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Posts Tagged ‘canyoneering’

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

January

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

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Explored some peaks and ridges near Gordon Hirabayashi Campground:

Great spot for a break

Great spot for a break

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

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Sandstone Fin and La Sal Mountains

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Tinajas

Tinajas

Bagged a Cat in the Tucson Mountains:

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Spine of Cat Mountain

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

February

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

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Love those Arizona sunsets!

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Backpacking in the Catalina Foothills

Spent my birthday hiking the Sweetwater Preserve with Brian.

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Sweetwater Preserve

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Brian out on the trail

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

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

Sweeping curves of the Tortolita Ridgeline Trail

March

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

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

Hiking through the poppy-covered hillsides

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

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

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

Miller Peak Junction at 9050 ft.

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

April

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

Bailey and Zeus

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

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

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

Rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake!

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

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Love the Wilderness of Rock! Photo by Bill Bens

May

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

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

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

A perfect day.

A perfect day.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

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

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

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Into the Mist

Into the Mist

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

Ducklings at Trillium Lake

June

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

Lee's Ferry Sunrise

Lee’s Ferry Sunrise

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

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

Walls on the summit

Walls on the summit

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

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop above Oak Tree Canyon

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

July

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

Riding Las Colinas

Riding Las Colinas

August

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

Redwall Cavern

Redwall Cavern

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

Hermit Rapid 22,000 cfs

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

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

Giving an archaeology talk at the Whitmore Pictographs

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

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

Taking a break to enjoy the view upstream

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

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Jasmine, Leigh Anne and Silver on the Aspen Draw Trail

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

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon- photo by Russ Newberg

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Russ on the 3rd rappel in Willow Canyon

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

Oracle Ridge

Oracle Ridge/AZT

September

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

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Paddling the Kishwaukee River

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

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

Mount Carrie

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

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Fall Colors and Mount Olympus

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake

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

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

Pepper and Trauma talk about their PCT Winter Traverse

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

ALDHA West Gathering

ALDHA-West Gathering

October

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

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

Fall Color on the Arizona Trail north of Snowbowl

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

Russ in a granite cave

Russ in a granite cave

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Giant granite boulders in East Fork Lemmon Canyon

Lemmon Pools

Lemmon Pools

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock- photo by Russ Newberg

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

Gorgeous sunset and sliver of moon over Thimble Peak

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

Roscoe

Roscoe- 3 months old

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Roscoe and his buddy Stu

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First hike in the Tortolitas

November

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

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Redwall Overlook on Tanner Trail

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Morning at 75-Mile Saddle Camp

Rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Outrageously good rainbow over Unkar Rapid

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

Dramatic light on Wotans Throne and Vishnu Temple

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

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Hiking up to Peak 3263

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Micro Chicken’s Thanksgiving dinner

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

December

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

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Sabino Canyon

Bear Canyon

Bear Canyon

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

Cienega Creek

Cienega Creek

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

Alamo-Buster Loop (2)

Saguaros and Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Alamo-Buster Loop (5)

Gneiss!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Grand Canyon Overview Map

Redwall Heart over Nankoweap Rapid.JPG

Redwall heart over Nankoweap Rapid

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canyoneering Montrose Canyon- December 20th, 2014

I had been swamped with work and needing to get out, so when Russ put out a call for folks to go canyoneering, I jumped on the chance. There had been a big winter storm and while most would avoid canyons flowing with snowmelt in December, I was willing to brave cold temps for the reward of seeing this place I’d looked down upon on my way to Romero Pools. Immediately out of the parking lot, the big wash was running and we knew the canyon was going to have a great flow.

We hiked the Romero Canyon Trail to the ridge that separates Montrose from Romero canyons and had a short bushwhack down to the creekbed. Took a break to gear up- I hoped my 3/2 wetsuit was enough for the icy waters. It was a beautiful day and bright golden ash trees dotted the canyon. My waterproof camera has a cracked screen and wasn’t too happy about being submerged, so the pics are all from Dan’s camera.

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

The canyon wasn’t terribly narrow, but still very attractive. We made our way through polished granite boulders and pools filled with amber-colored Catalina tea. The tannins in the water made it hard to see the depth.There were three rappels and quite a few mandatory swims. We had sun to warm up after the first rappel, but it eluded us the rest of the day- just around the next corner. It was a really fun day out, if a little chilly. It was worth it to see and hear all the water.

