Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

Happy National Take a Hike Day! This week marks the 10-year anniversary of my blog, Sirena’s Wanderings, thanks to all who have followed along! Whether you’ve found me recently or been reading for years, I appreciate being able to share my stories with you.

Grand Canyon Traverse - South Bass to Hermit

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

I haven’t been posting on the blog much because I have been so busy the last year and a half with my book project, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail. I am thrilled to announce that the first draft of the manuscript was turned in to Wilderness Press on November 1st! It was a phenomenal amount of hiking, writing, photography and research.

The book is geared toward beginners and features the very best sections of the Arizona Trail that are accessible via day hike. Each hike has interpretive information so you can learn about the geology, history, geography, botany or archaeology of the area where you’re hiking. It’s got Gateway Community information so you know the best places to eat and stay after your hike and a section where I share my desert hiking tips and tricks. The projected release date is Spring 2020, send an email to sirena@trailsinspire.com to sign up for my email list for all the details on the book release and tour.

10_5 Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail

Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail along the Gila River – Ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odham

The way that Sirena’s Wanderings came about is that in 2008-09 I section-hiked the Arizona Trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia and kept a website for it. I enjoyed sharing my adventures so when that hike was over, I started this blog.

I did a pretty extensive retrospective of the blog last year with lots of photos and links – you can read it here: https://desertsirena.wordpress.com/2018/11/15/nine-years-of-sirenas-wanderings/. Here’s the first photo I uploaded in November 2009 of a double rainbow after hiking out of the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Volunteer Service Project:

Double Rainbow and O'Neill Butte

Double Rainbow and O’Neill Butte

The 11 Traditionally Associated Tribes of Grand Canyon are: Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Las Vegas Band of Paiute Indians, Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Navajo Nation, The Pueblo of Zuni and the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

It’s interesting to think of what my life was like back then and how much things have changed. 10 years ago, I had finished my great adventure of section-hiking the Arizona Trail but I had no idea of what the future held. Finishing the AZT was something that had seemed impossible only years earlier, when I was still very sick from Fibromyalgia. I have had this chronic pain condition now for 22 years and though I manage it well, I still have flares from time to time.

I had no idea what was next, but my experiences on the AZT showed me that I could push myself farther than I’d ever imagined. It gave me the confidence for the things that followed: becoming a public speaker and advocate for the outdoors, taking on increasingly difficult outdoor pursuits, getting my jobs as the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association and as a guide on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, and ultimately starting my consulting business, Trails Inspire and writing this book. What a journey! For example, 10 years ago I’d never imagined I’d be doing this:

Willow Canyon - Photo Russell James Newberg

Rappelling down Willow Canyon, photo Russell James Newberg. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui

Wanted to share some articles I’ve been featured in or written, click the links below to read. First is “How to Travel Through the Desert Like a Pro” by Meg Atteberry on the REI Co-op blog, where I share my tips on desert hiking, backpacking and camping.

How to Travel Through the Desert Like a Pro

Paul Fiarkoski of Arizona Wonders attended my talk on Hiking the Arizona Trail for the Arizona Mountaineering Club and wrote up a great article on my story and the AZT.

Tips for hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail from Sirena Rana Dufault

I wrote an article for the Gossamer Gear blog on Tips and Techniques for Dry Camping. It’s a valuable skill to have, especially in the desert. Also reviewed the Ranger 35 daypack and the Silverback 55 backpack I’ve been using for my latest trips.

Tips and Techniques for a Successful Dry Camping Trip

Review: Gossamer Gear’s Ranger 35 and Silverback 55 Meet Rugged Arizona Landscapes

Gossamer Gear Ranger 35 Sirena

Ranger 35 backpack – Photo by Travis Perkins. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui

Grateful to Gossamer Gear for their continued support and proud to be a part of their Ambassador program for many years now. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Huppybar, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts and the Arizona Office of Tourism for their partnerships!

I was featured in Etched Magazine, talking about my favorite hikes and snacks for on and off the trail.

Dates, Goat Cheese and Bacon

Goat cheese, dates and bacon in Grand Canyon

One of my favorite podcasts, She Explores, interviewed me about my volunteer work with Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson. Here’s a video that I made of babies and releases. I also set up a new website for the rehab where you can donate!

Episode 120: Giving Wildlife a Second Chance

Travel journalist Steve Larese interviewed me for an article “The Limit Does Not Exist” in Vie Magazine about what adventure culture means to me.

The Limit Does Not Exist

13_4 Apache Lake Vista

Apache Lake Vista – Ancestral lands of the Apache and Yavapai

After I turned in my book manuscript, it was time to celebrate. And there’s no place I’d rather celebrate than Grand Canyon! I got a permit for three nights in the Hermit and Granite Rapids area and had the most fantastic solo trip. All I wanted to do is sit and watch the river, listen to Granite Rapid, do photography and enjoy my time in the Canyon. It was exactly what I needed.

Hiking down the Hermit Trail

Hiking down the Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon

Granite Rapids Sunset and Moonrise

Sunset and Moonrise at Granite Rapids, Grand Canyon

Granite Rapids from the high scout point

Granite Rapids at night from the high scout point


Light painted a Saguaro on Granite Beach, Grand Canyon

Hermit Trail Sunset

Sunset while hiking out the Hermit Trail, Grand Canyon

Here’s an old video of me driving a 32′ boat through the same rapids, back in 2013 when I worked for Arizona River Runners. Not the greatest quality, but gives you an idea of scale. Back when I started this blog 10 years ago, I’d never driven a boat before.

