Posts Tagged ‘arizona trail’

It’s time for the annual look back on my adventures, thanks to all who continue to read along! I haven’t updated the blog as much recently, and putting this retrospective together I can see why- it certainly was a busy year. If you’d like more frequent updates on my wanderings, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena.

I started out the year leading a hike on the Arizona Trail for the BEYOND Tucson event that celebrates community, health and the outdoors to commemorate the people affected by the Safeway shootings in 2011.

Emily Nottingham at the Gabe Zimmerman Memorial

Emily Nottingham at the Gabe Zimmerman Memorial

I went snowshoeing on Mount Lemmon for the first time with my friend Leigh Anne. It was tougher than I had expected and a fun change of pace.


Snowshoeing Mount Lemmon

Introducing Roscoe to hiking and camping has been a delight- he’s quite the rock hopper and absolutely adorable!




Roscoe and Petroglyphs, Tortolita Mountains

February started out with a very cold backpacking trip with the Donkeybelles on one of my favorite parts of the Arizona Trail from Picketpost Trailhead to Kelvin. Temps got down to 20 degrees and even Jasmine the Mini-Donkey was chilly!

Jasmine approaches the high saddle

Jasmine approaches the high saddle

Last year, I made the decision to spend more time at the Grand Canyon and commit myself to section-hiking the length of it. I hiked in on my 42nd birthday for a five day trip with friends who had never been to the Canyon before. It was the most amazing way to spend my birthday and I took one of my favorite pictures of all time that night on the Black Bridge. We spent two days in the Clear Creek area before hiking back to Bright Angel and out. When I returned, Brian, Roscoe and I spent a day in Catalina State Park to celebrate.


Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge


Zoroaster Temple

The wildflowers were pretty good this year and I got some quality time for photography near Kelvin and Superior. I also led a hike for the Legends of Superior Trails Fest where I got this awesome shot of a horseback rider and her dog.dsc04085dsc04424

In March, I organized the first annual Arizona Trail Days in Page and took the opportunity to do some exploring around Marble Canyon. I hiked Jackass Canyon and camped on the rim.

Looking down on the big pouroff

Looking down on the big pouroff in Jackass Canyon

Badger Rapid

Badger Rapid

I hiked the first three days of the Arizona Trail with Warrior Expeditions, a program that helps veterans with PTSD “walk off the war” by putting them on long-distance trails. It was awesome to meet them at the Utah border two months later. I also participated in a webinar panel for American Trails on outdoor programs for veterans.


Warrior Expeditions – Arizona Trail nearing the Utah border

At the end of the month, I hiked into the Grand Canyon again for a 6-day trip from South Bass to Hermit that would connect my line from Tanner to Elves Chasm. That didn’t quite go as planned…


Rainbow – Photo by India Hesse

April 1st started out great, I woke up in the Canyon and was feeling strong. We hiked the Tonto Trail, weaving in and out of drainages. I was on a flat part of the trail when all of a sudden I felt a “pop” in my left calf muscle. Unfortunately, I had a partial tear of the muscle that prevented me from hiking uphill. After some evaluation, I decided to press the SOS button on my DeLorme InReach for evacuation. It was astounding how quickly they responded- the helicopter was there only an hour after getting the call from dispatch.


This is my sad face because my trip is over and I’m waiting for the helicopter


At least the views from the chopper were spectacular! Scorpion Ridge at left.

I was told that I needed to be off the leg for six weeks before I could hike again, and thus began the long road to recovery. I had to first rest, then build the muscle back up while making sure that there wasn’t a bunch of scar tissue. I found solace in the fact that the outdoors didn’t need to be epic to be enjoyable.


Riding with Carrie in the Santa Ritas

One of my favorite characters I wrote an article about this year was Jack Mahler, first person to unicycle the Arizona Trail. Yes, I said unicycle!IMG_4292-0

At the end of April I was feeling up to a short hike to meet my friends Bonnie and Lynn as they finished their section-ride of the Arizona Trail. So proud of these two, Bonnie is the oldest woman to complete the trail and Lynn is the only person to have ridden the AZT twice!


