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Posts Tagged ‘AZT Trek’

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:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/schaumburg/154331

August 24th – REI Oakbrook:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/oakbrook-terrace/154351

August 25th – REI Chicago:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/chicago/154296

August 26th – REI Northbrook:

https://www.rei.com/events/learn-about-the-arizona-trail/northbrook/154297

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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March 24- 10 days after I began the Arizona Trail Trek, I was alone on the trail for the first time.

Dropped off on FR 4064, where I'd ended the day before

Dropped off on FR 4064, where I’d ended the day before

But before I get to the story of my hike, I just want to remind everyone about the exciting Arizona Trail Trek events happening this weekend in Tucson. Friday night, join me at Sky Bar at 536 N. 4th Avenue from 7-10 pm for the kickoff of our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with a special belly dance fundraiser event featuring music by Cobracalia and performances by Tucson’s most talented dancers! I may even trade trail dust for stage glitter for the evening…

On Saturday, I am throwing the first annual Arizona Trail Day in Tucson with guided hikes, bike and equestrian rides as well as fun activities in the afternoon at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. The hike is sold out, but there is still room on the bike and horseback rides. The celebration continues in the evening at La Sevilla Campground with food, live music, and Arizona Trail Ale. Visit www.aztrail.org for the details.

The past days had been a mix of leading people on dayhikes, backpacking with one person or another and interacting with LOTS of people at the Gateway Community Events in Sierra Vista and Patagonia. What a wonderful thing to have been able to reach so many people just weeks into my journey.

Add into the mix interviews for various media outlets and visiting with my dad, brother and his girlfriend who were in from Chicago, and I hadn’t had any time to myself on the trail.

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

This wasn’t just any piece of trail to me- I had been on the very first crew out here in October 2007 when the Las Colinas passage was just a line of flagging tape and pin flags out in the desert. My trail crew, The Crazies, built trail every other Thursday for years, putting in thousands of volunteer hours to make the Arizona Trail a reality.

Crazies in Las Colinas

Crazies in Las Colinas

When I hiked through here in 2008, there was only two miles of Las Colinas built and I teamed up with another Crazie, Lee Allen for an all-day bushwhack. 14 miles of getting stabbed by every type of poky thing in the desert, trying to follow the path the trail would eventually take through the rolling hills.

Now it was all trail, beautiful through the oaks and junipers, winding in and out of canyons. I crossed several gates, made to strict specifications of Laddie Cox, made to last lifetimes.

So fun to see gates that I helped install- great memories of building the trail abound on this passage.

So fun to see gates that I helped install- great memories of building the trail abound on this passage.

So nice to be alone on the trail- people ask me if I get scared and I often reply that I am as comfortable out here as I am in my living room. Just me and whatever it is that I want to do.

For example, in one canyon I came across the most adorable horned lizard, colored perfectly to match the surroundings. I picked him up and spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of it, then holding it in my hand. I pet its scaly back and it flattened into my hand and fell asleep. If I’d been hiking with a group, I might have taken a picture and moved on and missed this wonderful interaction.

Horned lizard hanging onto my umbrella

Horned lizard hanging onto my umbrella

A handsome fellow, he fell asleep in my hand.

A handsome fellow, he fell asleep in my hand.

As I descended in elevation from oaks and junipers to prickly pear and mesquites, more and more wildflowers appeared. I was stopped in my tracks by a hillside of yellow desert mariposa lilies and the trail was lined with pink and white fairy duster. It also got quite a bit hotter and set off my allergies. You see, I am allergic to the desert I love so much. Can’t even have most of the plants touch my skin, I break out in a rash. Oh well, that’s what long pants and sleeves and allergy medication is for.

Wildflowers!!

Wildflowers!!

I hadn’t gotten on the trail until the afternoon because I had to do a shoot in the morning for the video for the crowdfunding campaign, but still managed to make decent miles. I weighed my camping options and decided to stop before the end of the passage in a valley that shielded me from Highway 83 and houses nearby. It was right around Mile 100 of the trail, according to the maps and databook. I was treated to a spectacular sunset and a view of the Rincons and Catalinas, the next mountains ahead.

