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Posts Tagged ‘cute animals’

The Birds, Blues, and Bellydance benefit for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson last Saturday, May 7th was a huge success! We raised $1010.00 that will go for food, medical care, housing, and maintenance for the many birds and small mammals at the wildlife rehab. $740 was from the door and $270 from 15% of food and drink sales during the event from the very generous Sky Bar and Brooklyn Pizza Company.

Everyone really liked to be able to see the Great Horned Owl and tiny Elfie the Elf Owl and Citan the Harris Hawk up close, and the birds did a fantastic job of keeping their composure at what was an unusual venue for them. They are a part of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson educational program. These birds cannot be released back into the wild, and the facility is licensed to do educational programs with these specially trained birds.  The Railbirdz rocked the house and filled the dance floor and the bellydance performances by Marjani, Amy, Brandye, and Gina were incredible. A heartfelt thanks to the performers, who all donated their time and talents to the benefit and thanks to Sky Bar/Brooklyn Pizza Company for being so fantastic to work with.  I was lucky enough to have my friend, photographer Mike Bieke at the event and here are some of his fantastic photos:

Sky Bar- photo by Mike Bieke

Marjani opened the show with a solo

The Railbirdz -photo by Mike Bieke

Great Horned Owl- photo by Mike Bieke

Citan the Harris Hawk - photo by Mike Bieke

Elfie the Elf Owl - photo by Mike Bieke

photo by Mike Bieke

Marjani and Amy dance a veil duet - photo by Mike Bieke

Amy and Marjani -photo by Mike Bieke

The Railbirdz funky blues got everyone dancing! - photo by Mike Bieke

Wine, pizza, blues, and dancing!

Brandye -Photo by Mike Bieke

Brandye - photo by Mike Bieke

Me and my helpful hubby Brian

The Railbirdz

Gina closes the show -photo by Mike Bieke

Gina -photo by Mike Bieke

Gina -photo by Mike Bieke

What a great night! I’m so glad that my first-ever fundraising event went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves. If you missed all the fun, don’t worry, I have a feeling this may turn into an annual event…

If you’d like to donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, just click on the donate button, or send an old-fashioned check to Pima Federal Credit Union  P.O. Box 50267 Tucson, Arizona 85703. Please put Hiking in the memo, so they know where you heard about their facility. The rehab is entirely self-supported, so every dollar helps! It’s baby season at the rehab and we totally have our hands full of cute little critters. Here’s a baby Harris’ Antelope Squirrel enjoying his lunch of kale:

Harris' Antelope Squirrel munching on kale

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Birds, Blues and Bellydance Benefit

Only two weeks left until the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Benefit- hope to see you there! If you can’t make it to the event and would like to donate either by mail or PayPal, click this link. At Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this week, we’ve see a population explosion of baby bunnies, squirrels, songbirds, and this guy, a baby Black-Crowned Night Heron with a particularly fantastic hairdo:

Baby Black-Crowned Night Heron

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I’ve put together a look back at the past year of hiking and backpacking. For those who are regular readers, I’ve added quite a few pictures that didn’t make it in to the blog in other posts. You can click on the name of the hike to go to the journal entry about that hike, and all of the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them. Enjoy!

In January I teamed up with Bill Bens and Mitch Stevens for a hike up Ragged Top in the Silverbell Mountains, northwest of Tucson. It was the first of a series of hikes we did together that required scrambling, something I really hadn’t experienced much before this year. I really took to it, and sought out a number of hikes with a scrambling element for the rest of the year.

Ragged Top

Coming up the South Gully- Photo by Bill Bens

Me and Bill at the summit with Picacho Peak in the background

In February I started the month with another scrambling route up Elephant Head in the Santa Ritas with Bill and Mitch. Another rugged, tough route leading to superlative views.

Elephant Head

Summit Ridge of Elephant Head

Summit ridge of Elephant Head

Summit cairn made of elephants

The day after my 36th birthday, I hiked my first piece of the Grand Enchantment Trail, a 730-mile route that goes from Phoenix to Albuquerque. I also started my Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser to benefit Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, where I am a volunteer.

Starting the Grand Enchantment Trail

Antelope Peak

Nighthawk at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson

In March I tackled another piece of the Grand Enchantment Trail in the Superstitions from the Tortilla TH to First Water TH. This was my first time in the western Superstitions, and I loved every rugged, rocky minute of it.

