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

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

This spring, I have had the pleasure of helping Warrior Hike, a non-profit organization that puts veterans on the National Scenic Trails to “Walk off the War”. They had previously put vets on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail and this year expanded the program to include the Arizona Trail. Along the way, they scheduled events to connect with VFW organizations to help regain the sense of community and brotherhood that is lacking when veterans leave the service. I helped plan their schedule, put them in contact with my Gateway Communities and even got on the trail with them. They started on March 15th- to read my story about backpacking with them the first 50 miles into Patagonia, go to Page 8 in the ATA Spring Newsletter: ATANewsSpring15.

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

Warrior Hike- Miller Peak Junction, Huachuca Mountains

I really enjoyed being a part of the team that helped the two veterans, Shawn- who’s trail name is Greyhound and Josh, as they made their way up the state. It is always interesting to see the Arizona Trail through the eyes of someone else and I did what I could to help with logistics and make sure their town stops were enjoyable.

There was one piece of the trail that I was determined to join them for, and that was the Grand Canyon. No surprise there, it’s the crown jewel of the AZT and my favorite place in the world!! I was really looking forward to putting my guide hat on and showing them around. After numerous calls, we were able to secure dorm rooms at Phantom Ranch for May 10th, as well as dinner and breakfast. That meant that I could hike down with just my Gossamer Gear Type 2 daypack- how fancy!! We had breakfast with Wired, who was on her last couple weeks of the Hayduke Trail, and Li Brannfors, Arizona Trail Steward and accomplished long-distance hiker.

Shawn and Josh and me at breakfast with Wired, who's on the Hayduke Trail, and Trail Steward and long-distance hiker Li Brannfors

Greyhound, Josh, Wired, me and Li Brannfors

The morning was beautiful- it had rained and snowed for a couple of days before and the air was crystal-clear. A smattering of puffy clouds was the icing on the cake for one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever had into the Canyon. From the very first switchback on the South Kaibab Trail, Shawn and Josh were blown away by the outrageously fantastic landscape that is the Grandest of Canyons. There’s just really nothing quite like it and no picture or view from the top can prepare you for the layers of goodness contained within.

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

Starting down the South Kaibab Trail

We blew right past Ooh Aah Point, too many tourists on this Saturday morning to stop and look. Instead, we found our own lookout point for reflection and photos. The Canyon was in bloom- wildflowers and cactus alike adding colors to the already spectacular layers of rock.

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Wildflower season in the Canyon!

Took a short break for snacking at Cedar Ridge and headed down, down, down into the abyss. It’s so much fun to see others see the Canyon for the first time- the excitement of seeing the Colorado at Skeleton Point, the views of the iconic temples of the Upper Granite Gorge, the wonderment of it all.

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples rise above the canyon floor with Vishnu Temple in the distance to the right

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

Switchbacking through the Redwall Limestone

The guys got a little ahead of me while I was talking to another hiker and I ended up hiking from the Tipoff down to the river solo. The South Kaibab Trail, no matter how many times I’ve hiked it, always makes me giddy with delight. I was practically dancing down the trail, I was so excited to be there, descending into the ancient schist and granite. As I neared the tunnel and Black Bridge, I hoped that I might see someone I knew at the Boat Beach, but alas, there were no Arizona River Runners or Grand Canyon Whitewater boats to be found. I’ll be starting my river season next month and can hardly wait to call the Canyon my home for the summer.

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Josh is on the point and Shawn is approaching the saddle near the Train Wreck rock formation

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge Selfie

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

Black Bridge over the Colorado River

I took a break at the river but soon it was time to make sure that I got to Phantom in time to meet the guys for dinner. Josh had steak and Shawn and I had their delicious veggie chili, with big squares of chocolate cake for dessert. I fondly remembered the Christmas Dinner that I ate down here a couple of years ago. After dinner, we went to the Boat Beach to hang out by the Colorado River and then to the Silver Bridge to catch the fiery sunset on Zoroaster Temple. It was so much fun to show Josh and Shawn around and get to catch up with them and hear about how they felt about their journey now that they only had a week left to go.

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Steak dinner at Phantom Ranch makes for happy thru-hikers!

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

Sunset on Zoroaster Temple and the Black Bridge

After a visit to the Phantom Ranch Cantina, the guys were off to bed. But I wasn’t done with the Canyon yet- I hiked out the North Kaibab to the Clear Creek junction and played with my headlamp and long exposures on my camera.

Fun with headlamps!

Fun with headlamps!

I stayed up way too late and regretted it when we got the 4:30 am call for breakfast. Nothing like climbing out of the Canyon on no sleep, at least I was only carrying a daypack. After breakfast, we packed up and Josh and Shawn headed north on their last leg of the journey toward Utah. The North Rim was still closed for the season, so I hiked the Bright Angel Trail back up to the South Rim.

Accidentally hit a button I didn't even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

Accidentally hit a button I didn’t even know I had on my camera and got this group shot

I haven’t hiked out on the BA since my very first backpacking trip in 2002- I always take the South Kaibab. I figured I’d try it for a change. I spotted another hiker with an umbrella and got to talking to Meg, who works in the Canyon for the Park Service and lives at Indian Garden. She’s a fellow long-distance hiker and later in the day we saw each other again and she invited me up to her place for lunch. What a view!!!

Met Meg "Little Bug" who works for the NPS

Met Meg “Little Bug” who works for the NPS

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

View from my lunch with Meg at Indian Gardens

The rest of the hike up was uneventful- even though the Bright Angel has water stops to make the trail easier, I still way prefer the South Kaibab. Topped out, grabbed some dinner in Flagstaff, and made the long drive back home to Tucson. Another great Canyon trip in the books!

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Looking down on the Bright Angel Trail

Four-o-Clock

Four-o-Clock

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Kolb Studio and the top come into view

Shawn and Josh made their way to Utah the following week and had their celebration in the Gateway Community of Page. I am so happy that I got to be a part of the first Warrior Hike on the Arizona Trail, the outdoors provides healing and time for reflection and it is great to help foster that journey for others. To donate to Warrior Hike, visit http://warriorhike.org/donate/.

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

Congrats to Shawn and Josh for a journey well done!!

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I had been watching wildflower reports and my schedule for the right time to get away for three days on the Arizona Trail from Picketpost Trailhead near Superior to Kelvin. This 40-mile backpacking trip is one of my favorite pieces of the Arizona Trail in the spring because its dramatic rock formations and views look even better coated in poppies!

I met up with some friends from Superior who were kind enough to shuttle me to Picketpost. It was a gorgeous day after a couple days of rain. The visibility was fantastic and the air crisp and fresh. I got on the trail around 10:30 and saw many groups of equestrians out for a ride as well as a couple of hikers. My pack was loaded down with water and a pair of loppers so that I could do some trail work down by the Gila River. I am the Trail Steward of Passage 16c and I’d heard there was some brushy areas, so I came prepared to do battle with spiny plants.

Picketpost Mountain

Picketpost Mountain

The trail maintenance was a day and a half away, for now all I had to do was hike. I have done these two passages once a year for the last four years and still find it as exciting as the first time. There was water in places I hadn’t seen before, left over from the recent rains. The trail climbs up to what I like to call Stripey Butte Saddle, with great views toward the Pinal Mountains. I ran into a thru-hiker who was on the move, probably trying to make Superior before sundown. I love the views from this spot, but it was still early and I hiked on.

Stripey Butte Saddle

Stripey Butte Saddle

Blue Dicks

Blue Dicks

I filled up water at a cattle tank that was surprisingly clear and tasty. I had seven liters of water and one liter of coconut water as I hiked up to the saddle right before the gate that marks the “trailhead” between Passages 16 and 17. I use the term loosely, hardly anyone actually drives to this spot, the road in is beyond gnarly. I found a great spot for camp with views of Stripey Butte, the Pinals and the trail winding through the next canyon. An almost-full moon rose and illuminated my campsite so well that I didn’t need a light to write in my journal. It was a chilly, somewhat windy night but I had only gotten 5 hours of sleep the night before and woke up well-rested.

Sunset from my camp

Sunset from my camp

In the morning, I was taking my sweet time getting out of camp when Scott Morris and Eszter Horanyi rode up on their mountain bikes. Do yourself a favor and visit their blogs, they are always on some sort of fantastic adventure. They were using the AZT as part of a bikepacking weekend and were looking forward to going into Superior for Mexican food. We had a nice chat about wildflowers and such and they were on their way.

Scott and Eszter

Scott and Eszter

Scott and Eszter on a bikepacking trip

Scott and Eszter on a bikepacking trip

Finally got hiking around 10 am, reached the “trailhead” and soon afterward found a pothole of water in a rocky spot on the trail. Being the desert hiker that I am, I stopped and filtered a liter to drink on the spot and refilled what I’d used the night before. It was 10 miles to the river and I wanted to be able to take my time- and time is water in the desert. The trail contours high above a rugged canyon, passing some spectacular rock formations and craggy peaks. Views opened up into colorful Martinez Canyon and then I reached the high saddle and took a break. I love this saddle, but it makes a bad campsite in the spring, it doesn’t get sun till really late and is a bit of a wind tunnel. Spectacular views though.

This is the "Trailhead"

This is the “Trailhead”

Fantastic Formations

Fantastic Formations

Looking into Martinez Canyon

Looking into Martinez Canyon

Gila River Canyons

Gila River Canyons

The trail wound around some cliffs and then began the long drop toward the Gila River. I could see all the way to the Catalinas, 60 miles away as the crow flies. The wildflowers increased in variety and density as I descended, sometimes carpeting the whole hillside. I was giddy with delight! The trail goes by a notable spire with the unofficial name of Dale’s Butte, after the pioneer of the Arizona Trail, Dale Shewalter. It’s quite the landmark.

Penstemon

Penstemon

Globe Mallow and Brittlebush

Globe Mallow and Brittlebush

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

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

This part of the trail always feels like it is so much longer than 10 miles to get to the river. The trail is great, just circuitous routing to keep a good grade. Near the river, I made a visit to Red Mountain Seep to refill my water. It’s only 0.3 miles up the wash from where the trail hits the river access and there is a blue collection bucket sunk into the ground if you follow the big cairns up the hill. It was a welcome sight, as it had taken most of my water to get there since I had taken so long with pictures and poppy-peeping.

Red Mountain Seep

Red Mountain Seep

I couldn’t resist a trip down to the Gila River to soak my feet and take a break. The river was so low that I could see a gravel bar that would make walking right across a piece of cake. Not the case all the time. After my refreshing break, I finally got my loppers and my gloves out and geared up to do some trail maintenance as I hiked. My criteria was, if it’s spiny and it’s going to hit someone in the face, it’s got to go. The cutting part went easy enough, it was grubbing the spiny chunks of tree away from the trail that was tough to do without getting all scraped up. I hiked and trimmed until the sun went down and then hiked with my headlamp for a bit until I found a home for the night. Much warmer this night since I had dropped 2000 feet in elevation.

Gila River

Gila River

Sunset along the Gila River

Sunset along the Gila River

The next morning, the Arizona spring wind kicked in and it howled all day long. It kept the temperature down, which was good. I continued my assault against spiny face-slappers as I hiked along, missing the days when I used to get out regularly to do trail work. I took a much-needed break at the river and rinsed some of the dust off. Which was immediately replaced by more dust. Unfortunately, my loppers were getting dull and it was getting infuriating, the blade gnawing at even small-diameter branches of catclaw. Even so, I got most of the big stuff along the river trimmed. The trail in my passage rolls up and down through drainages on The Spine- it is a marvel of engineering that created such a nice trail in such a rugged place. I saw my only person since seeing Scott and Eszter, the rancher from Battle Axe Ranch, out looking for his cows.

Gila River Campsite

Gila River Campsite

Stone Tool

Stone Tool

Battling spiny plants

Battling spiny plants

DSC01974

Battle Axe Rancher

Battle Axe Rancher

I passed the A-Diamond Ranch and the trestle bridge and climbed up to the completion monument that was placed when we connected the Arizona Trail across the state in December 2011. The DS carved into the cement stand for Dale Shewalter, pioneer of the Arizona Trail.

Scorpionweed and Poppies

Scorpionweed and Poppies

Trestle Bridge

Trestle Bridge

Completion Marker

Completion Marker

Sunset looking down at the tiny town of Kelvin/Riverside

Sunset looking down at the tiny town of Kelvin/Riverside

The light was fading and I ended up getting back to my car in the dark. It was a great end to a fantastic trip- wildflowers, solitude, trail work, jaw-dropping scenery- I am lucky to have such spectacular places to play in.

Arizona Trail Day and the Colossal Campout is less than 2 weeks away, on March 28th- come out for a full day and night of fun on the Arizona Trail! Register for the hike, mountain bike ride, or horseback ride (BYO Horse) and reserve your camping and meals at http://www.aztrail.org/trail_day/ccmp.html. The Warrior Hike “Walk off the War” veterans will be hiking into Tucson for Arizona Trail Day. We are very excited to have two veterans thru-hiking the trail for Warrior Hike this year.

Jasmine the Mini-Donkey and raptors from Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson will be at Arizona Trail Day- hope to see you there!

Jasmine the Mini-Donkey on the Arizona Trail in the Santa Ritas

Jasmine the Mini-Donkey on the Arizona Trail in the Santa Ritas

AZTrailDay2015 CCMP

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The tagline of my blog is “Exploring the Beauty of Arizona’s Wild Places”, but a couple of weekends ago I got to visit Moab, Utah for a special outing with fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors. I have been a Trail Ambassador since last February and have enjoyed being a part of a group that inspires others through their love of the outdoors. It’s fun to read other Ambassadors blogs and see what adventures they are up to. Part of being an ambassador was getting my Mariposa backpack that I have used since my Arizona Trail Trek. It’s now my go-to pack and this weekend I got to try out another smaller pack for dayhiking, the Type 2 Utility Backpack. Before I arrived in Utah, I had a couple stops to make- the first was the Grand Canyon National Geographic Visitor Center to see the Arizona Trail promo on the IMAX screen. It was amazing to see it so large and know that so many people were going to learn about the Arizona Trail while waiting to see their movie. Then it was on to Page for two Arizona Trail presentations, one at Glen Canyon Visitor Center and one for the Page City Council. Both went very well and the City of Page is very enthusiastic about being a part of the Gateway Community Program.

Lone Rock Beach

Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell

After my Arizona Trail work was done, I made my way to Moab, taking the scenic route through Monument Valley.

Agathla Peak

Agathla Peak

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

I had the following day to kill before most of the Ambassadors arrived in Utah, so I went on a hike on the Devil’s Garden Trail in Arches National Park. This trail, the longest in the park, takes you to 8 arches in 7 miles. It was a chilly but beautiful day with patches of white snow and ice on the red rock. It made me happy to have my microspikes for the slippery parts.

AZT Mobile in Utah

AZT Mobile in Utah

Navajo Arch

Navajo Arch

Arches - Devil's Garden

Arches – Devil’s Garden

Partition Arch

Partition Arch

Micro Chicken getting eaten by the crazy rock

Micro Chicken getting eaten by the crazy rock

After an incredible sunset at Balanced Rock, I headed to the Moab Retreat House to meet the other Trail Ambassadors. What a group- some of the most well-known names in hiking and all with fantastic stories to tell.

La Sal Mountain Sunset

La Sal Mountain Sunset

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Sunset at Balanced Rock

The next morning, we headed to the Gold Bar Canyon-Jeep Arch-Culvert Canyon loop. It was a wonderful hike that included scrambling through slickrock drainages to Jeep Arch.

Hello Colorado River!

Hello Colorado River!

Scrambling up the canyon

Scrambling up the canyon

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Approaching Jeep Arch

Approaching Jeep Arch

Disco strikes a pose

Disco from The Trail Show strikes a pose

Slickrock perch

Slickrock perch

We then climbed on slanted slabs up to the Gold Bar Rim for superlative views of the Colorado River below.

Heart-shaped linked tinajas

Heart-shaped linked tinajas

Gold Bar Rim Pano

Gold Bar Rim Pano

Twinkle living on the edge

Twinkle living on the edge

A cairned route looped us back to the car via Culvert Canyon. Trail Ambassador Will Rietveld, ultralight guru and expert in the Moab area, led all the hikes. It was so nice to be able to follow someone and not have to navigate for a change. We had a little daylight left, so some of us went back to Arches and hiked the Windows Trail before going back to Balanced Rock for sunset. Touristy but still very pleasant. I love how anything that is not a rock-lined trail in Arches is called “primitive” and comes with stern warnings.

Balanced Rock Sunset

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

The next day, we went to the Needles District of Canyonlands, and hiked the Lost Canyon to Peekaboo Trail. We had hoped to go to Peekaboo Spring, but were stopped by an uninviting icy traverse along sloping slickrock.

Needles District, Canyonlands

Needles District, Canyonlands

Bearclaw descends the ladder

Bearclaw descends the ladder

Dirtmonger and Bearclaw

Dirtmonger and Bearclaw, who got married on the PCT last summer

Slickrock Snorkel

Slickrock Snorkel

Granaries

Granaries

Icy in the shady spots

Icy in the shady spots

I didn’t care where we ended up, as long as I was enjoying the outdoors with new friends. The landscape was dotted with gorgeous tinajas- slickrock pockets full of water after recent rains. The other Trail Ambassadors, most from cool, wet climates probably couldn’t understand my giddiness over such a small amount of agua. Grant Sible, president of Gossamer Gear, joined us and it was so nice to meet him and Glen Van Peski, who founded the company. There was an international contingent as well- Tomo from Japan who owns an ultralight backpacking store in Tokyo, Hiker’s Depot. I sent some Arizona Trail maps back to Japan with him.

Tinajas

Tinajas

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Me and Grant Sible

Me and Grant Sible

One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to talk trails with others who are just as obsessed as I am. We kept intersecting parts of the Hayduke Trail and geeked out with the guidebook, trying to figure out where it ran in the area. Plans for adventures big and small were discussed and tips and tricks exchanged. It was a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed the fact that there were so many women represented, including Heather “Anish” Anderson, who has the PCT unsupported speed record and Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, who has the Appalachian Trail unsupported speed record. Always inspiring to meet ladies who kick ass! In the evening, some people asked me if I had a presentation with me about the Arizona Trail. Of course- that’s what I do for a living! I got to give my full slideshow and I’m pretty sure I left some people dreaming of future thru-hikes of the AZT. I even got a mention on the latest episode of The Trail Show (at about 52:00). There were two more days of Ambassador fun, and Outdoor Retailer after that, but I had to leave in order to be home on the 20th for my husband’s birthday. No missing that date, no matter how much I wished I could hike some more! I took the scenic route back through the Grand Canyon and met Levi Davis, the wonderful videographer who produced the promo, so that he could see his work on the IMAX screen. It was fun to watch it again with him. Levi is so incredibly talented, I highly recommend him.

Me and Levi at the Arizona Trail Exhibit

Me and Levi Davis at the Arizona Trail Exhibit

If you’d like to see the Ambassador exploits on Instagram, search the tag #GGUtahAdventures for a real treat! I’m now on IG @desertsirena. I look forward to more outings with this fantastic bunch! I may even plan a Trail Ambassador outing in my neck of the desert. In Wildlife Rehab news, I got called in to fly a Red-Tailed Hawk who’s recovering from an injured wing. Got some distance, needs to be flown some more to rehab the wing.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk- why is it looking at me like that?

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“Be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success- you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.” –Olive McGloin, first woman to yo-yo the PCT

I was watching a video this morning with this quote and the words really hit home for me today- the 18th anniversary of my accident. In 1997 I was 23 years old and had just started my last semester studying archaeology at the University of Arizona. I walked across the street to get some change for laundry when a girl driving a pickup truck didn’t look where she was turning and hit me in the back. Eyewitnesses said that I flew up four feet in the air before landing on the pavement. I didn’t break any bones, but that accident caused me to develop Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, and my life was changed forever.

