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Have you checked out the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association yet? We’ve got all sorts of fantastic incentives from Arizona Trail pint glasses to signed art prints and one-of-a-kind experiences. Launched on March 28th with a big belly dance kickoff event at Sky Bar Tucson, over $2,000 has been raised in the first week of the campaign!

Jess Walker from Belly Dance Tucson

Jess Walker from Belly Dance Tucson

The next day after a fantastic evening of dance and music, the next stop for the Arizona Trail Trek was Arizona Trail Day at Colossal Cave east of Tucson. I led a large group of folks on a hike from Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead to Posta Quemada Ranch at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. There was also a guided bike ride and a horseback ride as well. We all came together at the ranch for lunch and afternoon activities, including a visit from the birds at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest 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

Elfie the Elf Owl

Elfie the Elf Owl

In the evening, the fun moved to the La Sevilla Campground, where we ate delicious food courtesy of It’s Greek to Me and listened to the music of Eb’s Camp Cookin’ around the campfire.  Terry, who is riding the whole trail with two horses and two dogs, was part of the festivities as well.

In the morning, I was excited to be hiking up into the Rincons. Though they are just east of Tucson, I don’t get into them nearly as much as I would like. I hiked the rest of the winding Rincon Valley passage, passing many mountain bikers out on a beautiful Sunday, many who I knew or who recognized me. I reached the Quilter Trail intersection and recalled fond memories of work trips in Saguaro National Park to build this connector trail. It has some of the fanciest rockwork ever.

Fancy!

Fancy!

It was a long day, and after taking in the sunset near some attractive pools of water, I continued on to Grass Shack Campground.

Big Saddle

Big Saddle

Rincons Sunset

Rincons Sunset

The next day was a big climb to Manning Camp at 8000 ft. I made an enjoyable day of it, taking frequent breaks to snack or take in the view. I had a long lunch with an exquisite nap under a tree. The Sky Islands are incredibly diverse- in just two days I’d gone from Saguaros to Ponderosa Pines. Met back up with Pops and Bars as well as two section-hikers Maverick and El Tractor for sunset-watching and an evening by the campfire.

So cold but so good!!

So cold but so good!!

Manning Camp

Manning Camp

Sunset on Rincon Peak

Sunset on Rincon Peak

The next day was one of my favorites of the whole trip so far- the views from the north side of the Rincons are spectacular with fantastic rock formations. The descent was steep but the trail was better than the last time I’d done it in 2008. I reached the cool pools of Tanque Verde Creek and dropped my pack and relaxed by the creek for hours. I saw no one all day.

Italian Spring Panorama

Italian Spring Panorama

Wonderful Rock Formations

Wonderful Rock Formations

Arizona Rainbow Cactus

Arizona Rainbow Cactus

I hiked on to where the Arizona Trail crosses Redington Road and manged to find a spot that was free of both bullet casings and broken glass, no small feat in this area. It had been windy for days upon end, to be expected of springtime in Arizona, but still mildly unpleasant.

The next morning I was met by my friends Laddie and Sue Cox, who brought me a resupply box for my next piece through the Catalinas. Great to see friendly faces, they are legends that have helped the Arizona Trail Association in many ways through the years. Laddie and I used to be on the same volunteer trail crew, the Crazies.

After repacking, I hiked through attractive juniper-dotted hills toward The Lake and then on toward West Spring. I kept an eye out for Kean Brown’s retired horses and was not disappointed. I spent a while visiting with the four horses near West Spring and then made the ascent to the saddle above Molino Basin and then down the other side to the campground. I know this piece of trail like the back of my hand, it used to be my go-to hike long ago when I was recovering from fibromyalgia. What a great thing to have the strength now to have walked here from Mexico.

Kean Brown's retired horses from the Bellota Ranch

Kean Brown’s retired horses from the Bellota Ranch

Hiking to the saddle

Hiking to the saddle

It was still windy and I got an idea in my head that I would love a hot shower. I have a friend, Tom- another of the Crazies, that lives right at the base of the Catalinas, and so I called and he and his wife Nancy were available to meet me at Gordon Hirabayashi (Prison Camp) Trailhead. Not only did I get my coveted shower, but also an invite to stay the night and dinner on top of it all! It was such a nice surprise.

The next morning Tom took me back to where he’d met me and we picked up another woman, India, for the next leg of the hike. Instead of hiking uphill, Tom offered to drive us up to the top of Mount Lemmon so that we could hike the next piece downhill instead. I didn’t have to think twice about that one! I love a good shuttle hike in the Catalinas, it’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy my home mountains.

Me and India

Me and India

India and I had known each other in the late 90’s- early 2000’s when I worked as an archaeologist with SWCA Environmental Consulting and had reconnected through her signing up for a couple of the Arizona Trail Trek hikes. She was the only taker for this particular backpacking trip.