Sunset

Sunset

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack rocks!!

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack rocks!!

The next morning, I got on the trail with 15 miles to go until my pickup point at Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead north of I-10. I planned on zipping through it and being done by early afternoon. That was, until I met Terry.

Terry

Terry

I’d hiked a couple of miles to Twin Tanks and heard a horse. There was a camp underneath the tree and a man waved and said “Come say hi!”, so I did. Terry was also doing the whole Arizona Trail at once, on horseback. He’d started three weeks ago and was taking his time up the state with his two horses and two dogs. He made us a cup of coffee and I spent three whole hours visiting with him, trading stories with a fellow traveler on the AZT. I told him about the Arizona Trail Day happening on the 29th at Colossal Cave and he said he’d be there. It will be great to have him be a part of the festivities!

Hi little snake!

Hi little snake!

River taking a rest on Katie

River taking a rest on Katie

Heart shaped cactus pad was caught in Katie's tail

Heart shaped cactus pad was caught in Katie’s tail

Eventually, I had to move on to make it to Gabe Z. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to have any problems finding Passage 7, after all, I had written the description for this passage and the next in the new guidebook “Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail”. It’s also pretty flat, and winds through ocotillo, creosote and mesquite.

The weather was overcast and I even got rained on for a little bit nearing I-10. I had my big wildlife encounter of the trip so far- five deer crossed my path right before the I-10 underpass.

My big wildlife encounter so far- five deer right by I-10

My big wildlife encounter – five deer right by I-10

Nearing I-10

Nearing I-10

Micro Chicken ready to go into the I-10 tunnel underpass

Micro Chicken ready to go into the I-10 tunnel underpass

Underpass selfie

Underpass selfie

I crossed under I-10 and as I hiked along the rim of Davidson Canyon, the ground was covered in tiny flowers that turned the desert yellow. I could see the green cottonwoods of Cienega Creek ahead and knew I was nearing the trailhead.

Parts of the trail were covered in tiny yellow wildflowers

Parts of the trail were covered in tiny yellow wildflowers

The Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead is a special place on the Arizona Trail, another piece that I helped to build. Zimmerman, a 30-year-old aide to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was killed along with five others in the January 8, 2011 Tucson shootings that injured Giffords and a dozen others. The trailhead and interpretive trail celebrates his life and love of the outdoors and Arizona Trail.

Arriving at the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead

Arriving at the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead

Remembering Gabe

Remembering Gabe

I was happy to see my dad waiting for me at the trailhead, he’s been such a great support these past two weeks. Nice to spend a couple of days at home before the AZT Trek begins again with the big event on Friday night at Sky Bar and Arizona Trail Day at Colossal Cave on Saturday. Come Saturday morning, I will hike with a big group of people from the Gabe Z. TH into Colossal Cave for a full day of activities, then in the evening I’ll be at the La Sevilla Campground for an evening of entertainment by Eb’s Camp Cookin’, food by It’s Greek to Me, and Arizona Trail Ale by the campfire.

What an experience the Arizona Trail Trek has been so far, I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arizona Trail Trek

What a start to the Arizona Trail Trek! On March 14th at noon, 28 people gathered at Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial to hike with me to the Mexican border and back. You see, there’s no driving to the start of the Arizona Trail, to get to it you have to hike almost two miles down to Monument 102 that marks the border and the southern terminus of the AZT.

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Starting out on the AZT

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Looking into Mexico at San Jose Peak

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Border Monument 102

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A rare trail appearance by my wonderful husband Brian

We had a wonderful hike to the border, took the requisite starting out pictures, and then I read Dale Shewalter’s poem The Arizona Trail. The views from the hike and border are spectacular looking into Mexico.Image

After hiking back up to our cars, we went into Sierra Vista for the first of the Gateway Community Events at the beautiful Garden Place Suites. We enjoyed blues by C.J. Fletcher, tasty appetizers from the Sierra Vista Food Co-op, and Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery in Pine, AZ. It was great to see folks from all over the state coming together to talk trail and make new contacts for future adventures on the AZT.

Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event

Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event

Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op

Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op

C. J. Fletcher playin' the blues

C. J. Fletcher playin’ the blues

Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event

Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event

Gateway Community

Gateway Community

The next morning, nine of us and a mini-donkey met at Montezuma Pass once again- this time for a 15 mile dayhike up and over the Huachuca Mountains. The mini-donkey’s name is Jasmine and her person that she hikes with is Leigh Anne. They were both a blast to have along, as was the rest of the group. We had a tough but rewarding day, starting out with a climb up to 9000 feet on the Huachuca Crest. The trail rolls along the crest, stopping at one of my favorite water sources, Bathtub Spring. Here we met up with BASA, Birdnut, and Norm, thruhikers that had come to the kickoff party and started the trail that morning.

Climbing to the Huachuca Crest

Climbing to the Huachuca Crest

Miller Peak junction and the top of the day's big climb up to 9100 ft.

Miller Peak junction and the top of the day’s big climb up to 9100 ft.

Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.

Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.

Bathtub Spring

Bathtub Spring

Taking a break on the Crest Trail

Taking a break on the Crest Trail

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

We had incredible views on the crest before taking the Sunnyside Canyon Trail down the west side of the mountain. The trail finally leveled out to an old road in the canyon and I saw more bear scat than I have ever seen in one place. Pile after pile after pile. They really liked that canyon!

We ended our hike in Scotia Canyon and were met by shuttle driver extraordinaire Bernie with cold drinks, snacks and cookies for the folks going back to Montezuma Pass. My dad, who is out from Chicago to help with my hike, met me and I packed up my backpack for the next three days into Patagonia.

I spent the night in Scotia Canyon with Rick, who was hiking to Patagonia with me, and Levi, who was filming the AZT Trek for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. We had a wonderful full moon and were treated to a fantastic falling star.

Camp in Scotia Canyon

First camp of the Trek in Scotia Canyon

The next morning, I was finally able to relax in camp for a bit and we got a leisurely start of 10:30. We would have left earlier, but there were three cowboys and their dogs making a giant scene trying to rope a cow in the forest. It was one of those wild-west holdovers that make you realize that some people still make a living roping cattle from the back of a horse. After they’d subdued the cow, they came over to say hi. The one asked, “You all hiking the trail?” And I said yes, that I am hiking the entire AZT. He looked at me from his horse and said, “Didn’t I just see you on T.V.?” Recognized by a cowboy in the middle of nowhere!! Cracked me up.

Cowboys

Cowboys

Rick and I finally got on the trail, tailed by Levi, our enthusiastic videographer. We all hiked to the Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead and the end of Passage 1 where we found mountain biker Steve, who had been at the kickoff party. He had put some water out for me at the trailhead that said “Go Sirena!” and we stopped to chat for a while. We were joined by thru hiker Jim with his adorable dog Chance for a lunch break.

Parker Canyon Lake

Parker Canyon Lake

After lunch, Rick and I hiked for a while, up and down through the Canelo Hills. We had a great break along the flowing creek in Parker Canyon to filter some water. Nothing like flowing water in the desert. There was a climb to a small ridge with incredible views in every direction and we called it camp. Not too tough of a day, which was nice. There will be plenty of long, tough days ahead.

The full moonrise was spectacular and lit up the sky like it was daytime again. I slept like a rock and was treated to an amazing sunrise from my sleeping bag. I love cowboy camping under the stars- who wants to look at the inside of a tent? Not this girl.

Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp

Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp- click to enlarge

The next day was up and down, up and down through the Cinnamon Hills (Canelo in Spanish). The landscape is one of oak-dotted grassy ridges, every so often giving views of the surrounding Sky Island mountain ranges. We could see the Santa Ritas, Mustang, Rincon, Catalina, and Huachuca ranges from high points of the trail. The Catalinas looked so far- and I’m going to walk there and beyond!

