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It’s that time of the year to look back and I’m grateful to say that personally and professionally, 2018 has been one of the best!

Before I begin, I wanted to highlight a recent story I was a part of for KJZZ Phoenix, the local NPR station. It’s by Stina Sieg, called Take a Hike: Author Explores, Promotes Diversity on Arizona Trails.

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really know what 2018 would look like. It ended up being one of the most eventful and travel-packed years I’ve ever had. If you’d like more frequent updates, follow me at @desertsirena on Instagram or you can also view my feed by visiting this website on your computer and clicking on the latest photo in the upper right.

Big thanks to the organizations who have supported my work and adventures this year: Arizona Office of Tourism, Gossamer Gear, REI, the Town of Tusayan, Pima County, Visit Tucson, Wilderness Press, Huppybar, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts and more!

January

Started the year out right with a hike from Superior to Kelvin on the Arizona Trail with my adventure bestie Wendy. This was the seventh time I’ve hiked this 40 miles, one of my favorite parts of the AZT.

Arizona Trail - Gila River Canyons

Fall along the Gila River

Wendy and Stripey Butte - Arizona Trail

Wendy and Stripey Butte

I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to commit myself to writing my memoir and found a place to work on it far away from distractions. It was emotional, revisiting the dark days when I was really sick with fibromyalgia but also inspiring to see how far I’ve come.High Jinks Ranch Lenticular Sunrise

The Arizona Office of Tourism contacted me about partnering with my company, Trails Inspire, to do two talks at the REI flagship store in Seattle and of course I said yes.

I attended Winter Outdoor Retailer with Gossamer Gear and had a great show. I had talked to Wilderness Press at the last summer show about my memoir and an idea I had for a book about the best day hikes on the Arizona Trail. When I saw them at winter show, they gave me the contact for submitting a proposal.

For me, the show isn’t about the gear, it’s about making relationships and learning at the talks and workshops. I was particularly interested in the Indigenous Connections panel and When Women Lead series.

Learning about ancestral land acknowledgements has inspired me to include them in my social media and blog posts. For example, I am based in Tucson, AZ, ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui. I use https://native-land.ca/ as well as other research to determine and acknowledge who’s land I am recreating on.

Indigenous Connections Panel - Outdoor Retailer

Indigenous Connections Panel

February

Hiked Apache Peak on Oracle Ridge, which I’ve looked at for years. Great 360 degree views in every direction! Ancestral lands of the Hohokam.IMG_7759IMG_7760

 

I got a lot done on my memoir in January and continued working on it. Until I got an email from Wilderness Press on a Friday that said they would like a full proposal for the Arizona Trail day hikes book by Tuesday. I was excited, this was the moment I’d been waiting for! Only I got the email about 20 minutes before I left for the airport to do my  talks in Seattle all weekend.

I didn’t see much of Seattle, but the talks went really well! I recorded a short bonus show on the Cascade Hikers Podcast about it. Ancestral land of the Duamish and Puget Sound Salish.Hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail Presentation- Seattle REI Flagship

My brother and his fiance came to visit from Chicago for my birthday and we had a blast hiking 7 Falls in Bear Canyon and the Arizona Trail near Oracle. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.Shawn and Liz at Seven FallsDucks at Seven Falls

My friends India and Wendy got me the most thoughtful present, a metal print of one of my favorite light painting photos I’ve ever done. This was taken on the Black Bridge on the South Kaibab Trail which crosses the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

IMG_3974

Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge

I started contracting with Southwest Trail Solutions and Westland Resources on a job near the town of Superior to design a multi-user trails system. Gorgeous country out there and it was super-fun to find ways to put a trail through it! Ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odhamSuperior Trail Layout

March

I climbed Baboquivari Peak with my friends Dave Baker, Gary Hervert and we even got Wendy up there! Baboquivari is the center of the ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham.

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

When I heard that Pima County was going to complete The Loop trail system and have a celebration in mid-March, I got the idea to do a promotional urban hike of the trail. I contacted Pima County and Visit Tucson and they were thrilled with the idea. I even got them to fly Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, the Queen of Urban Thru-Hiking, out to join me. Hike the Loop covered all four riverwalks and two greenways of the system, 80 miles in 5 days.

It was a hike that delivered so much more than I’d anticipated. The views, the history and archaeology, art and amenities were all a fantastic part of the experience. We partnered with local restaurants to highlight Tucson’s UNESCO International City of Gastronomy designation, and interviewed people involved with different municipal projects that helped to create The Loop. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.

