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AZT 10 Year Trailaversary

Celebrating my 10 year Arizona Trailaversary!

Ten years ago today, I completed the last section of the 800-mile Arizona Trail, connecting my steps from Mexico to Utah. I hiked the trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition I have had since 1997, and finished the trail on May 12th, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I can remember the mixture of feelings of sadness and excitement after leaving my last snack break with friends at the Kannally Ranch windmill to hike the final miles. I mostly recall the sadness, the disappointment that my big adventure was over.

AZT Completion hike 2009

Starting the last section at Tiger Mine Trailhead, 2009

Finishing the AZT 2009

Finished the Arizona Trail! Photo by Terri Gay, 2009

Because at the time, I thought that’s all I was going to get. One big adventure before settling down, having kids, and continuing the life script.

What I didn’t realize at the time, was it was the beginning of a giant life shift. Hiking and backpacking, making my own way through the desert, had opened up a whole new world to me and I wanted more.

I had done this big, rugged, scary, intimidating, unfinished long-distance trail, most of it solo. 15 months of hiking, 9 months prior to that of planning. Almost 2 years to the day that I took a hike from the American Flag Trailhead on May 7, 2007 that gave me the idea to try to hike the whole AZT.

So many spreadsheets, phone calls, journal entries, writing to organizations to support my hike, media outreach for my fibromyalgia awareness campaign and fundraiser. There were so few resources for the trail back in those days. When I first sent an email to the Arizona Trail Association for information, I got a paper packet mailed to me. 60 miles of trail remained to be built when I hiked the trail and by the time I finished it had just been designated a National Scenic Trail. Both the AZT and I have come a long way.

One thing that has not changed is my passion for sharing information and inspiring people to get on the trail themselves. That’s why this AZT Day Hikes book project for Wilderness Press is so important to me. It is my way of being a tour guide to all my favorite pieces, stories, and views on the AZT. Ten years later and I’m grateful for all the opportunities that this trail has given me – both personally and professionally.

The last piece that I hiked to complete the trail in 2009 was the Oracle passage #13, ending at American Flag Trailhead. I hiked this piece again yesterday for research for the Day Hikes book and it was a great day of reflection. I celebrated with a piece of tart cherry almond pie from the Oracle Patio Cafe.

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Kannally Ranch Windmill, AZT

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Celebratory tart cherry almond pie from Oracle Patio Cafe

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Ancient metate (grinding hole), reminder that this is the ancestral land of the Apache

Here’s a quote from my journal from that day: “It felt amazing to have finished this epic journey. I am so lucky to have been able to have this experience. I have seen breathtaking deep canyons, high peaks, amazing sunsets, and more wildflowers than I’d ever imagined. I learned a lot about myself, including the fact that I am way stronger than I thought and capable of things I’d never imagined possible. I definitely got the grand adventure that I was hoping for. ”

After all, if I could walk across the entire state of Arizona, what else could I accomplish that I previously thought unimaginable? I even got to hike the AZT again as a thru-hike, taking two and a half months on my AZT Trek in spring 2014 to raise awareness and funds for the Arizona Trail Association.

Without the Arizona Trail hike, I probably would not have been a hiking guide, a river guide, Trail Steward and Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association, or the owner of my own business, Trails Inspire. I now make a living promoting the outdoors through writing, photography, public speaking and trail design.

As for my fibromyalgia, I had ten years without a flare from 2006-2016. Since 2016 it has flared up from time to time and I have learned to manage it by staying active, getting outdoors in whatever way I can, and listening to when I need to take a rest.

I am grateful for my husband Brian, my Dad for being such a big part of my experience, for family, friends, and followers of my accounts and this blog. For the privilege of being able to take the time and energy to walk for 80 days to complete this journey. For companies like Summit Hut, Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and others who have believed in me and my passions. The adventures keep on coming and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you’d like to hear me talk about the experiences I’ve had on the Arizona Trail, I’m doing a presentation in Scottsdale for the Arizona Mountaineering Club on Wednesday, May 22nd from 7-9 pm. Details and free registration at this link.

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It’s that time of the year to look back and I’m grateful to say that personally and professionally, 2018 has been one of the best!

Before I begin, I wanted to highlight a recent story I was a part of for KJZZ Phoenix, the local NPR station. It’s by Stina Sieg, called Take a Hike: Author Explores, Promotes Diversity on Arizona Trails.

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really know what 2018 would look like. It ended up being one of the most eventful and travel-packed years I’ve ever had. If you’d like more frequent updates, follow me at @desertsirena on Instagram or you can also view my feed by visiting this website on your computer and clicking on the latest photo in the upper right.

Big thanks to the organizations who have supported my work and adventures this year: Arizona Office of Tourism, Gossamer Gear, REI, the Town of Tusayan, Pima County, Visit Tucson, Wilderness Press, Huppybar, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts and more!

January

Started the year out right with a hike from Superior to Kelvin on the Arizona Trail with my adventure bestie Wendy. This was the seventh time I’ve hiked this 40 miles, one of my favorite parts of the AZT.