I have had to put my Grand Canyon Traverse on hold for the last year and a half for this book project, and this trip has energized me to get back to section-hiking the remainder of the Canyon. It’s going to take some training to get strong enough for off-trail travel with a big pack, but I’m ready for the challenge.

Retrospectives are always fun for me, especially because it gives me the chance to wonder where I’ll have wandered in 10 more years! Thanks again for reading.

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Happy nine-year anniversary to this blog! Thanks to all who have followed along, whether it was from the beginning or you found it more recently. I don’t post here as much as I used to, but head over to my personal Instagram at @desertsirena or the one for my consulting company, Trails Inspire at @trailsinspire for more frequent updates. For example – what I wore for Halloween this year on my bushwhack up Table Mountain for a solo overnight:

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

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

The way that Sirena’s Wanderings came about is that in 2008-09 I section-hiked the Arizona Trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia and kept a website for it. I enjoyed sharing my adventures so when that hike was over, I started this blog. Here’s a collection of my favorite photos from the last nine years. What fun to see the progression of my outdoor skills (and hiking fashion)! Grab a beverage, there’s about 50 photos, most of them have links back to the blog entry for more information.

When I started this blog, if you’d told me that in nine years I’d be working as a professional in the outdoor industry, canyoneering down waterfalls, scrambling and climbing peaks and retired from guiding on the river in Grand Canyon I’d have been incredulous. Who knows what the next nine years will bring?

This is the first photo I uploaded to this blog in 2009:

Double Rainbow and O'Neill Butte

Double Rainbow and O’Neill Butte on the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Service Project


I love sleeping under the stars! No tent for me unless there’s going to be rain or mosquitoes. 50-Year Trail to Sutherland Gap


Samaniego Ridge

Samaniego Ridge from the Baby Jesus Ridge Tr.


Coming up the South Gully

My first scrambling hike: Ragged Top – Coming up the South Gully- Photo by Bill Bens



Elephant Head – Chino Canyon behind me

Me and the Weaver's Needle

Me and the Weavers Needle – Superstition Mountains, Grand Enchantment Trail

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom


Grand Enchantment Trail – Santa Teresa Wilderness -Holdout Canyon Overlook

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, Grand Enchantment Trail

My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Baldy Saddle, Mount Wrightson: My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Who says the desert is a dry place?

Who says the desert is a dry place? Photo by Bill Bens

Sunset on The Pinnacles

Grand Enchantment Trail – Pinaleno Mountains -Sunset on The Pinnacles

Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

Grand Canyon Service Project– Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

The Royal Arch

My most read post on the site: the tale of mishap and adventure known as the The Royal Arch Loop



Rattlesnake on a night hike

Free Rappel

Free Rappel on the Weavers Needle

Weaver's Needle

Weavers Needle – I climbed that!

The magic corridor

The magic corridor at The Wave


Royal Arch Route – Mount Huethawali

Big smiles after the best ride of the trip

Big smiles after Lava Falls on my life-changing trip on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon

Rockfellow Dome

Rockfellow Dome, Dragoon Mountains

Volunteers finish up the final piece of trail

Volunteers and agency partners finish up connecting the final piece of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River – Mike Bieke photo

The ATA Bronco

Me and the Arizona Trail Bronco when I got my job as the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association


Sirena contemplating the desert splendor

Sirena contemplating the desert splendor- photo by Wendy Lotze – Gila River Canyons, AZT

Micro Chicken's first canyon too!

Micro Chicken and me in our first canyon – photo by Clint Poole


Bill meets Micro Chicken

Bill meets Micro Chicken, my adventure companion since 2011, on Elephant Head

Clear Creek Waterfall

Clear Creek Waterfall  on my first river trip that I worked with Grand Canyon Whitewater as a river guide in Grand Canyon

Fall Colors

Fall Colors in Ash Creek, Galiuro Mountains

View north from atop Table Mtn.

View north from atop Table Mountain, photo by Wendy Lotze



Farewell to Zeus, the dog that helped me get into hiking and was my companion for many years

Festive hiking attire

Festive hiking attire in Grand Canyon for Christmas

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Prominent Point!


In 2014, I thru-hiked the AZT and developed the Arizona Trail Trek to promote the trail, the new AZT guidebook that I helped to write, and the Gateway Communities. For 2 1/2 months I hiked, held 12 fundraisers for the trail, took over 100 people on the trail with me on 5 backpacking trips and 7 dayhikes and raised almost $18,000 for the Arizona Trail Association. It was the trip of a lifetime. I’d hike the AZT a third time, it’s that good of a trail.

Arizona Trail Trek Start

Arizona Trail Trek start at Montezuma Pass – my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail took 2 1/2 months from March 14 to May 31st

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle, Arizona Trail – one of the best views in all the Catalinas – India Hesse photo

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

My dad, Budh Rana: best support crew ever! – photo by Levi Davis

Happy to be in the cool pines!

Happy to be in the cool pines! Mogollon Rim, Arizona Trail Trek

What a great group!

What a great group of ladies (and Jasmine the mini-donkey) on the Women’s Backpacking Trip, Arizona Trail Trek

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado Confluence with the Colorado River from guiding season with Arizona River Runners

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH – Holiday backpacking trip in the Santa Rita Mountains, AZT


Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy start to the year – New Year’s Day at American Flag Trailhead, Arizona Trail

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here! Ambassador trip with Gossamer Gear

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

A perfect day with Warrior Hike, which helps veterans by putting them on the National Scenic Trails and waterways – 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls, Columbia River Gorge – a magnificent place to be!