Liz and Sirena Hike The Loop Finish

Liz and Sirena completing the 80-mile Hike The Loop

Hike The Loop Group Photo

Hike The Loop group hike with Jasmine the Mini-Donkey

We opened the last day of the hike into the completion celebration to the public and it was so rewarding to take these people, many who had never hiked before, on The Loop. We even had Jasmine the Mini-Donkey and Leigh Anne Thrasher along! Please take the time to watch this video, it is one of my very favorite moments of the year. Liz and I got a lot of media attention, you can watch the highlights here.

Joined the list of Badass Women of Tucson, a great series by the Arizona Daily Star. A reporter came out and interviewed Liz and me on The Loop.

I was featured on Coalition Snow’s Tacover Tuesday, where they invite women to talk about their businesses and the outdoors.

The Tusayan Trails Master Plan held a comment period open for 45 days and I ran a public meeting at the end of March for my company Trails Inspire.

I was featured on the She Explores blog: Blaze Your Own Trail, by Hailey Hirst.

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Sirena Rana Dufault on The Loop – Photo Randy Metcalf, Pima County

On March 31st, I started a week-long trip in Grand Canyon from the South Bass Trail to Hermit. That’s the same trip that I tore my calf muscle and had to be evacuated by helicopter on April Fool’s Day 2016. Two years to the day, I was back and walked past the spot without incident. This trip was solo and absolutely wonderful.

IMG_0504

Passing the site of my 2016 helicopter evacuation

Indians in Grand Canyon

Met Hari, a fellow Indian, backpacking deep in the Canyon

Granite Rapid in the Distance - Grand Canyon

 

Grand Canyon Traverse - South Bass to Hermit

Sirena in her natural habitat on a week-long solo trip in Grand Canyon

It also connected up a large piece of the Grand Canyon Traverse for me. Of the 277 river miles, I have now done from Nankoweap at mile 53, to Elves Chasm at mile 117, as well as Tuckup 164 to Toroweap 179.

The Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Paiute, Hualapai, Zuni, White Mountain Apache and Yavapai Apache are all traditionally associated tribes in the Grand Canyon region.

April

After my Grand Canyon trip, I did more trail layout work in Superior with Evan and Neil.

Trails Inspire was featured on The Trail Show, talking about Hike the Loop.

Did a new talk, “From Suburbanite to Adventurer” for Summit Hut Women’s Night, then the next day drove to Silver City, New Mexico to attend the Continental Divide Trail Days event. I gave my presentation on Desert Hiking Tips and Tricks to a packed room. I’ve been told the talk is very good, but a little on the scary side. It’s amazing how comfortable I’ve become in my desert home. Ancestral lands of the Chiricahua Apache.Sirena on the CDTCDT Days Silver City

Swami's presentation on his 12 Long Walks

Cam “Swami” Honan speaking about his 12 Long Walks

May

More trail layout in Superior, trying to get the job done before the sweltering heat.

On May 5th, Hike Like a Girl Day, I appeared on Rosie on the House, a home-improvement radio show that devotes its first hour to the outdoors in Arizona. We had a great time talking about Trails Inspire projects and the Arizona Trail.

The Arizona Office of Tourism and REI sponsored a Force of Nature event and I was invited to speak. Though it was 100 degrees, it was an inspiring event at gorgeous Lost Dutchman State Park. Ancestral land of the Hohokam and Yavapai.

Force of Nature REI Panel

Baby season started at the Wildlife Rehab, makes for long shifts but worth it for the cute! Here’s a collage of my favorite photos of the year with Janet Miller, who runs the facility, in the middle.Top Nine Wildlife Rehab 2018

Did some light painting collaboration in Oracle with my friend Drew at El Rancho Robles.Light Painting at El Rancho Robles

June

I signed my first book contract! Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, coming in Spring 2020 with Wilderness Press. I can hardly believe it, such a dream come true. I have until November 2019 to do the research and writing.Arizona Trail Double Rainbow

The first thing I did after getting my book contract was to get in touch with my friend Cate Bradley. She used to work for the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and is now retired in Silver City. She worked with me to plan out the next year and a half and I am forever grateful.

I also approached the Arizona Office of Tourism for a partnership that would help with my travel expenses while researching the book. They accepted and I am doing several talks and writing a series of articles and social media posts that will be released closer to the publication of the book.

On June 13th, I packed up and left for my first book research trip to the Utah Stateline Trailhead, the Kaibab Plateau, North Rim Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.

It was so much fun, revisiting my favorite parts of the AZT and doing the research and photography. Ancestral lands of the Ute and Kaibab Paiute.Stateline - Sirena on the Arizona Trail

Sirena Arizona Trail Utah Border Obelisk

Arizona National Scenic Trail Obelisk at the Utah Border

In late June, I went back to Chicago because my youngest brother Shawn was getting married and I was the officiant! It was an honor and a beautiful wedding and I’m excited about my new sister-in-law Liz. Ancestral land of the Peoria, Potawatomi and MiamiSirena Officiating Liz and Shawn Rana Wedding

My best friend of 40 years Kristin and I went on a mini-vacation to Wisconsin to go tubing and to the kind of bars where you drive a boat in. Also did some urban night photography.Sirena and Kristin Night Photography

I had a reunion with people I used to work with almost 30 years ago as a video game tip line operator for the Turbo-Grafx 16 video game system. What fun!Turbo Grafx Reunion

July

After 11 days in the Midwest, I was ready to come home. I love my family, but my heart is in the desert.