Campsite View on Horse Ridge, looking at a snowy 4 Peaks

Entering La Barge Box

Me and the Weaver's Needle

I attempted to summit Baboquivari again, but was turned away by ice and snow on the first pitch. However, we got to spend the night at the Lion’s Ledge, one of my favorite places I’ve ever slept and any time on Babo is time well spent.

Babo's East Face

Dave takes in the sunrise

Lion's Ledge- we slept right under the cave-like spot with the dark stain running down the face

I also wrote about Arizona’s State Parks that were slated to close due to lack of funding and hiked the Hunter Trail at Picacho Peak State Park and the Flatiron and Peak 5024 at Lost Dutchman State Park. Thankfully, only a couple of the state parks ended up closing and nearby towns helped pick up some of the expenses for the other ones. It was a great spring for wildflowers. I gave several slideshow presentations about my Arizona Trail hike to raise funds for Wildlife Rehab.

Poppies and Lupine at Picacho Peak

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom- Flatiron in the upper right

Hoodoos on the way to Peak 5024

Looking down on the Flatiron

In April I was fortunate to hike two pieces of the Grand Enchantment Trail in April- the Santa Teresa Wilderness with my friend Judy Eidson, and the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness. To give an idea of how remote the Santa Teresas are, when I called the Coronado National Forest to ask a question about the trails, they said, “We have no idea, no one goes out there, let us know what you find when you come back, ok?” I look forward to my return to Holdout Canyon – a spectacular place.

Holdout Canyon, Santa Teresa Wilderness

Winding Mariposa Lily

Taking in the view

Climbing above Preacher Canyon

Pretty waterfall in Cottonwood Canyon

Desert Honeysuckle in bloom, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness

Great Blue Heron

Bends in the Stream

In MayI heard that Forest Service crews had been clearing the Sutherland Trail, so I teamed up with Lee Allen, David Rabb, and Tom Kimmel to hike from the top of Mount Lemmon to Catalina State Park via this formerly fire-damaged trail. The 6000 ft. of elevation loss was tough on the knees, but the views and the company more than made up for it.

Happy to be on the Sutherland Trail

Sutherland Trail

Penstemon

All spring long, I’d been telling my husband Brian, “Don’t worry, once it heats up in June I’ll be home a lot more often!” But then I bought the one piece of gear that made my summer bearable: my green inflatable innertube, known affectionately as “the floatie”, and the hiking really didn’t slow down at all. The floatie’s maiden voyage was to Hutch’s Pool on a overnight backpacking trip using the Box Camp Trail down to Sabino Canyon.

Coming down the ridge on the Box Camp Tr.

Coral Bean bloom

Happy to have Hutch's Pool all to myself!

I enjoyed the floatie so much, I took it on a trip to Horse Camp Canyon in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness and floated the black pool on a day when I had the only permit for the whole canyon.

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa

Made even sweeter by the fact that I had it all to myself!

Also in June, I began harvesting and processing saguaro fruit and making syrup and delicious fruit leather. I really enjoyed it and everyone loved the flavor. Can’t wait to do it on a bigger scale next summer.

Saguaro fruit cut open

In July, a month that I would normally be cowering in my house avoiding the heat, I was able to find lots of ways to keep active this year. I went on short hikes early in the morning or night hikes, and was able to get away to the cooler Sky Islands for a couple of backpacking trips. Early in the month, I went to the Santa Ritas for an overnight at Baldy Saddle and saw one of the best sunsets I’d seen all year.

Baldy Saddle- Yep, I was right- it was an awesome campsite!

Looking north at the Santa Rita Crest- 7:19 pm

My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Mountain Spiny Lizard Fight

Later in the month, I hiked the Grand Enchantment Trail through the tall, cool Pinaleno Mountains (also known as “The Grahams”) with Judy Eidson and Connie Simmons.

Through the waist-high ferns on the Clark Peak Tr.

View from Taylor Pass

Slick Rock, Ash Creek Trail

Sunset on The Pinnacles, Ash Creek Trail

The "spirited cascade"

I squeezed in one last hike in July, a trip to Chiricahua National Monument with my friend Wendy. Fantastic hoodoos and rock formations to tickle the imagination.

Hoodoos come in Large, Small, and Medium size for your viewing enjoyment

Punch and Judy Rock

August was all about the pools: Jammed Log Pool, Romero Pools, Lemmon Pools, Tanque Verde Falls- I hiked in early, got my float on, and was hiking out by 9 or 10 in the morning.