The Wilderness of Rock Trail is breathtaking- since hiking it for the first time in 2008 on my AZT section-hike, I have come back again and again. Such a magical place with hoodoos and impossible rock balancing acts.

Wilderness of Rock

Wilderness of Rock

We filled up our water at Lemmon Creek and then began our descent toward Romero Pass. The trail gives incredible views of Cathedral Rock and Pusch Ridge, even little Sombrero Peak in the Tucson Mountains. Met Maverick again and wished him well on his way to Oracle.

Above the West Fork

Above the West Fork

Romero Pass was windy as usual and we looked for bighorns but didn’t see any. We switchbacked down the hill and finally reached the Cathedral Rock Trail junction and the canopy of the West Fork Sabino Canyon.

It was too early to camp, so we meandered along the trail a while longer, crossing the dry creekbed. India spotted a fire ring at a flat spot in the trees and we found a home for the night.

Camp in the West Fork

Camp in the West Fork

The West Fork is home to massive junipers and oaks and we really enjoyed our camp and hike the next morning. The trail then dropped back into the desert and we reached Hutch’s Pool. Too cold for a swim, I dunked my feet instead and fondly recalled times spent here with my pool floatie.

Delphinium

Delphinium

The hike out of Sabino Basin on the East Fork and Sycamore Trails went smoothly and soon we were at Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas. A short downhill later, and we were back at Prison Camp TH. Nice to be done early and have the afternoon off.

India enjoying the Catalinas

India enjoying the Catalinas

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

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

My husband, Brian met me and we stayed at Leigh Anne Thrasher’s cabin in Summerhaven. Leigh Anne is a great friend to the AZT and she and her mini-donkey Jasmine hiked up and over the Huachucas in Passage 1 with me. It was great to spend some time with my husband, visits are going to be fewer and farther between as I head farther from my home in Tucson.

Micro Chicken rides Mini Donkey at the cabin in Summerhaven

Micro Chicken rides Mini Donkey at the cabin in Summerhaven

The next day my friends Wendy and Bill met me in Summerhaven for the hike down Oracle Ridge, but that’s a story I’ll leave for Bill to tell you in an upcoming guest blog. When I reached the American Flag Trailhead, it marked 200 miles so far on the Arizona Trail Trek- what a great feeling!

Here’s the link again to the crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association, check it out and share with your friends! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/arizona-trail-trek-stepping-up-to-support-the-arizona-trail/x/6377270

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arizona Trail Trek

What a start to the Arizona Trail Trek! On March 14th at noon, 28 people gathered at Montezuma Pass in the Coronado National Memorial to hike with me to the Mexican border and back. You see, there’s no driving to the start of the Arizona Trail, to get to it you have to hike almost two miles down to Monument 102 that marks the border and the southern terminus of the AZT.

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Starting out on the AZT

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Looking into Mexico at San Jose Peak

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Border Monument 102

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A rare trail appearance by my wonderful husband Brian

We had a wonderful hike to the border, took the requisite starting out pictures, and then I read Dale Shewalter’s poem The Arizona Trail. The views from the hike and border are spectacular looking into Mexico.Image

After hiking back up to our cars, we went into Sierra Vista for the first of the Gateway Community Events at the beautiful Garden Place Suites. We enjoyed blues by C.J. Fletcher, tasty appetizers from the Sierra Vista Food Co-op, and Arizona Trail Ale from That Brewery in Pine, AZ. It was great to see folks from all over the state coming together to talk trail and make new contacts for future adventures on the AZT.

Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event

Sierra Vista Arizona Trail Trek Event

Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op

Tasty appetizers from Sierra Vista Food Co-op

C. J. Fletcher playin' the blues

C. J. Fletcher playin’ the blues

Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event

Good crowd for the first Gateway Community event

Gateway Community

Gateway Community

The next morning, nine of us and a mini-donkey met at Montezuma Pass once again- this time for a 15 mile dayhike up and over the Huachuca Mountains. The mini-donkey’s name is Jasmine and her person that she hikes with is Leigh Anne. They were both a blast to have along, as was the rest of the group. We had a tough but rewarding day, starting out with a climb up to 9000 feet on the Huachuca Crest. The trail rolls along the crest, stopping at one of my favorite water sources, Bathtub Spring. Here we met up with BASA, Birdnut, and Norm, thruhikers that had come to the kickoff party and started the trail that morning.

Climbing to the Huachuca Crest

Climbing to the Huachuca Crest

Miller Peak junction and the top of the day's big climb up to 9100 ft.

Miller Peak junction and the top of the day’s big climb up to 9100 ft.

Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.

Not much snow for March at 9000 ft.

Bathtub Spring

Bathtub Spring

Taking a break on the Crest Trail

Taking a break on the Crest Trail

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

Through my first of seven wilderness areas on the AZT!

We had incredible views on the crest before taking the Sunnyside Canyon Trail down the west side of the mountain. The trail finally leveled out to an old road in the canyon and I saw more bear scat than I have ever seen in one place. Pile after pile after pile. They really liked that canyon!

