets of downtown Tucson for a two-mile long human-powered procession that ends in the finalizing action of burning a large urn filled with the hopes, offerings and wishes of the public for those who have passed. Inside the event are myriads of installation art, altars, performers, and creatives of all kinds collaborating for almost half the year to prepare their offerings to this amazing event. The All Souls Procession, and now the entire All Souls Weekend, is a celebration and mourning of the lives of our loved ones who have passed.”

Many people dress up as brides and grooms, in the vein of Dia De los Muertos. My costume has a wedding theme as well- the flowers used are silk flowers that were used at my wedding, seven years ago. Instead of them ending up in some box in my shed, I used them to create this costume:

A little different than my usual pictures with hiking gear...

During the procession, my husband usually finds some drummers to play with- this year we processed with my bellydance friends and I had a wonderful time, dancing for most of the two miles. I was so busy dancing that I didn’t take many pictures, but here are some shots from the procession and finale:

I like the use of the agave stalk on this one

Lots of big-head puppets

This was one of my favorites, it was over 10' tall

Dancing in the procession- Photo by Joel Smith

After the procession, there is an incredible finale with fire performers, acrobats, and the burning of an urn filled with prayers. Really, you’ve just got to go and see it for yourself.

You can see the urn in the distance being lifted onto its platform

This guy's costume was so detailed

Detail of his costume

If you’d like to see additional pictures from this event, you can visit the Flickr group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/tucson_all_souls_procession/

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a screech owl that is soon to be released. He went into this very showy defensive pose when I came in to feed him:

This screech owl gave me quite the show when I came in to feed him

Read Full Post »

Silhouette of Pusch Ridge- Pusch Peak is the first one on the ridge

I have been eyeing up Pusch Peak this summer, and whenever I drive nearby early in the morning, I notice that the canyon that the trail goes up stays in the shade for several hours after sunrise. The humidity has dropped since the monsoons are almost over, so the idea became more feasible. I started at 5:50 am just as it was getting light out, and I had shade for all but the last 45 minutes of the hike.

As I hiked out from the trailhead, I saw a Great Horned Owl and a kestrel. I reached the small metal sign that marks the turnoff for the route to the peak and got ready to climb.

Turnoff for the route for Pusch Peak

Pottery sherds on the route

Organ Mountain Blazingstar

I haven’t hiked all the way to the peak in many years, but I remembered how very steep it was. (It climbs about two thousand feet in a mile and a quarter) My memory served me right on the steepness, but the route was in much better shape than I remembered (either that or my standards for what is a “good” trail have dropped precipitously) The route is well beat-in, and the trail is very rocky, but not loose. I made my way up and up and up, feeling really good. I noticed that my recovery from being out of breath happens quickly now. I didn’t take the path that went to the campsite, and stayed to the left.

Campsite is in the area ahead

The views downcanyon from the trail are great, especially the trail winding far below you. I remembered that there was a false peak, but I must have blown right by without realizing it, because before I knew it, I was on top! What views!!!

View west from the summit

View south toward the Santa Ritas

Looking north toward Samaniego Ridge- Bighorn and Table Mtns. to the right

Particularly attractive was the view of Bighorn and Table Mtns., farther down Pusch Ridge. I have plans for when it cools off… The morning was so clear that I could see the Superstition Ridgeline, Four Peaks, and the Weaver’s Needle near Phoenix. It was breezy and cool at the summit at 8 am, but I knew I couldn’t stay too long, because it was going to warm up quick in the canyon once the sun hit. The last entry in the register at the top was from 8/27. As I hiked down from the peak, once I was behind the ridgeline back in the canyon, it was shady again, with a pleasant breeze. The descent was not too bad, mainly because there weren’t a lot of parts with loose gravel and rock. I took my time on the steep parts back down to the Linda Vista Trail and was back to my car at 10.

This was a great hike, though I wouldn’t recommend it in the summertime unless you’re acclimated to the heat, start at first light, and have a good handle on how fast of a hiker you are. What was a delightful hike at 6am would be a scorcher later in the day.

For the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, last week we had a baby spotted skunk that was brought to us. It’s a little scary changing his cage, and we have to make sure that we don’t make any loud noises to scare him.

Baby Spotted Skunk

Read Full Post »

View of Cathedral Peak from the Box Camp Trail

On June 2nd after work, my husband Brian was nice enough to help me put a car at Sabino Canyon, then drive me up to the Box Camp Trailhead. I walked in for a short distance and spent the night with a great view of the Wilderness of Rock and Mount Wrightson from my camp at 8000 ft.