Who says the desert is a dry place? Photo by Bill Bens

Wendy takes a turn on the floatie at Jammed Log Pool

Tanque Verde Falls dwarfs me in my floatie- photo by Wendy Lotze

Lemmon Pools

Fly Agaric Mushrooms- these were over 8 inches across
Campsite view down Lemmon Canyon toward Tucson
Monday Morning Goodness at Romero Pools
Rattlesnake from night hikes in Sabino Canyon

Gila Monster from night hikes in Sabino Canyon

In September the leisurely hikes of summer came to an end, because it was time to start ramping up the difficulty levels to get in shape for the Grand Canyon in October. I hiked a long loop in the Santa Ritas, Pusch Peak, a dayhike to Lemmon Pools and an overnighter in Aravaipa to break in my new hiking shoes on uneven terrain with a full pack.

Lunch at Burnt Saddle- Elephant Head on the ridge in the foreground

So many unusual wildflowers! Crest Trail, Santa Ritas

Tiny Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake on the Foursprings Trail, Santa Ritas

View west from the summit of Pusch Peak

Lounging in Aravaipa Canyon

Rincon Mountains seen from the Lemmon Rock Trail

Shadow of Mount Lemmon on the Galiuro Mountains

And at the end of the month, I snuck in one last hike with the floatie in Sycamore Canyon in the Pajarita Wilderness near the Mexican border with some friends.

Near the slot pool

The Slot Pool- Bill and Ray went up and to the right, Lee and I swam across.

The green floatie- best $2 I've spent all year!

As much as I grumbled about training with a loaded pack on dayhikes, I was thankful for it in October when I spent 11 days in the Grand Canyon backpacking the Royal Arch Loop and at the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association Volunteer Service Project. The Royal Arch Loop was the most difficult trip I’ve done to date.  Remember at the beginning of the year when I said I enjoyed scrambling on hikes? The whole year I’d made myself more and more used to scrambling and traveling on exposed areas, and it all came in handy on the Royal Arch Loop. Aesthetically, my favorite trip of the entire year and I can’t wait to do it again.

Sunrise on Mt. Huethawali from South Bass Trailhead

A Grand Vista

The Royal Arch

The anticipation was way worse than the actual rappel

Elves Chasm

A majestic pose before continuing across the slope

Kent, Ron, and Paul on the saddle leaving Copper Canyon

I hiked out of the Royal Arch Loop and back into the Grand Canyon for six days of work on the Volunteer Service Project. We got a lot of work done at Cottonwood and Bright Angel Campgrounds, and in our free time we hiked up to the North Rim for fall colors, pizza, and beer, as well as up Wall Creek and the Miner’s Route. 11 days and a little over a hundred miles of Grand Canyon goodness.

Hiking up to Cottonwood CG

Yay! We walked up into fall on the North Kaibab Trail!

Wall Creek Waterfall

Cairn where the Old Miner's Route meets the Tonto

After spending the last half of October mourning the fact that I wasn’t in the Grand Canyon anymore, in November I found plenty of places close to home to hold my interest. I took two solo backpacking trips: one to The Spine near the White Canyon Wilderness, and one on the Samaniego Ridge Trail in the Catalinas. I also hiked the little-used Brush Corral Trail in the northeastern part of the Catalinas with some friends.

Traveling atop The Spine from boulder to boulder

5:38 pm- looks like a postcard

Morning view of the White Canyon Wilderness

Samaniego Peak

Hiking up to the Mule Ears

Samaniego- what a wonderful ridge!

Incredible views on the Brush Corral Trail

Brush Corral Trail ridgeline

Between the oaks

In December I made one last trip to the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (my 4th this year) and enjoyed the fall colors. It is trailbuilding season on the Arizona Trail and I led my first work event up near Oracle on the 9th  in the Black Hills passage. I plan on sneaking in one last trip before the end of the year to my favorite very large hole in the ground before the year’s over.

Fall colors in Aravaipa Canyon

The inagural crew of the Crazies North

Whew! I sure got a lot of adventures in this year! Thanks to one of my favorite websites HikeArizona.com, I was able to keep track of my miles hiked and other stats. This is the first year that I logged all my hikes, and by the end of the year, I will have hiked approximately 750 miles. Lucky me.

