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I am absolutely heartbroken. I hiked out of the Grand Canyon last week to find out that Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson had a fire while I was away. Other volunteers have put together a fundraising effort to help rebuild the facility. Please donate and share this campaign at https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/help-wildlife-rehab-of-nw-tucson-recover-rebuild–2.
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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:
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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.
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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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As the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association, one of my duties is to help communities throw Trail Days events. Events centered on getting people outdoors to experience what the Gateway Communities have to offer. I had helped organize one in February in Superior, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend because of prior commitments.

Setting up in the morning at the Pine Trailhead

After having a post-event meeting in Superior, I made my way north to attend an initial Trail Days planning meeting in Pine. I was expecting 5-6 people sitting around a table for the meeting, instead I walked into the Rimside Grill to find the bar bustling with almost 30 people! I was immediately impressed by the outpouring of support from Pine and its sister community up the hill, Strawberry.

Strawberry

The first annual Pine/Strawberry Trails Day was held on April 21st on a day that was sweltering hundred degrees in the valley. North in Pine, which sits at 5400 feet at the base of the Mogollon Rim,  it was a perfect day. Many groups came out and volunteered their time to make this event happen.

Lou Hoover and Dave Seigal man the Arizona Trail booth

One of my favorite parts of the day was meeting Joyce Bittner and her three llamas from the Ranch at Fossil Creek. She had agreed to lead a llama hike and it was very interesting hearing her speak about the things that make a llama an ideal pack animal. They can pack 75 lbs. apiece and she said that on overnights, she straps a cooler onto the llamas so that you can enjoy quite the fancy meal on the trail!

Joyce Bittner brushes the llamas while we wait for the hikers

My dad, my mom and a llama

What a face! -photo by Budh Rana

Starting the hike

There was a longer hike later in the day to Bradshaw Meadows and many booths and demonstrations throughout the event. Music came courtesy of Chuck and Barb Casey. There was even a medieval fighting exhibit! Many businesses donated items and gift certificates for a giant raffle basket of goodies. A good time was had by all who attended and I’m already looking forward to planning next year’s event.

Basket of raffle goodies

Arno from Germany riding the Arizona Trail 750 race rode into town as we were packing up- Tamara from Rimside Grill made sure he got a hot meal and a shower before tackling the Highline Trail

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, it’s full-on baby season at the rehab. There are so many cute birds, bunnies, and squirrels I can hardly stand it! Click below to donate to help feed these little guys:

Little Harris Hawk, big feet!

Baby Great Horned Owls

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