We ended our hike in Scotia Canyon and were met by shuttle driver extraordinaire Bernie with cold drinks, snacks and cookies for the folks going back to Montezuma Pass. My dad, who is out from Chicago to help with my hike, met me and I packed up my backpack for the next three days into Patagonia.

I spent the night in Scotia Canyon with Rick, who was hiking to Patagonia with me, and Levi, who was filming the AZT Trek for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. We had a wonderful full moon and were treated to a fantastic falling star.

Camp in Scotia Canyon

First camp of the Trek in Scotia Canyon

The next morning, I was finally able to relax in camp for a bit and we got a leisurely start of 10:30. We would have left earlier, but there were three cowboys and their dogs making a giant scene trying to rope a cow in the forest. It was one of those wild-west holdovers that make you realize that some people still make a living roping cattle from the back of a horse. After they’d subdued the cow, they came over to say hi. The one asked, “You all hiking the trail?” And I said yes, that I am hiking the entire AZT. He looked at me from his horse and said, “Didn’t I just see you on T.V.?” Recognized by a cowboy in the middle of nowhere!! Cracked me up.

Cowboys

Cowboys

Rick and I finally got on the trail, tailed by Levi, our enthusiastic videographer. We all hiked to the Parker Canyon Lake Trailhead and the end of Passage 1 where we found mountain biker Steve, who had been at the kickoff party. He had put some water out for me at the trailhead that said “Go Sirena!” and we stopped to chat for a while. We were joined by thru hiker Jim with his adorable dog Chance for a lunch break.

Parker Canyon Lake

Parker Canyon Lake

After lunch, Rick and I hiked for a while, up and down through the Canelo Hills. We had a great break along the flowing creek in Parker Canyon to filter some water. Nothing like flowing water in the desert. There was a climb to a small ridge with incredible views in every direction and we called it camp. Not too tough of a day, which was nice. There will be plenty of long, tough days ahead.

The full moonrise was spectacular and lit up the sky like it was daytime again. I slept like a rock and was treated to an amazing sunrise from my sleeping bag. I love cowboy camping under the stars- who wants to look at the inside of a tent? Not this girl.

Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp

Moonset and sunrise at Canelo East ridgetop camp- click to enlarge

The next day was up and down, up and down through the Cinnamon Hills (Canelo in Spanish). The landscape is one of oak-dotted grassy ridges, every so often giving views of the surrounding Sky Island mountain ranges. We could see the Santa Ritas, Mustang, Rincon, Catalina, and Huachuca ranges from high points of the trail. The Catalinas looked so far- and I’m going to walk there and beyond!

From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains

From the right- Mustang, Rincon, and Catalina Mountains

Middle Canyon break spot

Middle Canyon break spot

Canelos from the highpoint

I felt really good, finally settling into the fact that I get to live outside for the next two and a half months. I was giddy with excitement- finally, after 7 years of dreaming of thru hiking the Arizona Trail, here I was! In the intervening years, both the trail and I had changed a bit.

One of the highlights of the Canelo West passage is the hike through Meadow Valley. Rick and I marveled at the wide expanse of golden grasses bathed in afternoon sun.

Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley

Rick enjoying Upper Meadow Valley

Upper Meadow Valley

Upper Meadow Valley

Meadow Panorama

Meadow Panorama

Canelo West

Canelo West

Down Under Tank

Down Under Tank

As it got later, we were looking for a place to camp and chose this nondescript clearing on a grass and catclaw covered hillside. It turned out to be much better than we had expected and we were treated to a colorful sunset followed by yet another picturesque moonrise.

Sunset from Canelo West camp

Sunset from Canelo West camp

Moonlit silhouette

Moonlit silhouette

The next morning, we hiked to Red Bank Well and got water from a solar-powered windmill that shot water out of a pipe on a tall green tank. These passages are in open-ranching territory and we passed many bovines, some with impressive horns.

We were dropping elevation and as we got closer to the Harshaw Trailhead the temperatures soared and poppies and other wildflowers began to appear. Springtime is here!

Red Bank

Red Bank

Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.

Red Bank Well- when the solar is working, water shoots out of a pipe on the big green tank at left.

Wildflower season!

Wildflower season!

Micro Chicken on the AZT

Micro Chicken on the AZT

One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.

One last gate before dropping down to Harshaw Rd.

We reached the trailhead, still three miles outside of Patagonia. I was planning on staying with the couple who runs the visitor’s center and owns Patagon bike rental and Maggie was kind enough to meet us and take our packs into town. I stopped to adjust my right shoe after she drove away and the entire tongue of the shoe pulled right out!! Shoes are the most important thing when you’re walking across the state and I immediately started thinking about what I was going to do.

This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.

This is not supposed to happen to new shoes.