I want to thank all of my readers and people who came to my talks who donated to my Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser. Since February, over $700 worth of donations have been given to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson! If you haven’t donated yet but would like to, you can send a check made out to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson to Pima Federal Credit Union  P.O. Box 50267 Tucson, Arizona 85703. Please put Hiking in the memo, so they know where you heard about their facility. Any amount is appreciated! You can also donate via PayPal by clicking the button below. Even if you don’t have a PayPal account, you can donate securely via PayPal with a credit card.

"Elfie" the Elf Owl thanks you for your donations!

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Three weeks ago at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, we had a cottontail rabbit brought in by a family who had found it in their backyard dragging a leg with an exposed fracture. The Miller’s work with several veterinarians in town who are kind enough to donate their services, and they took this cottontail to Dr. Laudonio at Acacia Animal Hospital. Dr. Laudonio performed surgery on the rabbit, pinned the fracture, and set it into a cast.

Broken-leg Bunny

A week or so later, he reapplied an external cast because the original was causing the rabbit’s leg to turn outward. Six days ago, on Friday, one of the volunteers went to feed the broken-leg bunny and came back to Janet Miller, asking, “Who put those tiny bunnies in with the broken-leg bunny?” Well, it turns out the bunny had just given birth to two bunnies, and as Janet came to see if she was okay, gave birth to a third.

Handful of 5-day old baby bunnies

What a testament to the resilience of this bunny, who had been through a tremendous amount of trauma! Mom and babies are doing well, their eyes should open on the 7th day. We had to remove the bunnies from their cage to clean and feed them, and had to make sure the mom bunny could see and smell her babies, so she wouldn’t think that we were trying to take them away from her.

Mom and babies- photo by Sue Jackson

The babies are generally piled up in a bunny-heap when not nursing. It is interesting to see how quickly they put on weight with their mother’s milk vs. the formula that we feed baby bunnies at the Wildlife Rehab. I will post updates next week when they open up their eyes.

Mom and a pile of babies

Baby season at the Wildlife Rehab is winding down, and some of the babies that we have nurtured throughout the summer are now ready for release. Since I am often going to places with shade and water to go hiking, I enjoy taking animals for release with me. Yesterday, we had a kestrel (smallest of the falcons) ready for release, so today I took it to Catalina, to the Cottonwoods near the Baby Jesus and 50-year trails. There are several washes that have water in the area and plenty of tall trees for shade and perching.

Kestrel deciding if he wants to come out

Play this video if you’ve never heard the call of a kestrel before- it does it right at the beginning of the clip:

Kestrel checks out his new surroundings

The little guy  hunted some ants and wandered around for a bit. I started to wonder if he was going to just sit in the wash all day, when finally, he took to the skies and perched in a tall cottonwood. I watched for a while to make sure he was ok, then went on a little hike on the Baby Jesus Trail before returning to the car. I hadn’t been to the Baby Jesus Trail since December of last year, and it was so much lusher and greener, with running creeks and tons of summer wildflowers. The blooming orange caltrop in places reminded me of poppy-filled hillsides of spring. I found a small waterfall at the second creek crossing, and got into the pool for a soak before hiking back out to my Jeep. Unfortunately, I had not taken the stuff out of my pockets, including my high-tech Jeep key. Oops! Thankfully, it had dried out enough by the time I’d gotten back and I didn’t have to face the wrath of my husband for ruining the key.

Caltrop Bloom opening

Morning Glory Vines

Behemoth Saguaros on the Baby Jesus Tr.

Barrel Cactus Blooms

If you’d like to donate to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson and have a PayPal account, you can click the “Donate” button below to make a contribution.

If you’d rather mail a check, you can make it out to “Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson” and send it to 3690 Hills of Gold, Tucson, AZ 85745 with “Hiking” in the memo. Janet and Lewis Miller rely on donations to supplement the $10,000 a year that they pay out of pocket to feed and house all these animals and birds, and a donation of any amount is greatly appreciated!

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My readers that live in Arizona are no doubt aware of the fact that the state is planning to close most of the state parks due to lack of funding. Without getting into too long of a rant, I think it is unconscionable that this is the way that the state plans on solving its budget shortfalls. One of Arizona’s main industries is tourism, and closing most of the state parks is a horrible, short-sighted way to save money. Besides, we still have to clarify what “closing a state park” means. Does it just give free reign to whomever can jump the fence or arrive via an alternate route? What about the state parks that have precious archaeological resources, like Homolovi Ruins? Do we just close these parks and hope that everyone is good stewards of the land and doesn’t take advantage of the closed status to go looting? The impending closings made it imperative that I check out two state parks before they closed: Picacho Peak SP and Lost Dutchman, both slated to close in June.

