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Posts Tagged ‘2011’

What a year this has been- it’s always fun to take a look back at the highlights. If you’re a regular reader, don’t worry- I’ve added a lot of new pictures and videos. Click on the links to go to the original posts.

In January, I volunteered to lead an Arizona Trail trailbuilding crew on a project to reroute the trail off a pipeline road north of Oracle. I started the year with a hike of Agua Caliente Hill and Agua Caliente/La Milagrosa Canyons on the east side of Tucson.

The crew by the lone saguaro

Agua Caliente Hill Trail

La Milagrosa Canyon

My bushwhack to Thimble Peak via Bear Canyon and returning down the gully to Tram Stop 9 in Sabino Canyon was one of my favorite hikes of the year. It had it all- waterfalls, a challenging bushwhack, scramble, and climb to an iconic peak with outstanding views.

Thimble Peak Summit

February started out with a scramble up Battleship Mountain in the Superstitions:

Battleship Mountain

For my birthday, I visited The Wave at the Arizona/Utah border with a carload of fellow shutterbugs- big thanks to Wendy the Permit Whisperer:

The Wave- photo by Angela Romain

Another of my favorite adventures was climbing Weaver’s Needle in the Superstitions. I have admired this spire for years and thanks to my friend Kent Lawrence, I was able to stand on top! Someday, I have to get back up there to spend the night at the sweet little campsite.

Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle

Free Rappel

In March, I kept things local and worked on finishing the trails in the Catalinas. I backpacked a Ventana Canyon Trail to Esperero Trail hike and one from Pima Canyon to Ventana Canyon in the front range. One of my goals for 2012 is to finish off the remaining trails. I also took a trip to the south side of the Santa Ritas for a Gardner Canyon-Wrightson-Crest Tr.- Cave Canyon loop with my friend Chris Forsyth. I feel fortunate to have such good trails for Grand Canyon conditioning here in Tucson.

Santa Ritas and Little Kimball from the Esperero Trail

Near the head of Ventana Canyon

View looking down at Gardner Canyon

April started out with a return to the Royal Arch Route in the Grand Canyon, but this time via Point Huitzil with Chris and Wendy- a trip memorable not only for its rich ancient history and scenery, but also for weather that changed every five minutes and one of the worst sandblastings I’ve endured to date. At least it made for great pictures!

Top of the descent- Royal Arch Creek below

So many layers of petroglyphs

Majestic Fan Island

I hiked the Oracle Ridge-Red Ridge loop and got to see One Park Place. I also did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time- a solo hike from the summit of Mount Lemmon to Catalina State Park in one day via the Romero Trail. Aspens to saguaros in one hike- I love Tucson!

Catalina Camp aka One Park Place

Arizona Trail near Romero Pass

In May, I threw my very first event for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson- the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance benefit. It raised $1000 for the birds and small animals at the wildlife rehab. Look forward to the second annual event this spring! A big thanks goes to my husband Brian for being such a big help with the event and for being supportive of my many adventures.

Gina -photo by Mike Bieke

After the fundraiser, I got to see the Grand Canyon again, but from a totally different perspective of volunteering for 12 days on an Arizona Game and Fish survey on the Colorado River. I fell in love with the Grand Canyon all over again- it was life-changing awesome.

Incredible views abound at every turn

Olo Canyon Waterfall- I got to wake up to this beautiful view

June was a bit of a bummer, as usually happens after an epic experience. Plus, Arizona was on fire and restrictions in the Coronado National Forest went into effect. But before it did, Wendy and I visited Lemmon Pools, which were very low. I was grumpy and did a little bit of wandering in the Tortolitas.

