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Posts Tagged ‘barn owl’

Original Post December 29, 2013

Post updated December 25, 2015

As Christmas neared, I kept a watchful eye on the weather forecasts. My husband was planning to visit family in Michigan for the holidays, leaving me free to do whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to have Christmas dinner at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Scenic view of Phantom Ranch in the Fall. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

Scenic view of Phantom Ranch in the Fall. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

The Phantom Ranch Cantina- the site of so many wonderful memories and meals. It is a true oasis in the desert, offering thirsty travelers Lemmy lemonade and ice-cold Tecates. Many a trail tale has been told at these tables. The meals at the Ranch are fantastic, and you don’t have to be staying there to make a reservation.

Once I saw that the weather was going to cooperate, I called Xanterra and booked my Christmas dinner. Ordinarily there is a choice between a steak dinner and Hiker’s Stew, but for Christmas they were going all out with a turkey dinner.

After dropping Brian off at the Phoenix airport, I spent Christmas Eve in Sedona with my dear friend Kimberlie. She has hiked the Arizona Trail and Pacific Crest Trail and has an amazing story and blog at thenewnomads.com. Check it out, she’s awesome.

Kimberlie Tunnel Falls PCT

Kimberlie at Tunnel Falls on the PCT

So nice to not have to worry about hiking in the heat. I stopped by the Backcountry Office and got a permit for one night at Bright Angel and one at Indian Gardens. I had a leisurely start time of around noon. Oh, and here’s my hiking outfit, I was feeling particularly festive.

Festive hiking attire

Festive hiking attire

I used my (matching red) Microspikes in the chimney and shed them once I reached the sun. It was fun to see and hear people’s reactions to my hiking attire. I got called Mrs. Claus by children on the trail. The sparkly red skirt I wore was a gift from my dad, who brought it from India. Speaking of Indians, I felt right at home- because Indians generally don’t celebrate Christmas, they were everywhere at the Canyon!

I got to Cedar Ridge and did a little photoshoot with the new Arizona Trail guidebook. It came out in December 2013 and I am so proud of the finished product. I brought a copy for the Cantina and the Ranger Station libraries. You can buy it here: http://www.aztrail.org/store/at_store.php

Here’s my bio:

AZT guidebook bio

AZT guidebook bio

Arizona Trail Guidebook in its natural habitat

Arizona Trail Guidebook in its natural habitat

So, I have some exciting news- I will be thru-hiking the Arizona Trail in 2014 as a promotion for the new guidebook, the trail, and the Gateway Communities! I will be starting at the Mexican border on March 14th and am scheduled to arrive at the Utah border on May 31st. Along the way there will be 12 events in the Gateway Communities where people can come together to celebrate the trail with food, music, and beer. I will be posting updates from the trail and people will be invited to hike with me for a day or two. Here’s the link to the Arizona Trail Trek!

Santa Hat at Cedar Ridge

Santa Hat at Cedar Ridge

I was getting ready to leave Cedar Ridge when a young woman, also wearing a Santa hat, stopped to take a break. Her name was Grace and it was her first time backpacking into the Canyon. We hiked together off and on throughout the day and I enjoyed her company. Ever the guide, I shared points of interest as we hiked.

My newfound fellow hat-wearer Grace

My newfound fellow hat-wearer Grace

Grace on the trail

The canyon was very different in the wintertime- summer’s angry heat and bustle gone and replaced by crisp air and a sparsely populated trail. I felt the familiar pangs of excitement upon seeing the Black Bridge, tunnel and Boat Beach below.

The Colorado looked impossibly cold and uninviting. In the summertime working for Arizona River Runners, I’m always drenching myself with the icy water to cool down. Today all that was going in was my hand. Yep, absolutely frigid.

Boat Beach

Boat Beach and the Black Bridge

Boat Beach all to myself!

Boat Beach all to myself!

I went to the campground to choose a site and ran into Ranger Della, who I’ve worked with in the past on GCHBA service projects. She has a Christmas birthday and her family was down visiting to celebrate.

Then it was time for dinner at Phantom Ranch. It was amazing. A buffet with a turkey and ham carving station, mashed and sweet potatoes, rolls, cornbread stuffing, and three kinds of pie to choose from. All made even more delicious by the fact that I had nothing to do with the prep or cleanup. I sat with a very nice family, the daughter seemed to have been bitten by the Canyon hiking bug, it was fun to see. I predict many Canyon adventures in her future.  I am super-lame and left my camera at the campground, but here’s a pic that the family I sat with took.

Christmas Dinner!

Christmas Dinner!

I visited the Boat Beach at night for stargazing and then went to sleep atop the picnic table. It was chilly! In the middle of the night, I heard rustling which I thought was people getting ready for an early hike out. Only when I opened my eyes, there was a deer chomping the bush right next to me, its body six inches from my face!

