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Archive for the ‘Wildlife Rehab’ Category

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

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

California Condor

Condors playing Queen of the Rock

January

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

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

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

Hiking up to the ridge

Hiking up to the ridge

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

February

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

World's Largest Ball of Stamps

World’s Largest Ball of Stamps

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

Picketpost Mountain

Picketpost Mountain

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

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!

March

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

Stunning Cochise Stronghold

Stunning Cochise Stronghold


San Pedro River - Sky Island Traverse

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

April

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

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail


Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

India and me at the Unkar Overlook


After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show

After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show


While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

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

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

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Aftermath of the fire outside


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The bird room after the fire

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

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

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

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Salome Jug with Russ and Meg


The Jug - Russ Newberg

Salome Jug – Photo by Russ Newberg

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

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Trail maintenance with Arizona Conservation Corps


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Oracle State Park

May

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

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Gage on his first backpacking trip


Hutch's Waterfall

Hutch’s Waterfall

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

June

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

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

MoJo Grass

MoJo Grass


Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller

Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller


Marjani Drum Solo

Marjani

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

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

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

July

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

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

Aravaipa Canyon

Aravaipa Canyon

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

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Florida Trail


Pusch Peak

Pusch Peak

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

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism

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

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Women Who Lead panel


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Liz Thomas and me

August

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

Herd of Elk near my camp in Kaibab National Forest

Herd of Elk near my camp in Kaibab National Forest


Huppybar in its Natural Environment

Huppybar in its natural environment

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

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock

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

Brian, Dad and me ready for the eclipse

Brian, Dad and me ready for the eclipse


Bateleur Eagles from Africa

Bateleur Eagles from Africa

September

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

Summit of Mount Wrightson

Summit of Mount Wrightson – 9456 ft.


Sunset from the Baldy Trail, Mount Wrightson

Sunset on Baboquivari from the Baldy Trail, Mount Wrightson

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

Meadow on the new Tusayan Trail system

Meadow on the new Tusayan Trail system


Mark Flint and Me

Working laying out trail with Mark Flint in Tusayan


Tusayan Sunset

Tusayan Sunset

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

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

Canyoneering Upper Romero Canyon

Canyoneering Upper Romero Canyon


Canyon Tree Frog

Canyon Tree Frog

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

Riding in the Santa Ritas

Riding in the Santa Ritas

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

Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire

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

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October

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

Pistachio, Anish and me on Mount Lemmon

Pistachio, Anish and me on Mount Lemmon

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

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

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

Butte Fault

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


Nankoweap Creek

Nankoweap Creek


Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte


Hiking up to Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle

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


Lava Chuar Sunset

Sunset at Lava/Chuar

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

November

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

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

Marble Canyon Dance Party

Marble Canyon dance party


Best Friends

Hi there!

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

Training a Great Horned Owl

Training a Great Horned Owl

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

December

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

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

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

Finger Rock

Finger Rock

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

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

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

Buster Mountain Holiday Hike

Buster Mountain Holiday Hike

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

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I am absolutely heartbroken. Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson had a fire on March 30th that devastated our facility.  Over 30 birds were lost as well as all our supplies, storage, and structures. Volunteers have put together a fundraising effort to help rebuild. Please donate and share this campaign at https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/help-wildlife-rehab-of-nw-tucson-recover-rebuild–2.
On June 10th, there will be a benefit at Sky Bar – 436 N. 4th Ave. from 6-9 pm. Our remaining educational animals Cosmo the Barn Owl and Citan the Harris Hawk will be there as well as live music and entertainment from Cabaret Boheme, HipNautique and the Tucson Tribal Belly Dance Collective. I’ll even be dusting off my dance costume for a number! 100% of the suggested donation of $7 and 15% of Sky Bar sales go toward rebuilding. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1477126375644510 for more details.
After the Fire Wildlife Rehab Benefit 2017
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Aftermath of the fire outside – photo by Chris Bondante


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The bird room after the fire – Photo by Chris Bondante

Our bird room and adjacent outdoor habitats were completely destroyed, along with food, equipment, and other items. The good news is that 86-year old owner Janet Miller is OK and most animals survived and are receiving continued care. Some of the birds lost had been educational animals for over a decade, they will all be missed.

Elfie and Cleo

Both of our educational Elf Owls perished in the fire. Elfie and Cleo brought joy and wonder to all who met them.

Please give what you can, and please continue to share this campaign. This is a kick off that will help us reach short term goals: resuming very limited intake, replacing supplies and equipment that were destroyed by the fire, and continuing care of the many birds and mammals that were unharmed by the fire. Stay tuned for more crowd funding campaigns and fundraising events in Tucson and beyond.  And thank you all so much for supporting this very important work!

