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

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

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

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

January

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

Arizona Trail - Gila River Canyons

Fall along the Gila River

Wendy and Stripey Butte - Arizona Trail

Wendy and Stripey Butte

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

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

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

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

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

Indigenous Connections Panel - Outdoor Retailer

Indigenous Connections Panel

February

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge

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

March

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

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

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

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

Liz and Sirena Hike The Loop Finish

Liz and Sirena completing the 80-mile Hike The Loop

Hike The Loop Group Photo

Hike The Loop group hike with Jasmine the Mini-Donkey

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

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

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

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

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

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

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

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

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Passing the site of my 2016 helicopter evacuation

Indians in Grand Canyon

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

Granite Rapid in the Distance - Grand Canyon

 

Grand Canyon Traverse - South Bass to Hermit

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

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

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

April

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

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

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

Swami's presentation on his 12 Long Walks

Cam “Swami” Honan speaking about his 12 Long Walks

May

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

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

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

Force of Nature REI Panel

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

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

June

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

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

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

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

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

Sirena Arizona Trail Utah Border Obelisk

Arizona National Scenic Trail Obelisk at the Utah Border

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

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

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

July

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

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

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

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

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

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

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

Spark 2020 Conference

Spark 2020 Conference

Love this Outside Magazine cover!

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

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

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel

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

Meeting with Tanya from Wilderness Press

With Tanya Twerdowsky from my publisher, Wilderness Press

August

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

Willow Canyon - Photo Russell James Newberg

Canyoneering Willow Canyon – Photo Russell James Newberg

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

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

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

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon

Sirena and Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

Lydia and me in Tanque Verde Canyon

Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

 

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

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

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

September

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

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

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

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

Tusayan Trails Master Plan Map - Public Comment

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

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

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

Writing in the Hammock

Writing in my hammock

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

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

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

October

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

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

SHIFT Conference

SHIFT Conference Emerging Leaders Program

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

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

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

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

November

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

REI Minneapolis

REI Minneapolis

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

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

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

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

Women Who Hike - Traci Edwards Photo

Women Who Hike – Traci Edwards Photo

December

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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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

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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.

2010

Coming up the South Gully

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

 

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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

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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

2011

Rattlesnake

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

Huethawali

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

2012

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

2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

2014

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

2015

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

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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

2016

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge, Grand Canyon

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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)

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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

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

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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

2018

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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Recently, as part of my partnership with the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), I gave my Hiking the Arizona Trail talk at REI in Chandler.  AOT livestreamed the presentation on their Instagram and Facebook and we got people from all over the world tuning in! Below is the presentation, a tour from Mexico to Utah with tips and tricks to plan your own adventure on the Arizona Trail. Plenty of stories, information and my best photos from over a decade on the AZT.

I’ll be doing a series of 8 articles, talks and social media posts with the Office of Tourism during my hike research for my upcoming book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail with Wilderness Press. The articles will start next month, I’ll be sure to share them when they are published.

I’ve given this talk numerous times, but haven’t ever seen a recording of it. As suspected, I talk with my hands. A lot. No matter how brown and East Indian my skin is, the hands are all Italian. Hope you enjoy the presentation!

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

Shreve Saddle on the Arizona Trail, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

 

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What a year this has been! I have been kept quite busy by my consulting company, Trails Inspire, and sadly have not posted much on Sirena’s Wanderings this year. However, this post will catch you up on what’s been going on, there are many links to follow as well to articles I’ve written or appeared in. I thank all the readers that have followed me for the past eight years I’ve written this blog and those who find my posts a resource and inspiration for their hikes.

A Grand-Canyon sized thanks to Gossamer Gear and Huppybar for their support of my adventures! If you’d like more frequent updates on where I’m wandering, follow me on Instagram at @desertsirena. Here’s my favorite shot of the whole year, condors J4 and 02 playing queen of the rock in Marble Canyon. Now on to a look back at 2017!

California Condor

Condors playing Queen of the Rock

January

At the beginning of the year, I returned to volunteering at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I had taken a break for about a year or so and was so happy to be back! Volunteering there is one of my favorite activities and I am so fortunate to get to specialize in working with raptors – hawks, owls and falcons.Harris Hawk

I filed the official paperwork in January to form Trails Inspire, LLC, my consulting business. Trails Inspire promotes the outdoors through photography, public speaking, freelance writing, and trail project management. Thanks to Wendy Lotze for designing my beautiful logo! Visit the website to learn more – I am currently booking speaking and writing gigs for 2018, contact me at sirena@trailsinspire.com. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook.Trails inspire Square Logo visit www.trailsinspire to learn more!