Lynn and Bonnie on their last mile

In May, I got to support a group who had won a contest with Sierra Magazine for a backpacking trip on the Arizona Trail south of the Grand Canyon. The purpose of the trip was to research threats to the Canyon such as development, mining and deforestation to highlight them for a future article. We met with many groups that are trying to protect it including the Sierra Club’s Greater Grand Canyon National Heritage Monument campaign, Save the Confluence and Grand Canyon Trust as well as officials from Grand Canyon National Park. I was supposed to backpack with them, but my leg wasn’t up to it yet so I was the support crew and then took them on a couple of short dayhikes at the Canyon. If you haven’t already, please head over and sign the petition for President Obama to create the Monument at www.greatergrandcanyon.org. The Sierra Magazine article will be out next year and you can see a preview of the trip here.


Renae Yellowhorse from Save the Confluence


South Kaibab Sunset


Starry night at Grandview with author Jason Mark

In June the heat was outrageous so I headed either for places with higher elevations, water or both. Roscoe and I hiked the Marshall-Aspen loop and saw a bear!


Hammock Dog


Oracle Ridge Sunset

I put in for an ambitious Grand Canyon permit for 23 days in October and got the itinerary I wanted. Now I was really going to have to train and get me and my leg in shape! I joined the local YMCA and spent a lot of time training in the pool and with weights. I also took up dancing two times a week.

Work travels took me to Pine and I camped on the Mogollon Rim at Milk Ranch Point after making a stop to feed the baby goats at Fossil Creek Creamery.

Fossil Creek Creamery Kid

Fossil Creek Creamery Kid

At the end of the month I decided it was time to take the leg for its first backpacking trip into Aravaipa Canyon’s East entrance for two nights. The scenery was sublime, the heat was bearable, the bugs were awful. But we saw fireflies so it was all worth it!


Aravaipa Canyon


Aravaipa Camp


Night time in Aravaipa

By July it had been four months since my injury and I tested it with a trip up Mount Wrightson, which went great! Love that peak.


Feels so good to have made it up the 4000 ft climb up Wrightson – my first big hike since injuring my leg in April

I went to the Grand Canyon after working in Flagstaff and caught some great photos of the Fuller Fire that raged on the North Rim.

Looking at the Fuller Fire on the North Rim from the Grandview Trail

Fuller Fire from Grandview Trail

Finally found time to hike Red Mountain on the way back from the Canyon- what a wonderful place that is! Great rock formations and volcanic landscape.

Red Mountain

Red Mountain

I did some travel outside of Arizona in August- first to Salt Lake City to attend the Outdoor Retailer trade show. What a whirlwind of gear, food, and adventurous folks- I loved it! Got a short hike in at Cecret Lake.


Cecret Lake Trail

Later in the month, I presented at the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum in Pinetop on the economic benefits of trails. Camped during the Perseid meteor shower and got this fun long-exposure shot:

Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid Meteor Shower

I canyoneered down Willow Canyon in the Catalinas with some friends, always a special thing to rappel through rainbows down waterfalls.

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon 3rd Rappel

Tried my hand at storm-chasing during the monsoons in search of a good lightning shot. After many many tries, I got this gem- it took my breath away when I saw it for the first time!dsc07211

I did a series of talks about the Arizona Trail at the four Chicago-area REI locations during a trip to visit my family. It was fun to expose new people to the trail, connect with folks I hadn’t seen in years and for my family to see what I do. Got some kayaking in on Lake Michigan and the Fox River.


Kayaking Lake Michigan with Kristin, my closest friend for 38 years

In September I was in Flagstaff organizing Arizona Trail Days weekend and went on a short hike to see the gorgeous yellow carpet of flowers.

Mormon Lake Flowers

Mormon Lake Flowers

I did a shakedown hike on the Canada del Oro – Red Ridge loop to test out my gear for my big trip and a friend of mine placed my cache buckets in the Canyon during a river trip. After October, they were picked up by two other river trips. I am so fortunate to have the Canyon community to help plan and execute my section hike of the Canyon.

Bucket Caches

Bucket Caches

View from Red Ridge

Looking down the overgrown Red Ridge with the Reef of Rock to the left and Oracle Ridge to the right

October was all about the Grand Canyon! What was supposed to be 23 straight days ended up being one 8-day and one week long trip. It was just good to be out in such a remote area, seeing new parts of this endlessly fascinating place. I can’t wait to see more.

Scarlet Monkeyflower

Scarlet Monkeyflower in Kanab Creek

Flipoff Route rim exit with bonus ominous bighorn skull

Flipoff Route


Full Moon and The Dome

BIG pothole under Big Point

BIG pothole under Big Point

It was a real treat to be there for the finish of Heather “Anish” Anderson’s Fastest Known Time on the Arizona Trail. She completed the whole 800 miles in just 19 days, 7 hours and 9 minutes. What an accomplishment! Read an article about it that I wrote for Gossamer Gear’s blog here.