Luna and Baby Great Horned Owl

Luna the one-eyed Great Horned Owl was a great surrogate and raised many baby owls so that they could go on to be released.


Baby Great Horned Owls

Baby Great Horned Owls

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Barn Owl that we had been doing physical therapy with to help regain the use of its legs was also sadly lost in the fire.

The Wildlife Rehab receives no public funding and is paid for by Janet herself. Funds will go toward food, medicine, medical supplies, carriers, equipment, and reconstruction. Your support means that we can continue helping wild birds and small mammals recover from injury, illness and orphanhood.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk


Baby Bunnies

Thankfully the baby bunnies were in another room and we did not lose any of them.

Here’s a wonderful video done in 2015 by Tony Paniagua at Arizona Public Media to learn more about Janet Miller and the work she has done running the wildlife rehab for over 20 years. Thank you for your caring and generosity. Click here to donate and share.

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Today is the fifth anniversary of Sirena’s Wanderings- big thanks to all my readers!! It’s been great to share my adventures with you and I am always happy when I hear that the information in my blog helps people to plan their own hikes. It’s been almost seven years since I started my first blog on my Arizona Trail for Fibromyalgia website, when I hiked the Arizona Trail the first time. So thanks again for indulging my penchance for long-winded triplogs and for taking the time to follow along. I’m going to break with tradition and keep this entry short.

I have gone on a couple of small hikes since I’ve been back from the river, still taking it kind of easy. Soon enough I’ll be back doing crazy, all-day bushwhacks and backpacking trips.

Wendy and I went hiking in the rain in the Tortolitas on the Wild Mustang-Wild Burro loop. It was really green and lush from our ample monsoon season. The trails out there are so nice, I’ll have to do a longer trip sometime and check out the new Ridgeline Trail.

Jackrabbit

Jackrabbit

Tucson Mountains

Tucson Mountains

Tiny toad

Tiny toad

Wendy in the mist

Wendy in the mist

Desert Cotton

Desert Cotton

Today, I went up to Mt. Lemmon to do a presentation on my Arizona Trail Trek thru-hike in Summerhaven, but first I met with some of the ladies from the Women’s Backpacking Trip for a fall color hike. I am so fortunate to have such great friends to enjoy the outdoors with. Jasmine the mini-donkey and Dr. Otis the Goldendoodle therapy dog were along too!

Jasmine, Leigh Anne, Silver, India, Lynn, Bonnie, and Dr. Otis

Jasmine, Leigh Anne, Silver, India, Lynn, Bonnie, and Dr. Otis

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Micro Chicken ran into some friends in the forest

Micro Chicken ran into some friends in the forest

Loving the leaves!

Loving the leaves!

It was so wonderful to be among the leaves and running creeks on the mountain. There was a good turnout for my talk and on the way down the mountain I stopped at Windy Point to watch the sunset. It was outrageously good. So glad to be back home in Tucson among the mountains I love so much.

Looking south at the Santa Ritas from Windy Point

Looking south at the Santa Ritas from Windy Point

Windy Point Sunset

Windy Point Sunset

In wildlife rehab news, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my videos from 2011 made it onto a blog I love called Cute Overload. It’s an adorable video of a baby ringtail cat. Enjoy! Hopefully people will donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson as a result. You can donate to help this entirely self-supported facility by clicking below:
Donate Button with Credit Cards

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Buster Mountain summit view toward Mt Lemmon

Buster Mountain summit view toward Mt Lemmon

I had originally planned on hiking Pusch Peak from Pima Canyon until I came across this description http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=17807 on HikeArizona.com the night before. I really enjoyed my hike up Buster last year and wanted to see more of the area. So glad I hiked this one and covered some new ground instead- the trail up to Peak 4223 was delightful with fantastic views!

On the ridgeline looking north

On the ridgeline looking north

I love autumn days when I can start my hike at noon. The weather was wonderful all day, sometimes overcast, sometimes breezy. Found the trail with no issues- it is very well cairned with good tread and hardly any poky things- almost seemed too easy! Interesting views of the Romero Canyon Trail and Samaniego Ridge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peak 4223 to the left, Buster on the right

Peak 4223 to the left, Buster on the right

Romero Canyon Trail

Romero Canyon Trail

I passed Peak 4223 and made my way across the ridge to the low saddle. I saw a flurry of activity and got really excited for a second- was it one of the newly released bighorns? Sadly, no. Just some deer.