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

In Tucson, if the springtime is good for wildflowers, a trip up Picacho Peak is a must-do. The name is actually redundant, “picacho” means peak in Spanish, so it translates to “Peak Peak”. I hiked the steeper and more direct Hunter Trail last Monday, which takes off a short distance from the fee station. The trail climbs to the top of the peak in a short but steep 2 miles. I started early to beat the crowds, and I’m glad I did, because on the way down the trail was getting pretty crowded, even on a weekday. There were big patches of yellow poppies in bloom as I made my way up to the saddle.

Poppies and Lupine at Picacho

After the saddle, the fun begins- there are cables bolted to the mountain so that there is something to hold on to while descending steeply from the saddle- my pictures barely show the steepness. This is a good point to put away the hiking poles and put on some gloves to grip the cables.

Cables bolted into the mountain to ease yourself down from the saddle

Several parts of the trail have the cables- since I had an early start I encountered no one going up or down at the same time, but at the narrowest part of the trail I met Bill Cole, from Phoenix, out to enjoy the park before its scheduled closing. I was happy that I was doing this hike on a weekday, because there is no opportunity for two-way travel on some of the parts of the trail- I would have had to spend a bunch of time waiting. I was on a bit of a time crunch this morning because I had to get back to ready the house for visitors that were coming that night. I haven’t hiked this trail in several years and I was surprised to see how much precarious (albeit protected) climbing there was to get to the summit.

Trickiest part with the bolted cables

The trickiest part went straight up the rock with great foot and hand holds. I unfortunately got my hiking poles (which were stowed in my pack) caught up in the cables and had to gingerly extricate myself before continuing on. When I arrived at the summit there was a couple just heading back down, so I had the summit to myself. There were wonderful views in every direction, and a Harris’ Antelope Squirrel that was searching for any dropped snacks.

Antelope squirrel action shot!- click to enlarge

Posing for a picture, hoping for some snacks

As I was coming down from the peak, I decided to go check out the peak to the north for some views of Picacho:

Picacho Peak from the peak to the north

I was really glad that I got an early start, because on my way down, I met many hikers headed for the peak, and even more people at the trailhead poppy-peeping. I talked to several groups that said that they were out there to catch the views before they closed the park.

Poppies!!

Later in the week, I had to go to Phoenix to do two Arizona Trail Talks at both of the REI locations, so I took the opportunity to visit another park that is scheduled to close in June, Lost Dutchman State Park. I have been hearing about this hike called the Flatiron for a while now, so I decided to finally do this hike while I was in Phoenix for my talks. It turned out to be a perfect hike! I am somewhat disenchanted with dayhiking lately. For a dayhike to wow me, it’s got to be a good “bang for the buck” kind of hike. I have also recently gotten very into scrambling, which is basically hiking so rugged you have to use your hands to pull yourself up in places. The Flatiron definitely fit the bill! I hit the trail by 7:15. The trail to the Flatiron gets progressively more difficult as you leave the trailhead- from wide, flat trail to a  well-maintained steeper portion and progressing to a scramble topped with a 10-foot wall to climb right as you reach the saddle.

Flatiron on the right, the chute to climb to get there in the center

As I reached the more difficult parts of the trail, I met a group of hikers that lived in nearby Mountainbrook Village. Several of the hikers had been to the Flatiron before, so I was able to follow them and use the path of least resistance, marked with spray-painted blue or white dots on the rock.

Looking back toward the chute I scrambled up

The 10-foot wall that I had heard so much about wasn’t too bad, just required a little thought into the hand and foot placement, and before I knew it, I had reached the saddle. Thankfully, my early start meant that the bulk of the climb was done in the shade, this would be one toasty hike at the wrong time of the day. At the saddle you can go right to the Flatiron or left toward Peak 5024. The group I tagged along with headed over to nearby Peak 5024, and I was glad I followed them. There were some parts that required me to take my pack off and shimmy underneath a passage in the boulders and hoodoos. This is one of my favorite parts of the Superstitions that I have been to thus far.

Hoodoos on the way to Peak 5024

The summit was spectacular! Views all the way south to the snow-covered Catalinas near my home in Tucson, a view of Weaver’s Needle and the interior of the Superstitions, and the Four Peaks as well.