We walked the road and the first thing we saw when we got into town was a poster advertising the Arizona Trail Trek event in Patagonia on the 20th! Exciting that I’ve just walked 52 miles into my first town from Mexico. What a great five days on the trail. We had a paleta (Mexican ice cream bar) from Ovens of Patagonia to celebrate.

First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th

First thing I saw when I got into Patagonia is an Arizona Trail Trek poster for the event on the 20th

Thankfully, I had gotten into Patagonia a day earlier than expected, and Rick was having a friend of his pick him up and bring him back to Tucson, where he’d parked his car. I caught a ride and before I knew it, I was back in Tucson and buying a new pair of shoes. Brian, my husband, was ecstatic to get to spend some bonus time together and I slept in my own bed. Not exactly what I was expecting, but not the worst thing that could happen by far.

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Brian, my ride to Tucson, and Rick, my traveling companion from Mexico to Patagonia at the end of a successful first leg of the Arizona Trail Trek.

Now I’m back in Patagonia and the second Arizona Trail Trek event is happening tonight at Plaza de Patagonia, 277 McKeown Ave from 5-8 pm. Music by Jamnesia, tasty food from Ovens of Patagonia, and Arizona Trail Ale. Hope to see you there!

To donate to the Arizona Trail Trek’s mission to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association, click here

The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with exclusive incentives kicks off on Friday, March 28th at Sky Bar in Tucson- 536 4th Ave from 7-10 pm. Come out for music by Cobracalia and performances by Midriff Revival, Belly Dance Tucson, Brandye Asya, Dragna, Troupe HipNautic and Black Sun Tribe! I am pretty sure that I am the only thru-hiker that comes off the trail for belly dance performances. That’s just how I roll.

Don’t forget, you can also follow the Arizona Trail Trek on the Arizona Trail Association’s Facebook or on Twitter @AZTRAIL- see you on the AZT! Full list of Gateway Community events and public hikes at www.aztrail.org/azttrek

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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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Weaver's Needle

The Weaver’s Needle is a classic Arizona landmark located in the Superstition Wilderness, east of Phoenix. A spire standing 4553 feet tall made from volcanic rock that juts out of the surrounding desert which can be seen from as far away as the Catalinas and the Mogollon Rim. I have admired it from many angles on many different trails, so when I found out a couple of years ago that it was a fairly low-level technical climb to reach the summit,  I began researching the route. However, I would need to find someone to lead the climb. When I was on my Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon last October, Kent mentioned that he’d climbed it and that he’d be willing to do it again. Well, I wasn’t going to let  an offer like that go to waste, so I suggested that we try to climb it around my birthday, February 16. We invited Steve, who had been on the Royal Arch Loop with us, and John, who I know from HikeArizona.com. Another climber, Dave, was planning on joining us, but got sick right before the climb. He was kind enough to loan me some gear and a camera- thanks Dave! My camera had stopped working after enduring a sandstorm at The Wave the previous week. (Report coming soon- I am still going through the myriad pictures I took in Southern Utah.) After months of anticipation, the day was finally here and four of us met at the Peralta Trailhead at 7am on February 26 to start our adventure.

Kent, John, Steve and me at Peralta Trailhead

Kent had previously climbed it from the east side, and he said that the off-trail approach was nasty and filled with catclaw. On the west side, the climb was a little more difficult but the approach to the base was all on the Peralta Trail. We got hiking at 7:15 am up the Peralta Trail toward Fremont Saddle. This is one of the most popular trails in the Phoenix area, but overcast skies and a forecast calling for a slight chance of rain in the afternoon were enough to keep the hordes away and as a result, we only saw a couple of groups of hikers all day! I was impressed from the start- I had never been on the Peralta Trail before and didn’t realize that it was surrounded by hoodoos and other interesting rock formations. The trail wove through the surprisingly lush creek. There were some gigantic Sugar Sumac that were towering trees, rather than the smaller bushes I’m accustomed to seeing. As the trail climbed toward Fremont Saddle, there were great views south to Picketpost Mountain, near Superior. We reached the saddle at 8:30 and I got my first view of today’s objective. Here’s a video from Fremont Saddle:

Kent on the "sidewalk" of the Peralta Trail

Weaver's Needle from Fremont Saddle

It was an impressive sight, the “classic view” of Weaver’s Needle, looking like an improbable climb for anyone but a skilled climber from this angle. We took a short break and then continued down from the saddle, going in and out of green areas near the creek. As we neared Pinyon Camp, the two summits of the Needle came into view. The trip reports and route descriptions I’d read said the climber’s route crosses the creek at a cairn after you pass the hoodoos on the side of Weaver’s Needle. There is another trail, the Weaver’s Needle Crosscut, that is cairned that takes off to the east just before you pass the hoodoos, don’t take that one and continue to the next one located at N33° 25.769′ W111° 22.568′. The two summits and the gully between them were clearly visible and the route up to the gully is a well beat-in path that quickly gains elevation. We could see two other climbers that had taken a wrong turn and ended up near the lone saguaro. The route goes to the left of the rock outcropping that the lone saguaro sits upon.