Night visitor

Night visitor

The next morning I relaxed in camp for a while, waiting for it to warm up. Caught up with Sjors and Della for a bit, changed my permit to stay another night at Bright Angel. I forget what a draw this place has for me- once I get here I usually want to stay. Back to the Boat Beach for lunch, so nice to have it to myself. When we stop here on river trips there are usually 2 or 3 full trips milling about and we are in a hurry to fill up our water jugs and get moving through the Gorge.

Sleeping on the picnic table

Sleeping on the picnic table

In the afternoon, I wandered up the Clear Creek Trail for a while, until I could see the Coconino cap of Zoroaster Temple. Fall stays late in the Canyon and there were cottonwoods still shedding their golden leaves.

Fall colors in December

Fall colors in December

Phantom Overlook on the Clear Creek Trail

Phantom Overlook on the Clear Creek Trail

South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge

South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge

Micro Chicken whooped it up at the cantina last night and was nursing a tiny hangover

Micro Chicken whooped it up at the cantina last night and was nursing a tiny hangover

Sumner Butte and Zoroaster

Sumner Butte and Zoroaster

As the short winter day came to an end, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and wrote in my journal for a while.  After a fondue dinner, I contemplated visiting the Cantina, but couldn’t coax myself out of my cocoon.

I had a leisurely morning of deer-watching, journal writing and canyon-gazing. I thought about taking the Bright Angel out, but decided on the Kaibab once again. Besides, it’s the Arizona Trail! I took my time, stopping to chat with the mule packers, backpackers, and hikers and take pictures. There is something so special about hiking up through the layers of the canyon, each with their own story. Looking down upon layers that previously towered over you. The exhilarating feeling of seeing the trailhead at the end of a hike out.

Mule and deer watching from my campsite

Mule and deer watching from my campsite

Went to use the bridge, when suddenly...

Went to use the bridge, when suddenly…

Kaibab tunnel

Kaibab tunnel

South Kaibab Goodness

South Kaibab Goodness

The material items I’ve gotten for Christmas will eventually wear out, get lost or broken- but I will always have the time I hiked into the Canyon wearing a sparkly skirt and a Santa hat.

Want to read more about my trips in the Grand Canyon? Click here to explore!

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, we have released a lot of the animals that we raised since the summer. We’ve had a couple of out of season babies, like a group of baby rabbits and this little guy- a baby barn owl. It’s a couple of weeks old in the picture and quite noisy! We put it in with the adult owl so that it can get used to other owls. The adult is not amused. Thanks to all who donated to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this year!

Happy New Year!!
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Baby Barn Owl

Baby Barn Owl

What a face!

What a face!

And to close things out for the year, here’s a picture of my favorite Harris Hawk, who was sent to another facility to become an educational animal. Hope he’s doing well!

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk

 

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It was mine and Brian’s 8-year wedding anniversary on August 2nd, so we went camping in the Pinalenos (also known as the Grahams) to celebrate. This is the third year in a row that I have visited this sky island in the summertime, but Brian had never been before. We drove up the Swift Trail in the afternoon and decided to camp at Hospital Flat- a large meadow covered in wildflowers. We had a nice meal and sat around the fire for a while. The stars were incredible as it had been a new moon the day before.

Hospital Flat

Hospital Flat history-click to enlarge

The next morning, I was rudely awoken by someone chopping wood at 6:30 am. I have not camped at an “official” campground in a long time, so I was a bit put off by our noisy neighbors. One family had four very small children who took turns crying and screaming, while our other neighbors had a father that was one of the most unbearably rude, loudmouthed people I’ve heard in a long time. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there when we were setting up, otherwise we would have chosen another campground. He spent most of his time either yelling exuberantly or getting mad and swearing at his family, even the young girls. Ugh. I will never camp in a campground again. When Brian got up, he said that he would be willing to shuttle me so that I could hike the Arcadia Trail. The Arcadia Trail is designated as a National Recreational Trail- with a sexy name like that, how could I resist? The NRT website says that “National Recreation Trails (NRT) provide for numerous outdoor recreation activities in a variety of urban, rural, and remote areas. Over 1,000 trails in all 50 states, available for public use and ranging from less than a mile to 485 miles in length, have been designated as NRTs on federal, state, municipal, and privately owned lands.”

Cutleaf Coneflower

The Arcadia Trail is 5.1 miles long and connects the Shannon Campground at 8900 ft. with the Arcadia Campground at 6700 ft. Brian drove me over to Shannon CG and a small bear ran right across the road in front of our jeep. This made me a little nervous for Brian- one of his worst fears is that I will be attacked by a bear, so I half-expected him to freak out. Thankfully, he was (at least outwardly) cool about it. I started from Shannon CG at 11:30 am, a little late for monsoon season, but I was prepared for rain. I was a bit on-edge as I started on the trail. Maybe it was the giant amount of tea that I’d had in the morning. The trail started out benched into the hillside shaded by pines and dotted with lichen-covered boulders. I was able to snack along the way on handfuls of ripe wild raspberries that were growing all along the trail. The trail switchbacked up the hillside and I huffed and puffed along, reaching the turnoff for Heliograph Peak at about 9500 ft. That would have to wait for another time. The Arcadia Trail went into a much more open environment on the scorched hillside and there were fantastic views down into the valley.