The Mountainbrook Village group on the summit

4 Peaks from the summit of Peak 5024

Looking down on the Flatiron

The peak was so wonderful that by the time I headed down to the Flatiron, it was a little anticlimactic. I would urge those planning to hike the Flatiron to check out the nearby peak as well, it is certainly worth it! I had to get back to town to get ready for my speaking engagement at REI, so after spending some time on the Flatiron, it was time to head back to the car. On the way down, there were many more crowds, and I was glad that I had started early. The downhill scramble was much easier than uphill, and I made great time getting down to the trail in Siphon Draw. It is called the Siphon Draw because it drains a large portion of the Western Superstitions, and the water has carved out a beautiful natural bowl in the rock.

Siphon Draw

Once past the Siphon Draw bowl, its back to good old trail again, and I would have flown down this area if I hadn’t stopped so many times to take pictures of the greenery and wildflowers. The brittlebush hadn’t bloomed yet, but there were great swaths of purple lupine, scorpionweed, poppies, blue dicks, and chicory all the way to the parking lot.

Wildflowers looking back at the Flatiron

Hopefully, the state will figure out an alternative to closing the state parks. My two Arizona Trail talks in Phoenix went very well, and I was able to raise almost $200 for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser. For today’s Wildlife Rehab picture, here’s a tiny Harris’ Antelope Squirrel.

Feeding a baby Harris' Antelope Squirrel at the Wildlife Rehab

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My original plan for this week was to start hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail in the Superstitions from Roger’s Trough to First Water Trailhead, the western terminus of the GET. Again, this strange winter weather we’re having hampered my plans. A storm had dumped yet another bunch of rain on an already saturated landscape, and as a result, there were several creek crossings that were either washed out or impassable. I decided to be flexible and re-arranged my plans to spend three days going from the Tortilla Trailhead to First Water instead, about 25 miles. It left an 11-mile stretch that I will have to come back and complete at another time. I now have an excuse to come back…

Starting at the Tortilla Trailhead

My shuttle person for this trip was Shawn Redfield, a recent retiree who will be starting a thru-hike of the Arizona Trail in the coming weeks. We had a nice time talking about his planning for his hike- I am so excited for him to experience the AZT in it’s entirety. After Shawn dropped me off, I had to walk an access road into the Superstition Wilderness for 3 miles, then another mile to reach the Grand Enchantment Trail. Even the access road was pretty, and I enjoyed taking in an area which I’d never seen before. I soon came across three dayhikers, one who was carrying the sole of his shoe in his hand. These were the only people I saw all day. The recent rains meant that every wash and tiny rivulet was running, and the hillsides shone with small cascades of water.

Snowy Four Peaks-click to enlarge

I reached the Tortilla Ranch area, and entered the Superstition Wilderness on the unsigned JF Trail. It was about a mile to reach the Grand Enchantment Trail route, which uses the Hoolie Bacon Trail in this area. Both the JF and Hoolie Bacon trails were named after ranchers in the area. I have only hiked in the eastern Superstitons, which are higher elevation and have a different feel than the western part. But both are interminably rocky.

Entering the Superstition Wilderness

Unabated rockiness of the Superstitions

JF and Hoolie Bacon Jct.

Once I was on the Hoolie Bacon Trail, I had to cross Tortilla Creek several times, but was able to make it across with some creative rock-hopping. Tortilla Creek was more than knee-deep in places, so I was happy that I could make it across without getting in. Most of the crossings were not so bad.

Tortilla Creek

After I crossed Tortilla Creek for the last time, I loaded up with 3 liters of water, because I was not sure of the availability of water on the Hoolie Bacon Trail. I shouldn’t have worried, parts of the trail had water cascading down the middle of the trail, some with pools large enough to filter water from. As a trailbuilder, I must say that the Hoolie Bacon Tr. could use some water control structures. Can I get a nick or a waterbar? I saw on my Grand Enchantment Trail map that there was a “viewful saddle” coming up at Horse Ridge. I prefer ridgetop camps to canyon camps, so I was looking forward to seeing what was in store.

Campsite View

Perfect! Views north to the  4 Peaks, incredible views south and west, plus a small wall constructed as a windbreak for my sleeping area. Home for the night. I enjoyed my dinner while watching the sun set, then read some of my book about Ernest Shackelton’s Antarctic adventures before falling asleep. After reading Shackelton, it’s kind of hard to complain that you’re cold at night. I could hear the water rushing down in the valley below as bats chirped overhead.