Little Colorado River

Leading a hike to the Little Colorado River while working as a river guide in Grand Canyon

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake in Olympic National Park

In 2015, I started working on my Grand Canyon Traverse, hiking the length of Grand Canyon in sections. I’d done sections of the Tonto Trail since 2009 but this meant I’d commit to traversing the whole 277-mile length of the Canyon. Still working on it and about a third of the way through. When I’m done it will be more like 600 miles of hiking.

Hiking to Cardenas

Hiking to Cardenas on a six day solo trip from Tanner to Grandview, Grand Canyon

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon) Grand Canyon

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop, Arizona Trail – photo Carrie Miracle-Jordan


Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river! My last trip as a river guide with Arizona River Runners

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon rappel – photo by Russell James Newberg



Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge, Grand Canyon


Tore my calf muscle and had to be evacuated by helicopter out of Grand Canyon

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek, Grand Canyon (six months after my injury)


Sunset and Moonrise on The Dome, Grand Canyon

Happy to be in the maples!

Happy to be in the maples! Ash Creek, Galiuro Mountains


2017 brought a whole new adventure – starting my consulting company Trails Inspire, LLC! Trails Inspire promotes the outdoors via writing, public speaking, photography, and trail design and development.

Trails inspire Square Logo visit www.trailsinspire to learn more!

Trails Inspire, LLC –  Logo design by Wendy Lotze


Dragoon Mountains, Sky Island Traverse

Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

Escalante Route, Unkar Overlook with India – Photo Mark S.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Getting my first trail design, the Tusayan Trails Master Plan, approved at Town Council

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights – Horsethief Route, Grand Canyon

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte – Horsethief Route, Grand Canyon


In 2018, I got my very first book deal with Wilderness Press to write Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail! It’s due out in Spring 2020 and I’m having the best time doing the research.

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Hiking The Loop, and 80-mile hike on Pima County’s multi-user trail system

Arizona Trail near the Utah Border

Doing book research for Dayhikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail for Wilderness Press near the Utah border

REI Minneapolis

Presentation on Hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail with the Arizona Office of Tourism at the REI Minneapolis, MN flagship store

Wow, that’s a lot of wandering – I so enjoy sharing my adventures with you, thanks for reading! And thanks to my sponsors: Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and Purple Rain Adventure Skirts for all the support over the years. And extra gratitude for my husband Brian – even though he’s not a hiker, he’s been an amazing support crew and partner through it all.

Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

Brian and me at the Patagonia event, Arizona Trail Trek

And by the way, I am still a volunteer at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson and still consider it to be one of the best ways to spend my time. So grateful to be able to do this work.

I’ll be doing my usual year-end wrap-up here next month. Here’s to the next nine years!

Training a Great Horned Owl

Training a Great Horned Owl at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson


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It’s that time of year again for a retrospective of my travels, let’s see where I wandered in 2015! If you’re a regular reader of the blog, don’t worry, I’ve added a lot of new pics from hikes that didn’t get a write up. Click on the links to open the post in a new tab.


I started the year out with a snowy hike on the Arizona Trail up to the High Jinks Ranch in Oracle.

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Explored some peaks and ridges near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground:

Great spot for a break

Great spot for a break

Met with other Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors for some dayhiking near Moab. Loved the slickrock and big views and the company was wonderful!

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch



Bagged a Cat in the Tucson Mountains:


Spine of Cat Mountain

In addition, I went on a speaking tour about my Arizona Trail Trek that took me to outdoor stores, hiking clubs and community groups across Arizona. I did 10 talks in under 6 weeks!


Took a backpacking trip in the foothills north of Catalina State Park on the Baby Jesus Trail and some unnamed routes.


Love those Arizona sunsets!


Backpacking in the Catalina Foothills

Spent my birthday hiking the Sweetwater Preserve with Brian.


Sweetwater Preserve


Brian out on the trail

Backpacked a  loop in the Tortolita Mountains and got to experience the awesome Ridgeline Trail.

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail


Chased Wildflowers on the Arizona Trail from Pickepost to Kelvin, one of my favorite pieces of all. Did some trail maintenance to my passage in the process.

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides near Dale’s Butte

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

Hiked the Arizona Trail from Mexico to Patagonia with Warrior Hike, a nonprofit that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails for therapeutic purposes.

Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

Warrior Hike- Arizona Trail/Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.


The end of March and beginning of April were tough. In 10 days I lost both my father-in-law and my old dog Bailey.

Bailey and Zeus

Bailey and Zeus- both gone but the great memories will live in my heart forever.

My 18-year old nephew Chase visited Arizona from Michigan and I got to take him to the Grand Canyon for his first hike. He’s hooked and can’t wait to come back.DSC02278

And then there was the time I stepped on a rattlesnake and lived to tell the tale (thank goodness it was a cold snake!):



My buddy Bill and his dog Bella and I did the Wilderness of Rocks Loop in the Catalinas. That was one happy water-soaked Lab!


Love the Wilderness of Rock! Photo by Bill Bens


I joined Warrior Hike in the Grand Canyon and enjoyed showing my favorite place to the veterans in the program.

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

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

A perfect day.

A perfect day.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

The International Trails Symposium was held in Portland and I was part of a presentation about outdoor therapies for veterans. I took some time to explore the area and backpacked from Eagle Creek to Whatum Lake and down to Cascade Locks on the Pacific Crest Trail. A gorgeous loop filled with waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. My favorite part was carrying a mere half-liter of water, what a concept for a desert rat!


Presenting at the International Trails Symposium about my work with Warrior Hike

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Into the Mist

Into the Mist

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

Ducklings at Trillium Lake


Time once again for river season with Arizona River Runners– I decided that this would be my last summer guiding. I will forever cherish the time I got to take people hiking and boating and teach people about the Canyon.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I got a fun little hike in to O’Neill Crater near the ARR warehouse, complete with a small cliff dwelling and tons of rooms and pottery.