Approaching Peak 4223

Approaching Peak 4223

Atop 4223 looking toward Buster

Atop 4223 looking toward Buster

After looking at dry Buster Spring I contoured around to meet the saddle to the east of Buster. There was no trail, but occasional cairns popped up from time to time. Thankfully the grass seeds weren’t too bad, that can turn a hike into a foot-stabbing nightmare quick. Also, not much shindagger on this route, not like areas in Pima Canyon where you are shindagger-surfing. Speaking of which, I had a great view of Table Mountain’s summit where Wendy and I spent a chilly night last year by the fireplace.

The views into Alamo Canyon are some of my favorite in all the Catalinas, so dramatic with the massive Leviathan and Wilderness Domes. The saddle felt remote, Buster blocked out civilization beyond, the sprawl of Oro Valley pink-tiled roofs.

Great views into Alamo Canyon

Great views into Alamo Canyon

One last short steep bit to the summit and I settled in for a long break. It was windy, but not cold. I loved that there was very little chance that I’d see anyone else today, even though the first parking lot was full.

Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

After an enjoyable time on the summit, reading old logs and listening to music, I started down the east side. The small saddle below the summit really speaks to me and I stopped again. Spent time playing with my camera settings and investigating a cairned route that I think connects up with the trail in Alamo Canyon.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Micro Chicken

Micro Chicken is getting close to his second birthday. And yes- I’m wearing sparkly nail polish. Don’t judge.

Who the heck was Buster anyway? Here’s the history from the HikeArizona page:

Though details are slim, the history of this immediate area seems to revolve around the late Buster Bailey. Buster moved here from Texas in 1927. His father built their home somewhere in the area that is now Catalina State Park. Buster’s family soon moved back to Texas, but Buster returned to his one true love, The Catalina Mountains. He worked for area ranchers, he worked for the Zimmerman family, who developed what is now Summer Haven on Mt. Lemmon, but Buster’s real claim to fame was as a bootlegger, operating his still near the waters of the now dry Buster Spring. Remnants of his still are said to be in place, though in disrepair, somewhere near the current spring. This was Buster’s stomping ground, and you just can’t help but feel connected to him while you’re here. It’s said that he packed his product down alternating routes, so not to leave any obvious trails. It would be safe to say that if you’re on any passable route in or around Buster Canyon, Buster, himself had been there.

View north

View north

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Sunlit Saguaros

Gneiss!

I really needed a day like this- just me and the Catalinas. What a great route, I’ll have to check out the Alamo Canyon variation sometime.

In Wildlife Rehab news, I came across this picture from of a baby ringtail that we raised that was sent to an educational facility. Look at that yawn!! Donations go toward housing and feeding the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Here’s a video:

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Incredible Maples along Ash Creek

Well, this hike really does live up to the hype. I was supposed to go to the Canyon this weekend, but changed my plans because of the storm forecast. After seeing all the pictures posted last weekend, I decided the time had come to make the trek out to Ash Creek for some fall colors and summit Bassett Peak. My friend Cindy said that there was water about 2 miles in near some red maples, so I decided to make it an overnighter.

On November 7th, I didn’t start hiking until 2:30, only wanted to go two miles anyway. The drive in was pretty and I was excited about seeing a new Sky Island. Scattered maples began to appear, then giddy-inducing larger patches. I don’t know what it is about vibrant colors in the wild, they make me deeply happy.

I saw only two people the whole two days, they were hiking out and I asked them if they’d seen any water on the trail. I got a little less than two miles in and there was another roadbed that split off to the right with more of the black tubing I’d seen on the trail. The tank was a little ways down on the split, dripping and full of clear water.I chose a campsite in the colorful maples along the trail. The area was unfortunately outside the wilderness area and cattle-bombed. I’ve spent enough time in cattle country to just deal with it, move the larger patties aside and settle in. I had a relaxing evening by the fire with my journal.

Camping in the maples

In the morning, it was overcast and a lot warmer than I had expected. I continued hiking along the drainage. The maples are such a delight! Such a range of colors. I passed another tank with clear water along the way. I thought to myself, “This is such a great hike, but what it could really use is a tunnel of maples.” And then I crossed the wilderness boundary and got exactly what I wanted. A tunnel of multi-hued maples.

The Maple Tunnel

I reached the small grove of aspen and started up the switchbacks. It is so neat to be able to look down on the multicolored drainage as you gain elevation. I was pleasantly surprised by the interesting volcanic landscape of the ridgeline, I guess the only pictures I’d really looked at were of foliage, not the rest of the hike. The skies had cleared and the views upon reaching the ridgeline were incredible.