January 25th marked the 20th anniversary of my accident, when I was hit by a truck while walking across the street. That moment changed my life forever and I wanted to commemorate it with an outing in the Mineral Mountains with my friends Wendy and India. They were very good sports about it even though temps dipped into the 20s.

Hiking up to the ridge

Hiking up to the ridge

As a result of that accident, I developed fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that made me very ill for most of my twenties. I found hiking while trying to manage my condition and it led to wellness and adventures I’d never thought possible. It was a bittersweet trip,  I had gone a decade without a flare. Yet on the anniversary of my accident, I had been in a flare for two months already with no sign of it abating. I tried to find the gratitude in still being able to use my body to get outside. Rather than sit at home and feel bad, I chose to feel bad in nature and keep hiking and backpacking. It helped my mental state immensely.

February

I took a roadtrip from Chicago to Tucson with my dad and we entertained ourselves by using the Roadside America website to find attractions to visit along the way. It even made Nebraska interesting, a feat I formerly thought impossible. We saw the World’s Largest Buffalo Nickel and Ball of Stamps, historic sites, and sculptures ranging from epic to ridiculous.

World's Largest Ball of Stamps

World’s Largest Ball of Stamps

I had an article published about the 5 Best Hikes in Superior for the Pinal Nugget, which gave me a great excuse to visit for research.

Picketpost Mountain

Picketpost Mountain

I hiked to the top of Picacho Peak for my 43rd birthday and again a week later with my nephew Gage. Gage moved to Arizona from Michigan and I’ve really enjoyed introducing him to hiking.

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!

Perfect weather for a birthday hike!

March

Backpacked the first 60 miles of the Sky Island Traverse with Amanda “Not a Chance” Timeoni from Cochise Stronghold East through the Dragoons, over to the San Pedro River and followed the river down to the San Pedro House. I loved hiking among the giant cottonwoods of the San Pedro and there were lots of interesting side trips along the way to see archaeological sites and historic structures. I managed to hike a 20-mile day in spite of being in month five of my fibromyalgia flare. It was a triumph that made me feel better mentally if not physically. Chance was a great hiking partner and I really enjoyed her company. She’s hiked over 14,000 miles on long distance trails since 2009.

Stunning Cochise Stronghold

Stunning Cochise Stronghold


San Pedro River - Sky Island Traverse

Hiking in the San Pedro River to stay cool (and because splashing through the water is fun!)

April

I attempted again to hike from South Bass to Hermit in the Grand Canyon, the hike I’d been helicoptered out of with a torn calf muscle the year before. Alas, the roads were muddy and we couldn’t get to the trailhead so I hiked the Escalante Route from Tanner to Grandview again. Not a bad plan B – the Escalante Route is beautiful and there was a prolific wildflower bloom that was unlike any I’ve ever seen in the Canyon!

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail


Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

India and me at the Unkar Overlook


After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show

After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show


While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

The week after my Grand Canyon hike, my six-month fibromyalgia flare finally subsided and I was so grateful for my renewed health. It had been mentally and physically exhausting to be in pain all the time,  there had been a searing nerve pain in my right scapula along with the accompanying symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression.  I hope that it will be another decade before my next one. No picture because it’s an invisible condition, I look the same whether I’m in a flare or not.

Sadly, upon hiking out of the Canyon, I learned that the Wildlife Rehab had suffered a devastating fire that burned parts of the facility and resulted in the deaths of over 30 of our birds. The saddest part was that three of our educational animals, who we’d had for a decade, perished in the fire. Heartbreaking.

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Aftermath of the fire outside


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The bird room after the fire

I gave a couple of talks in April – the first was about historic sites on the Arizona Trail for the Glen Canyon Natural History Association in Page. You can listen to a radio interview I did about it. It gave me a great excuse to do some exploring in the area and I hiked to the Colorado River via Cathedral Wash and got to see condors sitting on an egg from the Navajo Bridge.Glen Canyon NHA

In Silver City, New Mexico, I gave a talk on Hot Weather Hiking Tips at the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff and also published an accompanying article for the American Long Distance Hiking Association – West.