Montrose Canyon 2nd Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 2nd Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Beautiful Fall Colors in Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Beautiful Fall Colors in Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon Slide- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon Slide- Photo by Dan Kinler

Gneiss! -Photo by Dan Kinler

Gneiss! -Photo by Dan Kinler

One nice thing about this canyon is that it is a very short distance out of the canyon to the Montrose Canyon bench, then an easy flat mile back to the car. We opted to hike out in our wetsuits and harnesses, garnering a couple of interested looks on the way. I had really missed canyoneering, there’s nothing like having all the waterfalls and pools to yourself while the trail above is swarming with people on a Saturday. Love it!

Hiking out in our gear- Photo by Dan Kinler

Hiking out in our gear- Photo by Dan Kinler

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, our educational elf owls might become famous soon! There’s talk of them being filmed for a TV special. I’ll post an update when I know more. Donate and help feed these cuties so they look good for their close-up!
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Elf Owl

Elf Owl

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It’s that time of year again for a retrospective of where I’ve wandered- and this one has been busier than most! You have been warned- it’s pretty heavy on the pictures. Grab a beverage.

When the year began, I was already neck-deep in planning my Arizona Trail Trek. It was a logistical Hydra coordinating the two and a half month schedule with 13 fundraisers, all the public hikes and backpacking trips, shuttles, media contacts, and a million little details. It didn’t leave a whole lot of time for hiking.

I did manage a Sabino-Bear loop and a trip up Agua Caliente Hill, always good choices for the colder months.

Umbrella weather in January

Umbrella weather in January on Agua Caliente Hill

In February, I hiked the Romero Trail to Romero Pass, a good workout along a gorgeous canyon.

Comfy seat at the waterfall campsite

Comfy seat at the waterfall campsite

Sunset lights up Samaniego Ridge

Sunset lights up Samaniego Ridge

I also turned 40 in February and celebrated with a visit from my friend Kristin. We’ve been friends since I was 4 and lived two doors down. She still lives in the Chicago suburbs and I was so happy to get to spend some time with her at the High Jinks Ranch and in Oracle.

Me and Kristin

Me and Kristin

Out for my 40th!

Out for my 40th!

On March 14th, I started my Arizona Trail Trek with a hike to the Mexican border and the kickoff event in Sierra Vista with food, music, and Arizona Trail Ale. A great beginning to an incredible experience.Arizona Trail Trek Logo

Arizona Trail Trek Start

Arizona Trail Trek Start

Mexican Border on the Arizona Trail

Mexican Border on the Arizona Trail

The rest of March was spent hiking north toward Tucson, with events in Patagonia, Arizona Trail Day at Colossal Cave Mountain Park and I even held and performed at a Belly Dance event at Sky Bar in Tucson. That’s got to be a long-distance hiking first!

Santa Ritas

Santa Ritas

Terry with River taking a rest on Katie

Terry with River taking a rest on Katie

Wildflowers!!

Wildflowers!!

Jess Walker from Belly Dance Tucson

Jess Walker from Belly Dance Tucson

Arizona Trail Day hikers at the first big saguaros headed northbound on the AZT

Arizona Trail Day hikers at the first big saguaros headed northbound on the AZT

My Arizona Trail Trek continued through April and May- it was quite a challenge and I am surprised that I stayed on schedule or early throughout the trip. I was so fortunate that I and everyone with me stayed healthy and safe throughout. I became a Trail Ambassador for Gossamer Gear this year, and was really happy with the way my Mariposa pack performed throughout my hike.Rincon Sunset

Rincon Sunset

Boulders along AZT/Cody Trail

Boulders along AZT/Cody Trail

Ripsey Ridgeline

Ripsey Ridgeline

Camp above Ripsey Wash

Camp above Ripsey Wash

Lovin' the pass!

Lovin’ the pass!

Roosevelt Bridge

Roosevelt Bridge

Micro Chicken crosses the Roosevelt Bridge

Micro Chicken crosses the Roosevelt Bridge

What a place!!

What a place!!

Peacocks!

Peacocks!

Just me and my llama

Just me and my llama

Happy to be in the cool pines!

Happy to be in the cool pines!

What a great group!

What a great group!

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

Swooping singletrack through the aspen

Swooping singletrack through the aspen

Cedar Ridge with O'Neill Butte to the left

Cedar Ridge with O’Neill Butte to the left

Ribbon Falls

Ribbon Falls

What a trail!

What a trail!