Bassett Peak and the colorful drainage below

Volcanic ridgeline

Rincons and Catalinas

The volcanic ridgeline begs for a return trip in both directions. The trail switchbacked up Bassett Peak and there was a short steep route the rest of the way to the peak. One of the reasons I like backpacking is that it gives me more time to spend on top of peaks. I love standing on top of one Sky Island looking at the other ones.

Summit of Bassett Peak

Pinalenos

Interior of the Galiuros

Winchester Mountains to the south

I hiked back down to the aspen grove and relished another run through the maple tunnel. Reached my campsite, grabbed my stuff and shot a million more pictures. What a great hike!!

Looking down at the aspen and switchbacks

Aspen and Maples

Such a beautiful place!

As I was driving out on Ash Creek Rd., I saw a bunch of horses hanging out on one side of the road near a fence. I got out to take pictures of them with the Pinalenos in the background. When I approached, all the horses, including a couple super-cute little ones scattered away from the fence. I stood near the fence and soon almost all of them came over to see me. I love giving massages to horses, and one by one, they hung their necks over the fence so that I could rub them. I must have been there for a half-hour, it was fantastic. One mom and her baby watched me from a distance. What a treat! I eventually had to tear myself away from the horses, but a little farther down the road another group of horses ran across the road right in front of my car! Such a great way to end a perfect couple of days.

Horses waiting their turn for massage

Mom and baby kept their distance

I love horses!

Free-running horses

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser news, food prices have jumped recently.  Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson depends on donations to function, so if you’ve been waiting to donate, now is a great time! Click the button to donate securely via PayPal.

Baby Great Horned Owls

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The Biscuit

If you look at a topo map of the Mustang Mountains, a small range northeast of Sonoita, you will see the northernmost peak is called Mount Bruce. This ordinary name belies the beauty of this peak, for it has a most interesting shape. Sheer walls on the sides with a domed top- locals call it The Biscuit.

The Biscuit is one of those peaks that can be seen for miles and miles. I have admired it from many other mountain ranges and always wondered what it would be like to hike to the top. I saw that the Huachuca Hiking Club was leading a trip up there and contacted them to ask if I could tag along. Boy, am I glad I did! This hike was a blast and the views were incredible in every direction. Bill and I met up with the others from the hiking club at Upper Elgin Rd. and Highway 82. We drove past 8-foot high sunflowers lining the road and marveled at the beautiful rolling scenery and views of The Biscuit. As we were waiting for the others to arrive, I saw a very large hawk with a grey back and entirely white underside. I looked it up when I got home and it was a Harrier Hawk. Cool!

The Biscuit from our parking area. We grasswhacked, then went up to the saddle and curved around behind the peak to a break in the cliffs. Came down a ridge not seen in the photo to make a loop back to the cars.

We drove down Upper Elgin Rd. for a ways and turned off onto a good dirt road leading through the grasslands. The road stopped at a gate and we parked the cars. Steve, the hike leader, described our route, which started with a grasswhack toward our Biscuit. We waded through knee-high grasses and I was thankful I’d brought the tall gaiters- it is grass seed season. It got a little brushy as we crossed several small drainages. There were patches with sugar sumac, ceanothus, and everyone’s favorite, cat claw. After we crossed the drainage that goes up to the saddle, we found a faint path that went up through an increasingly brushy and ocotillo-laden slope. The view from the saddle was very interesting- on the other side was the much greener and more lush Rain Valley between the Mustangs and the Whetstones. Above us were the sheer cliffs of the Biscuit.

Grasswhackin’

Up to the saddle

‘Brella on the Biscuit

Getting brushy

View from the saddle toward the Whetstones, Rincon Peak in the distance

Monolithic Biscuit, can’t go up from this side without rope!

We took a break and then went up and contoured around near the base of the cliff. There was a break in the cliff once we got closer to the north side of the peak. The biggest problem with the route was that the rock was extremely loose and even large pieces were getting dislodged from the slope. There were a couple of spots that required scrambling, and where the rock wasn’t loose, it was razor-sharp. Sometimes it was both.

Sidehilling from the saddle

Scrambling up the break

Above the scramble, the hillside was covered in bright yellow goldeneye, which was such a treat. We found a large cairn marking another route up to the peak coming from the more gentle slope of the north side. We would use that as our descent and hopefully avoid coming down the sharp loose scramble. There were cairns on the route to the summit hidden in the flowers, and the summit finally came into view.