Pinyon Camp- the two summits come into view

On the climber's route

We reached the gully and the start of the scramble and stashed our hiking poles. The rock was good, grippy, and solid up to the base of the first pitch.

Start of the scramble

View from the base of the first pitch

John in his element

The other climbers were making their way up the chockstone pitch and we waited as they climbed. The overcast skies had been a boon on our hike up, I can imagine that is a toasty climb most of the year. Now we were literally chillin’  in the shade. The views were good but the waiting did nothing to calm my nerves. I knew the pitch wasn’t terribly technical, but this being only my second outdoor climb  (my first was Baboquivari, 2 years ago), it was a bit intimidating looking all the way up to the chockstone. Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights? I am, but I find that if I push through all the nervousness that I am always rewarded with an amazing adventure. Thankfully there were probably less people than usual trying to climb today because of the marginal rain in the forecast. Finally it was our turn and Kent got on his climbing shoes and began leading the climb up to the chockstone. It was all going well until one of Kent’s pieces of protection came out of the wall and sliding down the rope. Thankfully, he was able to adjust and make it up the pitch and under the chockstone. Kent set up a toprope, and Steve went next, collecting the pieces that Kent had put in as he went up.

Kent gets ready to lead the first pitch

Up the first pitch

Steve belays Kent, who has almost reached the chockstone

Now it was my turn. I was a little flustered getting started and John was great and talked me through it. Once I got started, I was fine, and the climbing wasn’t too hard at all- kind of like climbing a ladder. A ladder that is 180 feet tall. The climb to the chockstone is rated “easy 5th class”.   I had a mantra “Place my feet, place my hands” that helped me get a rhythm going and I concentrated on the task at hand and tried not to look down. There were several good places to take a rest and breathe for a second before continuing. I could see that I was nearing the chockstone and I saw Steve’s smiling face through the hole, ready to help if I needed to take my pack off to wriggle under the chockstone. Fortunately, both me and my pack fit through and the crux of the climb was over with! The notch between the two summits above the chockstone was windy and surprisingly roomy and I sat down to wait for John to come up. John chose to go to the right of the chockstone, a move rated 5.2. Under the chockstone is a 5.0 and up to the left of the chockstone is rated a 5.4.

Up the 1st pitch

View from the top of the chockstone

There was a vertical 15 foot wall and I chose to get a belay on it after feeling slightly uncomfortable on the first couple moves without one. I figure, we’ve got the rope, why not? Then we had an interesting scramble up a gully that was not exposed at all. Finally we reached the base of the final scramble, which I knew from reading had wonderful hand and foot holds, but was eerily exposed and I again asked for a belay. The view from that pitch was incredible for the second I allowed myself to look as I climbed up the “bomber jugs” while using colorful language to ease the tension. (I can often gauge how challenging a trip is by the amount of swear words I use- it’s a coping mechanism I guess.) I reached the top of the final scramble and walked up the final short slope to the summit.

Kent and Steve scramble up the final pitch

At the summit, looking down the final slope before the summit- Peralta Trail visible in the valley below.

I can’t believe I’m standing on top of the Weaver’s Needle!!! The views were phenomenal- if a little bit hazy-here’s a video:

I made it!

Kent throws a Wendy with Steve and John on the summit

I could see so many different landmarks from the summit- Four Peaks, the Catalinas and Pusch Ridge, Battleship Mountain, Canyon Lake, the Superstition Ridgeline, Picketpost- too many to name them all. I could also see the path of Segment 1 of the Grand Enchantment Trail that I’d hiked last year through the Supes. The one Arizona landmark that I couldn’t see was the Weaver’s Needle- because I was standing on top of it! We made great time and were on the summit shortly after 1 pm. As we were admiring the scenery, a plane closely circled us several times. There is the sweetest little campsite on top, complete with a windbreak. I aspire to sleep on this spire someday.

View from the summit, showing the small campsite- Four Peaks in the distance

This plane circled us a couple of times

Summit!

We had lunch and signed the register and all too soon it was time to head back down. We were pleased that the marginal chance of rain had not materialized and it looked like it was going to stay clear for our descent to the trail. That’s all I cared about, once we were on the trail, it could rain, snow, hail, or all three- which it ended up doing later that evening but long after we’d left the trailhead. I was glad that we were able to avoid downclimbing the pitches that we’d scrambled up by rappelling down. We went to the first rappel station and Kent went first. I felt pretty good about the rappel, even though part of it was a free rappel and I was just hanging in the air, letting myself down. I’d never done that before and Kent got a great shot of me in action.