Anish FKT Finish

Anish Finishes the AZT FKT!

Sadly, Roscoe came down with Parvovirus and almost died, despite having been current on his vaccinations. We had to administer subcutaneous fluids at home and he didn’t eat for over a week. Thankfully, he made a complete recovery, but it was a really tough 10 days.

In November I chased fall colors in Ash Creek in the Galiuro Mountains and was rewarded with a rainbow of maples!

Happy to be in the maples!

Happy to be in the maples!

The One by Gossamer Gear

The One by Gossamer Gear

Roscoe and I went on our first backpacking trip together, just a couple of miles into the Tortolitas on Thanksgiving.


Roscoe’s first backpacking trip!

Toward the end of the month, I wasn’t feeling quite right. I was tired and my muscles were really sore and sensitive. It took me a while to realize that I was having a fibromyalgia flare. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the neurotransmitters, I hadn’t had a flare in 10 years. I am still feeling the effects but I am trying to stay active and positive and hope that it will pass soon. No picture to illustrate it, because it is an invisible condition.

December brought me to the town of Cottonwood to do a presentation on economic benefits of trails and advise them on their trails master plan. It was my first time representing Trails Inspire, my new consulting company for trails and communities. I am very excited about this new venture and am in the process of launching the website and social media sites. I will forever appreciate the five years I spent working for the Arizona Trail Association as their Gateway Community Liaison and I am very proud of how the trail has grown in popularity and been embraced by the communities as a result of my work. I will still be working to promote trails through my writing and public speaking as well as consulting communities on how best to connect their residents and visitors to the outdoors.

Old Town Jail Trail, Cottonwood

Old Town Jail Trail, Cottonwood

I took one last trip to the Grand Canyon with my dad and my nephew Gage and the first thing he said was, “I want to go down there- can we come back and go backpacking?” Music to my ears! Saw one of the most spectacular sunsets ever from Desert View, click to enlarge the photo to get the full effect.


Desert View Sunset, Grand Canyon

To cap the year off, I went on a Christmas hike with Brian, Gage and Roscoe near Catalina and hiked the Sabino-Bear Canyon loop with rushing water and an impressive flow at 7 Falls.

Feeling Festive

Feeling Festive!


Brian and Me

West Fork and Cathedral

West Fork Sabino Canyon and Cathedral Rock

7 Falls

7 Falls

The coming year is going to be an exciting one and I am looking forward to more time working on my section hike through the Grand Canyon and my new business venture. Big thanks to all the folks I’ve hiked with this year, my husband Brian and parents for being so supportive, to Gossamer Gear for providing me with gear for my adventures and to my readers and followers on social media. Happy New Year to all!


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REI ChicagoThis week, I’m headed to Chicago for a visit with family with an added bonus- an Arizona Trail speaking tour at all four REI locations! I’m excited to return to share my tour of the trail, stories from my two hikes of the AZT and tips for planning your own adventure. Come learn why this 800-mile trail is one of the top destinations in the Southwest for hikers, bikers, runners, and equestrians.

When I was growing up in Roselle, a northwest suburb of Chicago, I never would have imagined that I’d be returning in my forties for a speaking tour about the wonderful adventures I’ve had. It’s going to be so fun to see family and friends at my presentations!

Here are the dates and registration links. All talks are from 6:30-8:30 pm. Hope to see you there!

August 23rd – REI Schaumburg:


August 24th – REI Oakbrook:


August 25th – REI Chicago:


August 26th – REI Northbrook:


Tater Canyon

Tater Canyon

Throw one for me!

Santa Ritas

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

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Two months ago on April 1st, I had a partial tear in my calf muscle while backpacking in the Grand Canyon and had to be helicoptered out. I’ve gotten some messages from readers asking how my leg is doing, so here’s the lengthy update.


Back on the Arizona Trail near the Utah border

The first two weeks were the worst: I was told by my doctor to stay off of the leg and elevate and ice it. I hardly knew what to do with myself. The leg was sore and weak and it hurt to put weight on it, so I limped around. This caused all sorts of compensatory problems in other parts of my body, not fun. I tried not to go crazy while resting my leg and staring at the mountains I was supposed to stay off of.

