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Posts Tagged ‘Ringtail’

Today is the fifth anniversary of Sirena’s Wanderings- big thanks to all my readers!! It’s been great to share my adventures with you and I am always happy when I hear that the information in my blog helps people to plan their own hikes. It’s been almost seven years since I started my first blog on my Arizona Trail for Fibromyalgia website, when I hiked the Arizona Trail the first time. So thanks again for indulging my penchance for long-winded triplogs and for taking the time to follow along. I’m going to break with tradition and keep this entry short.

I have gone on a couple of small hikes since I’ve been back from the river, still taking it kind of easy. Soon enough I’ll be back doing crazy, all-day bushwhacks and backpacking trips.

Wendy and I went hiking in the rain in the Tortolitas on the Wild Mustang-Wild Burro loop. It was really green and lush from our ample monsoon season. The trails out there are so nice, I’ll have to do a longer trip sometime and check out the new Ridgeline Trail.

Jackrabbit

Jackrabbit

Tucson Mountains

Tucson Mountains

Tiny toad

Tiny toad

Wendy in the mist

Wendy in the mist

Desert Cotton

Desert Cotton

Today, I went up to Mt. Lemmon to do a presentation on my Arizona Trail Trek thru-hike in Summerhaven, but first I met with some of the ladies from the Women’s Backpacking Trip for a fall color hike. I am so fortunate to have such great friends to enjoy the outdoors with. Jasmine the mini-donkey and Dr. Otis the Goldendoodle therapy dog were along too!

Jasmine, Leigh Anne, Silver, India, Lynn, Bonnie, and Dr. Otis

Jasmine, Leigh Anne, Silver, India, Lynn, Bonnie, and Dr. Otis

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Leigh Anne and Jasmine

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Maples on Mount Lemmon

Micro Chicken ran into some friends in the forest

Micro Chicken ran into some friends in the forest

Loving the leaves!

Loving the leaves!

It was so wonderful to be among the leaves and running creeks on the mountain. There was a good turnout for my talk and on the way down the mountain I stopped at Windy Point to watch the sunset. It was outrageously good. So glad to be back home in Tucson among the mountains I love so much.

Looking south at the Santa Ritas from Windy Point

Looking south at the Santa Ritas from Windy Point

Windy Point Sunset

Windy Point Sunset

In wildlife rehab news, I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my videos from 2011 made it onto a blog I love called Cute Overload. It’s an adorable video of a baby ringtail cat. Enjoy! Hopefully people will donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson as a result. You can donate to help this entirely self-supported facility by clicking below:
Donate Button with Credit Cards

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Buster Mountain summit view toward Mt Lemmon

Buster Mountain summit view toward Mt Lemmon

I had originally planned on hiking Pusch Peak from Pima Canyon until I came across this description http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=17807 on HikeArizona.com the night before. I really enjoyed my hike up Buster last year and wanted to see more of the area. So glad I hiked this one and covered some new ground instead- the trail up to Peak 4223 was delightful with fantastic views!

On the ridgeline looking north

On the ridgeline looking north

I love autumn days when I can start my hike at noon. The weather was wonderful all day, sometimes overcast, sometimes breezy. Found the trail with no issues- it is very well cairned with good tread and hardly any poky things- almost seemed too easy! Interesting views of the Romero Canyon Trail and Samaniego Ridge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peak 4223 to the left, Buster on the right

Peak 4223 to the left, Buster on the right

Romero Canyon Trail

Romero Canyon Trail

I passed Peak 4223 and made my way across the ridge to the low saddle. I saw a flurry of activity and got really excited for a second- was it one of the newly released bighorns? Sadly, no. Just some deer.

Approaching Peak 4223

Approaching Peak 4223

Atop 4223 looking toward Buster

Atop 4223 looking toward Buster

After looking at dry Buster Spring I contoured around to meet the saddle to the east of Buster. There was no trail, but occasional cairns popped up from time to time. Thankfully the grass seeds weren’t too bad, that can turn a hike into a foot-stabbing nightmare quick. Also, not much shindagger on this route, not like areas in Pima Canyon where you are shindagger-surfing. Speaking of which, I had a great view of Table Mountain’s summit where Wendy and I spent a chilly night last year by the fireplace.

The views into Alamo Canyon are some of my favorite in all the Catalinas, so dramatic with the massive Leviathan and Wilderness Domes. The saddle felt remote, Buster blocked out civilization beyond, the sprawl of Oro Valley pink-tiled roofs.