Canyoneered the Salome Jug in the Sierra Ancha with Meg and Russ Newberg. It was a gorgeous, sculpted pink canyon with lots of fun swims.

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Salome Jug with Russ and Meg


The Jug - Russ Newberg

Salome Jug – Photo by Russ Newberg

I spent some time in Oracle, north of Tucson, volunteering with the Arizona Conservation Corps to maintain my 3-mile section of the Arizona Trail for which I am a steward. My Oracle Adventures: 3 Hikes article was published by the Copper Town News and I got to visit one of my favorite places, the High Jinks Ranch.

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Trail maintenance with Arizona Conservation Corps


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Oracle State Park

May

My nephew Gage went with me on his first backpacking trip, I chose Hutch’s Pool and he did great! It was a toasty hike in but the swimming made it all worth it.

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Gage on his first backpacking trip


Hutch's Waterfall

Hutch’s Waterfall

I advocated for our public lands and urged people to submit their comments for the review of 27 National Monuments by the current administration.

June

In June I started my company’s first big contract – to develop a community trails Master Plan for the Town of Tusayan, Gateway Community to the Grand Canyon and Arizona Trail. I traveled to Tusayan to meet with local business and landowners, the Kaibab Forest and Grand Canyon National Park. After work, I got to visit the Canyon and camp in the forest, it was amazing!IMG_6255

At the Wildlife Rehab, work continued on the facility and I put together a fundraiser event – After the Fire – to supplement the donations that were coming in online. It was a wonderful event at Sky Bar with fantastic entertainment and people really enjoyed meeting our remaining educational animals.

MoJo Grass

MoJo Grass


Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller

Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller


Marjani Drum Solo

Marjani

For Father’s Day, one of my stories about my dad was featured on the She Explores podcast. My dad has been a great supporter of my adventures, but we didn’t always get along when I was growing up.

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

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

July

Right before the monsoon rains comes Saguaro fruit season and this year was incredible – so much fruit! I harvested, dried and made plenty of fruit leather to last the rest of the year.IMG_6237

I visited Aravaipa Canyon for a leisurely trip with lots of hanging in the hammock, coloring, writing and listening to music. It’s always a gorgeous destination and the trip revitalized me for the whirlwind that was the rest of the month.

Aravaipa Canyon

Aravaipa Canyon

Wendy and I had a rare moment in the same town at the same time and we hiked the Florida Trail in the Santa Ritas, a new one for me. Monsoon rains were great this year and when I hiked Pusch Peak, the normally-dry fall was flowing and there was even enough water to take a swim in the canyon!

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Florida Trail


Pusch Peak

Pusch Peak

I attended the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism representing Trails Inspire and reconnected with many colleagues and made new contacts.

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Outdoor Retailer’s last event in Salt Lake City was at the end of the month. There were a number of events about women and diversity and I really enjoyed the sense of community that grew out of them. I wrote a story about it for Gossamer Gear’s blog. I also had a photo featured in Liz Thomas’ Backpacker Long Trails book. It’s a photo from my hike into Grand Canyon with the Warrior Hike veterans program.

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Women Who Lead panel


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Liz Thomas and me

August

After developing and getting responses on a public questionnaire, I held a public meeting for the Tusayan Community Trails Master Plan, which also meant that I got to visit the Canyon again.

Herd of Elk near my camp in Kaibab National Forest

Herd of Elk near my camp in Kaibab National Forest


Huppybar in its Natural Environment

Huppybar in its natural environment

My friend Meg had been wanting to try out backpacking so I put together a trip to the Wilderness of Rock on Mount Lemmon. It was one of the most intense nights of lightning I’ve had and one Meg will not soon forget. A couple of days later, I was in Oracle when they got over 4 1/2 inches of rain in one night!

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock

Brian and I met my dad in Garden Valley, Idaho for the Solar Eclipse. It is hard to describe what a profound experience it was during totality. Brian, an amateur astronomer, had been telling me about this eclipse for the last 10 years and I’m so glad we made the trip. We also got to visit the World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, what a treat!

Brian, Dad and me ready for the eclipse

Brian, Dad and me ready for the eclipse


Bateleur Eagles from Africa

Bateleur Eagles from Africa

September

Took Gage on an overnight to Josephine Saddle in the Santa Ritas and we also summitted Mount Wrightson. Wrightson was my first big peak and I was excited to share the feeling of triumph with my nephew. He absolutely loved it and was amazed at the views and accomplishment. We had an epic sunset on the way back to our camp.