Arizona Trail - Gila River Canyons

Fall along the Gila River

Wendy and Stripey Butte - Arizona Trail

Wendy and Stripey Butte

I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to commit myself to writing my memoir and found a place to work on it far away from distractions. It was emotional, revisiting the dark days when I was really sick with fibromyalgia but also inspiring to see how far I’ve come.High Jinks Ranch Lenticular Sunrise

The Arizona Office of Tourism contacted me about partnering with my company, Trails Inspire, to do two talks at the REI flagship store in Seattle and of course I said yes.

I attended Winter Outdoor Retailer with Gossamer Gear and had a great show. I had talked to Wilderness Press at the last summer show about my memoir and an idea I had for a book about the best day hikes on the Arizona Trail. When I saw them at winter show, they gave me the contact for submitting a proposal.

For me, the show isn’t about the gear, it’s about making relationships and learning at the talks and workshops. I was particularly interested in the Indigenous Connections panel and When Women Lead series.

Learning about ancestral land acknowledgements has inspired me to include them in my social media and blog posts. For example, I am based in Tucson, AZ, ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui. I use https://native-land.ca/ as well as other research to determine and acknowledge who’s land I am recreating on.

Indigenous Connections Panel - Outdoor Retailer

Indigenous Connections Panel

February

Hiked Apache Peak on Oracle Ridge, which I’ve looked at for years. Great 360 degree views in every direction! Ancestral lands of the Hohokam.IMG_7759IMG_7760

 

I got a lot done on my memoir in January and continued working on it. Until I got an email from Wilderness Press on a Friday that said they would like a full proposal for the Arizona Trail day hikes book by Tuesday. I was excited, this was the moment I’d been waiting for! Only I got the email about 20 minutes before I left for the airport to do my  talks in Seattle all weekend.

I didn’t see much of Seattle, but the talks went really well! I recorded a short bonus show on the Cascade Hikers Podcast about it. Ancestral land of the Duamish and Puget Sound Salish.Hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail Presentation- Seattle REI Flagship

My brother and his fiance came to visit from Chicago for my birthday and we had a blast hiking 7 Falls in Bear Canyon and the Arizona Trail near Oracle. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.Shawn and Liz at Seven FallsDucks at Seven Falls

My friends India and Wendy got me the most thoughtful present, a metal print of one of my favorite light painting photos I’ve ever done. This was taken on the Black Bridge on the South Kaibab Trail which crosses the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge

I started contracting with Southwest Trail Solutions and Westland Resources on a job near the town of Superior to design a multi-user trails system. Gorgeous country out there and it was super-fun to find ways to put a trail through it! Ancestral lands of the Akimel O’odhamSuperior Trail Layout

March

I climbed Baboquivari Peak with my friends Dave Baker, Gary Hervert and we even got Wendy up there! Baboquivari is the center of the ancestral lands of the Tohono O’odham.

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

When I heard that Pima County was going to complete The Loop trail system and have a celebration in mid-March, I got the idea to do a promotional urban hike of the trail. I contacted Pima County and Visit Tucson and they were thrilled with the idea. I even got them to fly Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, the Queen of Urban Thru-Hiking, out to join me. Hike the Loop covered all four riverwalks and two greenways of the system, 80 miles in 5 days.

It was a hike that delivered so much more than I’d anticipated. The views, the history and archaeology, art and amenities were all a fantastic part of the experience. We partnered with local restaurants to highlight Tucson’s UNESCO International City of Gastronomy designation, and interviewed people involved with different municipal projects that helped to create The Loop. Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.

Liz and Sirena Hike The Loop Finish

Liz and Sirena completing the 80-mile Hike The Loop

Hike The Loop Group Photo

Hike The Loop group hike with Jasmine the Mini-Donkey

We opened the last day of the hike into the completion celebration to the public and it was so rewarding to take these people, many who had never hiked before, on The Loop. We even had Jasmine the Mini-Donkey and Leigh Anne Thrasher along! Please take the time to watch this video, it is one of my very favorite moments of the year. Liz and I got a lot of media attention, you can watch the highlights here.

Joined the list of Badass Women of Tucson, a great series by the Arizona Daily Star. A reporter came out and interviewed Liz and me on The Loop.

I was featured on Coalition Snow’s Tacover Tuesday, where they invite women to talk about their businesses and the outdoors.

The Tusayan Trails Master Plan held a comment period open for 45 days and I ran a public meeting at the end of March for my company Trails Inspire.

I was featured on the She Explores blog: Blaze Your Own Trail, by Hailey Hirst.

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Sirena Rana Dufault on The Loop – Photo Randy Metcalf, Pima County

On March 31st, I started a week-long trip in Grand Canyon from the South Bass Trail to Hermit. That’s the same trip that I tore my calf muscle and had to be evacuated by helicopter on April Fool’s Day 2016. Two years to the day, I was back and walked past the spot without incident. This trip was solo and absolutely wonderful.

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Passing the site of my 2016 helicopter evacuation

Indians in Grand Canyon

Met Hari, a fellow Indian, backpacking deep in the Canyon

Granite Rapid in the Distance - Grand Canyon

 

Grand Canyon Traverse - South Bass to Hermit

Sirena in her natural habitat on a week-long solo trip in Grand Canyon

It also connected up a large piece of the Grand Canyon Traverse for me. Of the 277 river miles, I have now done from Nankoweap at mile 53, to Elves Chasm at mile 117, as well as Tuckup 164 to Toroweap 179.

The Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, Paiute, Hualapai, Zuni, White Mountain Apache and Yavapai Apache are all traditionally associated tribes in the Grand Canyon region.

April

After my Grand Canyon trip, I did more trail layout work in Superior with Evan and Neil.

Trails Inspire was featured on The Trail Show, talking about Hike the Loop.

Did a new talk, “From Suburbanite to Adventurer” for Summit Hut Women’s Night, then the next day drove to Silver City, New Mexico to attend the Continental Divide Trail Days event. I gave my presentation on Desert Hiking Tips and Tricks to a packed room. I’ve been told the talk is very good, but a little on the scary side. It’s amazing how comfortable I’ve become in my desert home. Ancestral lands of the Chiricahua Apache.Sirena on the CDTCDT Days Silver City

Swami's presentation on his 12 Long Walks

Cam “Swami” Honan speaking about his 12 Long Walks

May

More trail layout in Superior, trying to get the job done before the sweltering heat.

On May 5th, Hike Like a Girl Day, I appeared on Rosie on the House, a home-improvement radio show that devotes its first hour to the outdoors in Arizona. We had a great time talking about Trails Inspire projects and the Arizona Trail.

The Arizona Office of Tourism and REI sponsored a Force of Nature event and I was invited to speak. Though it was 100 degrees, it was an inspiring event at gorgeous Lost Dutchman State Park. Ancestral land of the Hohokam and Yavapai.

Force of Nature REI Panel

Baby season started at the Wildlife Rehab, makes for long shifts but worth it for the cute! Here’s a collage of my favorite photos of the year with Janet Miller, who runs the facility, in the middle.Top Nine Wildlife Rehab 2018

Did some light painting collaboration in Oracle with my friend Drew at El Rancho Robles.Light Painting at El Rancho Robles

June

I signed my first book contract! Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, coming in Spring 2020 with Wilderness Press. I can hardly believe it, such a dream come true. I have until November 2019 to do the research and writing.Arizona Trail Double Rainbow

The first thing I did after getting my book contract was to get in touch with my friend Cate Bradley. She used to work for the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program and is now retired in Silver City. She worked with me to plan out the next year and a half and I am forever grateful.

I also approached the Arizona Office of Tourism for a partnership that would help with my travel expenses while researching the book. They accepted and I am doing several talks and writing a series of articles and social media posts that will be released closer to the publication of the book.

On June 13th, I packed up and left for my first book research trip to the Utah Stateline Trailhead, the Kaibab Plateau, North Rim Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.

It was so much fun, revisiting my favorite parts of the AZT and doing the research and photography. Ancestral lands of the Ute and Kaibab Paiute.Stateline - Sirena on the Arizona Trail

Sirena Arizona Trail Utah Border Obelisk

Arizona National Scenic Trail Obelisk at the Utah Border

In late June, I went back to Chicago because my youngest brother Shawn was getting married and I was the officiant! It was an honor and a beautiful wedding and I’m excited about my new sister-in-law Liz. Ancestral land of the Peoria, Potawatomi and MiamiSirena Officiating Liz and Shawn Rana Wedding

My best friend of 40 years Kristin and I went on a mini-vacation to Wisconsin to go tubing and to the kind of bars where you drive a boat in. Also did some urban night photography.Sirena and Kristin Night Photography

I had a reunion with people I used to work with almost 30 years ago as a video game tip line operator for the Turbo-Grafx 16 video game system. What fun!Turbo Grafx Reunion

July

After 11 days in the Midwest, I was ready to come home. I love my family, but my heart is in the desert.

Monsoon season was welcome, I got quite a surprise to find that hundreds of spadefoot toads were living right outside the place we moved to last year. Their songs on monsoon nights were incredible.Spadefoot Toad

I helped organize a reunion of the Crazies, the trail crew I volunteered on for many years. Many of these guys are in their 70’s and 80s now but some are still doing trail work. We had such a nice time reminiscing and catching up on Mount Lemmon.Crazies Reunion

The second half of July is all about conventions: first, the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism (AZGCOT), then Outdoor Retailer (OR) summer show. I gave a presentation on attracting tourists to your town through trails and my Tusayan Trails Plan at AZGCOT. A highlight was seeing author Roger Naylor receive a Lifetime Achievement Award and then getting to chat with him afterward.

Arizona Governor's Conference on Tourism

Sirena with Debbie Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Office of Tourism

I attended the Spark 2020 conference before OR, it focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and was a great opportunity to meet with others doing this work. I also got to meet some Instagram friends in real life like Karen Ramos from Get Out, Stay Out, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers and Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping. Ancestral lands of the Sioux, Ute, Cheyenne and Arapahoe.

Spark 2020 Conference

Spark 2020 Conference

Love this Outside Magazine cover!