Great views into Alamo Canyon

Great views into Alamo Canyon

One last short steep bit to the summit and I settled in for a long break. It was windy, but not cold. I loved that there was very little chance that I’d see anyone else today, even though the first parking lot was full.

Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

Leviathan and Wilderness Domes

After an enjoyable time on the summit, reading old logs and listening to music, I started down the east side. The small saddle below the summit really speaks to me and I stopped again. Spent time playing with my camera settings and investigating a cairned route that I think connects up with the trail in Alamo Canyon.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Micro Chicken

Micro Chicken is getting close to his second birthday. And yes- I’m wearing sparkly nail polish. Don’t judge.

Who the heck was Buster anyway? Here’s the history from the HikeArizona page:

Though details are slim, the history of this immediate area seems to revolve around the late Buster Bailey. Buster moved here from Texas in 1927. His father built their home somewhere in the area that is now Catalina State Park. Buster’s family soon moved back to Texas, but Buster returned to his one true love, The Catalina Mountains. He worked for area ranchers, he worked for the Zimmerman family, who developed what is now Summer Haven on Mt. Lemmon, but Buster’s real claim to fame was as a bootlegger, operating his still near the waters of the now dry Buster Spring. Remnants of his still are said to be in place, though in disrepair, somewhere near the current spring. This was Buster’s stomping ground, and you just can’t help but feel connected to him while you’re here. It’s said that he packed his product down alternating routes, so not to leave any obvious trails. It would be safe to say that if you’re on any passable route in or around Buster Canyon, Buster, himself had been there.

View north

View north

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Sunlit Saguaros

Gneiss!

I really needed a day like this- just me and the Catalinas. What a great route, I’ll have to check out the Alamo Canyon variation sometime.

In Wildlife Rehab news, I came across this picture from of a baby ringtail that we raised that was sent to an educational facility. Look at that yawn!! Donations go toward housing and feeding the animals at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Here’s a video:

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Aravaipa near Javelina Canyon

After my backpacking trip that turned into a dayhike on the Palisades Trail, I was ready to try again. This time I wanted to go somewhere that I wouldn’t have to worry about carrying a ton of water around in the middle of the summer. One of my favorite places to go that always has water is Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, near Mammoth, AZ. I haven’t been to Aravaipa since December of last year when I went to see the fall colors (yes, fall colors happen as late as December in southern Arizona!). At the time, there was ice on the water and I had to use fancy neoprene socks to stay warm. This trip would be the complete opposite. On August 24th as I drove to the western trailhead, the radio warned of record high temperatures all over southern Arizona. I got a later start than I would have liked, partially because I had to tend to three quail, an oriole, and a cottontail rabbit that I was going to release on the drive over. All the babies of the early summer are growing up and getting released from Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson- it’s one of my favorite parts of volunteering there.

At 9am, after signing in as the first person there in three days, I finally got going on the short trail that leads down to the creekbed. My friend Wendy was originally going to join me, but something came up last-minute, so I’m solo in Aravaipa once again. It would be nice to share this beautiful place with someone else someday. As soon as I reached the water, I soaked my head, bandannas, and my long-sleeved cotton shirt. I chose the cotton one instead of the synthetic because the only way I was going to be comfortable in 100+ degree temperatures is if I stayed wet all day. Right away, I saw a small deer walk out into the middle of the creek and lay down on a gravel bar close to two Great Blue Herons who were chasing each other down the canyon. The water was a little turbid from the recent rains, which made it tough to see the rocks underneath when crossing or walking in the stream. Hiking in Aravaipa is like a long balancing act- the ground is rarely even and the rocks you walk on could shift out from under you at any time.

Deer in the stream

Soon, the two herons found a third and a Zone-Tailed Hawk flew right in front of me, crossing the canyon. I don’t know what I would do without my hiking umbrella. It is a key piece of gear for summertime, and would serve a very important entertainment purpose later on in the trip. I took my time hiking upstream, taking breaks in patches of deep shade. There were several large murky pools that were able to be bypassed once the walls of the canyon steepened. I found a great big cottonwood at around noon to eat lunch and drink some gatorade. There was a nice campsite area right before the creek takes a big curve to the north that was in shade for most of the day. I took a nap and around 2:30 decided to move on toward Horse Camp Canyon. I passed by one of my favorite views in the canyon and came to another murky pool in the narrows near Javelina Canyon, about three miles in. Only there was no going around this 20 foot long pool- the canyon is quite narrow at this point and the water went from wall to wall. I took my backpack off to test the crossing depth. The water was eerily warm and the bottom of the pool was slippery mud and I stopped once the water reached my shoulders. I backed out and tried another line through the pool, but it was just as deep and slippery. By now dark clouds were starting to mount and I realized that retreat was probably the most prudent course of action.