Walls on the summit

Walls on the summit


My friend Carrie was nice enough to teach me how to ride a horse and we took her Arabians out on the Arizona Trail.

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop above Oak Tree Canyon

At the end of the month, little Stu joined our family. It sure was empty without any animals in the house!DSC00038.JPG


More river trips and horseback riding. I got to ride on the Las Colinas passage of the AZT, a piece I had helped build. Such a different perspective riding high on a horse!

Riding Las Colinas

Riding Las Colinas


I had my last trip of the season on the river, bittersweet to leave. I will miss living in the Grand Canyon, sleeping on the beaches of the Colorado River. I plan on devoting time to exploring more on foot.

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

I put a GIF together (sorry it’s a little choppy) from a bunch of pictures that were taken from the other boat of me driving Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs – watch the 35-foot boat disappear into the massive waves!

Hermit Rapid 22,000 cfs


Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river!

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

At the Local First Arizona Rural Policy Forum, I participated in a well-attended presentation about trails and communities. It’s so great for me to see how the idea of trails as an economic driver for small towns has really become popular in Arizona. It’s a big part of my Gateway Community Program that I’ve developed since 2011 for the Arizona Trail. I got to paddle the Verde River near Clarkdale and had a wonderful time on the water.

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Summer is the time to head for the high country and I did a hike on the Aspen Draw in the Catalinas with my friends Silver and Leigh Anne and her mini-donkey Jasmine.

DSC00947 - Copy

Jasmine, Leigh Anne and Silver on the Aspen Draw Trail

August 15th, the hottest day of the year- it hit 110 in Tucson but I stayed  cool canyoneering the 7 Cataracts of Willow Canyon. Russ and I took our time and spent the whole day rappelling, scrambling and swimming. So glad I finally got to see this beautiful canyon.

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon- photo by Russ Newberg


Russ on the 3rd rappel in Willow Canyon

Took a hike on the Arizona Trail down Oracle Ridge, which was covered in wildflowers from the abundant rains.

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge/AZT


I went to Chicago for a visit with family and paddled the Kishwaukee River- we saw a bald eagle fly downstream right overhead!


Paddling the Kishwaukee River

We had a very successful Arizona Trail Day weekend in Flagstaff and had the Arizona premiere of the movie Unbranded. I highly recommend it, the story of 4 men and 16 mustangs who ride from Mexico to Canada. They used the Arizona Trail for part of their journey and the cinematography is incredible.Unbranded Grand Canyon

Back to Portland for the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West 20th Annual Gathering, but first I joined Grant Sible from Gossamer Gear and friends for a 4-day backpacking trip in Olympic National Park. We hit fall colors on the High Divide Loop- a tour of alpine lakes and rainforest.

Mount Carrie

Got lucky with beautiful views of Mount Carrie with blue skies on our side trip to Cat Peak

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake

The ALDHA-West Gathering was so inspirational, I got to see a presentation by Trauma and Pepper about their PCT winter traverse and many others.

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Gave my Arizona Trail talk, there was a lot of interest in the room and I hope we’ll see many of those folks on the AZT in the future. Also got to see Anish days after she set the Appalachian Trail speed record, what fun to be a part of such a dynamic group.

ALDHA West Gathering

ALDHA-West Gathering


My friends got married at the Nordic Center in Flagstaff and Brian and I hit the Aspen Loop/AZT for some fall color.

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

I did a canyoneering loop down the East Fork of Lemmon Canyon- a wonderland of giant granite boulders and waterfalls. The final rappel was into the “punchbowl” of Lemmon Pools.

Russ in a granite cave

Russ in a granite cave


Giant granite boulders in East Fork Lemmon Canyon

Lemmon Pools

Lemmon Pools

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock- photo by Russ Newberg

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

My favorite part of October was finding little Roscoe at Pima Animal Care Center. He was 3 months old with the most adorable little brown face and gigantic paws. Can’t wait till he’s big enough to be my backpacking buddy!


Roscoe- 3 months old


Roscoe and his buddy Stu


First hike in the Tortolitas


Oh Grand Canyon…how I’ve missed you!  Spent six days solo backpacking from Tanner to Grandview along the Escalante Route and Tonto Trails. Only saw one other person the first five days, it felt like I had the whole Canyon to myself.

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

On Thanksgiving I hiked to the south side of Sombrero Peak, Peak 3263- a fun little bushwhack.


Hiking up to Peak 3263


Micro Chicken’s Thanksgiving dinner

Took a hike on the always-attractive Baby Jesus Trail to round out the month.DSC02781


Fall comes late to Southern Arizona and I did a Sabino Canyon -Bear Canyon loop to catch the color.


Sabino Canyon

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

Went for a fall hike in Cienega Creek. Ash trees were the best in the drainage, with some cottonwoods and sycamores still hanging on.

Cienega Creek

Cienega Creek

Tried a new loop near Catalina State Park- a route that connects Alamo Canyon and Buster Mountain was a fun puzzle to follow.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)


Witnessed my friends Kathy and Ras Vaughan complete the first known Yo-yo (up and back) of the Arizona Trail– what an accomplishment!

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

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

Planned on Christmas and end of the year hikes but got sick with the flu instead. Oh well.

2015 was a year of change and transitions. Some years are tougher than others and this one didn’t come easy- I am looking forward to 2016.