Kent sets up the first rappel- the lower spire's summit is visible above his head and Fremont Saddle is above that

Peralta Trail visible waaaay below

Free Rappel

We did have to scramble down the gully to the top of the 15′ step and I took my time, singing the “Get down, get down” part from the song Jungle Boogie to amuse myself while descending. The scariest moment of the whole day was when someone dislodged a rock above me and when I heard Steve yell “rock!” I froze into position and a softball-sized rock bounced inches from my hand. Now having a crushed hand is no fun for anyone, but I am a massage therapist and my livelihood depends on having non-crushed, non-mangled hands. It would have been a very bad thing.  When we reached the top of the chockstone, I began to get nervous again. The trip reports I’d read said it was a little tough to start the rappel off the chockstone because you have to find a way to swing under it without hitting yourself on it on the way down. John went to the right of the chockstone and I wasn’t crazy about how it looked, and Steve tried the left side, which looked better, but was kind of tricky to maneuver into position to start. When it was my turn, I opted for the left, but got a little panicky on my way over to start the rappel. I couldn’t feel the tension on the rope, but once I moved as far over as I could I was able to feel the rope holding me and take my first couple of steps down the wall before swinging under the chockstone. As with the other times I’d been nervous today, once I got going, I was fine. The rappel took the entire length of a 60 meter (180′) rope and I made it down to the base of the climb without incident and even had quite a bit of fun! Kent did the rappel in two stages and we were finally done with the technical part of the climb. I had chosen at the beginning of the day to not bring along climbing shoes and there was not one point in the day where I missed having them. A little more scrambling and we were back to our hiking poles and headed down the narrow climber’s path toward the Peralta Superhighway.

Looking back at the route

We reached the Peralta Trail at 4:15 and stopped to refuel for the final leg of our journey, 4 miles back to the trailhead. We asked Kent now that he’d done both routes to the top, how they compared. He said that the climbing was appreciably easier on the east side, but that the Peralta approach with no brush to fight was the only way he’d do it again. An hour later, we were at Fremont Saddle, which we had to ourselves. John said that on a normal Saturday, there are crowds of people at the saddle- lucky us!

Weaver's Needle- so different once you've stood on top!

Peralta Trail

We got back to the trailhead just as the light was fading, 11 hours after we’d started. What a perfect day- the scenery, climb, and the camaraderie were all top-notch. After saying good-bye to John and thanking Kent for doing such a fantastic job of leading the trip, Steve and I headed back toward Tucson. We stopped at the River Bottom Saloon “On the banks of the mighty Gila River” for some fish and chips. Quite tasty, plus we got to see a slice of Florence nightlife, which provided some entertainment in the form of a bachelorette party going on in the next room. I got back home 16  hours after I’d left the house- what a day! Now for the rest of my life, when I see the Weaver’s Needle- while driving, hiking, flying, whenever- I will get that inimitable feeling knowing that I have stood on top. Our timing was just right- the following day this is what the Weaver’s Needle looked like!

Charger55 from HikeArizona.com got this picture of a snowy Weaver's the day after our climb

Here’s a link to the full set of pictures:

Weaver’s Needle Summit 2-26-10

I have several bits of exciting news on the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser front! First, a big thanks to the folks at Heritage Highlands, I recently gave a slideshow presentation about my Royal Arch trip in the Grand Canyon and they were very generous with donations for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I am also excited to announce that I have a date and venue nailed down for the Birds, Blues, and Bellydance fundraising event. It will be held Saturday, May 7th in the evening at Sky Bar on Fourth Avenue. I will be having a Great-Horned Owl, a Harris Hawk, and an Elf Owl from the rehab out for people to meet, there will be live blues, and there will be performances by several Tucson-area bellydancers, including yours truly. So save the date- it’s going to be a blast! For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a picture of one of the birds that will be at the event- “Elfie” the adorable Elf Owl:

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

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La Milagrosa Canyon- people in upper right for scale

When I was on top of Agua Caliente Hill last week, I looked into the interesting canyons at the base and wondered what it was like down there. I recently joined the Alt Hiking Meetup group to find others interested in bushwhacking and scrambling, and someone posted a loop hike of those very canyons I was admiring from above. My Royal Arch Loop trip made me a little wary of hiking with a large group of people I don’t know, but I decided to keep an open mind and I signed up to do a loop of La Milagrosa – Agua Caliente Canyons. Translated from Spanish to English, the names lose a little of their luster- it becomes The Marvelous (or Miraculous) – Hot Water Canyon Loop.

Ten of us met on Martin Luther King Day and we started hiking at 9:15 am out of the trailhead located on Suzenu Ave. The “trailhead” is really just some parking alongside of the street, there is no lot or anything. To get to the trail, we went around the fence and started hiking along Horsehead Road. We passed the Milagrosa Ridge Trail turnoff and continued into the bottom of La Milagrosa Canyon. The canyon soon got narrower, the walls got taller, and large shelves of rock appeared for us to travel on. The canyon walls were wonderful, banded Gneiss so typical of canyons in the Catalinas. This canyon is very popular with rock climbers, and known as “5.11 Heaven” for the proliferation of tough routes.

