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Posts Tagged ‘Utah’

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

Lone Rock Beach

Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell

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

Agathla Peak

Agathla Peak

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

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

AZT Mobile in Utah

AZT Mobile in Utah

Navajo Arch

Navajo Arch

Arches - Devil's Garden

Arches – Devil’s Garden

Partition Arch

Partition Arch

Micro Chicken getting eaten by the crazy rock

Micro Chicken getting eaten by the crazy rock

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

La Sal Mountain Sunset

La Sal Mountain Sunset

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Sunset at Balanced Rock

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

Hello Colorado River!

Hello Colorado River!

Scrambling up the canyon

Scrambling up the canyon

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Hiking the slickrock toward Jeep Arch

Approaching Jeep Arch

Approaching Jeep Arch

Disco strikes a pose

Disco from The Trail Show strikes a pose

Slickrock perch

Slickrock perch

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

Heart-shaped linked tinajas

Heart-shaped linked tinajas

Gold Bar Rim Pano

Gold Bar Rim Pano

Twinkle living on the edge

Twinkle living on the edge

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

Balanced Rock Sunset

Sunset at Balanced Rock

Turret Arch

Turret Arch

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

Needles District, Canyonlands

Needles District, Canyonlands

Bearclaw descends the ladder

Bearclaw descends the ladder

Dirtmonger and Bearclaw

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

Slickrock Snorkel

Slickrock Snorkel

Granaries

Granaries

Icy in the shady spots

Icy in the shady spots

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

Tinajas

Tinajas

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Loving exploring Canyonlands- I need to come backpacking here!

Me and Grant Sible

Me and Grant Sible

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

Me and Levi at the Arizona Trail Exhibit

Me and Levi Davis at the Arizona Trail Exhibit

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

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Flying a Red-Tailed Hawk

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

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May 31st

I woke up underneath my juniper tree at my last camp of the Arizona Trail Trek, glad that I had a little time to myself before everyone arrived to hike the last 11 miles to the Utah border with me. I wrote in my journal, something I’d done very little of this hike. Sure, I’d jotted down notes and things to remember, but not the kind of writing outdoors that feeds my soul.

Last camp on the Arizona Trail Trek

Last camp on the Arizona Trail Trek

Scott, who had been on several of my other hikes along the way, popped out at Winter Road around 8:30 am. He’d started in the dark at Jacob Lake and had already hiked 17 miles. He was glad he’d caught me for the final hike into Utah.

Around 9 am, my dad arrived with my mom and other hikers Anne and Steve and my husband Brian came with Levi, the videographer.

Levi, Steve, me, my mom Anna. Anne, and Scott

Levi, Steve, me, my mom Anna. Anne, and Scott

The trail rolled through the sagebrush and in and out of several canyons. It was a gorgeous day with big fluffy clouds and a nice breeze to keep the temperatures down.

Through the sagebrush

Through the sagebrush

The trail went into Larkum Canyon and strange rocks appeared. There are baseball to softball sized round inclusions pitting the rock faces along the trail, I would love to know what causes this.

Larkum Canyon

Larkum Canyon

Round inclusions in the rock

Round inclusions in the rock

A big horned lizard joined the group for a break

A big horned lizard joined the group for a break

The trail climbed out of the canyon and wound through the junipers before coming to a spectacular overlook where we took our lunch break. You could see all the way into Utah, colorful sandstone and rock formations and the Coyote Valley below.

Tantalizing glimpses of Utah sandstone

Tantalizing glimpses of Utah sandstone

The Stateline Trailhead became visible in the valley and I knew my journey was soon coming to an end. We hiked the 22 switchbacks into the Coyote Valley and then through the sagebrush.

Stateline Trailhead below

Stateline Trailhead below

Micro Chicken getting close to traversing the whole state!

Micro Chicken getting close to traversing the whole state!

Makes me want to keep hiking into Utah

Makes me want to keep hiking into Utah

I could see my husband Brian in the distance and he yelled “Arizona Trail!!!” I yelled it back, feeling triumphant. I had just hiked here all the way from Mexico!! I stopped for a picture at my favorite hole in the rock near the trailhead before continuing the rest of the way to the Utah border.

Hole in the rock near the state line

Hole in the rock near the state line

My dad was there to welcome me and Brian had put the Arizona Trail Trek banner up on the gazebo at the Stateline Trailhead. We all cheered as I reached the border and Brian had set up a celebration with champagne and cupcakes to toast the succesful completion of the Arizona Trail Trek.

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, AZ/UT border

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, AZ/UT border

Such a bummer- an empty register!

Such a bummer- an empty register!

Don't make me leave!

Don’t make me leave!

I didn’t have a lot of time to savor the moment, because we were on a schedule to be back in the Gateway Community of Page for the big finale celebration. It was bittersweet leaving the state line- I was so proud of what I’d accomplished with the hike, the events, and raising awareness for the trail, yet now it was over.

The finale was hosted by Sanderson’s Into the Grand, a museum dedicated to the history of commercial river rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Hoss and Karen Sanderson were incredible hosts and cooked up a delicious dutch oven meal and Bob Paluzzi provided the entertainment. It was a fitting place to end the hike, as I will be starting my season as a guide on the river at the end of June.

