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Posts Tagged ‘Great Horned Owl’

Haven’t updated the blog in a while- seems like I’m slowly emerging out of a time warp where I find myself suddenly at the end of April. The last month has been tough- my father-in-law passed away at 71 after a long battle with cancer and then ten days later my 15-year old dog Bailey lost the use of her back legs and we had to say goodbye to her too. So much sadness for me and my husband Brian, we’re finally clawing our way back to normalcy. It makes me dread the day I will lose my dad, supporter of all my adventures and one of the few people that totally understands me. Makes it even more important that I enjoy the time I have with him.

Bailey and Zeus- both gone but the great memories will live in my heart forever.

Bailey and Zeus- both gone but the great memories will live in my heart forever.

But on to more pleasant things- I have gotten to do a bit of traveling lately, some for work, some for play. I represented the Arizona Trail Association at the first annual Continental Divide Trail Kickoff event in Silver City, NM. It was a lot of fun and I got to see some of my fellow Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassadors that I’d met earlier this year. Interesting to see what Silver City has done with the CDTC’s Gateway Community Program. I worked a booth at the Outdoor Expo and it was surprising to hear how many folks were already familiar with the Arizona Trail.

Gateway Community of the CDT

Gateway Community of the CDT

Blue bootprints with the CDT logo take you through town

Blue bootprints with the CDT logo take you through town

Folks at the Arizona Trail Booth

Folks at the Arizona Trail Booth

Found a CDT hiking mini-donkey

Found a CDT hiking mini-donkey

Big Ditch Park

Big Ditch Park

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Allgood, Jabba, Bearclaw, Not a Chance, She-ra and Snorkel on the Long Distance Hiking panel discussion

CDT

CDT

I wished that I had more time to explore the CDT and Gila Wilderness, guess a return trip is in order sometime. My 17-year old nephew Chase visited us from Michigan for Spring Break and at the top of his list was the Grand Canyon. I was excited to introduce someone new to the Canyon and he loved every minute. I bet I have a backpacking companion in the making.

Brian and Chase at the Rim

Brian and Chase at the Rim

Chase on the AZT

Chase on the AZT

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One happy guy!

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

We also took him up Mount Lemmon and did something I’ve never done- hiked to the Mount Lemmon highpoint. It was a fun little route with outstanding views and Chase got to sign his first summit register. We did a couple short hikes on the mountain and enjoyed the sunset.

Windy Point

Windy Point

Chase signs in at the Mount Lemmon Highpoint

Chase signs in at the Mount Lemmon Highpoint

The next day I took Chase to see some petroglyphs near my house and then I suggested we take a short hike in the wash nearby. We were hiking along and all of a sudden Chase said, “Aunt Sirena, you just stepped on a rattlesnake!” Sure, I thought- this coming from the kid that had messed with me all week playing jokes. Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t a joke. I looked back and my stomach dropped as I saw the rattlesnake lying in the shade with an indent in the sand near its tail where I’d stepped on it. Fortunately it was too cold to move quickly, otherwise I’d be writing this while recovering from a massive bite.

Rattlesnake!

Rattlesnake!

Last weekend was the fourth annual Pine/Strawberry Trails Day. I just love visiting this pair of friendly Gateway Communities in the cool pines! It’s baby goat season at Fossil Creek Ranch and I got to feed two-day old kids and put them in their enclosure for the night.

Friendly signs welcome Arizona Trail users to town

Friendly signs welcome Arizona Trail users to town

Pine Trailhead

Pine Trailhead

Double Goats!

Double Goats!

The next day was Trails Day and there were hikes, bike rides, and a birding walk. I hiked a loop with the Llamas from Fossil Creek Ranch and lots of folks stopped by the Arizona Trail booth for info.

On the trail with Llamas from the Fossil Creek Ranch

On the trail with Llamas from the Fossil Creek Ranch

Thru-hikers Toad and Butch

Thru-hikers Toad and Butch

In the evening, I recorded an interview for The Trail Show podcast about the Arizona trail, you can listen to it here (my part starts at 41:13): http://thetrailshow.com/the-trail-show-35-the-gpt/

Last but not least, I traveled to the Arizona Trail’s southern terminus at the Mexican Border to shoot a piece  with Tony Paniagua from Arizona Public Media about the Arizona Trail. It will be a series of short segments about different environments and communities across the state. We’re shooting in Patagonia next.