Sunset with Tanque Verde Ridge and the Santa Ritas in the distance

The next day, I was up early for my descent into the Sabino Basin. I haven’t been on this trail for a while, and I forgot how much I enjoyed the upper, forested part with towering trees, ferns, and a stream. There had been a lot of deadfall from the past winter’s storms, but my friends from the Crazies Trail Crew- a sub-unit called Tom’s Sawyers- had recently worked this trail (with 2-man handsaws) Thanks guys!

Freshly cut deadfall

Burn area from the Aspen Fire of 2003

Upper forested part of the Box Camp Trail

View from upper Box Camp Trail movie:

I hadn’t been past the point where the trail really starts to descend to the East Fork. One of the cool things about the Box Camp Trail is that you can see your destination- Sabino Canyon- down below for most of the trail. The trail follows a ridge between Box Camp and Palisades Canyons, and the views are fantastic throughout. I really liked the steep descent into Apache Spring, with its attractive rock formations.

Claret Cup Cactus

Coming down the ridge- Sabino Cyn, is in the center of the picture

Apache Spring rock formations

Apache Spring

The seep was dripping, and there were many yellow flowers. I saw a hummingbird, but instead of feeding from the flowers, he dipped into the seep to take a bath! What a great thing to be able to witness. I used the water from the seep to wet myself down, as it was getting increasingly hot as the day progressed.

Hummingbird coming in for a bath- click to enlarge

After descending some more, I began to see the cool canopy of the East Fork below. There were many blooming coral-bean plants, more than I’ve ever seen before.

Coral Bean bloom

Looking down at the cool canopy of the East Fork

Arizona Trail from the Box Camp Trail movie:

I finally reached the East Fork junction at 3700 ft. and took a short but vital break near the rushing stream. A funnel-web spider and a black-necked garter snake were my only companions.

Black-Necked Garter Snake

Funnel-web Spider

I reluctantly tore myself away from the shade, and hiked the 1.5 miles up the West Fork/Arizona Trail to Hutch’s Pool with my umbrella. The West Fork was still running and I took the opportunity to wet my shirt at the crossings. Finally, I reached Hutch’s Pool and spent the rest of the day floating around in the $2 innertube I’d bought on the way out of town. Since it was a weekday, I had the whole area to myself, though there was evidence that this was a much-loved area frequented by many. One thing I can’t understand- why do people feel the need to make their toilet area INSIDE the creek, when there are plenty of spots just above it that would work just as well? Anyway, it was much more pleasant than the last time I was there, when a whole group of horseback riders let their horses poop all over the place.

Hutch’s Pool Waterfall movie:

Happy to have Hutch's Pool all to myself!


I spent the afternoon floating, reading, writing in my journal, and listening to music. I even went for a night float under the stars. In the morning, I was up and hiking by 5:30 am, and I enjoyed the cooler weather on the hike out.

Pipevine Swallowtail

Broadleaf Four O'Clock

I hit the Phoneline Trail, but decided to stay on it for a little bit longer- I was dreading hiking the hard asphalt of the road on the way out. I connected with the Historic Sabino Tr. 23A, which I had not done before, so I hiked that 0.7 mi. down to the road. As I hit the road, many early-morning walkers gave me strange looks because of my big pack and my umbrella, but I didn’t care. I made it back to the Sabino Canyon parking lot at 2700ft. just as the first tram was leaving at 9 am and went to work later that day.

In Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser news- Here’s a movie of two Harris’ Hawks in the brand new aviary at Miller’s Wildlife Rehab in Tucson, AZ. The one on the right is a juvenile and we put the one on the left into the cage with him so that he could teach the juvenile to kill and eat live prey. When the juvenile has shown that he can kill and eat on his own, then he will be released back into the wild. This movie is from their first meeting.

Read Full Post »

I have summited Mount Wrightson, highest point in the Santa Ritas at 9456 feet, many times. It is one of my favorite hikes in all of Southern Arizona. The 360 degree views from up top are worth every ounce of effort it takes to get to the summit. Every time I hike up there I think about how amazing it would be to camp at Baldy Saddle, which has an incredible view of Wrightson and the surrounding area, and last week, I finally did it. Tucson has been oppressively hot, so 8,750′ Baldy Saddle sounded like the ideal place to hike up and out of the heat.