It’s been 10 years since my last major Fibromyalgia flare, but I was really worried that the inactivity plus the injury would throw me into one. The number one way that I have staved off the effects of my Fibro is through movement and my body was not at all happy with the change. I have a spot in my back I call my “Fibro spot” and it flares up when things are bad with the rest of my body. It flared up. Thankfully massage and stretching helped things and I never went into a full-body flare. (It feels like a really bad case of the flu- achy, no energy, and extreme sensitivity to pain.)

I managed to get out a little bit, took my nephew to Canyon Lake to go boating and to Oracle for the weekend.Mr. Boat Driver Man Chase

Canyon Lake with Weaver's Needle just right of center

Canyon Lake with Weaver’s Needle just right of center


Stayed at this cute little cabin at Arizona Zipline Adventures

I spent some time helping out some hikers, it was a little sad to not be able to hike and instead have to sit in a chair on the trail with my leg up. I also tracked down unicyclist Jack Mahler to do an interview- he finished the entire Arizona Trail in 23 days!

Jack Mahler unicycling the AZT

I limped around Silver City, NM for the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff- what a fun event! I got to sit on a panel for a discussion about thru-hiking and the town was filled with people excited to start their journey on the CDT. Many of them said they’d be heading for the AZT for their next trail.


CDT Thru-hikers Panel – photo by Dave “Elusive” Roberts

The day after the Silver City event, two weeks after the injury, I woke up and wasn’t limping anymore. That really helped, to be able to return to my regular stride. Definitely won’t be taking that for granted anytime soon. I was cleared for level hiking and was so happy to be able to get out in the desert. I stopped with a friend at the Wilcox Playa Wildlife Area on the way back from Silver City. I hadn’t been since I walked across the playa, a dry lakebed that made for crazy mirages, for an archaeological survey in the late 90s. It was a little disappointing to learn that walking across the playa itself is closed due to unexploded ordnance from bomb testing.

The latest in desert headwear – Photo by Jonathon Stalls

Even though my hikes were short, they were still filled with such beauty and wildlife encounters. It’s so good just to be out there! I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk take down a packrat and got this great photo.


Red-Tailed Hawk and its prey

Then I was out on a walk in a wash near my house when I saw a Tarantula Hawk dragging a Tarantula across the desert.

Tarantula Hawk and its unfortunate victim


While on a short hike on the AZT near Oracle, I saw a roadrunner dart out of the brush, only to have a Cooper’s Hawk swoop in and attack it! Luckily the roadie escaped minus a couple of tail feathers.
 We took Roscoe for a short camping trip into the Tortolitas, where I found petroglyphs!

Petroglyphs and Moonrise

My friends Bonnie Slaten and Lynn Maring finished section-riding the AZT on horseback and I was so glad to be well enough to hike up the Bug Springs Trail a ways to meet up with their final miles and take photos of this historic event. Bonnie at 75 is the oldest woman to ride the AZT and Lynn is the only person to have ridden it twice! These ladies are the definition of true grit. I’ve so enjoyed being a part of their journey, we’ve spent countless hours talking trail and logistics.

Happy to be back on trail!

Lynn and Bonnie on their final miles

The desert has been full of gorgeous wildflowers and cactus blooms.


I have been gradually ramping up the difficulty and length of my hikes while doing a lot of stretching and switching up my exercise with horseback riding and dance (but not at the same time).

Carrie Miracle-Jordan riding the Santa Rita Foothills

There’s been a lot of traveling for work with a little hiking thrown in for good measure. I was fortunate to be there for the Warrior Hike completion at the Utah border. Two months ago, I hiked with veterans David and Jordan on their first days from the Mexico border. It was so wonderful to see how they had been changed by their experiences and share the joy of finishing such a momentous journey. My leg was even healed enough for me to hike up the 22 switchbacks from the Utah border to meet them.

 I made my return to the Grand Canyon- it was good to see her again, even though our last date had been cut unexpectedly short. There I met up with folks who had won a sweepstakes with Island Press to backpack with author Jason Mark, editor of Sierra Magazine, on the Arizona Trail on the Coconino Rim.  We spent the day exploring the Canyon’s rim and caught a wonderful sunset on the South Kaibab Trail. Then it was over to Grandview, chasing the almost-full moon.