Nate, me and Tony at Montezuma Pass

Nate, me and Tony at Montezuma Pass

It has been good to stay busy to keep my mind off my recent losses. My house is empty of animals for the first time in 18 years and it feels so strange. I’m really aching for a backpacking trip. Haven’t been out since mid-March, when I hiked 50 miles from Mexico to Patagonia to help get the two Warrior Hike veterans started on their thru-hike. I’ll post about that soon, it was a very rewarding experience.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson news, it’s baby season again! Lots of babies mean lots of mouths to feed- your donation helps to nourish the little ones!

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Baby Killdeer

Baby Killdeer

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Baby Great Horned Owls with their foster mom, Luna

Same Great Horned Owls a week later

Same Great Horned Owls a week later

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Looking down on Lee's Ferry at the top of the Spencer Trail

Looking down on Lee’s Ferry at the top of the Spencer Trail

I travel quite a bit for my job with the Arizona Trail Association, visiting the Gateway Communities for events, presentations, and meetings. I was in Page representing the ATA at the Balloon Regatta festival the first weekend of November and my friend Rob took me for a fantastic hike.

We drove over the Glen Canyon bridge and turned on a dirt road that we parked off of to begin our trek. Ten miles to Lee’s Ferry, off-trail until the last two miles on the Spencer Trail. It was just getting light out and we hiked along the deep sandy two-track for a short time before setting off onto sandstone slabs. Seeking Sandstone was the theme of the day, much easier to hike on than sand.

Seeking Sandstone

Seeking Sandstone

Vermilion Cliffs at sunrise

Vermilion Cliffs at sunrise

We reached a survey marker, our first objective, about 45 minutes into the hike. We crossed a large sandstone bowl and ended up at the upper end of Ferry Swale Canyon. There was a scramble down into the sandy wash, and then we took a sandstone ridge steeply out of it and into the Valley of Moqui Marbles.

Survey Marker

Survey Marker

Sandstone

Route crosses the wash and goes on the ridge in between the two canyons

Route crosses the wash and goes on the ridge in between the two canyons

Up the ridge

Up the ridge

The Moqui Marbles started out small, the size of peas. They were nestled in the striations of sandstone, dark and round. Then larger ones appeared, then sparkly ones, then a valley of massive marbles. It was so wonderful, I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Embedded Moqui marbles

Embedded Moqui marbles

So amazing!

So amazing!

Sparkly!

Sparkly!

Marvelous Moqui valley

Marvelous Moqui valley

Gigantic!

Gigantic!

Rob is way ahead because I can't stop taking pictures of this incredible valley

Rob is way ahead because I can’t stop taking pictures of this incredible valley

After the Marvelous Moqui Valley, we had a short slot canyon to climb up to get on the mesa top, headed toward one of the junipers that we’d seen on the horizon from way back. There were balloons launching from Page for the Balloon Regatta festivities that go on all weekend.

Small slot on the way to the mesa top

Small slot on the way to the mesa top

Crocodile rock

Crocodile rock

Balloons

Balloons

We hiked across the mesa top toward a sandstone formation with three humps and the Echo Cliffs came into view. All of a sudden, there was a set of large, curled bighorn sheep horns lying on the sandstone with a jawbone.

Look- I'm a bighorn!

Look- I’m a bighorn!

After going to the right of the formation, we finally started coming upon remnants of trail here and there. Rob took me over to a spectacular view of the Colorado River and Waterholes Canyon in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We will connect with the Spencer Trail  on the ridge

We will connect with the Spencer Trail on the ridge

Amazing overlook of the Colorado River

Amazing overlook of the Colorado River

A short distance from the overlook, we reached the top of the Spencer Trail and I was wowed once again by the jaw-dropping view. The area around Lee’s Ferry is a geological wonder, and we had a long break, looking at the Echo and Vermilion Cliffs, and the start of the Grand Canyon winding below with the sweet sound of the Paria riffle. Rob pointed out different routes he’d done and I wished I had another week to explore the area.

Panorama from top of Spencer Trail- click to enlarge

Panorama from top of Spencer Trail- Echo Cliffs, Colorado River, Marble Canyon, Lee’s Ferry Vermilion Cliffs, Paria River- click to enlarge

Too soon it was time to drop 1500 feet in two miles on the Spencer Trail. I have looked up at the cliff many times from below at the ferry, trying to discern any part of the route, but never could see where it went. The trail is made up largely of steep steps covered in sand. It got us down quickly and before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot.