Summit of Mount Wrightson

Summit of Mount Wrightson – 9456 ft.


Sunset from the Baldy Trail, Mount Wrightson

Sunset on Baboquivari from the Baldy Trail, Mount Wrightson

Returned to Tusayan to lay out a potential trail corridor based on the public and stakeholder feedback from the questionnaires and meeting. I worked with Mark Flint, of Southwest Trail Solutions, who has designed miles and miles of trail for Pima County and the Arizona Trail. The layout was a lot of fun and we ended up with 13 miles of new multi-use non-motorized trail. The part I’m most excited about is the Grand Canyon History Trail, an interpretive trail that will tell the human history of the Grand Canyon area from Native American times to the present.

Meadow on the new Tusayan Trail system

Meadow on the new Tusayan Trail system


Mark Flint and Me

Working laying out trail with Mark Flint in Tusayan


Tusayan Sunset

Tusayan Sunset

Unfortunately, I had been having some continued troubles with harassment that escalated to the point of interfering in my new business. It had been a source of stress and anxiety that required me to seek not only legal help but also counseling. When the #MeToo coverage started blowing up in the news the following month, I could relate all too well. Not all harassment is of a sexual nature, but at the base of it all is the same power struggle. I am fortunate to have good friends and family, a supportive husband and a wonderful counselor who have helped to see me through.

Back to adventuring, I had always wondered what Upper Romero Canyon looked like and finally got to see for myself. My buddy Russ and I canyoneered down sculpted granite corridors and rappelled down waterfalls. It was good training for my upcoming big Grand Canyon trip.

Canyoneering Upper Romero Canyon

Canyoneering Upper Romero Canyon


Canyon Tree Frog

Canyon Tree Frog

Got a couple of horseback rides in with Carrie Miracle-Jordan on JJ.

Riding in the Santa Ritas

Riding in the Santa Ritas

One of the most amazing events I’ve ever put together of is Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire. I came up with the idea for the event when Niall Murphy from REI Tucson approached me about doing a presentation. Instead of just me doing my thing, Trails Inspire co-sponsored a multi-sport women’s panel discussion with a mountain biker, an equestrian, a rock climber, an ultrarunner and me, the backpacker. We had 200 people, mostly women, attend at the Tucson Hop Shop and it was everything I’d hoped. Women came away inspired and empowered to take on their own adventures and connected with each other and local community outdoors groups.

Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire

Force of Nature: Women Who Inspire – MC Lisette Wells-Mackovic, Backpacker (me), Ultrarunner Laura Swenson, Mountain Biker Veronique Pardee, Rock Climber Jenn Choi, Equestrian Carrie Miracle-Jordan

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October

My friend Heather “Anish” Anderson came to visit with her boyfriend Adam after they’d both hiked almost 4000 miles on the Oregon Desert Trail, Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trails. Check her Instagram @anishhikes, she’s always up to amazing things. After taking a couple days off, they were ready to hike so we backpacked from the top of Mount Lemmon out to Sabino Canyon so I could test my knees for my Grand Canyon trip. We spent the night at Hutch’s Pool and had a great time and the knees were ready to go!

Pistachio, Anish and me on Mount Lemmon

Pistachio, Anish and me on Mount Lemmon

I presented the Tusayan Community Trails Master Plan to the Town Council and they voted a unanimous yes! Next step is opening the Master Plan for a round of public comment and another public meeting, sometime early next year.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Got to see the Grand Canyon by air thanks to Grand Canyon Helicopters, the flight path went right over the route I was planning to hike. The Butte Fault/Horsethief Route was one of my favorite adventures to date. A whole week of fresh scenery, unusual geology, challenging terrain and logistics and breathtaking beauty. It felt so good to be out there solo, on my own timeline, feeling strong. Quite the different experience than the trip earlier in the year when I’d still been in a fibromyalgia flare. If you’d like to see what gear I bring, you can read this Gossamer Gear article about it.

Butte Fault

Butte Fault from the helicopter, Awatubi/Sixtymile saddle below.


Nankoweap Creek

Nankoweap Creek


Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte


Hiking up to Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle

Awatubi-Sixtymile Saddle (same as in the aerial photo)


Lava Chuar Sunset

Sunset at Lava/Chuar

Six months after the fire at the Wildlife Rehab, Janet got to move back into her house and ready it to start accepting animals again. Thanks again to all who donated their time, talents and funds to help rebuild. The new structures and aviaries are better than ever, we’ll be doing an open house event once it’s all complete.