Tater Canyon

Tater Canyon, Kaibab Plateau

Tantalizing glimpses of Utah sandstone

Tantalizing glimpses of Utah sandstone

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, Arizona/Utah border

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, Arizona/Utah border

It had been a dream of mine to thru-hike the Arizona Trail since I learned about it in 2007 and I’m so glad that my hike was able to bring wider recognition to the trail I love so much. I raised almost $18,000 for the Arizona Trail Association and I’ll be doing a series of talks in the new year, check out my Speaking page to find one near you!

I was pretty tired after my thru-hike, but I had less than three weeks left until I had to start my season working on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon with Arizona River Runners and Grand Canyon Whitewater. I had an incredible season- met a lot of wonderful people, hiked them all over the place, and told a million stories.

Comanche Point and Palisades

Comanche Point and Palisades

Incredible double rainbow over Diamond Creek Rapid

Incredible double rainbow over Diamond Creek Rapid

On the Arizona Trail on a boat!

On the Arizona Trail on a boat!

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado Confluence

In case you haven’t heard, the Little Colorado River Confluence pictured above is threatened by a possible development with a tram and a restaurant right at the river’s edge- please visit Save the Confluence to learn more and sign the petition!

After my river season ended in mid-September, the inevitable crash came. I am usually pretty wiped out after river season anyway, but combined with the thru-hike my body and mind were exhausted. It was not a fun time and I couldn’t even bring myself to write about how depressed and tired I was. I didn’t feel up to doing anything, I just rested and wondered if I’d ever feel like myself again. The worst part of it all was that the fatigue reminded me of all those years ago when I was sick with Fibromyalgia and I was even concerned for a while that I was having a flare-up.

I had anticipated the crash, having done other extended trips, but this one knocked me down for two months. I still managed to get out a bit, and that helped to keep me going, although it was also a reminder of how incredibly tired I was.

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Windy Point Sunset

Windy Point Sunset

Whitmore Overlook

Whitmore Overlook

Finally, I started to get my energy back and the feeling of emptiness that depression brings waned. It felt great to be enthusiastic about the days ahead again. I traveled to Page for work and took a drive into the Grand Staircase-Escalante up Cottonwood Road. All sorts of great stuff to explore in that area. I hiked a peak I can see out of my backyard, Peak 3263 (or the southern end of the “Sombrero”, just to see what was up there. And then I did the classic Aspen to Saguaro hike from Mount Lemmon to Catalina State Park. Over 6000 feet of elevation loss through an array of different life zones. It felt great to be able to hike all day again.

Thousand Pockets

Thousand Pockets

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch, GSEM

Sombrero and Panther Peaks from Peak 3263

Sombrero and Panther Peaks from Peak 3263

Lemmon Rock Lookout

Lemmon Rock Lookout

Looking out toward the West Fork and the Rincons

Looking out toward the West Fork and the Rincons

December brought a trip to the Cienega for fall colors and a backpacking trip in the Santa Ritas with some lovely ladies and Jasmine the Mini-donkey!

Cienega Creek Fall Colors

Cienega Creek Fall Colors

Antelope at Empire Ranch

Antelope at Empire Ranch

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

Jasmine on the Arizona Trail

Jasmine on the Arizona Trail

Mustangs in the Morning

Mustangs in the Morning

Grassy trail with Josephine Peak and Wrightson

Grassy trail with Josephine Peak and Wrightson

There was a winter storm in mid-December and I went out to play in the icy waters of Montrose Canyon with some friends.

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon 1st Rappel- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

Montrose Canyon- Photo by Dan Kinler

I spent Christmas backpacking in the Tortolita Mountains, it was a great getaway close to home.

Christmas in the Tortolitas

Christmas in the Tortolitas

Christmas Camp

Christmas Camp

I rounded out the year with a tough and spiny bushwhack to Bighorn Mountain, the last of the Pusch Ridge Peaks for me to summit. I’m going to be picking out spines for days, but it was well worth it.

Grassy shindagger and cactus-filled slope to the summit

Grassy shindagger and cactus-filled slope to the summit

Bighorn Summit- finally I've stood atop all four of the Pusch Ridge Peaks!

Bighorn Summit- finally I’ve stood atop all four of the Pusch Ridge Peaks!