Steeply down the sandy steps of the Spencer Trail

Steeply down the sandy steps of the Spencer Trail

Echo Cliffs

Echo Cliffs

Ferry!

Ferry!

The launch area was empty, what a difference from the crowded frenzy of commercial river season. Another difference is that it was not incredibly hot out, as it usually is when we’re rigging and launching our boats at the ferry in the summertime. Rob’s friend Burl was at the ferry with cold drinks to deliver us back to Page. First time on the new Hwy 89 bypass during the day and I was surprised at how scenic of a drive it was. What a great hike, I’d definitely be up for this one again anytime.

In Wildlife Rehab news, I released a couple of the “Fuzzball” baby Great Horned Owls from the last entry near the San Pedro River. Such a treat to see the young ones go into the wild Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson and help to defray the costs of raising fuzzballs!

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If they don't fly out, take apart the carrier and wait.

If they don’t fly out, take apart the carrier and wait.

And wait...

And wait…

Just before flying into the cottonwood

Just before flying into the cottonwood

 #2 Sat with its head poked out like that for a while

#2 Sat with its head poked out like that for a while

Out in the world but not quite sure what to do

Out in the world but not quite sure what to do

Not the soaring flight I'd hoped for, but it'll do. Good luck little owls!

Not the soaring flight I’d hoped for, but it’ll do. Good luck little owls!

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In 2010, I was looking at pictures on HikeArizona.com when I came across a photo of Palisades Canyon that took my breath away. I have looked at it many times over the years, it’s one of my favorites.

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Such an incredible place, and right in my own backyard in the Catalinas. The colors and textures of the canyon walls, the person rappelling in a beautiful waterfall into a large, black pool. It was before I had ever gone canyoneering and when I checked the route description I saw that it was a strenuous route that takes 10-14 hours to complete. The picture is of the second in a series of seven rappels, many 100 feet or more. I have looked longingly at the falls in the canyon visible from the nearby Box Camp Trail.

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Since my first canyoneering trip I have been totally taken by the pools, waterfalls, strenuous routes, and exciting rappels that come with it. Early in September I saw trip reports and pictures of Palisades and contacted a friend to see if he was planning on doing it anytime soon. He said he wasn’t going to be able to go, but a friend of his who had been through several times before would probably be interested in doing it again. I got in touch with Russ and we planned a trip for September 21st.

I hadn’t gone canyoneering in a little while, so before the trip I had a practice session hanging from my tree in the backyard. I was more nervous than I’d been in a while. A couple of groups that I knew had gone through the previous weekend and had epic 19 and 15 hour adventures.

Russ Newberg and I were met at the Sabino Canyon parking lot by my dear friend Tom who graciously shuttled us up the mountain to the Palisades Trailhead. Tom is the leader of Tom’s Sawyers, a volunteer group that goes into the wilderness in the Catalinas and Chiricahuas and removes downed trees on the trails with 2-man crosscut saws. He even has a website where you can report downed trees for the Sawyers to work on. We reached the Palisades trailhead and were hiking by 7 am.

Hiking into the drainage

Hiking into the drainage

We set a good pace down the mountain toward our turnoff point, descending first through pines, then through oaks and junipers. The trail rounded the rocky promontory I’d taken a long break at during my hike of the Palisades Trail to Prison Camp in 2011. Soon after the trail switchbacked down through the grasses, we reached our turnoff and took a gully into the creekbed. There were some ledges for us to get into our wetsuits, I wore a 3/2 full and was glad I did- made the time spent in the water enjoyable rather than merely tolerable.  We had a short hike to the first 150 ft. rappel.

Russ at the top of the first rappel

Russ at the top of the first rappel


150 ft. 1st rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

Russ went down first so he could provide a fireman’s belay from below. He whistled that he was off rope and it was my turn. I rigged my belay device, double-checked everything, took a deep breath and started lowering myself down the slippery first drop into a pool. Sliding down on my side made the slick rock manageable. The second part of the rappel was down a waterfall black with slippery algae. I made my way down to the pool below and then we were at the top of the second rappel, the one that had captured my imagination years ago.