Now for the big news…I decided that I am going to section-hike the length of the Grand Canyon over the next couple of years. I will be connecting a line- some on the south side, some on the north- from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry. The total mileage is somewhere around 600, depending on what routes are taken and there is no trail for most of it. To date, only 27 people have walked through the canyon and of those, only three women. Most of the route I will be taking will be tough bushwhacking and scrambling through one of the most remote, wild and extreme places on the planet.

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Redwall Heart over Nankoweap Rapid.JPG

Redwall heart over Nankoweap Rapid

To date, I’ve hiked from Tanner to Elves Chasm, minus the Gems, for which I have a permit in the spring. The most exciting news is that I am taking the month of October off to hike a big chunk of the Canyon! I am currently figuring out what section I will be doing and who will be joining me.  As much as I enjoy my solo time, safety comes first and I’ll feel more comfortable with someone else there. I haven’t felt this kind of excitement since I first heard about the Arizona Trail.

It’s eight years since I started blogging for my first hike of the Arizona Trail and six on this site- thanks for reading and giving me someone to share my stories with. I wish for good fortune and exciting adventures for all in the new year!









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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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It’s the last month before the Bighorn Sheep restrictions go into effect in the Catalinas, so I wanted to do something in the area. From January 1st until April 30th, going more than 400 feet off the trail in the management area is prohibited because of lambing season. I had visited Alamo Canyon three years ago with my friend Bill and really enjoyed it- it was time to return.


Bighorn Sheep Management Area

Alamo-Buster Loop (1)

Catalina State Park Boundary- Buster Mountain to the left, Alamo Canyon to the right

I parked at the Romero Ruins and took the trail for a short distance across the wash and then turned right at a cairn on an unnamed trail with surprisingly good tread. This trail took me to a little waterfall at the state park boundary. It had warmed up enough for me to wet my head in the creek before hiking on.

Waterfall in Alamo Canyon

Waterfall in Alamo Canyon- 2012

A trail continues past the park boundary that stays above the creek on canyon right. I took the trail until a large boulder jam in the creek, where I descended to take a break. There was a huge racket as a pack of javelinas moved to get downstream away from me. The giant striped granite boulders, golden ash trees and running water made for a perfect spot to settle in for a while.

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (3)

Giant granite boulders in Alamo Canyon

The gnats descended just as I was going to take a nap and I had to get a move on. I wasn’t in the mood to go farther up the creek, but I was intrigued by a cairned path I’d seen in 2012 that seemed to go up toward the Buster Mountain ridgeline. I’d also seen the top of the route on the ridgeline, today was the day to connect the dots.

The steep route out of the creek took me through an expanse of beautiful banded gneiss on the way to the ridge. It was fun following the well-cairned route. Much of it was on gravel, which made me happy to be hiking up rather than down it.

Alamo-Buster Loop (4)

Hiking up the cairned route to Buster Ridgeline

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)


I reached the ridgeline saddle and took another extended break. Some of my water had spilled into my pack so I didn’t hit the peak, instead I spent my time taking pictures and even had a little dance party at the saddle.

Alamo-Buster Loop (6)

The route pops out at the saguaro on the ridgeline

I wanted to time my descent with the sunset and started down the steep route down the ridgeline. Tall grasses made route finding a little challenging, it was much more overgrown than in previous trips because of all the rain we’ve gotten this year. Made it off the ridge in the fading light and was excited to see the sunset paint pink and purple stripes above Pusch Ridge.

Alamo-Buster Loop (8)

Sunset over Pusch Ridge

The sunset was one of those rare ones that changes and develops different characters way after the sun goes down. The entire mountain took on a subtle pink hue and fiery waves of orange, pink and red streaked the sky. It felt like it went on for hours and I kept stopping to take picture after picture. Timed it perfectly to arrive at the parking lot just as the sunset had finally faded. What a great way to end such an enjoyable day on the mountain.

Alamo-Buster Loop (9)

Ever-changing light

Alamo-Buster Loop (10)

And then the sunset got ridiculously good!

Can it be that it’s already almost 2016? I guess it’s time to put together the end of the year recap. I’ve got some exciting news to share as well- Happy Holidays!

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

Micro Chicken in a festive mood

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This is my fourth summer working as a guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for Arizona River Runners. My first trip launched on June 9th and I was pretty concerned that I hadn’t adjusted to the heat yet. My trip to Portland and trying to get things squared away with my Arizona Trail job meant that I hadn’t quite acclimated yet. Little did I know, I needn’t have worried- there was a tropical storm that came in that made it unseasonably cool and rainy!

On June 8th, I arrived at the warehouse in Flagstaff to pack up the boats and put them in the water at Lee’s Ferry. The crew was Joe as trip leader, Brie as second boatman, me as the swamper and Brie’s friend Nick as our work-your-way. The morning of June 9th was cool and overcast as the passengers arrived and loaded onto the boats. It’s always a flurry of activity, with lots of questions about the adventures to come. We headed downstream and I was excited to have returned to the Grand Canyon for the summer.

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee's Ferry

Passengers getting ready to get on the boats at Lee’s Ferry

I was on Joe’s boat and did most of the interp- telling stories about the people, plants, animals, and geology of the place as Joe drove. It stayed overcast and got so chilly that I had to put on a fleece in the middle of the day! Never before seen- we started calling it Junuary.

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

Cold enough for fleece on June 9th? Crazy!!

At North Canyon, we pulled in and made camp and folks got settled in to their tents. We made salmon, broccoli, rice and salad for dinner and most went to sleep early. I went for a little hike up North Canyon and listened to music and played with my headlamp and camera. The crew sleeps on the boats, and I had been looking forward to sleeping under the stars, but the strange weather meant I put up a tent. The rain started in the middle of the night, big drops and intense at times.