Love this Outside Magazine cover! First thing folks saw as they entered OR. WIth Amanda “Zuul” Jameson, Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers and Ambreen Tariq from Brown People Camping

At OR, I sat on a panel celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Scenic Trails Act. Proud to be representing Trails Inspire and to be called on as an expert on the Arizona Trail and Gateway Community development. It was also the first show where I didn’t have to look for a book deal, because I already have one 🙂

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel

50th Anniversary of National Scenic Trails Act Panel at Outdoor Retailer

Meeting with Tanya from Wilderness Press

With Tanya Twerdowsky from my publisher, Wilderness Press

August

Got to canyoneer Willow Canyon with my friend Russell James Newberg. Go check out his amazing paper art!

Willow Canyon - Photo Russell James Newberg

Canyoneering Willow Canyon – Photo Russell James Newberg

I was featured on She Explores podcast, Because Trails Inspire and had a great time talking with Gale Straub about trails, adventures, and my background.

Celebrated 15 years of marriage with Brian!Brian and Sirena Dufault

Did a couple of swimming hikes in Sabino and Tanque Verde Canyons with friends old and new.

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon

Sirena and Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

Lydia and me in Tanque Verde Canyon

Lydia at Tanque Verde Falls

 

I went up Mount Lemmon with Stina Sieg from KJZZ to film the story that was referenced in the beginning of the blog on diversity in the outdoors.

Gave my Hiking the Arizona Trail talk at the Chandler REI with the Arizona Office of Tourism. They live streamed it and it was so neat to see people checking in from all over the world!

Topped the month off with an overnight in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. It was a wildflower wonderland, I saw over 30 different kinds! Ancestral lands of the O’odham and Yaqui.Flower Collage 1

September

I saw that the sunflowers were going wild on the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff, so I set out on a road trip to capture them and do more book research. Ancestral lands of the Western Yavapai, Hopi and Apache.Runner with sunflowers - Arizona Trail, Buffalo Park

Outdoor Project included me in their Women in the Wild series, make sure to look at the other women featured, it’s a great list!

Trails Inspire signed the Phase 2 contract for the Tusayan Community Trails Plan, which will largely focus on environmental studies in compliance with federal NEPA regulations, tribal consult through the Kaibab National Forest and an interpretive plan for signage.

The proposed Grand Canyon History Trail will focus on the story of the associated tribes as well as the history of tourism in the region.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan Map - Public Comment

On National Public Lands Day, I went to the Vermilion Cliffs to see the Peregrine Fund release four California Condors. It was majestic to see the massive birds take to the skies, free for the first time.

Visited the Kaibab Plateau to get the first of the fall colors on the Arizona Trail at East Rim Viewpoint. I had hoped that this certain grove of aspen would be changing in Tater Canyon and I hit it just perfectly! Ancestral lands of the Northern Paiute and Ute.East Rim View - Tater Canyon AZT

Then I was back to my favorite place in the world, Grand Canyon. The upper part of the North Kaibab Trail is in the book and I was hoping to get some fall photos there as well. When I arrived they were just starting to change. I had a little time to kill so I went to the Backcountry Office and got a walk-in permit for a night at Bright Angel Campground and one at Cottonwood CG.

Writing in the Hammock

Writing in my hammock

I was so excited, I hadn’t been all the way down the North Kaibab since 2014 and I had such a good time. My friend Ranger Della was down there and we got to catch up. It was so good to visit the Colorado River and Ribbon Falls, soak in Bright Angel Creek and enjoy the marvel that is the 14 miles that make up the North Kaibab Trail.Sirena North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

The last couple of years, I have taken a leisurely approach to hiking out of Grand Canyon and it has made it so much fun! I had seven miles to hike out and 4200 feet of elevation gain. I took ten hours, waking up early and getting on trail at first light to beat the heat, but then taking long breaks, enjoying the scenery, taking photos and videos and savoring the experience.

By the time I hiked out, the leaves had changed on the upper part of the trail and I got the fall color I had come to photograph. What a great bonus trip. Ancestral lands of Northern Paiute and Ute.Fall Colors North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon

October

Back to Flagstaff for fall colors on the slopes of Mount Humphreys. I had to run to Tusayan to take care of some business so I stopped by the South Rim Grand Canyon and got to see an inversion. I discovered the timelapse function on my Iphone and caught this dance of mist and light.

I attended the SHIFT conference in Jackson, Wyoming and got to meet some other people doing work on diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. Also got to see the Tetons for the first time and was lucky enough to have Jaylyn Gough from Native Women’s Wilderness take me out to see the sunrise in the park. Ancestral lands of the Cheyenne, Eastern Shoshone and Shoshone-Bannock.

SHIFT Conference

SHIFT Conference Emerging Leaders Program

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

For Halloween, I did a solo overnight bushwhack to Table Mountain in the Catalinas and transformed into a butterfly on the summit. Tough hike full of spiny and painful plants but worth it to see the views.

A woman in a skirt carries a large backpack with butterfly wings on top of a mountain

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

November

The Arizona Office of Tourism sponsored a trip to Minneapolis and I gave two talks on Hiking the AZT at the REI flagship location. One of the highlights of the trip was taking a tour of Paisley Park, Prince’s estate. He was such a talented musician and I really enjoyed the experience. Ancestral lands of the Dakota/Sioux and Anishinaabe.