July 7th the fire restrictions were lifted and I took my floatie to Tanque Verde Falls and Romero Pools. Sadly, it was a very dry monsoon season and there was not a lot of swimming happening this summer. I spent a lot of time this summer hiking near the town of Catalina- there’s tons of rock formations, history, and an extensive network of  trails to explore beneath Samaniego Ridge. I saw a baby desert tortoise, one of my favorite wildlife sightings ever! Here’s a video:

In August, Brian and I camped in the Pinalenos and got a respite from the heat. I did a long, hot dayhike of the Palisades Trail to Prison Camp and I satisfied my thirst for swimming at Frog Hollow and Aravaipa Canyon, where I took my favorite video of the year:

Arcadia CG and the Swift Trail in the Pinalenos

Best seat at Frog Hollow!

Sabino Canyon from Palisades Trail

In September, I was offered a part-time job with the Arizona Trail Association as their Gateway Community Liaison. I get to travel and promote the trail to the 25 communities along the Arizona Trail. I feel so lucky to have been chosen for this position! And I get to drive the Arizona Trail Bronco:

Me and the Arizona Trail Bronco

October, I visited Cochise Stronghold for a night on the trail (literally!) and ventured outside of Arizona with Brian for a visit to San Diego. We went sea kayaking into the cave in the picture.  At the end of the month, I was in the Tonto Basin for Arizona Trail work and also summited Picketpost Mountain.

What a view!

La Jolla Sea Cave

The mailbox atop Picketpost

I got to see November’s fall colors on the Canada del Oro Trail, which has been cleared by the Forest Service since my write-up. I also did a threefer of Catalina trails on an overnight backpack: Green Mountain, Bug Spring, and Soldier Trail.

I found the gold in the Canada del Oro!

Sunset on the Bug Springs Trail

In the beginning of December I took an 8-day Wilderness First Responder Certification class. It was incredibly intense and I learned a lot that I hope I never have to use in the field. On December 16th, I got to attend the completion ceremony of the Arizona Trail– what an honor that was to be able to participate in building the last little connecting piece of trail! I so look forward to the day when I can make a thru-hike happen and experience the now-continuous path across the state.

Volunteers and agency partners finish up the final piece of trail

I also hiked the Pontatoc Canyon Trail and neighboring Peak 5783, a fun bushwhack despite the very healthy shindagger population.

Pontatoc Canyon from Peak 5783

For the second year in a row, I have logged all my hikes on www.hikearizona.com and here are the stats: 572 miles hiked with 105,000 feet of elevation gained, plus immeasurable fun and excitement. I am looking forward to 2012- I have some trips planned already, but some of my favorite adventures are ones that happen spur-of-the moment.

I am so grateful for all the people who donated this year to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson via this blog or the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance event. The rehab is entirely self-supported and every cent counts. I have enjoyed sharing the critters at the rehab with my readers- here’s some of my favorites from this year:

Baby Ringtail

Baby Black-Crowned Night Heron

This is what the baby Raccoon thinks of our food offerings

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk

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Looking back at Lava Falls Rapid

I was fortunate enough to land a volunteer spot on a fish survey in the Grand Canyon conducted by Arizona Game and Fish. I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail on May 17th, excited about what the next 12 days would bring. At Pipe Creek, the four of us that hiked down were met by two small powerboats and we were shuttled a short distance to our camp on river right. I was surprised at the small size of the crew: four boatmen, three scientists and one other volunteer. Our campsite had a great view of Plateau Point and we watched people come out for the sunset. We also spotted a condor, still gigantic even though it was up at the Tapeats level.  We rotated so that there was always one person who had the night off, and I was the first in rotation. Since I had the night off I had to help the cook prepare dinner. Dinner was quite the lavish affair- ribs with potatoes and strawberry poundcake complete with whipped cream for dessert. Much different from my usual backpacking fare of something rehydrated eaten out of a freezer bag! I was a little nervous about the next day- my first time ever on a river running rapids and we had some big ones coming up.