From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains

From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains

Middle Canyon break spot

Middle Canyon break spot

Canelos from the highpoint

I felt really good, finally settling into the fact that I get to live outside for the next two and a half months. I was giddy with excitement- finally, after 7 years of dreaming of thru hiking the Arizona Trail, here I was! In the intervening years, both the trail and I had changed a bit.

One of the highlights of the Canelo West passage is the hike through Meadow Valley. Rick and I marveled at the wide expanse of golden grasses bathed in afternoon sun.

Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley

Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley

Upper Meadow Valley

Upper Meadow Valley

Meadow Panorama

Meadow Panorama

Canelo West

Canelo West

Down Under Tank

Down Under Tank

As it got later, we were looking for a place to camp and chose this nondescript clearing on a grass and catclaw covered hillside. It turned out to be much better than we had expected and we were treated to a colorful sunset followed by yet another picturesque moonrise.

Sunset from Canelo West camp

Sunset from Canelo West camp

Moonlit silhouette

Moonlit silhouette

The next morning, we hiked to Red Bank Well and got water from a solar-powered windmill that shot water out of a pipe on a tall green tank. These passages are in open-ranching territory and we passed many bovines, some with impressive horns.

We were dropping elevation and as we got closer to the Harshaw Trailhead the temperatures soared and poppies and other wildflowers began to appear. Springtime is here!

Red Bank

Red Bank

Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.

Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.

Wildflower season!

Wildflower season!

Micro Chicken on the AZT

Micro Chicken on the AZT

One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.

One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.

We reached the trailhead, still three miles outside of Patagonia. I was planning on staying with the couple who runs the visitor’s center and owns Patagon bike rental and Maggie was kind enough to meet us and take our packs into town. I stopped to adjust my right shoe after she drove away and the entire tongue of the shoe pulled right out!! Shoes are the most important thing when you’re walking across the state and I immediately started thinking about what I was going to do.

This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.

This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.

We walked the road and the first thing we saw when we got into town was a poster advertising the Arizona Trail Trek event in Patagonia on the 20th! Exciting that I’ve just walked 52 miles into my first town from Mexico. What a great five days on the trail. We had a paleta (Mexican ice cream bar) from Ovens of Patagonia to celebrate.

First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th

First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th

Thankfully, I had gotten into Patagonia a day earlier than expected, and Rick was having a friend of his pick him up and bring him back to Tucson, where he’d parked his car. I caught a ride and before I knew it, I was back in Tucson and buying a new pair of shoes. Brian, my husband, was ecstatic to get to spend some bonus time together and I slept in my own bed. Not exactly what I was expecting, but not the worst thing that could happen by far.

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Brian, my ride to Tucson, and Rick, my traveling companion from Mexico to Patagonia at the end of a successful first leg of the Arizona Trail Trek.

Now I’m back in Patagonia and the second Arizona Trail Trek event is happening tonight at Plaza de Patagonia, 277 McKeown Ave from 5-8 pm. Music by Jamnesia, tasty food from Ovens of Patagonia, and Arizona Trail Ale. Hope to see you there!

To donate to the Arizona Trail Trek’s mission to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association, click here

The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with exclusive incentives kicks off on Friday, March 28th at Sky Bar in Tucson- 536 4th Ave from 7-10 pm. Come out for music by Cobracalia and performances by Midriff Revival, Belly Dance Tucson, Brandye Asya, Dragna, Troupe HipNautic and Black Sun Tribe! I am pretty sure that I am the only thru-hiker that comes off the trail for belly dance performances. That’s just how I roll.

Don’t forget, you can also follow the Arizona Trail Trek on the Arizona Trail Association’s Facebook or on Twitter @AZTRAIL- see you on the AZT! Full list of Gateway Community events and public hikes at www.aztrail.org/azttrek

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