North Canyon

North Canyon

The next morning, I was trying to cook breakfast when it started raining again. We put up a canopy and went about our business. We had to go through the Roaring Twenties, a series of rapids that are one after the other and people got cold. Joe made the decision to stop at Redwall Cavern after the Twenties were done and make hot soup. It was a real crowd-pleaser and morale booster- amazing what a little hot soup can do for the soul. Of course there was the fact that it was June 10th- a day that historically would have had us running into Redwall Cavern for shade- crazy! Joe and I must have said “Crazy” to each other a hundred times that trip because of the weather. Didn’t get a pic of the soup stop, but here’s one from another trip of Redwall Cavern.

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Dramatic clouds at Fence Fault

Mist and low clouds

Mist and low clouds

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

After our soup stop, the mist and clouds began to clear and the sun came out. We stopped at the Little Colorado River for a hike and swim. The LCR was a milky whitish blue from the storms. Camp was at Crash Canyon, a short distance downstream.

Little Colorado River

Little Colorado River

Set up the tent and it rained again that night with a second morning of cooking breakfast under the canopy. The clouds cleared again and it warmed up, which was good because on the third day we were going to run the Gorge, the biggest concentration of large rapids on the whole river. Joe and Brie maneuvered through the rapids with skill and we had an amazing day. There is no rapid on the river more fun than Hermit and we hit it just perfect for the optimal ride! Here’s a video taken by one of my coworkers a couple of years ago of a run through Hermit:

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

Arizona Trail crossing the Colorado River on the Black Bridge

We stopped at Shinumo Creek to check out the waterfall, I was interested to see what it looked like, it is a side stream that flash-flooded several times recently. The waterfall is very different and the swimming pool at the base has been graveled in, but it’s still a great place for a stop. Camp was at 110- I could see my camp spot from my 2010 Royal Arch Loop.

Shinumo Waterfall

Shinumo Waterfall

And there's our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and North Bass Beach

October 2010- And there’s our perfect Tonto Point Camp, hanging above the Colorado and Bass Camp. 110 is the beach to the far left of the picture

The next day we commonly call Waterfall Day- how could you not like a day like that? We started with the sublime Elves Chasm- a two-tiered waterfall with a perfect cave to climb up and jump off! This place exemplifies the differences between rafting and backpacking in the Canyon. When I visited on foot, it took three days of a rugged route and 20′ rappel to get there. Rafting, we pull up and it’s 1/4 mile from the boats. It’s great to give a wide range of folks the opportunity to see these amazing places.

Elves Chasm

Elves Chasm

A beautiful day!

A beautiful day!

After Joe and Brie had great runs through the technical Bedrock and Deubendorff Rapids, we stopped at Stone Creek. The warm, clear waterfall was welcome after days of the icy and silty river.

Deubendorff Rapid

Deubendorff Rapid

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Micro Chicken at Stone Creek

Then it was on to the main event: Deer Creek Falls and the hike up to The Patio. Deer Creek is a 174-ft. cascade just minutes from the boat and is a destination in and of itself. My favorite part of the day is the hike up to the Deer Creek Narrows and the Patio. It’s usually pretty warm for the hike up the hill, but once on the Tapeats Sandstone, you get wonderful views up and downstream. The trail turns into the canyon above the waterfall, a slot canyon with the sound of the water rushing below. The trail narrows in a couple places that make it very challenging for the acrophobic. I have ushered countless people across this piece of trail and love helping people overcome their fears to get through the journey. The destination is certainly worth it- the Patio is a wonderland of cottonwoods and waterfalls. It is a place sacred to the Paiute Indians and there are small hand outlines where the ancients used reeds to blow paint over their hands along the trail to the Patio.

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Hiking the Ledges at Deer Creek Narrows

Deer Creek Patio

Deer Creek Patio

Love this place.

Love this place.

Handprint in Deer Creek

Handprint in Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

Hiking down to the boats at Deer Creek

We spent some time at the Patio and then hiked down to enjoy the big waterfall for a while before making camp across the river. It was Fajita Night for dinner, a crowd favorite.

Deer Creek Falls

Deer Creek Falls

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

My representation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon with fajita condiments

In the morning we went through the narrow Muav Gorge and visited Havasu Creek, a tricky place to park and tie up the boats, because we park in a rapid. It’s often called the Swamper Olympics because there are numerous extra lines that have to be tied to make sure the boats are secure. Everyone enjoyed a swim in the blue-green waters of the refreshing creek.

Havasu Canyon

Havasu Canyon

After Havasu, we had a couple of hours before the grandaddy of all rapids, Lava Falls. The river falls 37 feet over the span of several hundred yards and it can often be quite a ride. Other times, you hit it a certain way and it doesn’t feel like much. On this day we had a giant full-boat soaking wave cover every inch of the 35-foot rig- it was fantastic!!

Lava Falls

Lava Falls

We pulled up at Angel Camp for our last night and cooked up a steak dinner and celebrated one of the passenger’s birthday with a dutch-oven cake. Afterward, everyone sat and shared their reflections of the trip. It’s always fun to see what parts of the journey stand out to each person.

I snuck away, because I had a surprise for the passengers. If the group is right, the camp is right and I’m not too tired from working all day I put on a short bellydance performance on the beach. This beach was perfect, there was a spit of flat sand that extended along the shoreline. After the group was done, I invited them down and surprised them with a show, complete with music from a portable speaker. It was quite the venue- as I danced I could see the walls of the Canyon and the sky scintillating with stars. Everyone agreed it was a great way to end the night.

The next morning we only had a short distance to go to the Whitmore helipad, mile 187, where the six-day journey ended for our group. The river brings people together and there were many hugs given and promises to keep in touch. We waved as the helicopters took the folks to the Bar 10 Ranch.