Well, that was quite a year! Thanks for reading- it’s always fun to share stories of my wanderings with others. I kept track of all my hikes on HikeArizona.com and my year-end stats are 1,021 miles hiked with 150,775 feet of elevation gain- that’s equivalent to 5 Mount Everests stacked on each other. No wonder this post is so long!

Here’s to a fantastic 2015- I’m not exactly sure what it will bring but I’ve got a feeling I’ll be exploring fantastic new places. Happy New Year!!

Thanks to all who donated to the Arizona Trail Association or to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this year!!

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation NW Tucson

Baby Great Horned Owls

Baby Great Horned Owls

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In 2010, I was looking at pictures on HikeArizona.com when I came across a photo of Palisades Canyon that took my breath away. I have looked at it many times over the years, it’s one of my favorites.

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Such an incredible place, and right in my own backyard in the Catalinas. The colors and textures of the canyon walls, the person rappelling in a beautiful waterfall into a large, black pool. It was before I had ever gone canyoneering and when I checked the route description I saw that it was a strenuous route that takes 10-14 hours to complete. The picture is of the second in a series of seven rappels, many 100 feet or more. I have looked longingly at the falls in the canyon visible from the nearby Box Camp Trail.

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Since my first canyoneering trip I have been totally taken by the pools, waterfalls, strenuous routes, and exciting rappels that come with it. Early in September I saw trip reports and pictures of Palisades and contacted a friend to see if he was planning on doing it anytime soon. He said he wasn’t going to be able to go, but a friend of his who had been through several times before would probably be interested in doing it again. I got in touch with Russ and we planned a trip for September 21st.

I hadn’t gone canyoneering in a little while, so before the trip I had a practice session hanging from my tree in the backyard. I was more nervous than I’d been in a while. A couple of groups that I knew had gone through the previous weekend and had epic 19 and 15 hour adventures.

Russ Newberg and I were met at the Sabino Canyon parking lot by my dear friend Tom who graciously shuttled us up the mountain to the Palisades Trailhead. Tom is the leader of Tom’s Sawyers, a volunteer group that goes into the wilderness in the Catalinas and Chiricahuas and removes downed trees on the trails with 2-man crosscut saws. He even has a website where you can report downed trees for the Sawyers to work on. We reached the Palisades trailhead and were hiking by 7 am.

Hiking into the drainage

Hiking into the drainage

We set a good pace down the mountain toward our turnoff point, descending first through pines, then through oaks and junipers. The trail rounded the rocky promontory I’d taken a long break at during my hike of the Palisades Trail to Prison Camp in 2011. Soon after the trail switchbacked down through the grasses, we reached our turnoff and took a gully into the creekbed. There were some ledges for us to get into our wetsuits, I wore a 3/2 full and was glad I did- made the time spent in the water enjoyable rather than merely tolerable.  We had a short hike to the first 150 ft. rappel.

Russ at the top of the first rappel

Russ at the top of the first rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

Russ went down first so he could provide a fireman’s belay from below. He whistled that he was off rope and it was my turn. I rigged my belay device, double-checked everything, took a deep breath and started lowering myself down the slippery first drop into a pool. Sliding down on my side made the slick rock manageable. The second part of the rappel was down a waterfall black with slippery algae. I made my way down to the pool below and then we were at the top of the second rappel, the one that had captured my imagination years ago.

Bottom of the first rappel

Bottom of the first rappel

The second rappel has a chute that diverts the flow into a sideways spigot. I scooted down the chute on my side and stood with the water shooting sideways across the slot. I stopped a second to take it all in- here I was at last! I continued down the rest of the rappel to an immense circular black pool. My drybag buoyed me up in the water and I took a bit to happily float around in the pool, looking up at the waterfall- It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do!

Down the chute on the second rappel

Down the chute on the second rappel

Immediately afterwards, we had another 85 foot rappel followed by yet another 100 footer. There was a small downclimb and my foot slipped and I came down on my knee. It hurt a bit, but didn’t cause any problems the rest of the day. We were able to look at the cascades above that we had just descended. Incredible. Any one of these falls would be a worthy destination in and of itself.

Looking back up at the waterfalls

Looking back up at the waterfalls

We checked the time, surprised that it was still so early. If we got done early enough, we just might be able to catch the Sabino Canyon Tram for the last 4 miles instead of a hot, crowded roadwalk at the end of our day. Russ set up the fifth rappel and as I descended, the water splashing off my helmet made rainbows all around me. What a treat!