Monsoon season was welcome, I got quite a surprise to find that hundreds of spadefoot toads were living right outside the place we moved to last year. Their songs on monsoon nights were incredible.Spadefoot Toad

I helped organize a reunion of the Crazies, the trail crew I volunteered on for many years. Many of these guys are in their 70’s and 80s now but some are still doing trail work. We had such a nice time reminiscing and catching up on Mount Lemmon.Crazies Reunion

The second half of July is all about conventions: first, the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism (AZGCOT), then Outdoor Retailer (OR) summer show. I gave a presentation on attracting tourists to your town through trails and my Tusayan Trails Plan at AZGCOT. A highlight was seeing author Roger Naylor receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and then getting to chat with him afterward.

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

Sirena with Debbie Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism

I attended the Spark 2020 conference before OR, it focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and was a great opportunity to meet with others doing this work. I also got to meet some Instagram friends in real life like Karen Ramos from Get Out, Stay Out, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers and Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping. Ancestral lands of the Sioux, Ute, Cheyenne and Arapahoe.

Spark 2020 Conference

Spark 2020 Conference

Love this Outside Magazine cover!

Love this Outside Magazine cover! First thing folks saw as they entered OR. WIth Amanda “Zuul” Jameson, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers and Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping

At OR, I sat on a panel celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Scenic Trails Act. Proud to be representing Trails Inspire and to be called on as an expert on the Arizona Trail and Gateway Community development. It was also the first show where I didn’t have to look for a book deal, because I already have one 🙂

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel at Outdoor Retailer

Meeting with Tanya from Wilderness Press

With Tanya Twerdowsky from my publisher, Wilderness Press

August

Got to canyoneer Willow Canyon with my friend Russell James Newberg. Go check out his amazing paper art!

Willow Canyon - Photo Russell James Newberg

Canyoneering Willow Canyon – Photo Russell James Newberg

I was featured on She Explores podcast, Because Trails Inspire and had a great time talking with Gale Straub about trails, adventures, and my background.

Celebrated 15 years of marriage with Brian!Brian and Sirena Dufault

Did a couple of swimming hikes in Sabino and Tanque Verde Canyons with friends old and new.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon

Sirena and Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

Lydia and me in Tanque Verde Canyon

Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

 

I went up Mount Lemmon with Stina Sieg from KJZZ to film the story that was referenced in the beginning of the blog on diversity in the outdoors.

Gave my Hiking the Arizona Trail talk at the Chandler REI with the Arizona Office of Tourism. They live streamed it and it was so neat to see people checking in from all over the world!

Topped the month off with an overnight in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. It was a wildflower wonderland, I saw over 30 different kinds! Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.Flower Collage 1

September

I saw that the sunflowers were going wild on the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff, so I set out on a road trip to capture them and do more book research. Ancestral lands of the Western Yavapai, Hopi and Apache.Runner with sunflowers - Arizona Trail, Buffalo Park

Outdoor Project included me in their Women in the Wild series, make sure to look at the other women featured, it’s a great list!

Trails Inspire signed the Phase 2 contract for the Tusayan Community Trails Plan, which will largely focus on environmental studies in compliance with federal NEPA regulations, tribal consult through the Kaibab National Forest and an interpretive plan for signage.

The proposed Grand Canyon History Trail will focus on the story of the associated tribes as well as the history of tourism in the region.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan Map - Public Comment

On National Public Lands Day, I went to the Vermilion Cliffs to see the Peregrine Fund release four California Condors. It was majestic to see the massive birds take to the skies, free for the first time.

Visited the Kaibab Plateau to get the first of the fall colors on the Arizona Trail at East Rim Viewpoint. I had hoped that this certain grove of aspen would be changing in Tater Canyon and I hit it just perfectly! Ancestral lands of the Northern Paiute and Ute.East Rim View - Tater Canyon AZT

Then I was back to my favorite place in the world, Grand Canyon. The upper part of the North Kaibab Trail is in the book and I was hoping to get some fall photos there as well. When I arrived they were just starting to change. I had a little time to kill so I went to the Backcountry Office and got a walk-in permit for a night at Bright Angel Campground and one at Cottonwood CG.