Beginning of the Arcadia Trail from Shannon CG

Fields of ferns

There were quite a few downed trees on the trail, and when I was trying to hop over one of them, my foot caught and I took a fall and scraped up my wrist. Thankfully, it was only a scratch and I reminded myself to be a little more careful. I was a little wary of bears, so I made up a song to sing as I hiked downhill so that I wouldn’t surprise any on the blind turns. The grade of the trail was pleasant as it switchbacked and traversed the hillside. The trail became a thin line through a large, fern-covered area of the hillside and I spotted a snake. A Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake, to be exact. This attractive little snake is only found in the Chiricahua, Santa Rita, Huachuca, and Pinaleno sky islands at elevations from 6,000 to 11,000 ft. It is a grayish snake with two rows of brownish-red spots running down the back. The little guy rattled at me and ducked into some of the ferns on the ground before hiding under a log.

Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake

Video of the view from the fern-covered hillside at about 7900 ft.:

The trail was easy to follow and there were cairns placed in areas where deadfall had obscured the trail. I passed the Noon Creek Trail junction in a pine-covered shady spot that had been spared by the fire. The Arcadia CG was visible two trail miles away in the valley below. As I lost elevation, the vegetation changed and oaks and red-barked madrone trees began to appear. The trail was on a ridge between two forks of Wet Canyon and I began to hear rushing water below. Eventually, the trail crossed Wet Canyon and was benched high on the hillside as the canyon steepened below. The canyon was lush with greenery and yellow columbine and the trail was a large, duff-covered path. I knew I was approaching the campground when I passed a woman with her five children. She asked that her children step aside and let me pass. One of them, a little girl, looked up at me and asked her mom in all seriousness, “Is she going to die?” Weird. The five miles and 2300 feet of elevation loss took me a little under two hours, plus a half-hour for breaks. I arrived at the campground in plenty of time for my 2pm rendezvous with Brian, who was happy to see that I had not been mauled by a bear in the least.

Arcadia CG and the Swift Trail down in the valley

Wild Geranium

Wide trail near Arcadia CG

We went over to the Wet Canyon picnic area and explored around for a bit and sat in the shade by the running creek. It has been a dud of a monsoon season, so all the creeks are much lower than I’ve seen in previous years. This is the first trip that I haven’t gotten rained on- kinda sad. Once back at our campsite, I was happy to see that our noisy neighbors were out for the day and we played around in the Hospital Flat meadow. The meadow was covered in yellow sneezeweed, orange western wallflower, and pink shooting stars, with a small group of bounding deer- just gorgeous! In the evening, we took a drive over to Peter’s Flat to watch the sunset in blissful silence. Peter’s Flat is on the Grand Enchantment Trail, which goes from Phoenix to Albuquerque and it made me a little sad that I have not been able to complete more segments of this incredible trail. One of these days, I hope to be able to take a chunk of time off of work and complete the trail in several large chunks. It just got too time-consuming and costly to hike sections once I got to Safford. For my hike through the Pinalenos on the GET last summer, click here.

Sunset from Peter's Flat

Blooming Corn Lilly

Shooting Star

The next morning, I walked the half-mile from our campground to the Grant Hill Trailhead. There are many loop possibilities- I hiked clockwise from the TH, taking the outer loop. Much of the hike was on old roads, but there were a couple of lookout points that really were spectacular. Storms in the distance made for great moody lighting, and I wished that I was backpacking instead of car camping. (for the millionth time!) The roads were green and had a mix of aspen and pines dotted with wildflowers.

Views to the east on the Grant Hill Loop

Waterman Mtns. Dos Cabezas, and Chiricahuas

Wildflowers and Aspen

View from the first overlook:

I returned to the campground elated to see that our neighbors were packing up- however this brought a whole new round of screaming and swearing by the dad as he sat on his ass and told everyone else what to do. The worst part is when he was dropping F-bombs at his youngest girl (who looked to be about 7 years old) because she didn’t pack the car right and made her cry. I have never been so excited to see someone leave. Brian and I enjoyed our now-vacant campground and took a stroll on the Hospital Flat nature trail before begrudgingly packing up and heading back down the mountain just in time to miss a giant monsoon storm. We saw a very angry Black-Tailed Rattlesnake in the middle of the road on the way down- hope no one ran over him!

Atlantis Fritillary Butterfly on the Hospital Flat Nature Trail

Very angry Black-Tailed Rattlesnake in the middle of the road

Now for the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser update- two very attractive Barn Owls dancing:

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