Mike takes a moment to take in the views on the flower-covered slope

View toward the Santa Ritas

Looking north, Rincons and Catalinas in the far distance

Where some summits have a cairn, or a post, or a mailbox, this one had a 4 foot tall circular rock wall. The 360 degree views were spectacular- so many different sky islands visible from just one spot!

Video from the summit:

Unexpected summit structure

Micro Chicken makes an appearance

Huachuca Hiking Club

We took a long break at the top, pointing out landmarks to each other. When it was time to go down, we went cairn-hunting in the flowers for the route back down the north slope. It was much easier than the route we had taken up. When we got close to the saddle, we contoured around the mountain to avoid several drainages and then descended back to the grasslands. The rest of the hike back was grass-seed hell, as we all got stabbed repeatedly. No mesh shoes for me next time! It was a short but interesting hike and I think we hit it at just the perfect time for wildflowers up top.

Cairn-hunting in the flowers

The more gentle northern slope

It may look serene, but we are getting stabbed by a million grass seeds on the way back to the cars

In wildlife rehabilitation fundraiser news, one of my favorite parts of volunteering at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson is getting to fly the raptors to see if they are ready for release. I took a beautiful Great Horned Owl out the other day and it did a great job and will be released soon. 100% of donations go toward animal rehabilitation.

Great Horned Owl

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Reflections in the Black Pool

I needed to get away for a solo overnighter to relax before the frenzy of the river season starts. This summer, I will be working with Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon! I thought about the Black Pool in Horse Camp Canyon and my floatie that has been put away all winter and my decision was made. I always enjoy the drive up 77, the views of the north side of the Catalinas and then along the Galiuros.

Started hiking around 10:30, and it was already pretty warm. Never a problem with Aravaipa’s cooling waters. I was pleased to see that it was still the season for poppies in the canyon. Wildflowers and cactus blooms- it only makes it all the more beautiful. I noticed immediately that the creek had quite a bit of algae in it. I hoped that the pool I wanted to float in would be clear. I had that happen once- came all ready to float only to find the pool a mucky green mess.

Datura on the verge of blooming

Sacred Datura Bloom

Thistle

I saw a Zone-Tailed and a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Great Blue Heron as I hiked along. Picked all the right paths to move speedily to Horse Camp. Ran into a couple of groups of dayhikers and backpackers hiking out, but no one else until the next afternoon. I turned into Horse Camp Canyon and was sad to see tons of algae in there too. The creek was very green and lush with columbine and grasses. Upon  reaching the Black Pool I was elated to see that it was perfectly clear! What’s more is the waterfall was almost completely obscured by red and yellow wildflowers. What a treat! I blew up my trusty green floatie and floated away the afternoon. The temperature of the water was perfect- warm on top, but much cooler below. I always wonder how deep it is, but I’m not about to dive down and find out.

Great Blue Heron

Small arch in the walls

The Black Pool

When the sun went behind the canyon wall, I moved over to the popular campsite opposite Horse Camp Canyon to finish re-reading The Monkey Wrench Gang and write in my journal. As it got darker out, the mosquitoes appeared and I decided to try camping on the wide expanse of bare rock on the other side of the creek. Much better views and surprisingly few mosquitoes. The moon was large and bright and I had an enjoyable evening. The mesquite bosque is nice during the day for shade, but I always prefer a spot with wider views.

Camp next to Horse Camp Canyon

Messing around with self-portraits, I got this strange and interesting shot

The next morning, I read Katie Lee’s All My Rivers Are Gone about Glen Canyon while waiting for it to warm up. Once the sun hit my sleep spot, I headed back into Horse Camp Canyon to float and read some more. It was so nice to be able to have two days to myself to relax. I used my umbrella with my floatie for shade, but the pool wasn’t big enough to ride the breezes like I did last year:

Relaxing in the morning

They call Aravaipa “The Grand Canyon of the Sonoran Desert” because of its layers and the water running through it. It certainly reminds me of a mini-Grand Canyon and made me completely excited for next week when I’ll be starting my dream job on the river. I will be sleeping on beaches with the sound of the river all summer long and I can hardly wait. I hiked out in the afternoon and as soon as I returned to the main stream, I saw a woman with a reflective umbrella similar to mine. We exchanged stories of guys thinking they are funny when they say “no forecast for rain today, heh heh…” as they pass by.  The hike back to the trailhead was enjoyable and I bid beautiful Aravaipa good-bye until the next time.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser news, cute baby birds, bunnies, and squirrels abound.  I feel so fortunate to be able to see them grow up and be released.

Handful of 5-day old baby bunnies

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