South Kaibab Sunset



Starry night at Grandview

During the Island Press trip, we met with Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club to discuss current threats to the Grand Canyon including the Escalade tram project at the Little Colorado River Confluence and uranium mining. I was honored to meet Renae Yellowhorse, who is running for Navajo Chapter Vice-President and is at the forefront of Save the Confluence, and hear her speak about what these sacred places mean to her and her family. Read here about the upcoming vote on the Escalade and how you can write letters and make phone calls to oppose the development.

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado Confluence

Renae Yellowhorse and me

At the Canyon, we met with the Deputy Superintendent, Brian Drapeaux. At the end of the meeting, I was talking with Emily Davis, the park’s spokeswoman about doing a talk about the Arizona Trail on the rim. “Absolutely, she said, “and how about doing one at Phantom?” I could hardly believe my ears. It was all I could do to keep it together and say yes. Me doing the Phantom Ranch Ranger Program? It’s like being asked to play Madison Square Garden or Carnegie Hall, as far as I’m concerned!

Hello Grand Canyon- it’s great to be back! Photo by Rebecca Bright

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, I got approved for an amazing backcountry permit for October, but that’s a whole blog entry in itself!

So that’s the lengthy answer to “How’s the leg?”

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I’m not sure how it got to be almost April without a blog post, but I’m back! So much to catch up on, I’ve been traveling all over the place for work and play. For more frequent updates, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena.

Looking down on the big pouroff

One of my recent adventures –  Jackass Canyon

I love taking my friends and family to see the Grand Canyon for the first time.  While on a trip in Olympic National Park last year, I found out that my friend Grant had never backpacked in the Canyon before and I said I’d enjoy being the one to remedy that problem. Things lined up for me to hike into the Grand Canyon on my birthday, February 16th, for two nights in Clear Creek with a night at Bright Angel Campground on either side. We invited Ryan from Maine, who I’d met in Moab last year, and hoped for good weather.


The route we took – map courtesy of Wilderness Vagabond

We stayed in Tusayan and got a leisurely start after catching up at breakfast with my friend Li Brannfors, who Ryan (aka Guthook) had met on the Appalachian Trail many years ago. Temperatures had been unseasonably hot, yet there was a thick coating of ice on the upper parts of the South Kaibab in the shade of the chimney. Glad to have traction for the short distance, soon the trail was on the ridge in the sun. Always great to be back on the Arizona Trail!

Mule Train on the South Kaibab

Best location I can think of for my birthday!

 We timed it just right for the hike down, many parts were in the shade and it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had on the Kaibab. Perfect weather for a birthday hike. So fun to see the guys react to the enormity of it all and ever-changing beauty of each turn of the trail.  Ryan was able to see the Guthook’s Guides Arizona Trail App that he developed in the field for the first time. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s such a game-changing resource for the AZT.

Kaibab Tunnel

We got a campsite by Bright Angel Creek, the cottonwoods were just starting to sport tiny green nubs. Ryan and Grant turned in after dinner, but not me- I had plans.

The moon was getting close to full and I took my camera and did my thing, visiting the beach and the bridges. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip.

Black Bridge at Night


Nighttime at Boat Beach

After a late night roaming the canyon and a leisurely start, we headed out to Clear Creek. I had only dayhiked a part of this trail while staying at Bright Angel. New terrain makes me giddy!

The CCC built the Clear Creek Trail to an amazing standard- it’s always fun to have people along who can geek out over a beautifully built wall or switchback. The trail passed the Great Unconformity- a place where over a billion years of time are missing between the Tapeats Sandstone and Vishnu Schist rock layers. Hard to wrap your head around geologic time, even when it’s staring you in the face.

The Great Unconformity

The Clear Creek Trail has spectacular views of many of the temples and buttes of the Canyon, but one stands above the rest: Zoroaster. It is one of  my favorite landmarks and the trail takes a tour around it. I must have five million pictures of that sexy Coconino-capped peak.

After Tontouring in and out of Bradley and Demaray points, we crossed Zoroaster Canyon. Then there was a traverse above the Clear Creek drainage that had great views of Wotan’s Throne and Angel’s Gate before descending into the canyon.

Photo by Ryan Linn


Descent into Clear Creek

We set up near the creek and the mice were almost immediately a nuisance. I did some photography before bed, the moon was so bright that it made the long exposures look like daytime.