Yep, I was right- it was an awesome campsite!

I had the best intentions of getting an early start, but didn’t end up setting foot on the Old Baldy trail until almost 9 am. The Old Baldy trail is well shaded and mercifully, it was overcast for parts of the climb that were in an exposed burn area. There were hundreds of butterflies on the lower part of the trail.

Two-Tailed Swallowtail Butterfly on Firecracker Penstemon

I got up to Josephine Saddle at 7100′ without incident and took a short break. My very first solo backpacking trip was an overnighter here with my dog Zeus back in 2005. Unfortunately, I no longer feel comfortable camping there by myself due to the increase in drug smugglers using the area. Thankfully, they seem to stay away from the highcountry. The Old Baldy Trail is the route I usually take to Baldy Saddle, but there are several different trails that intersect there. When it is cooler, I will try out some of the other trails. The temperature was much cooler above Josephine Saddle, and I took my time on the hike up. Normally, I’m rushing up this trail to summit Wrightson, it was nice to not have the time constraints of a dayhike. There were many wildflowers, and blooming bergamot beautifully scented the air.

Fragrant Bergamot lined the trail


View from Old Baldy Tr. above Josephine Saddle

Paintbrush and Pines

I reached Bellows Spring at 8100′ and took a break to eat a snack and drink and filter a bunch of water. Baldy Spring, which was close by my camp, was reported to be bone dry. So I filled up every container I had, because I needed enough for a dry camp and also for the next day’s explorations. Two gallons weigh about 16 pounds, but it was the price I had to pay for a ridgetop camp with a view. When I put my pack back on to ascend the 32 switchbacks up to Baldy Saddle, it felt like a moose had slipped into my pack. Ugh.

Shady Bellows Spring

Love these metal signs they use in the Santa Ritas

Those last couple of switchbacks are usually tough, but even more so with a pack bulging with water. I reached Baldy Saddle around 2pm and scouted around for a campsite. There was one right at the Crest/Summit trail intersection, but I was looking for something a little more secluded. There is a small peak just above Baldy Saddle with a commanding view of Mt. Wrightson, Baboquivari, and the Whetstone, Mustang, and Huachuca Mountains. Home for the night. I also came up with a plan of where I would move my camp if there was a storm with lightning. (very important, as monsoon season was to start any day now)

I saw some rain in the distance, and set up my tent. I was dismayed to find that I was missing a tent stake. I was able to improvise with a hiking pole, but the pitch was sloppy and the fly made a lot of noise. It started to sprinkle and I went into my tent and took a nap. The rain didn’t last long, and I spent the rest of the day reading, writing in my journal, and admiring the views. I could trace the path of the Arizona Trail below (one of my favorite pastimes from a high vantage point), and even saw the Border Patrol Blimp in the sky. The clouds were in perfect position for an epic sunset and I had a front-row seat at the top of my little peak.

Looking toward the Huachucas

The Border Patrol Blimp above the Huachucas

Rain sweeps in behind Mt. Hopkins

I could try to describe the sunset, but these shots will give you a better idea than I could with mere words:

7:13 pm

Looking north at the Crest- 7:19 pm

Looking down on Madera Canyon- 7:23 pm

Mt. Wrightson- 7:32 pm

My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Alpenglow on Mount Wrightson- 7:36 pm

7:41 pm

The sun finally dips behind the Coyote Mtns. at 7:43 pm

The evening was windy and it rained again for a little while- my tent was blowing around and making a bunch of noise so I was relieved when I woke up around 1 am and the skies had completely cleared. I dragged my pad and sleeping bag out of the tent and slept like a baby under the thick canopy of stars. The next morning,  instead of summiting Mt. Wrightson again, I went on the Crest Trail to explore a bit and summit Mount Ian. It is the highest point on the Santa Rita Crest at 9146 ft. The Crest Trail was incredibly beautiful- even though much of it had been burned int the Florida Fire. Unfortunately no tree cover made for exposed hiking and it was getting warm, so I didn’t go all the way to Florida Saddle. Instead, I turned back toward camp and did a small bushwhack to the summit of Mt. Ian. This little-visited colorful peak has commanding views of Mount Wrightson and the surrounding area. I wrote up a hike description on HikeArizona.com that you can refer to if you’d like to bag this peak. I signed and read the register on the peak that went back over 10 years. I was the first person to sign it since May 22- a month and a half ago.