I think back to the days when it was hard for me to walk around the block without being in excruciating pain or the months I spent in bed. When I started hiking with my dog Zeus and we’d do the 2-mile Canyon Loop at Catalina State Park I’d pay for it for days with incredible fatigue and stabbing pains. The days when I took pill after pill prescribed by doctors who didn’t know what to do with me and my Fibromyalgia. The flares that would last for months, keeping me wondering if I would ever live a normal life again. Wondering what the future held for me and my broken body.

Me and Zeus on the Canyon Loop

Me and Zeus on the Canyon Loop

It’s been almost a decade since I had my last Fibromyalgia flare, but that doesn’t mean that the fear doesn’t still linger in the back of my mind that it will come back. Whenever I have started a big challenge, like my Arizona Trail section-hike or working as a guide on the river in the Grand Canyon, I’ve worried that it will be the thing that ultimately sends me into a flare. Last year’s combination of my Arizona Trail thru-hike and river season was the ultimate test. If you include the planning process, it was nine months of intense stress and physical activity. And though afterwards I was drained, depressed, and tired- which felt a lot like Fibromyalgia- it wasn’t. It was just garden-variety post-hike blues and I got over it.

Through it all, my husband Brian has been there. We met just months after the accident, after the bumps and bruises had healed and before it got really bad. He has been there even when I was absolutely no fun to be around, a depressed, angry, achy lump on the couch. I am lucky to have such a partner.

Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

Brian and Me

I don’t talk a lot about that part of my life, mainly because I’m so relieved that I don’t have to feel that way anymore. But every year on the anniversary I can’t help but think about how tough it was to pull through the dark days, when I despaired at what I thought my future would be like. In those days of wondering about whether I was ever going to be able to live without pain and fatigue, I never would have believed it if you told me I was going to hike across Arizona twice. I could barely hike across my own neighborhood! It’s amazing how far I have come and it was worth every bit of the fight to get my health back.

Last weekend, I was with fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors (blog coming soon, I promise!) hiking in Utah. I was so proud to be able to be a part of the community and keep up with such a fit group of folks. Sad, pained, fatigued me from 15 years ago would never have believed it.

Needles District, Canyonlands

Needles District, Canyonlands

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Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

India, Silver, Jasmine, Leigh Anne and me starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

On my Arizona Trail Trek, one of the public hikes that I offered was a Women’s Backpacking Trip from Mormon Lake to Flagstaff. It was a lot of fun and I met some new friends and reconnected with old ones. Those of us who live in Tucson got together for another trip on the Arizona Trail, this time in the Santa Ritas.

We watched the weather- 80% chance of rain- hoping the forecast would be wrong. The trip across town to Bonnie’s was in driving rain. Met up with India, Silver, and Leigh Anne and her mini-donkey, Jasmine and loaded up for our shuttle to the Temporal Trailhead. We stopped for delicious breakfast burritos at the Shell station in Sonoita and made our way from Patagonia toward the TH. It was wet and muddy and we couldn’t see any of the surrounding mountains. Thankfully, it was a warm rain and not too windy- great umbrella weather.

Silver got us all festive beanies, even one for Jasmine!

Silver got us all festive beanies, even one for Jasmine!

We said goodbye to Bonnie and headed down the road- we had about 6.5 miles to get to the more remote Walker Basin TH. Jasmine had gotten wet on the ride over and seemed to look at us like, “Really? We’re going out in that?” She is adorable and packs all of Leigh Anne’s gear so that she can walk with a very small pack. The roadwalking made it easy for us to chat and catch up with each other. Normally one of the draws of this passage is the wonderful views of Josephine Peak and Mount Wrightson, not today. It was fun being in the rain and clouds for a change. Water was running all along the road, no need for heavy water carries today!

