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Festive Christmas hiking outfit

Festive Christmas hiking outfit

Last year, I spent Christmas in the Grand Canyon. It was awesome. This year, I needed to stay closer to home because my husband is visiting his family and I’m home with our old dog Bailey. I never hear of anyone backpacking in the Tortolitas north of Tucson, but I thought it might be a fun spot to wake up Christmas morning. I could also choose a campsite that would get early sun.

Tortolita Panorama

Tortolita Panorama

I wanted to make the trip a little special, so I got out a red sparkly skirt my dad had brought me from India and a Santa hat to wear on the trail. (I can see this becoming an annual tradition- see this picture for last year’s sparkly skirt). I didn’t see anyone after I left the parking lot and once I got past the Ritz-Carlton I couldn’t hear any sounds coming from the hotel. I hiked a little ways past the Cochie Canyon junction and found a great spot right off the trail with wonderful views for the sunset. I could see all the way from the top of the Catalinas down to the base of Pusch Ridge, south to the Santa Ritas and Huachucas and Babo, Kitt Peak and Ragged Top to the west. Good stuff so close to town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa and I have been some amazing places this year!

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa and I have been some amazing places this year!

Both my family and Brian’s celebrate on Christmas Eve, so I called and people passed the phone around. My family, being Italian, told me all the different foods that were served. My Christmas Eve dinner was cheese fondue with apples, bread, broccoli, cauliflower, and figs for dipping. And for dessert I had blackberries with balsamic and some Panettone (an Italian sweet bread). I listened to some music and then I went to bed. My camp had a great view of the city lights without being too noisy.

Sunset

The morning was gorgeous and the night had been warmer than expected. I wrote a bit in my journal and then got packed up. The best part of the hike down was meeting a family from New Jersey that was coming up the Wild Mustang Trail. They asked me how far I’d gone that morning and I told them I’d spent the night out. They didn’t quite know what to make of it- “By yourself? Did you see any wild animals? But you’re so clean! You had the cheapest room in the place!” Pretty funny. I took the hotel spur back to save myself walking the wash and was back at my house by 10:00 am.

Christmas Camp

Christmas Camp

Christmas in the Tortolitas

Christmas in the Tortolitas

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I had plenty of time to relax and then visit my friend Leigh Anne and her family before going over to Wendy’s for dinner. Wendy made me the coolest present for Christmas- she framed one of my Arizona Trail Trek bandannas and put pictures from my hike on it. She’s so thoughtful! This Christmas was a great mix of indoors and outdoors, solo and with friends.

Wendy's Arizona Trail Trek present- she's so crafty!!

Wendy’s Arizona Trail Trek present- she’s so crafty!!

For today’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson picture, I’m digging into the archives for this little Javelina that came to us several years ago. We don’t take care of many larger mammals, so seeing this little guy was pretty fun!

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2-week old Javelina

2-week old Javelina

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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!!
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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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