Unburnt area on the Crest Trail

Looking East toward the Rincons

Final piece before the summit of Mt. Ian

Mount Wrightson from the colorful summit of Mount Ian

After being swarmed by ladybugs, I hiked back to my camp and took a quick nap. I awoke to find clouds mounting and decided it was time to head down the mountain.

Clouds mounting in the afternoon

I made it to Josephine Saddle without it raining and I couldn’t bear the thought of going back down to Tucson, where temps would be over 100 degrees. I decided to stay at Josephine till the rain started in earnest. Finally, around 2pm, I started down the trail, using my umbrella. It worked so much better than a hot, stuffy rain jacket! I took a couple final looks back at the mountain and hoped that I’d be back in the Santa Ritas soon. I had no idea…

Looking back at the Santa Rita Crest- Mt Ian is the second from the left, Baldy Saddle the forested notch on the right

Rain-kissed wild geranium

I ended up having a rare Saturday off and went with the Tucson Hiking Meetup group on a beautiful loop hike to Roger’s Rock. Any day in Madera Canyon is a good one and I jumped at the chance to go back even though I had come back from Baldy Saddle only the day before yesterday. The hike up felt like a sauna, but at least there was plenty of shade and cloud cover. There are some really gorgeous sycamores on the route, but not much flowing water until after we visited Roger’s Rock.

On the Pipeline Route

Roger's Rock

Roger’s Rock is a perfect lunch spot, and if I had been hiking alone, I would have probably thrown in a nap as well. As good as the view was, nothing beat the show that we got from two vibrant-blue male Mountain Spiny Lizards:

They were incredible- pushing each other around, doing push-ups, and menacingly opening their mouths without a care about the fact that there was a group of people taking pictures and talking right above them. The reason that they were especially colorful is it is the season to look nice for the ladies.

What expressions!


We hiked back to the Super Trail and took that downhill. I haven’t been on this trail in a long time, and I enjoyed the running water in the creek and more giant sycamores. When we got back to the parking lot, we had a potluck picnic and it turned out to be a pretty great spread. One of the guys works as a baker in Tubac, and he brought all sorts of delicious breads and brownies. Just as we packed up after our picnic, it started to rain. A great day spent with a very friendly group.

On the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser front, it is still the season for babies, and one of the people I volunteer with specializes in rehabbing baby hummingbirds:

Baby Hummingbirds

Read Full Post »

My readers that live in Arizona are no doubt aware of the fact that the state is planning to close most of the state parks due to lack of funding. Without getting into too long of a rant, I think it is unconscionable that this is the way that the state plans on solving its budget shortfalls. One of Arizona’s main industries is tourism, and closing most of the state parks is a horrible, short-sighted way to save money. Besides, we still have to clarify what “closing a state park” means. Does it just give free reign to whomever can jump the fence or arrive via an alternate route? What about the state parks that have precious archaeological resources, like Homolovi Ruins? Do we just close these parks and hope that everyone is good stewards of the land and doesn’t take advantage of the closed status to go looting? The impending closings made it imperative that I check out two state parks before they closed: Picacho Peak SP and Lost Dutchman, both slated to close in June.

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

In Tucson, if the springtime is good for wildflowers, a trip up Picacho Peak is a must-do. The name is actually redundant, “picacho” means peak in Spanish, so it translates to “Peak Peak”. I hiked the steeper and more direct Hunter Trail last Monday, which takes off a short distance from the fee station. The trail climbs to the top of the peak in a short but steep 2 miles. I started early to beat the crowds, and I’m glad I did, because on the way down the trail was getting pretty crowded, even on a weekday. There were big patches of yellow poppies in bloom as I made my way up to the saddle.

Poppies and Lupine at Picacho

After the saddle, the fun begins- there are cables bolted to the mountain so that there is something to hold on to while descending steeply from the saddle- my pictures barely show the steepness. This is a good point to put away the hiking poles and put on some gloves to grip the cables.

Cables bolted into the mountain to ease yourself down from the saddle

Several parts of the trail have the cables- since I had an early start I encountered no one going up or down at the same time, but at the narrowest part of the trail I met Bill Cole, from Phoenix, out to enjoy the park before its scheduled closing. I was happy that I was doing this hike on a weekday, because there is no opportunity for two-way travel on some of the parts of the trail- I would have had to spend a bunch of time waiting. I was on a bit of a time crunch this morning because I had to get back to ready the house for visitors that were coming that night. I haven’t hiked this trail in several years and I was surprised to see how much precarious (albeit protected) climbing there was to get to the summit.