We packed up the ropes and rock-hopped toward our next rappel, two stages measuring 160 feet. The view from the top was fantastic. It took a little maneuvering to get down the first part, then yet another stunning slippery waterfall.

Top of 6th rappel

Top of 6th rappel

There was one last challenge before the technical section was complete- the last 85 footer had a notorious reputation for sticking ropes. Russ found a small stick and wedged it in the rope-eating crack. He went first and I followed. There was an overhang, then a free rappel for a moment underneath a chockstone with a hedgehog cactus clinging to life, dangling precariously by its roots. A short stop on a ledge with a tree, then down the rest of the way, rejoining the watercourse into a pool.

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

And now, the moment of truth- Russ and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and pulled as fast as we could, whooping with joy when we realized it was a clean pull- no stuck ropes today! We high-fived and then took a break to refuel and change out of our gear, our concern now was trying to stay cool instead of warm.

After eating and repacking all our soggy gear and ropes, we scrambled down Palisades Canyon, dunking ourselves to stay cool. The Sabino Basin got ever closer and finally we hit the East Fork Trail. Hello, Arizona Trail!

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Trail!!

Trail!!

After a quick break to put away our helmets and grab some calories, we checked the time and realized that we could make the tram if we kept a good pace, so we booked it up the Sabino Canyon trail. Not sure where I got all that energy, but the idea of a long hot roadwalk certainly was a great motivator. At 4:30 we saw the tram below and ran to catch it, thinking it was the last one. It was the second to last one of the day, I was just happy that we were riding the road instead of hiking it. Interestingly, we sat right behind a group of guys who’d just come down Lemmon Canyon for the last two days. We shared canyoneering stories all the way to the parking lot.

Russ was wearing a GoPro camera, I’ll post his video when he gets done editing it. Until then, here’s the only picture of happy, sweaty me on the tram:

The sweaty run to catch the tram was all worth it!

The sweaty run to catch the tram was all worth it!

Edit: Here’s the video that Russ made:

I had a post-adventure endorphin-induced giant grin on my face as I drove home. Everything went smoothly in the canyon and the next day I was going to leave on an Arizona Trail business trip up to the North Rim and Flagstaff for a week.  I walked in the door, eager to share my day with my husband Brian when I was met with news that my dog Zeus was not doing well. He’s a big dog- half German Shepard and half Wolf- and at 15 1/2, this was not a great surprise. But something in Brian’s face told me that it wasn’t just the ordinary old-dog stuff.  My mood went instantly from elation to despair- it finally hit home that Zeus wasn’t going to be around much longer. I stayed home for two days and he seemed to stabilize, but when I left on my trip he went downhill again.

I spent the last week at home, getting in a last bit of quality time with him- massaging his tired old body, thinking about all the adventures we’d had together, and feeding him anything he wanted to eat.

We took Zeus and our other dog, Bailey on one last hike in the desert. As we walked, the dogs turned off toward a labyrinth I’d forgotten was there. I thought Zeus would just wander around and get tired and go back to the car. Instead he got a burst of energy and we had a great time hiking into the wash near some petroglyphs. Zeus was a big part of me getting into hiking, I’ll have to write about it sometime.

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Zeus on his last hike

Brian and I made arrangements for a vet to come to the house so that he didn’t have to get all riled up on the drive. It was a wonderful decision. We were all on the futon together, hugging Zeus as his heart finally stopped. We buried him out in Picture Rocks on a friend’s land- he’s got a great resting spot in the desert with a view of the mountains. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so heartbroken.

One way I’m dealing with the loss of Zeus is to volunteer a bunch at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I took off a bunch of time this summer because I was really busy with my river schedule and it’s good to be back. Fortunately, I managed to sneak a couple of shifts in between trips this summer and meet the myriad youngsters we had in residence. This video of a trio of “Fuzzballs”- baby Great Horned Owls- cracked me up all summer long.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

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After my intro to canyoneering in January, I had been dying to go out and do a longer canyon. My friend Clint set up a group on Leap Day to do Parker Canyon in the Sierra Ancha near Roosevelt Lake. Pretty far from Tucson for a day out, but it proved to be well worth it. I met up with five canyoneers in Globe and was excited for my first time out on this side of the lake. The drive up was beautiful and when we reached our destination, the first thing we realized was that it was going to be a chilly day! The scenery was worth every finger-numbing moment and we had a fantastic time. Here’s a video made by one of the other members of the trip:

In wildlife rehabilitation news, mark your calendars for Saturday, April 14th because it’s time for the second annual Birds, Blues, and Bellydance fundraiser! All proceeds go toward Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.  Come out and have a pizza and a beer while supporting a great facility that helps hundreds of birds and small mammals yearly! Details below:

If you can’t make it to the event, you can always donate online by clicking here:

Or you can send a check made out to: Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson to Pima Federal Credit Union  P.O. Box 50267 Tucson, Arizona 85703.