REI Minneapolis

REI Minneapolis

Wrote a retrospective of this blog on the 9-year anniversary of Sirena’s Wanderings with my favorite photos and hikes.

Spent some of the month organizing the book research and photos that I’d completed so far and writing.

Took an impromptu trip to Aravaipa Canyon for fall colors and was thrilled to get this photo.Aravaipa Canyon

Joined Women Who Hike for a group event at the Linda Vista Trail and Summit Hut. Fun to meet like-minded ladies!

Women Who Hike - Traci Edwards Photo

Women Who Hike – Traci Edwards Photo

December

Traveled to Tusayan for a Stakeholders meeting for my trails plan and had to go see the snow covered Grand Canyon. It was super cold (9 degrees at night!) so it was a short trip.Snow at Grand Canyon South Rim

Continued to write and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken so far during the book research process.

Headed down to the Mexican border to surprise Art “Karts” Huesonica at the end of his record setting Arizona Trail hike. He did a calendar year Yo-yo: hiked it northbound in the spring, and southbound in the fall, a distance of 1600 miles!Karts AZT Yo-yo Finish

Watched the Geminid meteor shower from the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson and got some fun light painting shots.Light Painting in the Saguaros

Spent four days in the Copper Corridor on the Arizona Trail hiking and researching the book. I was shocked to see how many wildflowers are blooming, even poppies!Gila River Canyons Flowers AZT

What a year! Thanks to all who have followed along. For years, I’ve said, “This is the year I’m going to write a book”, and I’m so grateful that it has now become a reality.

 

 

 

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Happy nine-year anniversary to this blog! Thanks to all who have followed along, whether it was from the beginning or you found it more recently. I don’t post here as much as I used to, but head over to my personal Instagram at @desertsirena or the one for my consulting company, Trails Inspire at @trailsinspire for more frequent updates. For example – what I wore for Halloween this year on my bushwhack up Table Mountain for a solo overnight:

A woman in a skirt carries a large backpack with butterfly wings on top of a mountain

Table Mountain Halloween Costume

The way that Sirena’s Wanderings came about is that in 2008-09 I section-hiked the Arizona Trail to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia and kept a website for it. I enjoyed sharing my adventures so when that hike was over, I started this blog. Here’s a collection of my favorite photos from the last nine years. What fun to see the progression of my outdoor skills (and hiking fashion)! Grab a beverage, there’s about 50 photos, most of them have links back to the blog entry for more information.

When I started this blog, if you’d told me that in nine years I’d be working as a professional in the outdoor industry, canyoneering down waterfalls, scrambling and climbing peaks and retired from guiding on the river in Grand Canyon I’d have been incredulous. Who knows what the next nine years will bring?

This is the first photo I uploaded to this blog in 2009:

Double Rainbow and O'Neill Butte

Double Rainbow and O’Neill Butte on the Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers Service Project

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I love sleeping under the stars! No tent for me unless there’s going to be rain or mosquitoes. 50-Year Trail to Sutherland Gap

 

Samaniego Ridge

Samaniego Ridge from the Baby Jesus Ridge Tr.

2010

Coming up the South Gully

My first scrambling hike: Ragged Top – Coming up the South Gully- Photo by Bill Bens

 

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Elephant Head – Chino Canyon behind me

Me and the Weaver's Needle

Me and the Weavers Needle – Superstition Mountains, Grand Enchantment Trail

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

Lost Dutchman State Park in bloom

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Grand Enchantment Trail – Santa Teresa Wilderness -Holdout Canyon Overlook

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa

Important piece of summer gear in Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, Grand Enchantment Trail

My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Baldy Saddle, Mount Wrightson: My favorite of the evening- 7:34 pm

Who says the desert is a dry place?

Who says the desert is a dry place? Photo by Bill Bens

Sunset on The Pinnacles

Grand Enchantment Trail – Pinaleno Mountains -Sunset on The Pinnacles

Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

Grand Canyon Service Project– Yummy fall foliage at Supai Tunnel

The Royal Arch

My most read post on the site: the tale of mishap and adventure known as the The Royal Arch Loop

2011

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnake on a night hike

Free Rappel

Free Rappel on the Weavers Needle

Weaver's Needle

Weavers Needle – I climbed that!

The magic corridor

The magic corridor at The Wave

Huethawali

Royal Arch Route – Mount Huethawali

Big smiles after the best ride of the trip

Big smiles after Lava Falls on my life-changing trip on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon

Rockfellow Dome

Rockfellow Dome, Dragoon Mountains

Volunteers finish up the final piece of trail

Volunteers and agency partners finish up connecting the final piece of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River – Mike Bieke photo

The ATA Bronco

Me and the Arizona Trail Bronco when I got my job as the Gateway Community Liaison for the Arizona Trail Association

2012

Sirena contemplating the desert splendor

Sirena contemplating the desert splendor- photo by Wendy Lotze – Gila River Canyons, AZT

Micro Chicken's first canyon too!

Micro Chicken and me in our first canyon – photo by Clint Poole

 

Bill meets Micro Chicken

Bill meets Micro Chicken, my adventure companion since 2011, on Elephant Head

Clear Creek Waterfall

Clear Creek Waterfall  on my first river trip that I worked with Grand Canyon Whitewater as a river guide in Grand Canyon

Fall Colors

Fall Colors in Ash Creek, Galiuro Mountains

View north from atop Table Mtn.