Ridgetop Camp

Sunset view to the south

During the night, I had a vivid dream that there was a silver and blue robotic praying mantis that attached itself to my eye and I had to rip it off with both hands. When I awoke the next morning, my right eyelid was all swollen and tender and I wondered what on earth it was that bit me in the middle of the night. I still think that sleeping under the stars is worth waking up with a strange bite every now and then. I decided to lounge around in camp for a while, reading, writing in my journal, and doing some yoga.

At about 10:30 am, I finally got moving and headed south on the Hoolie Bacon Trail toward the Red Tanks junction. Along the way, there were some very interesting rock formations in the distance.

I took a break at the Red Tanks Jct. and saw one backpacker, he looked pretty surprised to see a solo female backpacker.  He asked if I was alone, and I answered: “Are you?” We exchanged a few words, and then I was on my way toward the Upper La Barge Box. What a beautiful area!! The canyon had large, dramatic walls with a beautiful stream rushing through it and I saw my first wildflowers of the year.

Western Spiderwort

First poppy of the year!

Desert Anemone?

I took my time hiking through the La Barge Box, taking a bunch of pictures and enjoying the scenery. There was a little campsite about halfway in, it would be a beautiful place to camp, but I wanted to get some more miles in so that I didn’t have such a long day tomorrow. Once out of the Upper La Barge Box, the Red Tanks Trail began crossing and recrossing the stream many times. I decided to hike the last couple miles to La Barge Spring in my camp shoes. It was interesting how I had to walk differently without my boots for support- it slowed me down, but was not at all uncomfortable as long as I paid attention to where I was placing my feet.  The weather was perfect for a refreshing splash across the creek time and time again.

Looking back at the Upper La Barge Box

Hiking in my camp shoes!

Soon, I reached La Barge Spring, and I walked past one person’s campsite to see if there were any other good campsites nearby. It turned out the only good site in the area was not too far away from the occupied campsite, so I decided to try and find the person that was camping there before making a decision. I met Randy from Prescott, he was surprised to see anyone out there during the week, especially a woman. I talked to him for a bit and decided to make my camp at the other campsite. Randy seemed friendly and after eating dinner, I went back over to his camp and we talked for a while. He was very knowledgeable about the history of the area I was hiking through and told me all sorts of interesting stories.

I had to put my tent fly up because of condensation from the creek, and I read a little before falling asleep. I was awoken from a dead sleep by the sound of a helicopter flying right overhead and shining a light onto my tent. It freaked me out! By the time I realized what was happening, it was gone. I had seen a helicopter looking for someone all day, and I was surprised that they hadn’t been found yet.

The next morning, everything sparkled with dew, and I soon reached the Dutchman Trail, which I would take until I reached my car at First Water Trailhead.

Morning dew near La Barge Spring

I hiked in my camp shoes again, because the trail kept crossing La Barge Creek. Soon I reached Charlebois Spring (pronounced “Charlie Boy” by the locals), a very deep pool that has water even in the driest of times. I saw a lot of pottery sherds and stone tool-making fragments in the area, so I decided to go hunting around for petroglyphs. I looked and looked, and was just about to give up and leave, when I saw Dale, the only person I would see all day. He had just come from seeing petroglyphs in the area and told me where to find them.

Fairy Duster

Pottery sherd

Flake from toolmaking- "Percussion bulb" at top where the flake was struck

I took a video of the petroglyphs, and I was playing around on YouTube to put some music with it. It had a “choose random song” option and this is what it picked. I don’t know why, but this really cracked me up, so I left it.

After all the fun near Charlebois Spring, I continued on the Dutchman Trail, and got my very first close-up view of the Weaver’s Needle. WOW!! The Needle is a giant spire that is 4553 ft elevation at it’s highest point. I have seen it from as far as Oracle and Payson but never been anywhere near it. What I really would like to do is climb it- I have read up on it and the hardest pitch is rated a 5.4. I have climbed a 5.6 on Baboquivari Peak, so I think it is within my abilities.

Me and the Needle

I had great views of the Needle the whole way back to the trailhead. As I neared First Water Trailhead and the western terminus of the Grand Enchantment Trail, I kept waiting to run into other hikers, because this is a very popular trailhead right outside of Phoenix. Amazingly, I saw no one, not even in the parking lot. I kept waiting for the trail to get less rocky as I got closer to First Water, but the Supes stayed rocky till the end. My feet felt like they had been beaten with hammers from the last three rocky days of hiking. It was all worth it, though. I am so impressed by the route the Grand Enchantment Trail takes through the Superstitions. What a rocky, rugged, wonderful place.