"Elfie" the Elf Owl

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Poppies in January!

I have long admired pictures and trip reports from the canyoneering community. The landscapes are otherworldly and often contain two of my favorite things: swimming holes and waterfalls. In December, I took a Wilderness First Responder course and met Clint, who offered to take me on my first canyon. But first, I had to gather some canyon-specific gear- a wetsuit and special shoes with super-sticky rubber. The bright yellow-and-black 5.10 Canyoneers arrived without a problem, but the wetsuit was another matter entirely. I mean, really? I have to choose a skintight wetsuit to wear in front of people? When the one I ordered arrived, my husband said it reminded him of the Borg suit.

So after I gathered my gear, I contacted Clint and we planned to meet to do an all-day canyon in the Fish Creek area. I had some Arizona Trail work to do in Superior, so I drove up and camped on a dirt road off Hwy 88. I had an enjoyable evening camping, though it was quite windy. I was nervous and excited about the next day. It was an evening of reflection on the past because the next day was the 15-year anniversary of my accident. I was a 23-year old Anthropology student a couple of days into my last semester at the U of A and I was walking across the street one morning to get change to do laundry. As I was coming back across the street, a young woman driving a pickup truck turned out of the parking lot and hit me in the back. I’m told that I flew 4 feet up in the air before landing on the pavement, thankfully with no broken bones. However, instead of recovering from the accident, it led to me developing Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, that I struggled with for many years before learning how to manage it.

When I was really sick, I used to look at the anniversary of my accident as an excuse to be even more depressed than I normally was, lamenting the passing of my healthy years. I had no idea at the time that my life was not in fact over, it was just on a different path than I had planned. Over the years as I got healthier and stronger, the anniversary of my accident would sometimes pass by without me noticing. Now, I looked at the 15th anniversary as a perfect day to try something adventurous and new- something that the old, depressed, and in-constant-pain me would never have imagined.

Sunset and agave

In the morning, I went to our meeting place just past the Fish Creek bridge. I was there by 8:45. I set myself up to wait, as Clint had said that his friends were sometimes a little late. I sat and read and waited for them to arrive. After an hour, I began to wonder. After an hour and a half, I realized that something had gone wrong somewhere and that I probably wasn’t going to be doing a canyon today. I hoped that everyone was okay, and as I had no cell reception in the canyon, I decided to drive up and see if anyone had left a message.

I had been looking forward to this for such a long time and I was pretty sad as I drove back toward Tortilla Flat. But not as sad as I was when I turned the corner and saw some parked cars next to a bridge. Somehow, in the morning I had driven right by the first bridge and had been waiting the whole time AT THE WRONG BRIDGE! I pulled over next to a black SUV that I thought belonged to my group, got out of my car and proceeded to throw a massive fit at the thought that I had been so close by the whole time- the other bridge wasn’t even a half-mile away! Thankfully there wasn’t anyone around at the time, so I was able to go full Italian with my rage. I scrawled a note to Clint with some indelicate language about how I’d been at the wrong bridge and left it on the black SUV. And then came the tears of disappointment as I as I made my way back to Tortilla Flat. I called my husband Brian, who helped calm me down and told me to go for a hike.

Wrong bridge!

I decided to suck it up and go check out the Boulder Canyon Trail near Canyon Lake. Pretty views of the Superstitions should pick me up a bit. There were many groups on the trail and about half of them saw my umbrella and thought they were being funny and original by telling me that there was no rain in the forecast. I was not in the mood. I barely noticed the ascent as I rage-hiked up the hill. Then I realized- I’m lucky to be alive, lucky to have my legs, lucky that I managed to control my fibromyalgia enough to be stomping up this hill at high speeds. As disappointed as I was, the canyon would be there. I took a break and watched a beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk make lazy circles above my head. Plus, the year’s first wildflowers were beginning to dot the hillsides- how could I be so mad when there’s the year’s first poppies at my feet?