November

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, two houses away from my best friend Kristin. We met when I was four and spent our childhood exploring together. My mom was forever sending her brother looking for us in the patch of woods by our house. I moved away in 1994 but we’ve stayed close all these years across the miles. Our lives couldn’t be more different, and she came for a visit to experience a vacation like none she’d had before. I set up a camping and hiking tour of many of my favorite places in Northern Arizona and we had the absolute best time!!Best friends at Grand Canyon

We started out with a night in Flagstaff, then I got to take her to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. It was such a blast, doing all my favorite things, and seeing Kristin experience them with fresh eyes. She was a great sport, and I took her camping in Marble Canyon and to the Navajo Bridge and Lee’s Ferry. The highlight was watching the California Condors play king of the rock, I looked them up and they are both females, born in 2011 and 2013. I have never gotten a chance to photograph them in action before other than soaring way above. We finished the trip with a hike on the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff and then she was back to Chicago. We’re already plotting her return.

Marble Canyon Dance Party

Marble Canyon dance party


Best Friends

Hi there!

Since we lost our educational Great Horned Owl, Luna, in the fire, I started training a new one. It’s been an incredible process to take a wild bird (it can’t be released because of a wing that didn’t heal properly) and work with it week after week to get it used to being comfortable perched on a glove in public.

Training a Great Horned Owl

Training a Great Horned Owl

For Thanksgiving weekend, I got to house sit at one of my favorite spots in all the land, the High Jinks Ranch near Oracle. It was all I’d hoped and I got some great night shots and quality time on the Arizona Trail.Starry night at the Arizona Trail portal

December

Trails Inspire and I were featured in Phoenix Magazine’s December issue in a wonderful article by Mare Czinar.

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

After my Grand Canyon trip in October, I wanted another adventure to look forward to, so I asked my friend Mitch if he knew anyone that could help me climb Finger Rock. On the ascent to the base of the Finger, my quads started cramping. It was confusing, I had consumed what I thought was plenty of water, food and electrolytes, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I was able to make it to the base and decided not to go up the climb, just couldn’t take the chance of cramping up while on rope. I have been consciously practicing gratitude, so after a fleeting moment of feeling bad that I didn’t get to summit, I was able to enjoy the fact that I still got to see a new part of the mountain, take in the amazing views and get epic photos of my friends. What a great day, I’ll be back!

Finger Rock

Finger Rock

My dad came for a visit and we traveled to Whitewater Draw for the sunrise to see the Sandhill Cranes. It was a chilly 25 degrees, but worth it! We stopped for a fall color fix on the Arizona Trail in Cienega Creek from the Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead. Fall in December, only in Arizona! Always good to travel with my dad.

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

To round out the year, I teamed up with Mitch and Bill for a holiday hike up Buster Mountain in Catalina State Park. I’ve been hiking with these two since our trip up Ragged Top in 2009 and the companionship is always top-notch.

Buster Mountain Holiday Hike

Buster Mountain Holiday Hike

I’m really looking forward to 2018 – lots of adventures planned, continuing to work on the Tusayan project, and more pieces of my Grand Canyon Traverse. One of the most exciting projects is writing a book about my story – from the accident that caused my fibromyalgia to the outdoor woman I am today. I’ve written several chapters so far and it’s been an amazing experience to revisit how very far I have come. Best wishes to all for the New Year and see you in 2018!

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For the 101st Anniversary of the Park Service, I decided to finally get around to publishing a trip in the Grand Canyon that I did in April. Happy Birthday to America’s Best Idea!!

Before I get into my long overdue Grand Canyon triplog, here’s the reason I haven’t been posting much lately: I have been very busy with my new consulting company for trails and communities, Trails Inspire, LLC! The mission of Trails Inspire is to promote community trail use, development and tourism through project management, freelance writing, photography and public speaking. For more information on our services, visit www.trailsinspire.com.

I am excited to be working with the Town of Tusayan to develop a community trails system Master Plan as well as some writing assignments and public speaking engagements. I’ll be posting updates on the Trails Inspire blog and social media, so give us a follow on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! Sirena’s Wanderings will remain active for me to continue sharing my adventures hiking, backpacking, rafting and canyoneering.Trails inspire Square Logo visit www.trailsinspire to learn more!