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

Approaching Whitmore Helipad

I feel so fortunate to be able to call the Canyon my home- it is the place that inspires me like no other. I enjoy seeing people from all over the world come to experience the Canyon at a deeper level than just peering over the rim for a day. Seeing people get that sparkle in their eye when I point out something beautiful or interesting or the look of satisfaction that comes from a great hike. What an infinitely fascinating place.

To find out more about the different river trips offered, visit www.raftarizona.com.

In Wildlife Rehab news, we got a Crested Caracara that was hit by a car down by Kitt Peak. The Caracara is a Falcon that acts more like a vulture and is only found in Arizona, Texas and Florida. What a treat to see one up close! To donate to help feed and house the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, use the link below.
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Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

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It was my hope from the very beginning that  I’d be able to share a bit of the glory and adventure of Sirena’s through hike on the AZT.  After all, she’d become so much more than just a hiking buddy and fellow blogger over the last year – she was one of my closest friends.   The fact that I am insanely envious barely plays into it at all (wink).  So, when my schedule shifted about a bit and opened up an opportunity for me to not only join her for Passage 4, but to also get to guest-blog about our adventure, I grabbed at it.  An overnight on the AZT…with my celebrity friend…just the two of us and the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains on one of the most beautiful weekends of the year?  Oh yeah.  I’m in!


Filming at the Patagonia Visitor Information Center

I met up with our roving woman of wonder in the small southern Arizona town of Patagonia for the AZ Trail Trek event on Thursday night.   With music by Jamnesia, Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery in Pine and a beautiful evening provided by mother nature, it was a smash success.  Fudge and treats from the Ovens of Patagonia (can you say Key Lime Meringue?) kept the festivities going until after darkness set in.



A festive atmosphere in Patagonia

While I was camped out in the grasslands near my exit trailhead at Kentucky Camp, Sirena had secured accommodations from a pair of trail angels in their teardrop trailer just outside of Patagonia (thanks to Maggie, Patrick and their very friendly kitty).  Sirena’s connection with the folks in Patagonia is amazing, and she had even more help coming, from Helen who agreed to shuttle yours truly from Kentucky Camp to our starting point on Temporal Canyon road.  This warm support from the members of this active gateway community is a part of what will continue to make the Arizona Trail a great experience in years to come!


Sleeping snug in a teardrop!


Helen, Bear and Shadow see us off

Passage 4 of the AZT follows the Temporal Canyon Road in Patagonia for the first 13 miles.  For most through-hikers, road walks are similar to unwanted chores: often necessary, rarely enjoyed.  Sirena had taken care of the first 7 miles of the road walk the day before to speed things up, so we had only about 6 miles to go before we truly got off into the wilds.  Luckily, even road walking in this area can be scenic and rewarding.  Winding through the oak forests and over the pools of Temporal Gulch wasn’t such a horrible chore at all – and the terrain offered enough distraction to keep us contented as we hoofed along.

As road walking goes - this really wasn't bad at all!

Along the Temporal Canyon Rd.


Water sources were surprisingly ample and clear considering the drought conditions. This little slot just off the road sported some inviting, cool pools.

Our favorite peaks with Temporal Gulch road cutting up

The road climbs into Walker Basin with Josephine (left) and Baldy (right) Peaks in the distance.

From here, you could see the road we walked winding down into the valley below

Looking back down into Patagonia from near the top of the road walk.



The trail sign at Walker Basin looks as though it has seen better days.

Throughout our walk on the road, we were amazed at the amount of water that we were finding.  The spring boxes were full, and there was often a slow trickle in the bottom of the canyon.  Although it has been an unusually dry (and warm) winter and early spring in southern Arizona, it seems that a few well-timed storms have really helped out these riparian areas.  It’s unlikely that the pools will remain long without more moisture coming from the sky and soon – but it was a real treat to know that we would not have to worry about running dry on this particular piece of trail.

Once we turned off onto the Walker Basin trail and got back to our preferred single-track hiking, the mountains rewarded us with even better vistas and diversity.  Mt. Wrightson, the highest mountain in the Santa Rita range, is topped by Baldy Peak at 9,453 ft.  This barren, granite summit presides over the entire range like a patriarch, and it’s steep wooded flanks have always called to those seeking solitude and adventure.   Both Sirena and I have visited the summit on multiple occasions – but somehow it’s even more impressive to see the mountain this way – wandering about at it’s base staring up.   Although the Arizona Trail does not climb to the top of this range as it does with the Rincons and the Santa Ritas further north, it does provide hikers with an intimate experience with Wrightson just the same.


The massive eastern flank of Mt. Wrightson and Baldy Peak

Posing with the peak

Our intrepid through hiker is dwarfed by the mountain

16 miles into Passage 4 (9 for us today), we arrived at Bear Spring.  Our initial plans were to camp near the spring, as Sirena had often wanted to but schedule often didn’t permit.  The spring is a beautiful spot – cold, clear water from the tank and a sycamore-studded stream babbling just down the hill in Big Casa Blanca Canyon.  There were some ideal tent sites near the creek, and plenty of trees for my hammock.  We took our hiking shoes off and dunked our feet in the icy creek,  filtered and drank our fill of the delicious water and considered our options.  It was still early in the day, with hours until sunset, and our feet now felt refreshed and ready to go again.  We decided that while the spring was an ideal spot, we’d take our chances on the trail ahead and keep moving just a little while longer.