Trickiest part with the bolted cables

The trickiest part went straight up the rock with great foot and hand holds. I unfortunately got my hiking poles (which were stowed in my pack) caught up in the cables and had to gingerly extricate myself before continuing on. When I arrived at the summit there was a couple just heading back down, so I had the summit to myself. There were wonderful views in every direction, and a Harris’ Antelope Squirrel that was searching for any dropped snacks.

Antelope squirrel action shot!- click to enlarge

Posing for a picture, hoping for some snacks

As I was coming down from the peak, I decided to go check out the peak to the north for some views of Picacho:

Picacho Peak from the peak to the north

I was really glad that I got an early start, because on my way down, I met many hikers headed for the peak, and even more people at the trailhead poppy-peeping. I talked to several groups that said that they were out there to catch the views before they closed the park.


Later in the week, I had to go to Phoenix to do two Arizona Trail Talks at both of the REI locations, so I took the opportunity to visit another park that is scheduled to close in June, Lost Dutchman State Park. I have been hearing about this hike called the Flatiron for a while now, so I decided to finally do this hike while I was in Phoenix for my talks. It turned out to be a perfect hike! I am somewhat disenchanted with dayhiking lately. For a dayhike to wow me, it’s got to be a good “bang for the buck” kind of hike. I have also recently gotten very into scrambling, which is basically hiking so rugged you have to use your hands to pull yourself up in places. The Flatiron definitely fit the bill! I hit the trail by 7:15. The trail to the Flatiron gets progressively more difficult as you leave the trailhead- from wide, flat trail to a  well-maintained steeper portion and progressing to a scramble topped with a 10-foot wall to climb right as you reach the saddle.

Flatiron on the right, the chute to climb to get there in the center

As I reached the more difficult parts of the trail, I met a group of hikers that lived in nearby Mountainbrook Village. Several of the hikers had been to the Flatiron before, so I was able to follow them and use the path of least resistance, marked with spray-painted blue or white dots on the rock.

Looking back toward the chute I scrambled up

The 10-foot wall that I had heard so much about wasn’t too bad, just required a little thought into the hand and foot placement, and before I knew it, I had reached the saddle. Thankfully, my early start meant that the bulk of the climb was done in the shade, this would be one toasty hike at the wrong time of the day. At the saddle you can go right to the Flatiron or left toward Peak 5024. The group I tagged along with headed over to nearby Peak 5024, and I was glad I followed them. There were some parts that required me to take my pack off and shimmy underneath a passage in the boulders and hoodoos. This is one of my favorite parts of the Superstitions that I have been to thus far.

Hoodoos on the way to Peak 5024

The summit was spectacular! Views all the way south to the snow-covered Catalinas near my home in Tucson, a view of Weaver’s Needle and the interior of the Superstitions, and the Four Peaks as well.

The Mountainbrook Village group on the summit

4 Peaks from the summit of Peak 5024

Looking down on the Flatiron

The peak was so wonderful that by the time I headed down to the Flatiron, it was a little anticlimactic. I would urge those planning to hike the Flatiron to check out the nearby peak as well, it is certainly worth it! I had to get back to town to get ready for my speaking engagement at REI, so after spending some time on the Flatiron, it was time to head back to the car. On the way down, there were many more crowds, and I was glad that I had started early. The downhill scramble was much easier than uphill, and I made great time getting down to the trail in Siphon Draw. It is called the Siphon Draw because it drains a large portion of the Western Superstitions, and the water has carved out a beautiful natural bowl in the rock.

Siphon Draw

Once past the Siphon Draw bowl, its back to good old trail again, and I would have flown down this area if I hadn’t stopped so many times to take pictures of the greenery and wildflowers. The brittlebush hadn’t bloomed yet, but there were great swaths of purple lupine, scorpionweed, poppies, blue dicks, and chicory all the way to the parking lot.

Wildflowers looking back at the Flatiron

Hopefully, the state will figure out an alternative to closing the state parks. My two Arizona Trail talks in Phoenix went very well, and I was able to raise almost $200 for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser. For today’s Wildlife Rehab picture, here’s a tiny Harris’ Antelope Squirrel.

Feeding a baby Harris' Antelope Squirrel at the Wildlife Rehab

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: