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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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I recently got the chance to spend 11 days hiking in the Grand Canyon. The first part of the trip was a five-day, 46-mile Royal Arch Loop off of the South Bass Trailhead in the western part of the park. I am still going through the myriad pictures and videos for that trip and will post about that soon. I hiked out the South Bass Trail on October 11th, got dropped off at the South Kaibab Trailhead in the main part of the park and hiked back down to participate in the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association Service Project at Cottonwood and Bright Angel Campgrounds. In addition to my work event, I managed to hike up to the North Rim and back out the South Rim, completing my first Rim to Rim to Rim over six days.

Starting down the South Kaibab

Day 1- After hiking out the South Bass Trail in the morning to complete my Royal Arch Loop, I got dropped off at the South Kaibab TH at 3:45 pm to hike back into the Canyon for the annual GCHBA Service Project. I had a spot waiting for me at Bright Angel Campground and a stew dinner reservation at 6:30 pm. Food and beer have never been a greater motivator, and I flew down the South Kaibab, which was in fantastic shape. After Skeleton Point, passed this guy who you could tell thought he was a big tough guy for coming up the South Kaibab. As I came practically running down the trail wearing a full backpack, smile on my face, loving the moment, he said, “Bet you won’t feel so good on the way up.” To which I replied, “Actually, I’m hiking back in, I’ve already hiked out today- have a great hike!” When I got down to the Black Bridge, I took a picture to check my hiking time and was shocked to see I’d made it down in 2:02! (for comparison, the first time I hiked down the South Kaibab in 2001 it took me over six hours and I literally limped into camp.)

Black Bridge across the Colorado River- a.k.a. the way to the stew dinner and Tecates

Now that I had 45 minutes until dinner, I went over to the campground and was happy to see Ranger Della. I told her that I was supposed to stay in the stock site, and she told me to wait a minute and see if she could get me the River Ranger Residence instead. It was my lucky day for sure because instead of sleeping near the mules in the stock site, I now had an entire little house to myself at the bottom of the canyon. Shower, phone, laundry and a bed that were all going to feel so good after having been out for 6 days already on the Royal Arch Loop. But first- my stew dinner and a couple of icy Tecates.

Day 2- I started up the North Kaibab to meet up with the rest of my group at Cottonwood CG for the work event. The past five days of hiking had caught up with me and I was tired, but thankful that I had one of the easiest pieces of the GC ahead. I got to the Ribbon Falls turnoff and took the creek over to the falls. It had gotten really warm, so I decided a siesta on the flat rocks above the creek opposite the falls was in order.

Ribbon Falls from the Siesta Spot

After a short nap, I continued to Cottonwood where I checked in with Ranger Bil Vandergraff and met the rest of my work crew. Later, we made our way over to our lodging at the Pumphouse Residence, also known as the Aiken House, where I was greeted by our house mom with a icy glass of lemonade and some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. I chose to sleep under the stars rather than in one of the bunkhouse beds.

Hiking up to Cottonwood CG

Day 3- We hiked over to Cottonwood to work on various maintenance jobs at the campground with Ranger Bil. I got to see some brand-new Arizona Trail maps that will be on display in the corridor campgrounds- it’s about time the AZT was signed through the park! Talked to Bil about creating and installing signs that give the mileage north to Utah and south to Mexico. He said- you build it, I’ll make sure you can install it. Sweet! After working at Cottonwood, we commuted back to the Aiken house.

Ranger Bil Vandergraff briefs us on what we're doing for the day- Amazing House Mom Pat is on the left.

Brand new fancy AZT signs that are at the trailheads and campgrounds- it's about time!

Love this fall right below the North Kaibab Trail

Day 4- We had a free day and five of us wanted to hike the Old Bright Angel Loop. We got up to find that there had been a pipeline break and so we had to switch to backpacking mode at the house and carry up all our water from the creek. We went up the North Kaibab and got to see some spectacular stands of maples and aspen.

Five hikers, fresh and ready to take on the Old Bright Angel Loop

Up the North Kaibab Trail

Chris Forsyth and the McCumbers (cutest couple in the Canyon) take a snack break at the Eye of the Needle

North Kaibab below the Supai Tunnel

Supai switchbacks

Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

Loving the fall colors!

Mmmmm...Golden Quaking Aspens...

Yay! We walked up into fall!

Video of the fall colors:

When we reached the trailhead, it was already 12 pm. After a comedy of errors involving trying to drive over to another trailhead for Ken Patrick Trail that looked like a shortcut but wasn’t, we realized to start down a trail notorious for routefinding issues with so few hours of light left was a terrible idea. So for our Plan B, we hiked along the Transept Trail toward the lodge and went for pizza, beer, and ice cream. Way to salvage the day!

The shortcut that wasn't any shorter.

Crap! Back at the trailhead again, no Old Bright Angel Trail for us today.

Views along the Transept Trail

Pizza, Ice Cream and Beer make for a great Plan B!

I even managed to get us a ride on the employee shuttle for the two boring miles back to the trailhead. Three of our group sped off to see how fast they could make it to the Aiken House, while I hung back with Russell and enjoyed the hike down, especially the last 45 minutes in the moonlight. The Aiken house is where Bruce Aiken lived and raised his family from 1973-2006 while tending to the pumphouse and painting in his free time. His kids used to have a lemonade stand for passers-by. I remember reading that Mary Aiken had to hike out the 4.7 miles/3600 ft elevation gain up the  North Kaibab Trail from her house while pregnant to deliver her children. The youngest of their three children, Silas, has now returned to his boyhood home and is working seasonally as a ranger. It was really interesting to talk to him about growing up in the Grand Canyon. Silas also gave us a choice of postcards with his father’s paintings- I chose one of Ribbon Falls that looks like the perspective is from my siesta spot from a couple of days earlier. One last night spent sleeping on the helipad.

The front group is down on the switchbacks before the bridge

Night Snake

Not a bad view at all...

Day 5- After helping with some maintenance stuff at the Aiken House, we had the rest of the day to hike down to the River Ranger Residence where the group would spend our last two nights. On the way, we explored Wall Creek up to the first waterfall, which was about an hour in. Gorgeous canyon- the narrows and waterfall are wonderful- it’s definitely one I’d like to spend more time in. It was also nice to be somewhere that the Rim-to-Rim runners weren’t anywhere nearby. As this was the last weekend before the North Rim closed, Rim to Rim runners were all over the place. A strange breed indeed. I cannot think of anything less appealing than rushing through the Grand Canyon.

Russell on his deck he built for the firehose at Cottonwood CG

Heading into Wall Creek

Wall Creek Waterfall

After Wall Creek, we realized that if we were quick about it, we’d have one hour at the cantina before it closed for the afternoon. Like I said before, beer is a wonderful motivator and we rolled into the cantina exactly at 3pm. Three of us chose to sleep in the Bright Angel CG rather than over by the ranger station, and after setting up our stuff, we went to the Boat Beach. Two guys showed up shortly after, Ethan and Josh, and I asked them where they were hiking to. They replied that they were thru-biking the Arizona Trail. I told them that it was their lucky day because I absolutely adore helping anyone trying to complete the AZT and I hadn’t adopted a thru-hiker for fall yet. So now instead of a thru-hiker, I get to help two thru-bikers!

Taylor was carrying some wonderful things in his giant pack

Russell, Taylor, Ethan, and Josh

Day 6- We worked all day with Sjors at BAC, hacking the grass out of the irrigation ditches. Not the most fun job, but a necessary one. Plus, you get to hear Sjors’ stories, which are always great. We were back at the river ranger residence for lunch and one of the guys offers me a popsicle for dessert. A popsicle in the Grand Canyon!! We talked about how funny it would be to stand at the black bridge and eat it, but none of us were that mean. After working in the afternoon, Chris Forsyth, the leader of the service project, took me and Russell on the Old Miner’s Route up to the Tonto and down the South Kaibab. So cool to see an historic trail. One last moonlit night at the boat beach and the service project was over for another year.

Digging out the irrigation ditches at Bright Angel CG

Chris eating a tangerine popsicle at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Lunch break at the River Ranger Residence- Chef Norm Gagne is in the grey shirt

Beginning of the Old Miner's Route

Tread worn into the rock

Chris points out features to Russell

Phantom Ranch is the green area to the left

View down to the saddle

Looks like I went to a photo studio and picked the "Grand Canyon" backdrop

Chris looks at the Tapeats exit break up to the Tonto

Majestic light in the Canyon hitting the South Kaibab Trail- click to enlarge

Cairn where the Old Miner's Route meets the Tonto

Sunset from The Tipoff

Day 7- After cleaning up the river ranger residence, we started the hike out on the South Kaibab. I was hiking with Russell, a contractor from Texas, and Taylor, a hiking guide from Phoenix. I have never had a more enjoyable hike out of the canyon before. We were totally taking our time, stopping for scenery breaks and chatting with people hiking downhill. Right before Skeleton Point, we stopped for a snack and Taylor pulls out a metal platter and slices a bunch of summer sausage and cheese onto the platter for hors d’oeuvers. We offered it to another hiker coming uphill, and he didn’t even crack a smile. I, on the other hand, could have died laughing.

One of many snack breaks on our hike out the South Kaibab

Tiny Asian lady: "I want to try on your rucksack!"

Taylor Branch serves up hors d'ouevers in style!

It was unlike any hike I’ve ever had coming out of the canyon- instead of being happy that we were almost at the top, we instead were sad that the whole thing was going to be over soon. We made it out in a leisurely and enjoyable seven hours and I completed my first rim to rim to rim. There was one last wonderful surprise left- when I unpacked my backpack upon arriving home, I realized that my dear friend Chris had slipped a brand-new Golite Chrome Dome umbrella in my pack. Awesome.

I appreciate a shapely Butte

Dude, Bro- this is sweet!

A final goodbye to a most amazing place

For today’s Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser picture, here’s a Harris Hawk that we’d had since it was a juvenile. After assessing its ability to fly and kill live prey, we recently released him back into the wild.

Harris Hawk is hungry!

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This October, I was lucky enough to get on a volunteer project organized by the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Association (GCHBA). I spent one week in the Trail Crew Bunkhouse and we did a variety of maintenance jobs, like cleaning irrigation drainages in the Bright Angel Campground, obliterating social trails on the Boat Beach, and clearing space in the dams in Bright Angel Creek to let the fish get through when they spawn in the spring. I got to do some really fun hikes, like Upper Ribbon Falls and some hiking on the Clear Creek Trail. On October 7th, I reluctantly hiked out on the South Kaibab Trail. It was 80 degrees at the bottom, but by the time I reached Cedar Ridge, the weather turned and I had been hailed on twice. After the second bout of hail, the most spectacular rainbow I have ever seen came out. Here is a video:

Click the picture below to see more pictures from my week at the Grand Canyon:

GCHBA Fall 09

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