One last look- click to enlarge

It’s baby bunny time at the Miller’s Wildlife Rehabilitation- we have about 10 of these tiny guys right now and more to come as spring is almost here.

Tiny sleepy baby bunny

Palm-sized bunny

Your donation helps feed and house these bunnies, along with all the other birds and animals at the Miller’s Wildlife Rehab.

You can see the full set of pictures from this trip here:

Grand Enchantment Trail Segment #1 3-2-10

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After last night’s unexpected bonfire with the people from Dudleyville, I awoke early in the morning to see that there was mist rising up from the wash. Putnam Spring is a warm spring, and it was hitting the cold air and making the wash look amazing!

Near Putnam Spring

Today’s walk was mostly on roads or in washes or on a road in a wash. There was no worries about navigation, and the walking was easy in Putnam Wash. After Putnam Spring, the walls of the wash closed in a bit and became more and more beautiful as I hiked east. I just love when anything grows from solid rock- like this saguaro who is wearing a silly hat and pointing the way:

Colorful Rocks in Putnam Wash

"This way, madame"

Before long, I was at the San Pedro River, and I changed into my camp shoes to ford the ankle-deep San Pedro River. The river was a beautiful place, with sycamores just starting to leaf out.

Sycamores along the San Pedro

San Pedro River

After a refreshing ford of the San Pedro, I reached the Hwy 77 underpass and the end of my first segment of the Grand Enchantment Trail. I really didn’t want to walk on asphalt, so I chose to stay in Aravaipa wash instead of taking Aravaipa Road. It is a broad wash that is alternately sandy and rocky and at about the second mile of sinking into sand, I began to wonder if asphalt wouldn’t have been a wiser choice. It was just me and some cows in the wash, and I put on some music to pass the time.

Sandy wash walk, looking west, back the way I came

Antelope Peak, where I started the day before

It was getting warm, and the wash was really exposed, so put on my umbrella. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics from this trip of my umbrella, but here’s one from another hike, so you get the idea:

Umbrella in the Grand Canyon

After what seemed like forever, I reached the point where I was able to exit the wash onto Aravaipa Road, which is a dirt road in this area. The roadwalk wasn’t too bad, just a little warm and exposed. As I was starting to get hot and uncomfortable, a truck stopped to ask if I was ok. (I get that a lot, hiking by myself) The driver introduced himself as Langdon, and said he owned a ranch in the area. We chatted for a bit, and then he asked me if I would like a cold beer. This is what is known in the hiking community as “Trail Magic”. It’s a beautiful thing. I enjoyed the heck out of the frosty Tecate before hiking on.

The remainder of the road was very scenic, and not very heavily traveled on the day I was hiking. I passed by all sorts of ranches and farms before coming to the Brandenburg Ranger Station, on the side of beautiful Brandenburg Mtn.

First glimpse of the good stuff ahead

Who is Abe White and why does he get such a tiny bridge?

Aravaipa Farms

Brandenburg Ranger Station

After the ranger station, the road dipped back down to follow Aravaipa Creek and I crossed this one-lane “Bailey Bridge”

One lane "Bailey Bridge"

Me and my umbrella on a portion of Aravaipa Rd. paved with these interesting bricks

Finally, after a total of 16 miles for the day, I reached my car that had been dropped at the Aravaipa West Trailhead. Man, I cannot wait to go through Aravaipa Canyon on the Grand Enchantment Trail. It is called “The Grand Canyon of the Sonoran Desert” and the beautifully colored cliffs gave a preview of what is to come when I hike the next segment. I will be waiting for warmer temps to do that piece, however, because Aravaipa is considered a water hike. There is no trail, and you have to wade in the stream for a great deal of the time- much too cold for now, better saved for late spring.

Aravaipa Creek- click to enlarge

I feel so lucky to be able to hike a new long-distance trail and had a great time on what was really a connector segment- I can’t wait to get into the numerous wilderness areas- Superstition, Aravaipa, Santa Teresas, Mount Graham, Gila, and many more on the Grand Enchantment Trail.

And now, for the “featured animal” from the Miller’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser- “Elfie” the elf owl, one of the Miller’s educational animals. The Miller’s are available to speak to groups that are interested in their educational programs. If you would like to have Elfie and his pals out for an educational program for your group in the Tucson area, please call (520) 743-0217.

"Elfie" the Elf Owl

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