Spring flowers on the Bright Angel Trail

Strawberry poundcake with whipped cream for dessert- not my usual Grand Canyon fare

Well, the weather for my first big day of rapids was less than ideal- rainy and overcast. I got suited up and took my seat on the science boat with the two women scientists Pilar and Robin. I had been nervous before the trip about who was going to be driving my boat. That was, until I realized that the person driving my boat has more nights on the river in the Grand Canyon than any other boatman. Brian Dierker has been on the river for four decades and almost every boatman that we passed on the trip knew him. He provides boat support for scientific trips of all kinds in the Canyon. He also provides marine services for movies, which led to him being cast as Rainey (half of the California hippie couple) in the movie Into the Wild. A big guy with an even bigger personality, we hit it off immediately and I knew I was in good hands.

Suited up for some big rapids on a rainy day

We had 20 miles of river to cover, from Pipe Creek to the South Bass area. The river was running at 23,000 cfs, quite a bit higher than usual. Horn Creek Rapid was up first- I held on as the boat bounced up and down and I got sprayed with icy Colorado River water. Our next big rapid was Hermit, and it was one of the best of the entire trip. There are five waves in succession and the fifth one was gigantic- what a ride! I am a giant fan of roller-coasters and other amusement park rides, but this beat them all! The higher levels had made even the boatmen impressed with Hermit and we all whooped and cheered with giant smiles on our faces. Nervousness about the rapids was gone, and I had a blast running Granite and Crystal, which were kind of washed out from the high flows. We floated by the mouths of all the Gems and made camp at the mouth of Hotauta Canyon. It blew my mind how fast river travel is versus backpacking. It would have taken me 60 trail miles and a week of hiking to travel by the Tonto Trail. The most fun rapid of the trip was Lava, by a long shot. What a ride that was! Even better was watching our tiny powerboats take on the massive water.

Here we go! Horn Creek Rapid is up first

Hermit Rapids- one of the most fun of the whole trip

Brrr!!

Lava Falls Rapid

How'd you feel about Lava, Brian?

Big smiles after the best ride of the trip

We had time in the afternoon to take a nap before having dinner and going to work in the evening. I was too excited to nap, so I hiked a little way up Hotauta Canyon. The canyon is right across from Tyndall Dome and the South Bass/Tonto trail intersection, where I’d been just 6 weeks before. I could see my favorite point camp high above, just an undercut shelf of rock hanging over the Tapeats cliffs. I returned back to camp for dinner and then changed into my raingear for my first night of fishing.

View downstream from Hotauta Canyon

Looking up at my Tonto point campsite from last October- the rocks jutting out on the left

When I’d signed up for the volunteer position, I read that I was going to be night electrofishing. I’d had the process explained to me a couple of times, but it was hard to imagine- now I was going to finally see for myself. Mind you, before this trip I had never even fished with a fishing pole. I was paired with Clay, one of the scientists, and Joe, the boatman who would be driving the powerboat. At 8:30 pm, we started fishing. The boat was equipped with a generator that ran the electrical current via two large silver balls into the water. The boat swept the shoreline, and as the current hit the water, the fish would surface for just a second before sinking or swimming away. I had to catch the fish with my net before it sunk or the boat pulled away, then turn and put it in a cooler filled with water behind me.  Definitely something that took a little practice- it was kind of like a game of Whack-a-Mole. It was hard not to get distracted looking at the moonlit canyon sometimes. After 5 minutes of fishing, we measured and tagged the fish before releasing them back into the river. We repeated this 15 times per night and it usually took us until 1 or 2 in the morning to finish. After we got back from fishing, we’d usually hang out talking on the boats for a while before going to bed. But no matter how late we stayed up, once the sun came over the cliffs at around 7 am, we were all awakened by the hot sun.

Ready for a night of fishing

Netting a fish

Flannelmouth Sucker

Tradition holds that everyone must kiss a flannie

In the morning, we loaded up the two big boats so that they could move downstream toward our next camp. Then we drove back in the powerboats to where we fished to do habitat descriptions of our segments and mark them on the map. It was great to be able to go upstream and see the same area in the light after having fished it the night before. We had a map made of aerial photographs of when the river was running at 8,000 cfs and it was interesting to see how much of the beaches and shoreline was underwater at almost three times the flow. After habitat description, we’d catch up with the larger boats and transfer onto them to run the rest of the way to camp. (we weren’t allowed to ride in the powerboats through the larger rapids) Part of our work also included fishing with poles for catfish three times a day for 20 minutes. After we set up camp, we usually had about four hours to nap, hike, and eat before going to work in the evening and the whole cycle started over again.