Roadwalking in the rain

Roadwalking in the rain

Jasmine on the Arizona Trail

Jasmine on the Arizona Trail

As the rain picked up, I decided to try a compactor bag rainskirt because I hate rain pants. It worked amazingly well! I cut open the bottom of the bag, put it on with a belt, and it worked all day long with ventilation so I didn’t get sweaty and wet from the inside like I do with rain pants. The sun was trying to break through the clouds in the afternoon and we were treated to the most wonderful rainbow that developed into a double. It was so interesting because it went from the road into the canyon below, so we were actually looking down on it. So cool!!

Tiny turtle found in the road

Tiny turtle found in the road

First outing trying a trash compactor bag rainskirt- worked great!

First outing trying a trash compactor bag rainskirt- worked great!

Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow

Silver at the end of the rainbow

Silver at the end of the rainbow

Reached the Walker Basin TH around 1 and took a break so Jasmine could feast on some green grass. Nice fancy new sign up there that Shawn and his crew put in since my hike. During the climb to the saddle it was raining the finest mist I’ve ever seen. It was so pretty on the golden grasses. Patches of blue sky and and Patagonia appeared and it seemed the rain was behind us. In fact, it became sunny and clear once we got to the saddle. Clouds only remained on the summits of Josephine and Wrightson.

Last time I was here, I had 734 miles to go!

Last time I was here, I had 734 miles to go!

Clouds covering Josephine and Wrightson

Clouds covering Josephine and Wrightson

Wrightson wearing a cloud

Wrightson wearing a cloud

Such a cute mini-donkey

Such a cute mini-donkey

After descending into Casa Blanca Canyon, we took a break at Bear Spring, which had multiple piles of scat from its namesake. We filtered water for our dry camp and continued on. I wanted to get out of the canyon for a warmer camp, temperatures were dropping fast. Wrightson finally appeared toward sunset and the full moon was glowing over Sonoita and the Mustang Mountains in the grassy valley below. We contoured along the conglomerate slope and came to Hole-in-the-Rock. The mini-donkey fit through with ease.

Bear Spring

Bear Spring

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Wrightson finally appears at the end of the day

Wrightson finally appears at the end of the day

Moonrise and Mustang Mountains

Moonrise and Mustang Mountains

Hole in the Rock

Hole in the Rock

We timed it perfectly to arrive at camp to watch the sunset and get set up before it got dark. There was a perfect Jasmine-sized spot to tie her under a juniper tree. We did a little gift exchange game around the campfire and I finally gave in and set up a tent. Glad I did, because even though it was clear, my tent was soaked in the morning.

Sunset from camp

Sunset from camp

The sunrise was one to remember. The Mustangs and Whetstones were true Sky Islands rising out of the low clouds in the valley. Watching the subtle changes of light I felt so fortunate to get to experience moments like this.

Mustangs in the Morning

Mustangs in the Morning

Actually slept in a tent because it was really dewy out

Actually slept in a tent because it was really dewy out

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack made packing the wet tent a lot easier, there is an external sleeve that the tent fits into that keeps it away from the rest of the pack. After breakfast, we contoured along Ditch Mountain and kept seeing pile after pile of scat, small and full of berries, possibly coati? We refilled water at Tunnel Spring, where the series of interpretive signs about gold mining in the Santa Ritas starts. It was a clear, beautiful morning and Wrightson was the star of the show. The trail reached Gardner Canyon and we walked the road that followed the stream. There is one part in particular that I like that has pretty rockbound pools and we stopped for a snack break, with Jasmine begging for granola and fruit.

Conglomerate of Ditch Mountain

Conglomerate of Ditch Mountain

Grassy trail with Josephine Peak and Wrightson

Grassy trail with Josephine Peak and Wrightson

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Great spot for lunch in Gardner Canyon

Great spot for lunch in Gardner Canyon

We had a short distance after lunch to the end of the passage, where Bonnie was waiting with ice cream for all of us!

What would you do for a Klondike Bar?

What would you do for a Klondike Bar?

What fun! Hope to hike with these ladies and Jasmine again soon.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson news, we’ve released many animals back to the wild. It’s such a good feeling to see them return to where they are supposed to be. Thanks for donating to help house and feed these wonderful creatures.
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Barn Owls

Barn Owls

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