On April 1st, 2016, I was on day 2 of a hike from South Bass to Hermit in the Grand Canyon when my calf muscle tore. I had to be evacuated out, full story here. I got invited to do the same trip exactly a year later and was excited to have the opportunity to get that piece of my Grand Canyon Traverse completed. Unfortunately, the day before our hike in there was wet snow everywhere and we couldn’t make it to the remote South Bass Trailhead. Plan B was to do the Escalante Route and Tonto Trails from Tanner to Grandview.

It was snowing all morning as we shuttled cars and we couldn’t even see the canyon from the Tanner trailhead at Lipan Point. We hiked on snow for a short distance and descended out of the clouds to dry trail. No traction devices needed, though I was carrying some just in case. By the time we reached 75-Mile Saddle, we began seeing our first blooms – Cliff Fendlerbush.

Brrr! Snowy on the upper Tanner Trail

Brrr! Snowy on the upper Tanner Trail

Coconino rockslide, Tanner Trail

Coconino rockslide, Tanner Trail

Happy to be home. Tanner Trail, Grand Canyon

Happy to be home.

75-mile Canyon, Escalante Route

75-Mile Canyon

Traversing through the Supai, we got a momentary respite from the downhill. I was wearing patellar tendon straps on both knees for more support and they behaved all trip. I got giddy as we approached the Redwall Overlook. There is a short spur trail before the Tanner Trail dives through the Redwall with one of the most wonderful views upstream. Someday I am going to camp there. On this day, we made do with an extended break.

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook, Tanner Trail

 

Mark taking in the view, Tanner Trail

Mark taking in the view

As we descended in the Muav, we saw the first of many Mariposa Lilies. I have never seen so many in one trip! We played a game to see who would spot the first blooming cactus. I saw a bright pink beavertail and the wildflowers multiplied as we lost elevation and hiked down from winter into spring.

Mariposa lilies, Escalante Route

The first of many many Mariposa Lilies

Descending the Dox to Tanner Beach

Descending the Dox to Tanner Beach

Ever descending on the Tanner Trail

Ever descending on the Tanner Trail

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail

Spectacular views on the Tanner Trail

Beavertail Prickly Pear, Escalante Route

Beavertail Prickly Pear

The constant sloping descent on the Dox Formation finally ended and we took an amazing break at Tanner Rapid, soaking our feet in the icy waters of the Colorado River and watching the waves. It’s been two years since I guided on the river and I definitely miss it sometimes.

We still had three miles to go to get to Cardenas beach, our camp for the night. We started the Escalante Route, which was well-traveled and dipped in and out of every ravine. It felt great to arrive at the beach and I was so tired that I didn’t even get up or take photos at night.

Escalante Route

So green!

I had been experiencing a Fibromyalgia flare for the last 5 months and had done a 60-mile test backpacking trip before this on the Sky Islands Traverse. Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that I have had for 20 years, since I was hit by a car while walking across the street. I hadn’t had a flare for 10 years and the pain and fatigue were just as unbearable as before. I was having nerve pain on the right side of my back that was there 24/7, fatigue and hypersensitivity to touch. One of the problems is the neurotransmitters don’t function properly, causing pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. As always, time in nature made me feel better and kept my mind off of the problems I was having with my body. If I am going to feel like crap anyway, I at least want to be enjoying the outdoors. I was glad my body held up to our long day.

Micro Chicken pines for the river

Micro Chicken pines for the river

The next morning, we were covered in dew and spent a while drying our gear out before moving on. We hiked up to the Hilltop Ruin and marveled at the 360 degree view. It was only a short distance through fields of yellow flowers before our next stop at the Unkar Overlook. I love this spot, you can hang your head over the sheer cliffs and look down at Unkar Rapid and the Unkar Delta ruins across the river.

Hilltop Ruin, Escalante Route

Hilltop Ruin

Hilltop Ruin Ridgewalk, Escalante Route

Hilltop Ruin Ridgewalk

Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

Unkar Overlook

Unkar Overlook with my camera, photo by India

Happy at Unkar Overlook with my camera, photo by India

The route ascended as we traveled toward Escalante Creek. There are a number of spots that would make a great dry camp with views. We found a small seep of water in the bed of Escalante as we hiked down toward the beach. After an Escalante Beach break with wave-watching, we hiked up through fields of blooming Brittlebush to 75-mile Canyon and followed the rim until we could get into the bed.