View north from atop Table Mountain, photo by Wendy Lotze

2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Farewell to Zeus, the dog that helped me get into hiking and was my companion for many years

Festive hiking attire

Festive hiking attire in Grand Canyon for Christmas

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Prominent Point!

2014

In 2014, I thru-hiked the AZT and developed the Arizona Trail Trek to promote the trail, the new AZT guidebook that I helped to write, and the Gateway Communities. For 2 1/2 months I hiked, held 12 fundraisers for the trail, took over 100 people on the trail with me on 5 backpacking trips and 7 dayhikes and raised almost $18,000 for the Arizona Trail Association. It was the trip of a lifetime. I’d hike the AZT a third time, it’s that good of a trail.

Arizona Trail Trek Start

Arizona Trail Trek start at Montezuma Pass – my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail took 2 1/2 months from March 14 to May 31st

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle, Arizona Trail – one of the best views in all the Catalinas – India Hesse photo

Sirena and her dad, Budh Rana - photo by Levi Davis

My dad, Budh Rana: best support crew ever! – photo by Levi Davis

Happy to be in the cool pines!

Happy to be in the cool pines! Mogollon Rim, Arizona Trail Trek

What a great group!

What a great group of ladies (and Jasmine the mini-donkey) on the Women’s Backpacking Trip, Arizona Trail Trek

Little Colorado Confluence

Little Colorado Confluence with the Colorado River from guiding season with Arizona River Runners

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH

Starting out at Temporal Gulch TH – Holiday backpacking trip in the Santa Rita Mountains, AZT

2015

Snowy American Flag Trailhead

Snowy start to the year – New Year’s Day at American Flag Trailhead, Arizona Trail

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here! Ambassador trip with Gossamer Gear

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

A perfect day with Warrior Hike, which helps veterans by putting them on the National Scenic Trails and waterways – 7 miles and 4700 ft. down the South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch

Tunnel Falls- a magnificent place to be!

Tunnel Falls, Columbia River Gorge – a magnificent place to be!

Little Colorado River

Leading a hike to the Little Colorado River while working as a river guide in Grand Canyon

Hiking above last night's lake

Hiking above last night’s lake in Olympic National Park

In 2015, I started working on my Grand Canyon Traverse, hiking the length of Grand Canyon in sections. I’d done sections of the Tonto Trail since 2009 but this meant I’d commit to traversing the whole 277-mile length of the Canyon. Still working on it and about a third of the way through. When I’m done it will be more like 600 miles of hiking.

Hiking to Cardenas

Hiking to Cardenas on a six day solo trip from Tanner to Grandview, Grand Canyon

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach

Headlamp Fun at Nevills Beach (75-Mile Canyon) Grand Canyon

Viewpoint on the ridgetop

Viewpoint on the ridgetop, Arizona Trail – photo Carrie Miracle-Jordan

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Cheering at the end of Hermit Rapid at 22,000 cfs, the most fun on the whole river! My last trip as a river guide with Arizona River Runners

Willow Canyon

Willow Canyon rappel – photo by Russell James Newberg

2016

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Birthday night fun on the Black Bridge, Grand Canyon

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Tore my calf muscle and had to be evacuated by helicopter out of Grand Canyon

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek

Relaxing on the Muav ledges in Kanab Creek, Grand Canyon (six months after my injury)

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Sunset and Moonrise on The Dome, Grand Canyon

Happy to be in the maples!

Happy to be in the maples! Ash Creek, Galiuro Mountains

2017

2017 brought a whole new adventure – starting my consulting company Trails Inspire, LLC! Trails Inspire promotes the outdoors via writing, public speaking, photography, and trail design and development.

Trails inspire Square Logo visit www.trailsinspire to learn more!

Trails Inspire, LLC –  Logo design by Wendy Lotze

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Dragoon Mountains, Sky Island Traverse

Unkar Overlook, Escalante Route

Escalante Route, Unkar Overlook with India – Photo Mark S.

Tusayan Trails Master Plan

Getting my first trail design, the Tusayan Trails Master Plan, approved at Town Council

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights

While my hiking companions sleep, I play with lights – Horsethief Route, Grand Canyon

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte

Looking back at Nankoweap Butte – Horsethief Route, Grand Canyon

2018

In 2018, I got my very first book deal with Wilderness Press to write Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail! It’s due out in Spring 2020 and I’m having the best time doing the research.

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Hiking The Loop, and 80-mile hike on Pima County’s multi-user trail system

Arizona Trail near the Utah Border

Doing book research for Dayhikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail for Wilderness Press near the Utah border

REI Minneapolis

Presentation on Hiking the Arizona National Scenic Trail with the Arizona Office of Tourism at the REI Minneapolis, MN flagship store

Wow, that’s a lot of wandering – I so enjoy sharing my adventures with you, thanks for reading! And thanks to my sponsors: Gossamer Gear, Huppybar and Purple Rain Adventure Skirts for all the support over the years. And extra gratitude for my husband Brian – even though he’s not a hiker, he’s been an amazing support crew and partner through it all.

Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

Brian and me at the Patagonia event, Arizona Trail Trek

And by the way, I am still a volunteer at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson and still consider it to be one of the best ways to spend my time. So grateful to be able to do this work.

I’ll be doing my usual year-end wrap-up here next month. Here’s to the next nine years!

Training a Great Horned Owl

Training a Great Horned Owl at Wildlife Rehabilitation in Northwest Tucson

 

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Recently, as part of my partnership with the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), I gave my Hiking the Arizona Trail talk at REI in Chandler.  AOT livestreamed the presentation on their Instagram and Facebook and we got people from all over the world tuning in! Below is the presentation, a tour from Mexico to Utah with tips and tricks to plan your own adventure on the Arizona Trail. Plenty of stories, information and my best photos from over a decade on the AZT.

I’ll be doing a series of 8 articles, talks and social media posts with the Office of Tourism during my hike research for my upcoming book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail with Wilderness Press. The articles will start next month, I’ll be sure to share them when they are published.

I’ve given this talk numerous times, but haven’t ever seen a recording of it. As suspected, I talk with my hands. A lot. No matter how brown and East Indian my skin is, the hands are all Italian. Hope you enjoy the presentation!

Shreve Saddle, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

Shreve Saddle on the Arizona Trail, one of the best views in all the Catalinas

 

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Exciting announcement: I just signed my first book contract!

To the Arizona Trail - Writer Sirena Rana Dufault

For the next year and a half I will be researching and writing a book, Day Hikes on the Arizona National Scenic Trail, for Wilderness Press. It will have 26 of the best day hikes on the Arizona Trail combined with lots of interpretive information and photos of the views, history, plants, and more. Each day hike is connected to one of the Gateway Communities for post-hike eats, lodging and other fun things to do in the area.
Arizona Trail Sign - Picketpost Trailhead

Arizona Trail Sign at Picketpost Trailhead near the Gateway Community of Superior

I have wanted to write this book for years! I always get questions about people wanting to go on the AZT that are intimidated by choosing where to hike. The book will have hikes for all seasons and a wide range of difficulty levels from novice to expert. It will also be a resource for people just getting into the outdoors with info on what to bring and desert hiking tips and tricks.

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park

View from the Dale Shewalter Memorial at Buffalo Park in the Gateway Community of Flagstaff

Thrilled to be creating a resource that will make it easy to experience this wonderful long-distance trail and its communities without having to do the whole 800 miles.

Now it’s time to get to work! I won’t have a lot of time to post on this blog but I’ll be sharing photos and video of my research process as I go along on my Instagram @desertsirena and the Trails Inspire Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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So much going on! Instead of my usual triplog format, I thought I’d give folks a update on where I’ll be doing presentations and links to recent media I’ve been featured in.

Thursday, April 26th at 7:15 pm – I’ll be doing a brand-new free presentation “From Suburbanite to Adventurer” at Summit Hut’s location at 5151 E. Speedway. I’ll be telling the story of how I got into hiking and the outdoors, sharing stories from my adventures and giving tips on planning your own! This talk is part of their Shop and Talk Shindig with raffles, giveaways, beer and wine from 6 – 8 pm.

1990's Fashion Photos

1990’s modeling photos of a much different Sirena- if I can learn to be outdoorsy, anyone can!

Saturday, April 28th – I’ll be at the Continental Divide Trail Kickoff event in Silver City, New Mexico giving a talk on Desert Hiking Tips at 1 pm, and I am also part of the Thru-Hiker Panel at 3 pm. All presentations are at the Western New Mexico University campus, in the Student Memorial Building 3rd Floor Seminar Room.

Gateway Community of the CDT

Gateway Community of the CDT

Saturday, May 5th – I will be a guest on the popular radio show Rosie on the House, talking about my adventures, Trails Inspire and the Tusayan Community Trails Plan. Click here to find broadcast times in your area or to listen to the show after it’s aired.

Sunday, May 6th – I will be a panelist at the REI Force of Nature Celebration Reunion Party from 10:30- 12:30 am at Lost Dutchman State Park. The event is free but registration is required. The Force of Nature initiative celebrates women in the outdoors and I’m excited to be a part of this event. From the description:

“It’s a social opportunity to meet women who share your interests in the outdoors, learn about women-focused programs and organizations with a women’s panel discussion from women leader’s in the Phoenix outdoor community and relax with good company! REI will provide activities, free entry to the park for those registered, and of course some rad giveaways. This event is free to attend. All that is required is a sense of adventure and the readiness to be inspired!”FON Reunion (4)-page-001

Hope to see some of you at these events, all are free to the public!

Here’s a couple of  articles that have featured either me and/or my company Trails Inspire:

I’m excited about my interview with one of my favorite website/podcasts She Explores: Blaze Your Own Trail

Thrilled to be chosen as one of the Arizona Daily Star: Badass Women of Tucson

Badass Women of Tucson

The most popular podcast for long distance hikers, The Trail Show, featured The Loop as their April Trail O’ da Month: The Trail Show #70: The Loop

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Hike The Loop

I also wrote a piece about my experiences and diversity in the outdoors for Gossamer Gear’s blog,

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

Dad and me in Cienega Creek

As far as adventures go, Hike The Loop was a complete success! I hiked 80 miles in 5 days along with award-winning author Liz Thomas on Pima County’s urban trail system. We had so much fun exploring the parks, art, food and communities on The Loop and our hike into the Completion Celebration was fantastic. We invited the public to join us on the last four miles and they had a wonderful introduction to the trail system. Visit the Trails Inspire blog for detailed media coverage from the journey.