Fairy Duster

There were fantastic views of the Weaver’s Needle as the trail hit a saddle. Another reminder of how far I had come. When I was really sick, a half-mile walk would give me excruciating pain for days. I never would have imagined that I could have climbed the Needle, but last year, I did it. I saw the Four Peaks and was thankful that I had the energy and stamina to traverse the range on the Arizona Trail. All these amazing things- but WHY DID I PARK AT THE WRONG BRIDGE! Even in my reflection, I still castigated myself for making such a silly mistake. I reached the highpoint of the trail and had lunch with fantastic views.

Weaver's Needle and the Battleship

Canyon Lake

I couldn’t calm down enough to relax, so I headed back right after eating. I saw another solo hiker and made some small talk. When I said I was from Tucson, he said that he and his wife were traveling and were wondering about Tucson. I’m always happy to help people figure out things to do in my town, so we ended up hiking together. His name was Ron and he and his wife were organic farmers from New York who had just sold their farm and were traveling full-time, looking for a new place to live. I told him how the story of how this was my consolation hike after missing my group this morning and was able to laugh about it. I enjoyed his company and it was a great pick-me up. Ron had been dropped off at First Water and needed a ride back, and I was happy to give him one. Along the trail, we realized that we were both half-Indian. His mom is German, Irish, and Native American and his dad is Punjabi (a region of India). My mom is Italian and my dad is from New Delhi. Pretty rare that I meet another half-Indian, especially since I moved to Arizona. I drove him to First Water, where his wife Kate was waiting. As she got out of the car, she said, “She looks just like your sister!”  I really enjoyed meeting Ron and Kate and we made plans to get together when they make their way down to Tucson.

Boulder Canyon Trail

My hybrid Indian brother Ron

So, I’d had a good hike, made a new friend, and my day was looking up. I drove back into town and finally got a hold of Clint. Went through the whole scenario again for him and had a good laugh about it. One of the best parts- I found out that the black SUV that I had left the note on did not, in fact belong to his friend. So some random person got a note filled with profanity from me. Hilarious. Clint felt bad that I had missed out, and offered to take me to a smaller canyon the next day before he had to go to work. Absolutely. I went over to his house and he gave me some instruction on techniques and I practiced setting up a rappel off the leg of his coffee table.

The next morning, we got to the parking area for Damocles Canyon so early that we had to wait for the light to hit the canyon. We had a short approach hike and then entered the streambed. There was some rock hopping and ledge walking and then we got to the first rappel. It was 15 feet onto a ledge and then a swim across a pool. We went our separate ways to change into our wetsuits- it was really cold and I hadn’t even gotten in the water yet! There was an anchor already in place and I set up the rappel and Clint downclimbed so that he could belay me from below. I felt pretty comfortable with the rappel. The water was so cold and I saw a small underwater ledge on the side of the pool so that I could walk while clinging to the wall so I didn’t have to swim.

Testing out my new sticky shoes

The next rappel had no anchor and Clint went over what he’d taught me last night about building my own. The rappel was 20′ into a pool- no getting around the swim this time! I set up the anchor and then practiced locking off so that I could downclimb into place to start the rappel.  The icy-cold swim wasn’t too bad and I warmed right up after getting out. Swimming in a canyon in January- I love Arizona!

Micro Chicken's first canyon too!

Downclimbing

The remainder of the canyon we were able to avoid further swimming by doing rock climbing moves along the walls of the canyon. It was so much fun and over way too soon. I was kind of glad the way that it had worked out, getting the instruction at Clint’s the night before and starting out with a smaller canyon. It was a good way to get my feet wet, so to speak, and I can’t wait to go again!

I have kept in touch with Ron (who I’m calling my hybrid Indian brother) and he and Kate ended up leaving the night that I met them and told them about Tucson and have been camping here ever since. My husband Brian and I took them for a tour up Mount Lemmon the other day and had a blast. And I’d never met them if I hadn’t parked at the wrong bridge.

In wildlife rehabilitation news, the first bunnies began appearing as early as the poppies this year. I have also scheduled the second annual Birds, Blues, and Bellydance benefit for Saturday, April 14th at Sky Bar, so mark your calendars! Music by the Railbirdz, hawks and owls from Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, and bellydance performances- what’s not to like?

Palm-sized bunny season!

Also, a big thanks to the Sierra Club and Southern Arizona Hiking Club. I recently did presentations on the Arizona Trail and both these groups donated generously to my wildlife rehab fundraiser.

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