Escalante Route

Escalante Route – photo by Mark

Traveling toward Escalante Creek, Escalante Route

Traveling toward Escalante Creek

Traveling to Escalante Creek

Traveling to Escalante Creek

Escalante Beach, Escalante Route

Escalante Beach

The hike down the canyon to the river at Nevills Rapid is delightful and we spent a while enjoying the textures and colors of the Shinumo Quartzite slot canyon. We had Nevills to ourselves and I stayed up well after Mark and India went to sleep doing night photography and having my own personal beach dance party.

Narrows of 75-mile Creek, Escalante Route

Narrows of 75-mile Creek

Micro Bat and Micro Chicken

Micro Bat and Micro Chicken lair

Nighttime antics at Nevills Beach, Escalante Route

Nighttime antics at Nevills Beach

Day 3 we took the low route to Papago Canyon and I found a river-level juniper, which is quite rare and made me very happy. Grand Canyon Junipers are my favorite tree of all. We got to the Papago Wall and Mark headed up to drop his pack and help India climb up. I went up next, no big deal since I’d done it before and knew there were giant hand holds all over the place. India did great and got up the wall wearing her pack. We climbed some more and squeezed through a tight spot, then reached a great view downstream toward Red Canyon.

Papago Canyon, Escalante Route

Papago Canyon

Up the Papago Wall

Papago Overlook, Escalante Route

Papago Overlook

The Papago Slide is a 300 foot rockfall made of every size of rock imaginable, most of it loose. We carefully picked our way down, leaving plenty of space between us. As we neared Hance Rapid, we saw some boats arrive at the scout point. Yay! Getting to see oar boats run one of the biggest and most technical rapids was awesome. As we took our break, another giant group of kayakers and boaters from the Czech Republic showed up and ran the rapids. Some of them even portaged their boats around to run it a second time!

Papago Slide, Escalante Route

Papago Slide

Mighty Hance Rapid

Hance Rapid

Kayakers from the Czech Republic scout Hance Rapid

Kayakers in Hance Rapid

There they go!

The weather started to change as we sat at Hance and I even had to put my puffy jacket on. Clouds rolled in, which was nice because we had a bunch of climbing to do to gain the Tonto Platform. The Tonto Trail begins at Red Canyon and the layers slope upward because of the appearance of the Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite that make up the Upper Granite Gorge.

Rising above the river on the beginning of the Tonto Trail at Red Canyon

Upper Granite Gorge emerges as the Vishnu Schist and Zoroaster Granite become exposed

As we reached Mineral Canyon, it started to snow! Big, fat wet clumps called snow cones (Really! Mark is a meteorologist). There was a handy overhang for us to suit up in our rain gear. Snow turned to rain and we climbed out of Mineral Canyon, finally reaching the Tonto Platform near Ayer Point. The rain was really coming down as we got to the camp spot I used in 2015. We used teamwork to put my Gossamer Gear The One tent up first and stash the packs inside the vestibule so we could put the other two up. It rained for about two hours and when it stopped we emerged to the most spectacular scene of dramatic light and snow-frosted Canyon complete with rainbows and an amazing sunset.

Dewy Mariposas

After the rain came the spectacular sunset light show

Rainbow over Solomon’s Temple

I went to sleep and woke up about 3 am to answer nature’s call. The sky was outrageously good with the Milky Way prominent. I put all the clothes I had with me on and got my camera. It was chilly and I had to dance around to keep warm but the photos I got were worth it!!

The One

Milky Way

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

The next day we followed the Tonto into Hance Creek and took a break near the inscriptions. I couldn’t find the one that said HANCE and there was a big hole taken out of the wall. Could someone have taken it? People are so strange.

Sweet little pothole with water and a small slice of river visible below

Galloway Inscription in Hance Creek

Galloway inscription in Hance Creek

I had not done the Tonto around Horseshoe Mesa and it went quickly and was covered in Claret Cup Cactus, Indian Paintbrush and Mariposas to our delight. We also saw blooming Redbud trees, a favorite of mine.

Indian Paintbrush

Redbuds!

Purple Sage

As we rounded the corner of the west arm of the mesa, Zoroaster, Brahma, Isis and the Cheops Plateau came into view. It was nice to see these familiar landmarks. We reached Cottonwood Creek and found a spot for the night. India and Mark were on the ledges near the waterfall, I climbed up to a spot just big enough for one on a perfect Tapeats ledge complete with my own personal camp juniper.