Check out the Facebook Live videos and the Trails Inspire Instagram for lots more photos and videos of Hike The Loop! Here’s my favorite, an interview we did with three women who joined us on the public hike. This is what Trails Inspire is all about:

I climbed Baboquivari Peak again with my dear friends Dave Baker, Wendy Lotze and Gary Hervert. That place is magical and challenging and I am fortunate for any time spent there.

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Wendy approaching Baboquivari Peak

Baboquivari Peak Summit

Baboquivari Peak Summit

The biggest news, however, is that I finally got the section of Grand Canyon done that I had to get helicoptered out of in 2016 after tearing my calf muscle! I spent a wonderful week solo from South Bass to Hermit. I’ll get to writing it up sometime soon, still going through the many photos and videos.

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Walking past the evacuation site from 2016

Not only did I get that section done, it connected a big chunk of my line through Grand Canyon, 65 river miles from Nankoweap to Elves Chasm. Piece by piece, I’ll get the whole thing hiked someday.

Do Epic Shit

Do Epic Shit

So there it is – lots of travel, spreading the word about the outdoors and working on my trail project in Tusayan. The Community Trails project is currently in the public comment period until May 7th and you can see the Master Plan that I developed and leave your comment about the plan at this link.Tusayan Trails Master Plan Map - Public Comment

It’s been a crazy-busy spring, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Glad that the company is doing so well and that I’m getting all these fantastic opportunities! Hard to believe ten years have passed since I started blogging at the beginning of my first Arizona Trail hike way back in 2008. Thanks to my readers for your support through the years!

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The Loop is a system of paved, shared-use paths and short segments of buffered bike lanes connecting the Rillito, Santa Cruz, and Pantano River Parks with the Julian Wash and Harrison Road Greenways. It extends through unincorporated Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, Tucson, and South Tucson. The Loop connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, workplaces, restaurants, schools, hotels and motels, shopping areas, and entertainment venues. It is 131 miles total linking 30 parks and is the longest public multi-use path in the U. S. Click on the map below to enlarge or this link for an interactive map.4884 upgrade loop map V14 RTP

Starting on March 13th in partnership with Pima County, my company Trails Inspire will be covering all the river parks and greenways in the system, hiking approximately 80 miles in five days. The hike will end at The Loop completion celebration on March 17th at Kino Sports Complex. Trails Inspire is a consulting company that promotes the outdoors via photography, freelance writing, public speaking and trail design. I’ve logged thousands of miles hiking, backpacking, rafting and canyoneering in the Southwest and consider the Grand Canyon my second home. This journey will be a little different than what I’m used to, especially in regards to on-trail ice cream and taco stops 🙂

Sirena Dufault Hike The Loop

Sirena Dufault along The Loop, Tucson

I am excited to be joined by Liz Thomas, who is among the most experienced female hikers in the U.S. and known for backpacking light, fast, and solo.  She is affectionately known as the “Queen of Urban Hiking,” having pioneered and completed routes in 5 cities.  She is an award-winning author, public speaker and advocate for public lands. She will also be giving a talk on thru-hiking at the Tucson REI on March 16th from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.

Liz Thomas Chicago

Liz Thomas on her urban thru-hike of Chicago

During the hike, we will be posting on Trails Inspire’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, as well as The Loop’s Facebook page, doing live feeds and sharing the art, parks, and other points of interest we discover on their journey across Tucson with the hashtag #HikeTheLoop. Each day, we will highlight the food that makes Tucson a UNESCO International City of Gastronomy. We will also be promoting diversity with our message that the outdoors is for everyone.

The hike will end at the Completion Celebration at Kino Sports Complex on Saturday, March 17th. Sign up to join us as we hike the last 4.2 miles from Augie Acuña Los Ninos Park at 5432 S. Bryant Avenue into the Completion Celebration, arriving at Kino Sports Complex. Jasmine the adorable Mini-Donkey will even be along for the hike and event! There will be entertainment and activities for adults and kids alike and a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at 11:30. Transportation will be available at 1 pm to shuttle people back to their cars. The hike is free but registration is required through REI at bit.ly/CompletionCelebrationHike.

There are also completion celebrations for The Loop taking place on the 17th at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.The Loop Completion Celebration

Born out of the disastrous floods of 1983, The Loop began taking shape when Pima County taxpayers started investing their Pima County Regional Flood Control District dollars in building soil-cement banks along the metropolitan waterways to guard against future flooding. The County took the opportunity to build along those overbank areas a river park system that has become one of the most popular recreational facilities in the region.

We hope you’ll follow along on social media as we Hike The Loop and join us for the completion celebration on March 17th! See the video below for a taste of what The Loop has to offer.

Loop Celebration-Flyer for Kino Spanish

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