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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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Arizona Trail Trailhead by Jacob Lake

I got the most interesting call from Dave Hicks, the Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association. He said that now that the trail is almost finished, that the one of the next priorities is to promote the trail and get the Gateway Communities along the trail involved. He said that the AZT really needs a Gateway Community Liaison dedicated to fostering relationships with the communities, and that he thought that I would be perfect for it. I agreed, but in my head I was thinking that my volunteering plate is pretty full at the moment. Then he said the magic words, “And I have a grant”.  So for the next year, I will have a new part-time job- doing presentations, promoting the trail and trying to gain support and trail stewards from the Gateway Communities. What a dream job! I get to promote the Arizona Trail and visit towns from Sierra Vista, Patagonia and Sonoita in the south, to Payson and Pine and Flagstaff, and as far north as Fredonia and Kanab, Utah. I get a per diem for food and lodging, but I have a feeling my bed will more often than not be a spot along the Arizona Trail instead of in some hotel. I am incredibly honored that Dave thought of me for the job and am really looking forward to getting people all over the state acquainted with this fantastic trail. Hiking the Arizona Trail changed my life in so many ways and here’s yet another one. Easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. Next week I’m on the road for my new job, traveling to Payson, Pine, Flagstaff, and the Arizona Trail Rendezvous at Mormon Lake. I can’t wait. If you’d like to learn more about the Gateway Communities, click this link: www.aztrail.org/ata_news/ATANewsWinter10.pdf

In Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser news, here’s a juvenile Great Horned Owl trying to make itself big and tough-looking:

Fluffy Juvenile Great Horned Owl

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This week, I teamed up again with Bill Bens, who runs the Tucson Hikers Yahoo Group, and Mitch Stevens (my companions for my Ragged Top hike) for a hike up Elephant Head in the Western Santa Ritas. I have never been to this part of the Santa Ritas before, but have always been intrigued by this peak:

Elephant Head

Elephant Head and Baboquivari

The description of the hike mentions 2nd and 3rd class scrambling, so I definitely did not want to attempt this peak solo for the first time. Bill had been up here a number of times and was helpful to figure out the route on the last part of the hike.

The parking area for the Agua Caliente route is in grasslands and oak trees at 4200 ft. I just love the vegetation at this elevation. You get these tall yellow grasses, with oak trees and the occasional juniper mixed in for good measure.

Mount Hopkins from the Ocotillo forest

You can see Elephant Head if you are driving on I-19, it’s the closest peak in the Santa Ritas to the freeway.  Although from the freeway it looks precipitous and fully improbable that there is a hiking route, a very well-beat-in path exists to the top. I would rate this hike as advanced, but the trail in and the route up to the top are both pretty well visible and cairned along the way. The first part of the hike takes you along an old roadbed that crosses Agua Caliente Creek, which was running from the recent rains. There were a number of places along this hike that would make beautiful destinations unto themselves.

Bill and Mitch crossing Agua Caliente Creek

The old roadbed climbs to a saddle then contours around to the junction with another route into the canyon, the Elephant Head Bike Trail.  We also passed the turnoff to the Little Elephant Head summit. There were many purple Santa Rita Prickly Pears on this part of the hike, some that were purple on one side and green on the other.

Purple on one side, green on the other

There was also a healthy population of Arizona Rainbow Cactus, like this one growing out of the rock:

Arizona Rainbow Cactus

We met the only other people on this hike at the Quantrell Mine Junction, which was all decked out with a brand new sign.

Quantrell Mine Tr. Jct.

After contouring on the roadbed, it’s time to work for it as you approach the Chino Canyon hiker’s route. As you contour around, you will see a very deep, rugged canyon between you and Elephant head. This is Chino Canyon and the end of the nice, contouring trail. The turnoff was marked by a collapsed cairn which we rebuilt. The turnoff is just as you round the corner and reach a rocky outcropping. Here is the view:

View from the turnoff into Chino Canyon

From the Chino Canyon trail junction, it had been described that the trail was a well beat-in path steeply down Chino Canyon to the creek crossing that had several nice little waterfalls from the recent rains.

Waterfall in Chino Canyon

I was really impressed with the condition of the hiker’s route in Chino Canyon, it was more well-defined than some trails I’ve been on, and it looked like there had been recent maintenance. From the Chino Canyon crossing, it is a steep but well-marked trail up to the ridge that goes up to the summit. This is the most difficult part of the hike in my opinion. We took it slow and made it up to the saddle where the true routefinding and scrambling begins.

Summit Ridge

If you use hiking poles, this is a good place to stash them for the return, from this point to the summit requires the use of your hands to pull yourself up and through the cairned maze of rock. I was happy that I had Bill along, because he had been up here before, and had placed many of the cairns that we were using to find our way.

Chino Canyon and Little Elephant Head behind me

The scrambling part of this hike was a lot easier than the Ragged Top hike we’d done last month. The rock on Elephant Head is grippy, and stable, with big handholds. There are ample cairns to follow on this part of the hike.

There was a couple of tight squeezes past oak trees, and some 3rd class scrambling, but on the whole there was very little exposure.

Tight Squeeze

Mitch is excited to be on the Elephant!

Every time it looked like we could go no further, a route would appear to lead us to the next section, until we reached the actual summit ridge, which was very easy because it was solid rock.

Summit ridge of Elephant Head

We reached the 5641′ summit in about 2 1/2 hours, and the views were spectacular!!

I added my elephant pendant that I made to the other elephants in the summit cairn, and we all enjoyed the view for a bit. We couldn’t linger too long, however, because it was an afternoon hike, and we wanted to get back before we lost daylight. The rock made for solid footing on the way down, and there was only one part that made me a little uncomfortable, but the obstacle was easily solved once I figured out where to put my hands and feet.

Carefully descending

I love this shot that Bill took of me and Mitch, it really gives a neat perspective on the summit ridge:

Summit Ridge

The descent didn’t take very long, and soon we were back at the saddle, ready to cross steep and deep Chino Canyon once again. The bottom of Chino with its waterfalls would be a great place to come back and camp someday. One last 500 foot climb out of the canyon back took us back to the wide old roadbed of the Quantrell Mine Trail. We caught the last vestiges of the sunset and made it back to the truck just as the light was fading.

Last light

The hike took us 5 hours total, and my GPS showed 2700 feet of accumulated elevation gain. Not too shabby for an afternoon’s work! Speaking of my GPS, a 6 year old Garmin Etrex Vista, it looks like it may be on its last legs. It has been turning itself off even with full batteries, and the screen sometimes won’t come on. Not a great thing for someone starting the Grand Enchantment Trail soon. A new one is a bit out of my price range right now. I was wondering if any of my readers might have an old GPS that they would like to sell or donate. I can be contacted at aztrail4fms@live.com.

And now for another picture from the Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser- here’s a beautiful Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

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