Cottonwood Canyon Camp, Grand Canyon

Looking down on Mark’s camp in Cottonwood Canyon

Amazing ledge camp

Tonto Trail- Cottonwood Canyon, Grand Canyon

The perfect camp Juniper

We explored downstream a little ways, it’s very pretty with small cascades and ledges. I made a plan to return at night. I set my alarm to go off at 3 am since I had such good luck the night before and I was not disappointed. The Milky Way was bright over Grandview Point and I took photos until the stars faded at 4:30 am.

Cottonwood Creek, Grand Canyon

Stars in Cottonwood Creek

Cottonwood Creek, Grand Canyon

Milky Way over Cottonwood Creek

Cottonwood Creek, Grand Canyon

Sleeping Under the Stars

Cottonwood Creek Waterfall, Grand Canyon

Cottonwood Creek Waterfall

I was reluctant to leave the Canyon, I could have easily spent another week down there. I joked that they should leave me and I could just subsist on begging extra food from incoming backpackers who had overpacked. India was a little intimidated by the climb out and I told her that we were going to make it fun by taking a bunch of breaks and going at whatever pace she wanted. I was secretly pleased that no one wanted to rush out and get home and that Mark wasn’t in a hurry either.

Grandview Trail, Grand Canyon

Steeeeep!

We climbed and climbed out of Cottonwood Canyon and took an extended break on the “neck” of Horseshoe Mesa. The Grandview Trail is crazy steep, but we just took our sweet time. Another long break at Coconino Saddle and as we gained elevation we could look back on our entire route from the last five days. They practically had to drag me out of the Canyon, as I said, I was not ready to leave. There had been a lot of work done on the trail since I last hiked it and it was in great shape. We passed clean, perfumed dayhikers and answered questions like, “did you spend the night down there?” And just like that,  we were at the trailhead and it was over.

Grandview Trail, Grand Canyon

Looking down on Horseshoe Mesa

Grandview Trail, Grand Canyon

Almost there!

Grandview Trail, Grand Canyon

Log Cribbing on the trail

Grandview Trail, Grand Canyon

This tree sadly means we’re almost out

Grandview Trail, Grand Canyon

Topped out!

I was pleased to get through the trip even though I was having a fibromyalgia flare and my knees held up really well. The best part was that three days after I hiked out, my nerve pain in my back finally went away and I began to feel better. So relieved! The physical and mental anguish was exhausting and having the flare has made me so thankful for the times that I am feeling good. I will be returning in October to do another piece of my section hike of the length of the Canyon and I can hardly wait.

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

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

Happy Father’s Day!! My love of travel, nature and photography can be traced back to my dad. I love the times we have traveled together and am so thankful to have had him be my support crew for my adventures.

However, we didn’t always have the best relationship growing up. I sent an entry about it to She-Explores for their Father’s Day podcast and am thrilled to have been chosen for the latest episode. Check it out, my part starts at 25:13 if you want to skip ahead, but all of the stories are worth hearing! http://she-explores.com/podcast/to-dad-from-daughter/

Me and my Dad at the Grand Canyon

Me and Dad at Mt. Peeley Trailhead

Dad in the hole, Stateline Trailhead AZT

Lots of exciting things happening, thanks to all who came out to the After the Fire fundraiser at Sky Bar, we raised $1620 to help rebuild Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson! It was an incredible night and we packed the house. A million thanks to Sky Bar for hosting and to Cabaret Boheme, HipNautique, MoJo Grass, Big D and the Love Muscles, and the Tucson Tribal Belly Dance Collective for donating their talents.

Here’s a couple pics from the evening, full set of photos here. Didn’t get a chance to attend but still want to donate? Visit the online campaign!

MoJo Grass

MoJo Grass

Nancy, Citan and Janet Miller

Nancy and Citan and Janet Miller

Marjani Drum Solo

Marjani dances with live music from Cabaret Boheme

A little sparklier than my usual

A little sparklier than my usual…

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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.

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Snowshoeing Mount Lemmon

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

Roscoe

Roscoe

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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.

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge

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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.

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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

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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Renae Yellowhorse from Save the Confluence

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South Kaibab Sunset

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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!

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Hammock Dog

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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!

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Aravaipa Canyon

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Aravaipa Camp

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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