The forecast was for a slight chance of rain at night and a 30% chance for the following day. The wind picked up and howled through the canyon, defeating any chances of sleep. Morning came and none of us had gotten much rest. We were supposed to have a layover day of exploring Clear Creek. That didn’t sound like much fun with the crazy wind. One day I’ll come back and explore upstream to Cheyava Falls- Grand Canyon’s largest at 800ft.  (only runs sometimes), and downstream to the sideways waterfall and the Colorado River.

Clear Creek Waterfall

Visiting the Clear Creek sideways waterfall while working on a river trip

A lone runner carrying a tiny pack visited our camp, having run from Phantom that morning. He said the winds were worse on the plateau. After a bit of small talk, we found that he was from the town right near where Ryan had grown up in Maine and that they knew the same people. Big Canyon, small world.

It was raining and still very windy. Unfortunate conditions for a layover. We decided to hike out and find a camp closer to Bright Angel to shorten up our next day. The winds were outrageous!! I kept getting pushed to the side, precariously close to prickly pear cactus and sharp-tipped agave.

 The hike back went quickly and we decided to stay on some ledges beneath Zoro in Sumner Wash which were mercifully out of the wind. I had a snack and took off to explore downstream before it got dark. I followed the canyon through the Tapeats and into the schist to pools in pink Zoroaster granite. There are few things I enjoy more than a new side canyon and this was a beauty.

Goat cheese, dehydrated olive tapenade, pepperoni and bacon


Zoroaster Temple


Vishnu Schist (black) and Zoroaster Granite (pink) pouroff

Did some night photography with Zoro before sleeping on a Tapeats ledge. The moon was outrageously bright and I had to cover my eyes to get any rest.

 The next day was a short jaunt back over to Bright Angel Campground and we took our time savoring the views from the Tonto Platform before hiking down into the canyon. The river looked like chocolate milk from the runoff of the recent rains. Early arrivals of spring wildflowers dotted the landscape.


Micro Chicken

The rest of the day was spent lounging about at the cantina, on Boat Beach and at the picnic table under the cottonwood by the turn into Bright Angel Creek.
  The last location was fascinating- it was Friday and a constant parade of backpackers and folks staying at Phantom Ranch streamed by. Grant is the owner of Gossamer Gear and was interested to see what kind of gear people were bringing. Needless to say, most of them did not subscribe to a lightweight philosophy and generally looked miserable as they came into the campground. I can relate, I was one of those people on my first hike down here  in 2001.

After the backpacker parade, it was time for stew dinner at the Phantom Ranch Cantina, a welcome treat after 4 days in the Canyon. The guys went to bed and as usual, I hiked around in the evening, then went to sleep on my preferred place in the campground, the picnic table.

 The next morning we readied for our hike out and got the usual leisurely start after I visited Ranger Della to say hi. It was so nice and cool out and the hike to Indian Gardens was pleasant. We all converged on Indian Gardens for lunch and even though I ate plenty and was drinking lots of water, I felt way more tired than I should have.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The next bit to the 3-mile house dragged on and I told Ryan to go ahead and I’d meet him up top. I took a good break with my feet up and had some Emergen-c. That was the missing piece of the puzzle and I immediately felt better. It had been so cool that I’d not been keeping up with my electrolytes, which made me tired.

Photo by Ryan Linn

The rest of the hike was great, even on a Saturday there weren’t a ton of people on the trail, probably kept away by the solid ice on the trail above the 1 1/2 mile rest house. I reached the rim in good spirits and enjoyed hearing Grant and Ryan’s experiences of the hike out the Bright Angel Trail. We went to Li’s house where we were greeted with tasty beverages and slow-cooker chili. A great end to a fantastic time in the Canyon.

Can’t I just stay here? Photo by Grant Sible

This trip didn’t get me any miles toward my goal of hiking the length of the Grand Canyon, but any time in the Canyon is well spent. My next trip from South Bass to Hermit in April will close the remaining gap for me between the Tanner Trail and Elves Chasm. And in October, I will be hiking a month-long piece of the Canyon and I’m currently trying to figure out the specifics of where I will spend my time. I look forward to each and every step, no matter how challenging.