Hiking out on Horsehead Rd.

Ledges appear as the walls narrow

As we got farther up the canyon, obstacles began to appear. At first they were just small spots where it helped to put your hand up on the rocks, but soon we were confronted with larger and larger boulder jumbles and it became more interesting. Only one of our group, LaFong, had been here before, and it helped to have someone who knew where the bypasses were. One of them shot straight up the slope to the left and I found myself precariously inching up a steep, loose chute thinking “I’m glad I didn’t try this one solo!”  We finally came to the largest rock jumble yet and found a way through it. A lot of the rock was slick without hand or footholds and it made traction a bit difficult on some of the larger angled boulders.

Giant boulders and short scrambles at first

Climbing up

Slick surfaces made the climb a bit tricky at times

We finally all made it up the rockfall and turned the corner to see a large dryfall with a deep pool at the bottom with ledges perfect for a break. The canyon had been in shade up till this point (about an hour after we started), which was good because the climb upcanyon was enough to work up a sweat.

Kitt Peak visible in the distance

LaFong, me and Bill take a short break at the dry fall

We had a quick snack and then Jeff, the trip leader, got us moving again. We scrambled up a crack in the middle of the ledges. By the time I got up to the next level, I could see that there was yet another steep climb up a rocky chute, this one had good hand and foot holds.

Jeff and LaFong go up and up

You want us to go where?

Ginger heads toward the bypass

Up the chute to the left of the falls

Soon afterwards, we intersected the Milagrosa Ridge Trail and followed it down, back into the streambed. We stopped at the streambed to regroup and plan our next move. After a bit of discussion, all but one of us decided to go for the whole canyon loop, rather than jump on the Milagrosa Ridge Trail to get back to the cars. From the streambed, the trail climbed up and up along the ridgeline. I had great views of Agua Caliente Hill and Peak 4778, where I’d been last week. Peak 4778 is steeper and predominantly grassy, while Agua Caliente Hill’s summit is darker, due to the oaks and junipers on top. I wished I’d brought my umbrella- the day was unseasonably warm and I couldn’t believe that I was sweating in January. Only in Southern Arizona!

Up and out of the canyon onto the Milagrosa Ridge Trail- Peak 4778 visible on right

We paused to regroup at the junction where the route went down into Agua Caliente Canyon and the descent into the canyon was on good trail. If we would have continued on the Milagrosa Ridge Trail, we would have eventually intersected the Arizona Trail south of Molino Basin. We reached some rocks and finally sat down for a lengthy (for this group) break.  Jeff and I talked about our wildly different hiking styles: he goes to bag a peak, spends 10 minutes on the summit, then hikes down. I, on the other end of the spectrum, want to backpack up to a peak and spend the whole night up there, taking a bunch of scenery and photo breaks along the way.

Lounging at our break spot after dropping into Agua Caliente Canyon

After our break, we continued down Agua Caliente Canyon, scrambling, rockhopping, and occasionally going high on the hillside to the right to traverse past tricky parts in the canyon bottom. The streambed was filled with boulders that had fallen from the hillsides, some as large as a house. I taught some of the other hikers about La Rompage, which sounds so much better than Butt-Hiking. It definitely came in handy a couple of times today.

Scrambling down Agua Caliente Canyon

Looking downcanyon

There were pools in the deeper, shady parts of the canyon

Canyon Goodness

As we progressed downcanyon, the obstacles became less and less frequent and soon it was just a matter of rockhopping down the dry streambed. Tiring on the knees and ankles, but a lot easier than what we’d just come through. We regrouped one last time at the exit of the canyon, a little under two hours from our lunch spot where we’d dropped into the canyon. There were great views from where we came with Peak 4778 in the background.

Stopping to regroup

The canyon opens up and becomes less of a scramble and more of a rockhop

Happy hikers near the canyon exit

Almost everyone donated a little blood to the desert today and some got up close and personal with the jumping cholla. This is why I hike with long sleeves, pants and gloves- I made it without a scratch. The whole hike took about four hours and 15 minutes and was 6.25 miles with 1050ft. elevation gain. An extremely scenic route that begs for more exploration. I’ll be back.

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, I was thinking about a couple of roadrunners that we had at the rehab when I first started back in 2009. We got them just-hatched and raised them until they could be released back into the wild. It was such a special thing to be able to interact so closely with one of the Southwest’s most famous creatures:

Juvenile Roadrunner sitting on my leg

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Fall colors in Aravaipa Canyon

Aravaipa. The mere name gives me butterflies and mentally transports me to that lush riparian wonderland. I have been trying to work in a trip to see the fall colors, but only had the time to go for a dayhike.  I knew I was going to have backpacker’s disappointment when it was time to turn around and head back rather than set up a comfy camp and have another day there. Oh well, a dayhike in Aravaipa is certainly better than no hike at all.