Pool that stopped my progress

But before going back the way I’d come to find a campsite high above the creek, I had to take advantage of this giant pool in front of me. I got out my green floatie and floated the pool for a bit before the combination of the heat and the low rumbles of thunder made me get out. I hiked back, looking for a good place to camp, eying up all the piles of flood debris caught up high in the branches of trees. I found a spot that would have morning shade and a view of my favorite rock formations. All afternoon and evening, there was the threatening sound of thunder, and later on it was paired with flashes of lightning from several directions. In Aravaipa you only see a slice of the sky, so I was hoping there was nothing too intense going on upstream. I enjoyed Heinrich Harrer’s The White Spider about climbing the North Face of the Eiger, a fascinating read. It was incredibly hot and buggy out, but still enjoyable. That is, until I tried to go to sleep inside my tent. I had to keep the fly on because of the thunder and lightning, and it made conditions inside awful. I could barely sleep and tossed and turned all night. I got up a bunch of times and read of icy cold bivouacs on the North Face attempts and wished that I too could be just a little cold. Maybe just enough to put on a fleece. Or enough to sleep. That would be so nice. After all the sound and light show it only drizzled for an hour in the middle of the night.

Camped with one of my favorite views in the canyon

I was up early the next morning and spent some leisurely time in camp reading and writing. Writing in my journal is one of my favorite activities when I’m backpacking and I wrote for hours. Aravaipa is part of the Grand Enchantment Trail and I wished for the millionth time that I could take a vacation to complete the trail from Safford to Albuquerque. Someday. I had chosen well and my campsite was shaded until 9:30 am, when I hiked back to the deep pool that had stopped my progress upcanyon yesterday. It had been murky, warm and uninviting yesterday, but today I was excited to have such a big pool to play in. The pool was in shade for quite a while. I explored around and found the shallowest crossing point along the rock wall on the left of the canyon (if you’re coming from the West trailhead) past the rectangular pool. Even that one was chest-high on me. I blew up the floatie and paddled around for a while until I realized that there was a breeze coming down the canyon. At the beginning of the summer, Wendy and I were floating in Sabino Canyon with our umbrellas and realized that you can catch the breeze and use the umbrella as a sail! I had the perfect setup and did it several times, totally cracking up every time. Then I realized that my tripod had made it into my pack at the last minute yesterday and I could make a video of it. Enjoy:

I shot some videos and then rode the wind in my floatie over and over again.  Good times. After the pool was in full sun, it was too hot to float so I packed up and started making my way back downstream. I returned to the place I’d taken a long break under the cottonwood tree and enjoyed the shade, relaxed, and read for several hours. It was overcast and cooler in the middle of the day than it had been the night before. I was really sad that my camera zoom was malfunctioning, it had probably gotten sand in it the night before. There were these really colorful Greater Earless Lizards running around, doing push-ups and I went to take a picture of one without my beloved zoom. I moved closer and closer, shooting pictures, and to my surprise the little guy let me put my camera right in his face and I got the most fantastic close-up!

Colorful Greater Earless Lizards

Thanks for the pose!

As the afternoon wore on, the rumbling of thunder increased to the west, but I never ended up getting rained on. I ducked into Hell’s Half Acre canyon to take a look and then continued westward. The last mile of the hike always takes longer than I think it will. I have a little habit upon reaching the exit trail to take one last break with my feet in the creek before heading out. I reached the parking lot at 4:30pm, feeling completely rejuvenated after some alone time in this achingly beautiful wilderness.

Hell's Half Acre Canyon

I love contemplating the flood that placed that log up there.

Reflection

In Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser news, baby ringtail is growing nicely and is a riot to watch run around her cage. Here she is sniffing the owner of the rehab Janet Miller’s head:

Baby Ringtail

Also, some jerk recently dumped a litter of 4-week old kittens on the wildlife rehab property. Fortunately we were able to find homes for them, but until we did, part of what we had to do as volunteers was play with the kitties so they got socialized.

Not wild, but still cute!

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Moonrise over Mica Mountain

Summertime hiking in Southern Arizona requires some flexibility- you have to be willing to either get up before the sun rises, acclimate to hiking in the inferno-like heat, or become nocturnal. One of my favorite times to go on a night hike is around the full moon. This month, I decided to visit one of my favorite areas for watching the moonrise- the Arizona Trail heading east from  Molino Basin toward Redington Road in the Catalinas. When going for a full moon hike, it is important to choose a trail that will be illuminated during the time that you want to hike. This trail is ideal because it is on the eastern side of the Catalinas and gets illuminated right at moonrise.