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Recently I got to be a small part of a friend’s inspiring journey and I wanted to share an article I wrote:


UltraPedestrian complete the first known yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail! Photo by Armando Gonzales

Coronado National Memorial, Arizona: On December 20th, Kathy and Ras Vaughan of Whidbey Island, Washington became the first people to yo-yo the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail. For 93 days, this adventurous couple—known by their collective trail name as UltraPedestrian—traversed  the state of Arizona twice. Starting at the US/Mexico border on September 18th and hiking to the Utah border, then immediately turning around and heading back to Mexico, the couple covered a total of 1,668 miles. They endured everything from 100-degree temperatures to several snowstorms during an unseasonably wet year.

“We wanted to experience the trail as completely as possible, seeing it in both directions and taking on a challenge that no one else has ever experienced before,” said Ras. The Vaughans thru-hiked the Arizona Trail in spring of 2014, with Kathy establishing the fastest known time for a female in 35 days. Not only is a yo-yo twice as long as a regular thru-hike of the trail, but extreme weather is more likely. They completed the trail self-supported and hiked in and out of the gateway communities, adding 68 miles to their journey to resupply rather than accepting rides.

“Meeting people along the trail and in the gateway communities helped us understand the connection between the people and the places of Arizona,” said Kathy. “The challenge of the trail helped us improvise solutions to the problems that came up, whether it was dealing with gear issues or weather conditions.”

They had a SPOT tracker so that folks could follow along and shared frequent updates from the trail on Instagram and Facebook. I offered to pick them up at the Mexican border at the end of their journey and they let me tag along for the last two miles.

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border

Kathy and Ras nearing the Mexican border


Last steps toward Border Monument 102 which marks the southern terminus of the Arizona Trail

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Completed- the first known Yo-yo of the Arizona National Scenic Trail!

Congrats to this incredible couple! They will be coming back to Arizona in February for a speaking tour and are writing a book, I look forward to both.

About UltraPedestrian

UltraPedestrian is Kathy and Ras Vaughan, who strive to take on unique challenges and inspire others to “find their own version of epic.” Kathy holds the women’s fastest known time for the Arizona Trail and Ras is credited with innovating Only Known Times, including a sextuple Grand Canyon crossing and a unsupported (no resupply) Washington Traverse on the Pacific Crest Trail. Their website is Ultrapedestrian and they are on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube at @ultrapedestrian.

About the Arizona National Scenic Trail

The Arizona Trail is a continuous path – divided into 43 passages – across the state of Arizona and is open to all forms of non-motorized recreation, including hiking, running, backpacking, horseback riding and mountain biking (outside designated wilderness areas).

The trail traverses four forests (Coronado, Tonto, Coconino and Kaibab); three National Parks (Coronado National Memorial, Saguaro National Park and Grand Canyon National Park); one State Park (Oracle); eight counties; BLM land; and other municipalities.

There are 33 gateway communities located near the trail, which provide necessary services for trail users and benefit from the positive economic impact generated by the outdoor community. The Arizona Trail features more biodiversity than almost any other trail in the nation, and includes all but two of Arizona’s biotic communities.

The Arizona Trail is only the third National Scenic Trail to reach completion (Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail are the other two). The majority of funds supporting the Arizona Trail come from members, donors, business partners, corporations, foundations and grants. For more information, please visit www.aztrail.org.

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Recently I did an interview with Allison Driscoll from Trail to Summit and you can read the article here: http://trailtosummit.com/wild-woman-sirena-dufault/. Allison is a fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador and I really enjoyed hiking with her and getting to know her earlier this year at our GG Jamboree in Moab. Enjoy!

Table Mountain, Catalinas

Table Mountain, Catalinas

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A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

A perfect day for a hike- 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

This spring, I have had the pleasure of helping Warrior Hike, a non-profit organization that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails to “Walk off the War”. They had previously put vets on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail and this year expanded the program to include the Arizona Trail. Along the way, they scheduled events to connect with VFW organizations to help regain the sense of community and brotherhood that is lacking when veterans leave the service. I helped plan their schedule, put them in contact with my Gateway Communities and even got on the trail with them. They started on March 15th- to read my story about backpacking with them the first 50 miles into Patagonia, go to Page 8 in the ATA Spring Newsletter: ATANewsSpring15.

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

I really enjoyed being a part of the team that helped the two veterans, Shawn- who’s trail name is Greyhound and Josh, as they made their way up the state. It is always interesting to see the Arizona Trail through the eyes of someone else and I did what I could to help with logistics and make sure their town stops were enjoyable.