Bottom of the first rappel

Bottom of the first rappel

The second rappel has a chute that diverts the flow into a sideways spigot. I scooted down the chute on my side and stood with the water shooting sideways across the slot. I stopped a second to take it all in- here I was at last! I continued down the rest of the rappel to an immense circular black pool. My drybag buoyed me up in the water and I took a bit to happily float around in the pool, looking up at the waterfall- It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do!

Down the chute on the second rappel

Down the chute on the second rappel

Immediately afterwards, we had another 85 foot rappel followed by yet another 100 footer. There was a small downclimb and my foot slipped and I came down on my knee. It hurt a bit, but didn’t cause any problems the rest of the day. We were able to look at the cascades above that we had just descended. Incredible. Any one of these falls would be a worthy destination in and of itself.

Looking back up at the waterfalls

Looking back up at the waterfalls

We checked the time, surprised that it was still so early. If we got done early enough, we just might be able to catch the Sabino Canyon Tram for the last 4 miles instead of a hot, crowded roadwalk at the end of our day. Russ set up the fifth rappel and as I descended, the water splashing off my helmet made rainbows all around me. What a treat!

We packed up the ropes and rock-hopped toward our next rappel, two stages measuring 160 feet. The view from the top was fantastic. It took a little maneuvering to get down the first part, then yet another stunning slippery waterfall.

Top of 6th rappel

Top of 6th rappel

There was one last challenge before the technical section was complete- the last 85 footer had a notorious reputation for sticking ropes. Russ found a small stick and wedged it in the rope-eating crack. He went first and I followed. There was an overhang, then a free rappel for a moment underneath a chockstone with a hedgehog cactus clinging to life, dangling precariously by its roots. A short stop on a ledge with a tree, then down the rest of the way, rejoining the watercourse into a pool.

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

And now, the moment of truth- Russ and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and pulled as fast as we could, whooping with joy when we realized it was a clean pull- no stuck ropes today! We high-fived and then took a break to refuel and change out of our gear, our concern now was trying to stay cool instead of warm.

After eating and repacking all our soggy gear and ropes, we scrambled down Palisades Canyon, dunking ourselves to stay cool. The Sabino Basin got ever closer and finally we hit the East Fork Trail. Hello, Arizona Trail!

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon


Trail!!

Trail!!

After a quick break to put away our helmets and grab some calories, we checked the time and realized that we could make the tram if we kept a good pace, so we booked it up the Sabino Canyon trail. Not sure where I got all that energy, but the idea of a long hot roadwalk certainly was a great motivator. At 4:30 we saw the tram below and ran to catch it, thinking it was the last one. It was the second to last one of the day, I was just happy that we were riding the road instead of hiking it. Interestingly, we sat right behind a group of guys who’d just come down Lemmon Canyon for the last two days. We shared canyoneering stories all the way to the parking lot.

Russ was wearing a GoPro camera, I’ll post his video when he gets done editing it. Until then, here’s the only picture of happy, sweaty me on the tram:

The sweaty run to catch the tram was all worth it!

The sweaty run to catch the tram was all worth it!

Edit: Here’s the video that Russ made:

I had a post-adventure endorphin-induced giant grin on my face as I drove home. Everything went smoothly in the canyon and the next day I was going to leave on an Arizona Trail business trip up to the North Rim and Flagstaff for a week.  I walked in the door, eager to share my day with my husband Brian when I was met with news that my dog Zeus was not doing well. He’s a big dog- half German Shepard and half Wolf- and at 15 1/2, this was not a great surprise. But something in Brian’s face told me that it wasn’t just the ordinary old-dog stuff.  My mood went instantly from elation to despair- it finally hit home that Zeus wasn’t going to be around much longer. I stayed home for two days and he seemed to stabilize, but when I left on my trip he went downhill again.

I spent the last week at home, getting in a last bit of quality time with him- massaging his tired old body, thinking about all the adventures we’d had together, and feeding him anything he wanted to eat.

We took Zeus and our other dog, Bailey on one last hike in the desert. As we walked, the dogs turned off toward a labyrinth I’d forgotten was there. I thought Zeus would just wander around and get tired and go back to the car. Instead he got a burst of energy and we had a great time hiking into the wash near some petroglyphs. Zeus was a big part of me getting into hiking, I’ll have to write about it sometime.

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Zeus on his last hike

Brian and I made arrangements for a vet to come to the house so that he didn’t have to get all riled up on the drive. It was a wonderful decision. We were all on the futon together, hugging Zeus as his heart finally stopped. We buried him out in Picture Rocks on a friend’s land- he’s got a great resting spot in the desert with a view of the mountains. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so heartbroken.