Ever-changing scenery

To go into detail about every day would take a novel-length blog entry, so I’ll just hit on some of the highlights and point you to the full set of my pictures for more detail. One of my favorite parts of the trip was how easy it was to get to interesting hiking destinations. The boatmen would take us in the powerboats and pick us up a couple of hours later. The beautiful narrows of Blacktail and National Canyons were just a 15 minute walk away. My favorite hiking destination of the trip was definitely Havasu Canyon. I had never seen the turquoise waters and it was truly breathtaking. We hiked up until we found a good pool and I inflated my floatie and went for a fantastic float. The rest of the group hiked on, but I stayed in the pool and had the place to myself for 20 delicious minutes.

National Canyon

What a sight- the turquoise waters of Havasu Creek

Me, Nick, Robin, and Pilar

Using the floatie in Havasu Creek

Grand Canyon Pink or Speckled Rattler? Either way, it was really angry!

Desert Spiny Lizard

Ruins near Deer Creek

Because ours was a scientific trip, we had to use smaller and less desirable campsites and leave the nice big ones to the private and commercial trips. We also couldn’t stop at Elves Chasm or Deer Creek because there were already groups there. (Good thing I’d been to Elves recently!)  The high water had also drowned a lot of the real estate on the river, but we were always able to find a spit of sand to spread out on. My favorite camp of the trip was in Olo Canyon. There was a perfect waterfall with a pool for my floatie and I got to go to sleep lulled by the sound of the cascade.  I was lucky enough to be able to sleep under the stars on a comfy cot all but two nights.

Olo Canyon Waterfall- I got to wake up to this beautiful view

Sand Verbena

I just adored the river life- it was so much fancier than backpacking! The food alone- there is a reason that river trips are called a “float and bloat”.  The ever-present sound of the river was fantastic and it was so nice to have access to water that didn’t have to be carried on my back. The only unfortunate thing that I didn’t anticipate was that I felt like I was on the river, even when I was not. I had all sorts of issues with my equilibrium, which made hiking interesting. I would wake up and feel like my cot was floating on the river. Even when I came back from the trip, for several days my inner ear was convinced I was still on the boat.

Majestic views abound at every turn

Day 11 and I look so clean! Way different than backpacking.

I am so glad that I got to experience the river in the Grand Canyon for the first time on a small scientific trip with a very experienced crew. I saw the large commercial trips float by, packed with 16 people to a boat and considered myself very fortunate. I enjoyed everyone’s company and learning about the fish was very interesting.

Back row: Brian Smith, Clay, Pilar, Joe Front row: Robin, me, Nick, Brian Dierker, Stevie J

Diamond Peak

Diamond Creek- where the trip ends for me, Pilar, Clay and Nick.

End of my first trip on the river- now when can I come back?

I encourage you to check out my full set of pictures on my Picasa account by clicking the picture below- I’ve added captions describing my trip in greater detail:

Grand Canyon River Trip May 2011

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news: It is baby season at Wildife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson and we’ve had everything from hatchling ducks to baby hawks and owls of all sizes, plus a very tiny and cute ringtail cat. There’s too much cuteness to choose from so I’ll include several pictures in this entry. Your donation goes toward feeding, housing, and providing medical care.

Baby ringtail

Baby Cooper's Hawk

Bunches of inch-long baby quail

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Birds, Blues and Bellydance Benefit

Only two weeks left until the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Benefit- hope to see you there! If you can’t make it to the event and would like to donate either by mail or PayPal, click this link. At Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this week, we’ve see a population explosion of baby bunnies, squirrels, songbirds, and this guy, a baby Black-Crowned Night Heron with a particularly fantastic hairdo:

Baby Black-Crowned Night Heron

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