There was one piece of the trail that I was determined to join them for, and that was the Grand Canyon. No surprise there, it’s the crown jewel of the AZT and my favorite place in the world!! I was really looking forward to putting my guide hat on and showing them around. After numerous calls, we were able to secure dorm rooms at Phantom Ranch for May 10th, as well as dinner and breakfast. That meant that I could hike down with just my Gossamer Gear Type 2 daypack- how fancy!! We had breakfast with Wired, who was on her last couple weeks of the Hayduke Trail, and Li Brannfors, Arizona Trail Steward and accomplished long-distance hiker.

Shawn and Josh and me at breakfast with Wired, who's on the Hayduke Trail, and Trail Steward and long-distance hiker Li Brannfors

Greyhound, Josh, Wired, me and Li Brannfors

The morning was beautiful- it had rained and snowed for a couple of days before and the air was crystal-clear. A smattering of puffy clouds was the icing on the cake for one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever had into the Canyon. From the very first switchback on the South Kaibab Trail, Shawn and Josh were blown away by the outrageously fantastic landscape that is the Grandest of Canyons. There’s just really nothing quite like it and no picture or view from the top can prepare you for the layers of goodness contained within.

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

We blew right past Ooh Aah Point, too many tourists on this Saturday morning to stop and look. Instead, we found our own lookout point for reflection and photos. The Canyon was in bloom- wildflowers and cactus alike adding colors to the already spectacular layers of rock.

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Took a short break for snacking at Cedar Ridge and headed down, down, down into the abyss. It’s so much fun to see others see the Canyon for the first time- the excitement of seeing the Colorado at Skeleton Point, the views of the iconic temples of the Upper Granite Gorge, the wonderment of it all.

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

The guys got a little ahead of me while I was talking to another hiker and I ended up hiking from the Tipoff down to the river solo. The South Kaibab Trail, no matter how many times I’ve hiked it, always makes me giddy with delight. I was practically dancing down the trail, I was so excited to be there, descending into the ancient schist and granite. As I neared the tunnel and Black Bridge, I hoped that I might see someone I knew at the Boat Beach, but alas, there were no Arizona River Runners or Grand Canyon Whitewater boats to be found. I’ll be starting my river season next month and can hardly wait to call the Canyon my home for the summer.

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

I took a break at the river but soon it was time to make sure that I got to Phantom in time to meet the guys for dinner. Josh had steak and Shawn and I had their delicious veggie chili, with big squares of chocolate cake for dessert. I fondly remembered the Christmas Dinner that I ate down here a couple of years ago. After dinner, we went to the Boat Beach to hang out by the Colorado River and then to the Silver Bridge to catch the fiery sunset on Zoroaster Temple. It was so much fun to show Josh and Shawn around and get to catch up with them and hear about how they felt about their journey now that they only had a week left to go.

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

After a visit to the Phantom Ranch Cantina, the guys were off to bed. But I wasn’t done with the Canyon yet- I hiked out the North Kaibab to the Clear Creek junction and played with my headlamp and long exposures on my camera.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

I stayed up way too late and regretted it when we got the 4:30 am call for breakfast. Nothing like climbing out of the Canyon on no sleep, at least I was only carrying a daypack. After breakfast, we packed up and Josh and Shawn headed north on their last leg of the journey toward Utah. The North Rim was still closed for the season, so I hiked the Bright Angel Trail back up to the South Rim.

Accidentally hit a button I didn't even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

Accidentally hit a button I didn’t even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

I haven’t hiked out on the BA since my very first backpacking trip in 2002- I always take the South Kaibab. I figured I’d try it for a change. I spotted another hiker with an umbrella and got to talking to Meg, who works in the Canyon for the Park Service and lives at Indian Garden. She’s a fellow long-distance hiker and later in the day we saw each other again and she invited me up to her place for lunch. What a view!!!

Met Meg "Little Bug" who works for the NPS

Met Meg “Little Bug” who works for the NPS

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

The rest of the hike up was uneventful- even though the Bright Angel has water stops to make the trail easier, I still way prefer the South Kaibab. Topped out, grabbed some dinner in Flagstaff, and made the long drive back home to Tucson. Another great Canyon trip in the books!

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail



Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Shawn and Josh made their way to Utah the following week and had their celebration in the Gateway Community of Page. I am so happy that I got to be a part of the first Warrior Hike on the Arizona Trail, the outdoors provides healing and time for reflection and it is great to help foster that journey for others. To donate to Warrior Hike, visit http://warriorhike.org/donate/.

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

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