One way I’m dealing with the loss of Zeus is to volunteer a bunch at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson. I took off a bunch of time this summer because I was really busy with my river schedule and it’s good to be back. Fortunately, I managed to sneak a couple of shifts in between trips this summer and meet the myriad youngsters we had in residence. This video of a trio of “Fuzzballs”- baby Great Horned Owls- cracked me up all summer long.

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As the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association, one of my duties is to help communities throw Trail Days events. Events centered on getting people outdoors to experience what the Gateway Communities have to offer. I had helped organize one in February in Superior, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to attend because of prior commitments.

Setting up in the morning at the Pine Trailhead

After having a post-event meeting in Superior, I made my way north to attend an initial Trail Days planning meeting in Pine. I was expecting 5-6 people sitting around a table for the meeting, instead I walked into the Rimside Grill to find the bar bustling with almost 30 people! I was immediately impressed by the outpouring of support from Pine and its sister community up the hill, Strawberry.

Strawberry

The first annual Pine/Strawberry Trails Day was held on April 21st on a day that was sweltering hundred degrees in the valley. North in Pine, which sits at 5400 feet at the base of the Mogollon Rim,  it was a perfect day. Many groups came out and volunteered their time to make this event happen.

Lou Hoover and Dave Seigal man the Arizona Trail booth

One of my favorite parts of the day was meeting Joyce Bittner and her three llamas from the Ranch at Fossil Creek. She had agreed to lead a llama hike and it was very interesting hearing her speak about the things that make a llama an ideal pack animal. They can pack 75 lbs. apiece and she said that on overnights, she straps a cooler onto the llamas so that you can enjoy quite the fancy meal on the trail!

Joyce Bittner brushes the llamas while we wait for the hikers

My dad, my mom and a llama

What a face! -photo by Budh Rana

Starting the hike

There was a longer hike later in the day to Bradshaw Meadows and many booths and demonstrations throughout the event. Music came courtesy of Chuck and Barb Casey. There was even a medieval fighting exhibit! Many businesses donated items and gift certificates for a giant raffle basket of goodies. A good time was had by all who attended and I’m already looking forward to planning next year’s event.

Basket of raffle goodies

Arno from Germany riding the Arizona Trail 750 race rode into town as we were packing up- Tamara from Rimside Grill made sure he got a hot meal and a shower before tackling the Highline Trail

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, it’s full-on baby season at the rehab. There are so many cute birds, bunnies, and squirrels I can hardly stand it! Click below to donate to help feed these little guys:

Little Harris Hawk, big feet!

Baby Great Horned Owls

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The second annual Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Benefit for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson took place on April 14th and a fantastic time was had by all! Despite cold weather and Fourth Avenue being totally torn up for the trolley construction, we had a good turnout and raised $833 toward wildlife rehabilitation. Here’s some pictures from the event- all photos by the very talented Mike Bieke.

Luna the Great Horned Owl

Troupe HipNautic- from the left: Tama, Raja, Zahyra, Marjani, and Krishana

Raja

Janet Miller who runs the rehab and her son Russell with Elfie the Elf Owl, who had to stay in his house because it was too cold out.

Zahyra

Citan the Harris Hawk

Krishana's candle dance

The Railbirdz and their funky danceable blues music

Troupe HipNautic

Vagabond Incorporated provided live music for the bellydancers

Luna and her handler Sue

Things went so smoothly this year, there was even time for me to do a surprise performance!

What an event! There were so many people who donated their time and talents to make this happen. Huge thanks to Sky Bar and Brooklyn Pizza for donating the space, the talents of their graphic designer Serena Rose, and 15% of the food and drink receipts. All of our performers: The Railbirdz, Troupe HipNautic, Vagabond Incorporated, and Boz the MC were fantastic and generously donated their time to the cause. Thanks to Mike Bieke for donating his time to produce these beautiful photos. We also had a bunch of help from Russell Miller, Janet’s son, who brought members of the TKE fraternity, who volunteered their time. If you missed the event this year, don’t worry, it will be back again next spring! If you’d like to donate, you can do so online securely via PayPal to the wildlife rehab by clicking the button below, or send an old-fashioned check made out to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson to Pima Federal Credit Union P.O. Box 50267  Tucson, Arizona 85703.

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