In the days leading up to my hike, Tucson had been experiencing some chilly nights below freezing. I had heard about waterproof socks that would help keep my feet dry and warm, so I went to Summit Hut and shelled out $35 for some Sealskinz socks. I admit, I balked at the price at first, but I can tell you  now that they were worth every cent. And while we’re on the topic of shopping, I’d like to encourage everyone who is shopping for gifts to shop local. There are so many unique and wonderful places to explore in Tucson and the money stays in the community. (getting off soapbox…) Another favorite place of mine to get gifts is Bohemia, a place jam-packed with great pieces by local artists.

Anyway, back to hiking. The low in the area the previous night had been 26 degrees, but I thankfully woke up to much milder temperatures. It was a balmy 42 degrees when I left my house at 8am. I love how close Aravaipa is to my house- 60 miles exactly. I passed the Abe White Bridge on Aravaipa Road and wondered once more who he was and why such a teeny tiny bridge?

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

Well, I googled old Abe and this is what I found:

Besides sheep and cattle, goats were also raised in Aravaipa Canyon and at Dripping Springs. In 1920, the Abe White family moved from Silver City, New Mexico, to Aravaipa. During the trip, Abe drove a Ford Model T car, his 11-year old son Lawrence herded 17 head of horses, and Abe’s wife and aunt each drove a wagon. One mare gave birth to a colt along the way, so the colt rode in the Model T. The family had angora goats in New Mexico and soon had a herd of 3,500 at Aravaipa, where they continued to raise goats until about 1950.

From Oracle and the San Pedro River Valley by Catherine H. Ellis. Click here for the Google books page, complete with pictures of him, his son, and his goats. It was so easy to get things named after you back then- all you had to do was own land somewhere, run some goats,  give a colt a ride in a car, and the names would follow.

After a nice chat with a man who had driven out to the trailhead, but didn’t have enough time to go hiking (a fate worse than a dayhike!) I started down the trail at 10:15 am. I reached the first crossing and braced myself for the water- there were still patches of ice in the shady parts of the creek. Thanks to my fancy new waterproof socks, I felt nothing unpleasant at all. Combined with my usual Aravaipa garb of knee-high gaiters to keep the gravel out, my pants barely even got wet. Sometimes it’s all about the right piece of gear. The cottonwoods had not totally changed to gold, but the sycamores were perfect.

Starting out

Brrrr!

Cacti clinging to the rock

Golden leaves

This trip marks my fourth to Aravaipa this year. I had never been here before April, when I hiked from the west to the east end and back as part of my Grand Enchantment Trail hike. I was immediately smitten and came back twice in the summer- once in June and once in September. Those trips were very different from this one, in the summertime I dunked myself into any pool available and poured buckets of water over my head to keep cool. This hike, I was very careful not to take an icy plunge.  I passed the first side canyon, Hell’s Half Acre, and turned into it to explore. It doesn’t go very far, but is definitely worth a look. There is a massive rockjam in the canyon that is really incredible and prevents further passage. On my Royal Arch trip, I acquired a tripod that had been left at Elve’s Chasm and today was the first hike I’d remembered to take it on. Here’s a movie with me actually in it (email subscribers click below to watch):

Opposite Hell's Half Acre Canyon

Hell's Half Acre Rockfall

I continued upstream, keeping my eyes open for wildlife and sloshing happily along. There is no official trail in Aravaipa, but there are usually two choices: hike in the creekbed or on the use paths next to the creek. These use paths shortcut meanders and sometimes veer quite a distance away from the creek. Many of these are marked by cairns or pretty well beat in. I have the same dilemma every time I go: I enjoy walking in or as close to the creek as possible at all times, but am often tempted away by these paths. I veer off and soon it is dry, rocky, choked with log jams and I can’t hear the creek anymore and wonder why I didn’t just stay in the creek. Happens a couple of times every visit. Here’s a video of the fall colors:

I made it two hours into the canyon where a prominent dry fall with a large cave at the bottom of it comes into view on the north wall. There is a campsite up the sandy hill with a view of the cave and and cottonwoods. I had to be back in Tucson for a meeting at 6pm, but for a couple of hours, I could pretend I was hanging out at camp.The first picture in the post is from my “camp”.

Approaching the cave with the large dryfall

I wrote in my journal, ate my lunch, listened to some music and played with the tripod. Too soon, my time was up and I had to head back to the car. I passed a family on my way out who were suffering with cold feet who looked with envy when I told them about my waterproof socks. I also passed a couple heading in for a backpacking trip, now it was my turn to be envious. The hike downstream always goes faster than the hike upstream, so I took a little time to explore some gorgeous stands of sycamores along the creek.

Rust-colored sycamores

Sycamore

Sycamore tunnel along the creek

I love this place and can’t wait to come back. Maybe next time I’ll bring someone else along, all of my trips have been solo and it seems like it would be a fun place to enjoy with someone else.

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a young Prairie Falcon with a hurt wing that came in last week.

Young Prairie Falcon

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