Writing in the Hammock

Writing in my hammock

I was so excited, I hadn’t been all the way down the North Kaibab since 2014 and I had such a good time. My friend Ranger Della was down there and we got to catch up. It was so good to visit the Colorado River and Ribbon Falls, soak in Bright Angel Creek and enjoy the marvel that is the 14 miles that make up the North Kaibab Trail.Sirena North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

The last couple of years, I have taken a leisurely approach to hiking out of Grand Canyon and it has made it so much fun! I had seven miles to hike out and 4200 feet of elevation gain. I took ten hours, waking up early and getting on trail at first light to beat the heat, but then taking long breaks, enjoying the scenery, taking photos and videos and savoring the experience.

By the time I hiked out, the leaves had changed on the upper part of the trail and I got the fall color I had come to photograph. What a great bonus trip. Ancestral lands of Northern Paiute and Ute.Fall Colors North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

October

Back to Flagstaff for fall colors on the slopes of Mount Humphreys. I had to run to Tusayan to take care of some business so I stopped by the South Rim Grand Canyon and got to see an inversion. I discovered the timelapse function on my Iphone and caught this dance of mist and light.

I attended the SHIFT conference in Jackson, Wyoming and got to meet some other people doing work on diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. Also got to see the Tetons for the first time and was lucky enough to have Jaylyn Gough from Native Women’s Wilderness take me out to see the sunrise in the park. Ancestral lands of the Cheyenne, Eastern Shoshone and Shoshone-Bannock.

SHIFT Conference

SHIFT Conference Emerging Leaders Program

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

For Halloween, I did a solo overnight bushwhack to Table Mountain in the Catalinas and transformed into a butterfly on the summit. Tough hike full of spiny and painful plants but worth it to see the views.

A woman in a skirt carries a large backpack with butterfly wings on top of a mountain

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

November

The Arizona Office of Tourism sponsored a trip to Minneapolis and I gave two talks on Hiking the AZT at the REI flagship location. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a tour of Paisley Park, Prince’s estate. He was such a talented musician and I really enjoyed the experience. Ancestral lands of the Dakota/Sioux and Anishinaabe.

REI Minneapolis

REI Minneapolis

Wrote a retrospective of this blog on the 9-year anniversary of Sirena’s Wanderings with my favorite photos and hikes.

Spent some of the month organizing the book research and photos that I’d completed so far and writing.

Took an impromptu trip to Aravaipa Canyon for fall colors and was thrilled to get this photo.Aravaipa Canyon

Joined Women Who Hike for a group event at the Linda Vista Trail and Summit Hut. Fun to meet like-minded ladies!

Women Who Hike - Traci Edwards Photo

Women Who Hike – Traci Edwards Photo

December

Traveled to Tusayan for a Stakeholders meeting for my trails plan and had to go see the snow covered Grand Canyon. It was super cold (9 degrees at night!) so it was a short trip.Snow at Grand Canyon South Rim

Continued to write and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken so far during the book research process.

Headed down to the Mexican border to surprise Art “Karts” Huesonica at the end of his record setting Arizona Trail hike. He did a calendar year Yo-yo: hiked it northbound in the spring, and southbound in the fall, a distance of 1600 miles!Karts AZT Yo-yo Finish

Watched the Geminid meteor shower from the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson and got some fun light painting shots.Light Painting in the Saguaros

Spent four days in the Copper Corridor on the Arizona Trail hiking and researching the book. I was shocked to see how many wildflowers are blooming, even poppies!Gila River Canyons Flowers AZT

What a year! Thanks to all who have followed along. For years, I’ve said, “This is the year I’m going to write a book”, and I’m so grateful that it has now become a reality.

 

 

 

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Exciting announcement: I just signed my first book contract!

To the Arizona Trail - Writer Sirena Rana Dufault

For the next year and a half I will be researching and writing a book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, for Wilderness Press. It will have 26 of the best day hikes on the Arizona Trail combined with lots of interpretive information and photos of the views, history, plants, and more. Each day hike is connected to one of the Gateway Communities for post-hike eats, lodging and other fun things to do in the area.
Arizona Trail Sign - Picketpost Trailhead

Arizona Trail Sign at Picketpost Trailhead near the Gateway Community of Superior

I have wanted to write this book for years! I always get questions about people wanting to go on the AZT that are intimidated by choosing where to hike. The book will have hikes for all seasons and a wide range of difficulty levels from novice to expert. It will also be a resource for people just getting into the outdoors with info on what to bring and desert hiking tips and tricks.

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park in the Gateway Community of Flagstaff

Thrilled to be creating a resource that will make it easy to experience this wonderful long-distance trail and its communities without having to do the whole 800 miles.

Now it’s time to get to work! I won’t have a lot of time to post on this blog but I’ll be sharing photos and video of my research process as I go along on my Instagram @desertsirena and the Trails Inspire Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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