Partaking in Bear Spring's bounty

Collecting water from Bear Spring

Flow in Big Casa Blanca Canyon below Mt. Wrightson

Looking up Big Casa Blanca Canyon from Bear Spring

Just past the spring was a wide, open campsite along the side of the creek where we found the Seeds of Stewardship group.  We knew they’d be in the area, so we were glad to find them happily settled in for the evening in the perfect spot.    The leaders and students were really enjoying the passage – particularly the ample water we were finding in the drainages – and they were excited to meet the celebrity through hiker in the flesh.  We spent a little while swapping stories and recruiting for future events before snapping a picture and heading back out.  It’s always great to see young people learning to love the outdoors!


Sirena and the Seeds of Stewardship Group


My rising star doing what she does best!

Afternoon light hitting the walls of Big Casa Blanca Canyon

Beginning at Bear Spring, the trail follows a historic drainage feature called a “flume”.  This ditch was dug into the mountainside in the early 1900’s as a part of an effort to provide water to a gold mining operation in nearby Kentucky Gulch.  Water from Bear Spring was diverted into the flume and ran in the ditch for 2 1/2 nearly level miles to the next improvement at Tunnel Spring.  Because of this historic engineering effort, the trail feels almost dead-flat, and contours high above the steep floor of Big Casa Blanca canyon.  At one point, Sirena began telling me, it’s supposed to duck through a hole in the rock – but she missed the spot back in 2008 by accidentally taking the bypass built for equestrian use.  She was just finishing the story when we came around a corner and found the “hole-in-the-wall” – a small tunnel through the conglomerate rock that makes up the canyon walls.  Her excitement made passing up the Bear Spring camp 100% worthwhile!


Between a rock and a hard place

As the sun got lower in the sky, we began to look for a spot to camp.  Since the trail is carved into the mountainside, we started to scan the ridges and slopes that ran perpendicular to the trail for a spot. I spotted a faint foot-path heading off onto one such ridge, and we followed it out to one of the finest campsites we could have hoped for.  A small fire ring, cleared spots for ground sleepers, trees for hammocks and drop-dead amazing views to the south, west and east.  We arrived just in time to settle in before the evening light show started, then made ourselves a modest fire and ate Thai green curry chicken and rice by its glow.  For girls like Sirena and I, it simply does not get any better.

We found a camp off the main trail on a ridge top with GREAT views

Mt. Wrightson casts a sunset shadow on the Mustang Mts.

The shadow of Mt. Wrightson falling across the Mustang Mountains

Whispy clouds make the BEST sunsets!


Looking back at where she’d started a week before – the Huachuca Mountains

One of my best hangs ever.  Just perfect geometry - slept like a log!

Hammockers would call this a “perfect hang”


Sirena got to spend the night under the stars and the morning looking back at the Huachuca crest

The next morning we didn’t get an early start (which is SO typical of us!), but we were on the trail in plenty of time to cover the 10 miles remaining to our base at Kentucky Camp.  We had more historic flume hiking ahead, followed by a series of small ups and downs along the historic water system, and ending with a short but wearing road walk from Kentucky Camp to my trailer just down the road.  We were low on food (Sirena’s finally got a through hiker’s appetite), and eager to get back before her family arrived at camp.  Never the less, we hardly hurried.  The trail is just too much fun to rush!

Throw one for me!

We call this “Throwing A Wendy”: check it out on Facebook!

Sirena makes her way across the flume on the opposite side of a drainage

Sirena hikes ahead around the contour of a minor drainage


Overview of the flume system from the tunnel at Tunnel Spring

The sparkling Santa Ritas on a gorgeous day!

Panorama of the Santa Rita crest from Baldy to Mt. Fagan and McCleary Peak

Cool thing...on the Gardner Canyon Rd.

In Gardner Canyon

What exactly is this gate supposed to be stopping?

What exactly is this gate supposed to stop from passing?


The sign’s mileage is incorrect, but the idea is a good one… This trailhead in Gardner Canyon marks the end of Passage 4 and the start of Passage 5


Along the ridgeline with amazing vistas



At last we catch a view of Kentucky Camp in the valley below!

Finally, we could see Kentucky Camp in the gully below the trail

We're coming, Gilbert!

and our base camp – a 1961 Aristocrat travel trailer named Gilbert – waited on a hilltop just beyond

Kentucky Camp was originally built to support the Greaterville mine – which was based on a placer gold vein that never played out.  From the early 1900’s to 1960, it served as a ranch headquarters after which it was purchased by the US Forest Service.  Today, visitors can explore the historic buildings and learn more about the history of the area or even rent a small “bed-and-no-breakfast” cabin.  There was plenty to see, but the trailer full of food was calling us home so we didn’t linger.

Finally at the trailer, we were ultimately joined by Sirena’s dad, husband, brother and friend.  We camped out luxury style, with spaghetti, salad and garlic bread followed up by smores and beer.  In the end, though, Sirena and I still slept with our heads under the stars and our hearts full of the landscape we love.


Approaching Kentucky Camp from the AZT

Sirena rocked the "hoody and a hat" look on this passage

Our superstar!

Sirena's remote, and roving, HQ

Approaching mobile HQ


Posing with the family as the sunlight brightens up the mountains beyond




Sitting down to a civilized meal


Hammocking just below Gilbert

The next morning, I packed up base camp and Sirena lead yet another group on a dayhike from Kentucky Camp to Oak Tree Canyon.  Her brother and his girlfriend joined the group of 5 to make the journey across the grasslands.  As I drove back to Tucson, I only wished that I was continuing on the adventure and heading for Utah on foot.  Maybe another time…


Dayhikers from Kentucky Camp


Trekking through the foothills


Together in our element

…Thanks for the adventure Sirena!

Wendy Lotze 3/2014



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