I started my hike at 6:30, just as the sun had gone behind the hill and shaded the trail. The Arizona Trail uses the Bellota Trail, which starts at 4300 feet, switchbacks 450 feet up to a saddle, then plunges down the other side 800 feet to West Spring. It crosses several drainages before continuing toward Bellota Ranch, a fancy dude ranch nestled in the valley. This particular piece of trail and I have a long history and I have lost count of how many times I have hiked it.  In what seems like another lifetime, when I was really sick from my Fibromyalgia, I would come here and barely be able to make it up to the saddle and be sore for days afterward. At one time, the longest hike I had ever done in one day was a 13 mile out and back trying to get to The Lake. Several years ago, my husband Brian and my dogs hiked this piece with me when I was trying to complete the Arizona Trail. And more recently, this is where I ended up last year to watch the Supermoon eclipse. It’s one of those trails that you feel like you could almost hike it blindfolded and your body would remember where to go.

Me and Zeus and Bailey on the Arizona Trail in 2008

I made my way to the saddle, stopping to admire the Manzanitas with their “little apples” on and to sniff the junipers. The view from the saddle of the Bellota Ranch way in the valley below, Agua Caliente Hill, and Helen’s Dome atop Mica Mountain in the Rincons remains one of my favorites, no matter how many other spectacular places I have seen.

Manzanita

View from the saddle in the daytime (Picture taken in 2008)

I was so intent on watching my feet on the rocky descent that I missed the actual moonrise. When I looked up the moon was well above the rocky outcrops of the northern face of Mica Mountain. As I made my way down the switchbacks I saw several deer bounding away and stopped to watch the sunset for a bit. The trail reached the first drainage and climbed out of it before descending to West Spring, a concrete tank for the cows with a trough around it. More bounding deer- a larger group this time, and the trail reached a gate. It then followed a two-track through a drainage that was lined with junipers and the occasional cottonwood.

Hello Moon!

I’d camped along this road on my Arizona Trail hike during deer hunting season, it was much quieter now. I had met Kean Brown, the cowboy-hat wearing manager of the Bellota Ranch who had explained to me that the horses that I usually see in the area are retired horses from the ranch that are now free to rome as they please. Just as I was thinking, “I wonder where the horses are?”, my headlamp illuminated a pair of eyes belonging to a large brown horse with a white stripe on his face. All the other times I’d seen the horses, they had kept their distance, but this one started walking toward me. I am a massage therapist and I love to work on animals, but I very rarely get to interact with horses. I took a deep breath to calm myself, knowing that horses can sense tension, and put my hand out near his face. The horse pushed its face into my hand and I stroked its head, talking in a gentle voice. After letting the horse get comfortable, I massaged his sides and along his spine, feeling him shift his weight toward my hands. At one point, it was hard to believe it was real- I’m massaging a horse in a beautiful moonlit valley! It was truly magical. After a while, I bid my new friend adieu and began hiking back toward the trailhead.

Last light on the trail

My horse pal

The moon was out, but I was a little snake-paranoid, so I had my headlamp on for much of the hike. I did encounter one rattlesnake at the last creek crossing before the ascent to the saddle. It was a very calm, non-rattling snake and was kind enough to pose for some pictures before slithering off the trail. I found a slab of rock to take a break on before the final climb to the saddle. The truth is, I really didn’t want to go back. I had brought a small cushion to relax on and would have been perfectly content to sleep there for the night. My husband was expecting me back that evening, so I settled for a short nap. I awoke refreshed and made the moonlit ascent to the saddle and down the other side, reaching my car at 11 pm.  What a fantastic way to beat the heat and still get in a decent hike- you can bet there will be a lot more night hiking to come this summer.

A very calm Rattlesnake

In Wildlife Rehab Fundraiser news, we’re busier than ever at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, as it is baby season. We’ve had tons of Cooper’s Hawks, Kestrels, and Screech Owls, as well as some really special animals, like a baby Ringtail and a two-week old Javelina. It’s a ton of work, but so rewarding! The other day, I got to release a beautiful female Red-Tailed Hawk- so incredible to watch it soar away. Your donation goes to feed the hungry masses:

2-week old Javelina that we had for a short time before it was transferred to another rehab facility.

Red-Tailed Hawk with jesses on its legs- going for a test to see how she flies before getting released

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