Bob The Musician

Bob “The Musician” Paluzzi

Hoss Sanderson

Hoss Sanderson

Feel right at home- this is a boat my company donated to the museum

Feel right at home- this is a boat my company donated to the museum

It was a most jovial atmosphere, with people coming up to congratulate me left and right. I got to tell a bunch of stories and celebrate the realization of a dream I have had since 2007. Seven years since I’d first had the inspiration to thru-hike the Arizona Trail and it was totally worth the wait.

After the event, we went to Antelope Point Marina, who was kind enough to donate a houseboat for the evening. We stargazed on the top deck and saw many shooting stars. It was a fantastic way to end the hike!

Hanging out on the houseboat

Hanging out on the houseboat

A great way to end a fantastic journey!

A great way to end a fantastic journey!

What an experience. It has been three weeks since I finished the trail and it’s something that I’m going to be processing for a long time.

I wouldn’t have been able to hike across the state without the help of many wonderful people who volunteered their time and talents to make this happen. A million thanks to the following:

  • My sponsors- Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, That Brewery, Peace Surplus, and Summit Hut!!

    Wonderful Sponsors!

    Wonderful Sponsors!

  • All the folks who donated through the Indiegogo campaign or at the events- the Arizona Trail Trek raised $17,800 for the Arizona Trail Association!
  • All the businesses that hosted and the musicians that provided the entertainment at the 13 Gateway Community events- thanks for creating a space for people to enjoy themselves while talking trail!
  • Folks that helped with shuttles and vital water caches up and down the state, volunteering their time and gas money to make the public hikes and backpacking trips happen
  • People that hosted me and my dad in the Gateway communities- thank you for opening your homes to us!
  • My backpacking bestie Wendy Lotze for helping with planning, logistics and food

    Sirena & Wendy at Oracle Ridge Trailhead

    Sirena & Wendy at Oracle Ridge Trailhead

  • Ambika B. for her help with the Indiegogo campaign

    Me and Ambika

    Me and Ambika

  • Sarae Hoff, for designing my sweet Arizona Trail Trek logo

    Sarae made me vacuum-sealed cookies for my hike!

    Sarae made me vacuum-sealed cookies for my hike!

  • Leigh Anne Thrasher and Jasmine the mini-donkey for being so supportive and a delight to hike with!

    Leigh Anne and Jasmine

    Leigh Anne and Jasmine

  • Christy Snow and Jeff Harris for all the wonderful things you do
  • The Arizona Trail Association for being composed of the nicest and most supportive people you could hope to meet- I have made countless friends through the ATA, people who are willing to go the extra mile to support the trail they love so much.
  • My fantastic husband Brian for supporting my dreams and helping at the events when he came to visit me.

    Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

    Me and Brian at the Patagonia event

  • Saving the biggest thanks for last- my dad came out from Chicago for two months to support me on my journey, driving countless miles and running supplies. It was always such a treat to see him waiting for me at the trailhead and I cherish the time we were able to spend together.

    Me and my Dad at the Grand Canyon

    Me and my Dad at the Grand Canyon

Amazing that it all came together as well as it did. There were so many different pieces that had to work properly and I consider myself very fortunate that everyone involved stayed safe and healthy.

So now I’ve hiked the Arizona Trail twice, and am proud to be part of a pretty short list of repeaters. I’d hike it a third time, that’s how spectacular this trail is. Next time it will be southbound in the fall to see a different perspective. Who knows when that will be, for now I’ve got to shift my focus to my upcoming season as a guide on the Colorado River. The only thing keeping me sane after my hike is that I know that I’ll be spending my summer in my favorite place, the Grand Canyon.

Wading in Deer Creek near the Patio

Wading in Deer Creek near the Patio

Incredible light on Conquistador Aisle

Incredible light on Conquistador Aisle

Whether you came to the events and hikes or virtually followed along, it was great to share this incredible journey with you. Thanks for being a part of it!

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Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, AZ/UT border

Arizona Trail at Stateline Trailhead, AZ/UT border

On May 31st after 2 1/2 months of hiking, events, fundraising, public hikes and backpacking trips and media appearances- I reached the Utah border! What an incredible feeling to have hiked here connecting my steps all the way from Mexico, over 800 miles away!

Monument 102 at the Mexican border

Monument 102 at the Mexican Border- seems like a long time ago!

It was bittersweet to see the multicolored sandstone of the Coyote Valley and know that this journey would soon come to an end. Exciting that I have now walked across Arizona twice!

There was a big celebration at Sanderson’s Into the Grand in Page and Antelope Point Marina was kind enough to donate a houseboat for the evening. Now resting back at my home in Tucson, I will fill in the journals I didn’t have time for while on the trail.

A big thanks to all who donated to the campaign- the total of Indiegogo donations and money raised at events came to $17,800!! If you haven’t made a contribution yet and would like to, follow this link to donate to the Arizona Trail Association.

Many thanks also go to my sponsors Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, Summit Hut and Peace Surplus; and a special thanks goes to That Brewery for donating all that tasty Arizona Trail Ale for the Gateway Community Events!

Thanks to my sponsors!

Thanks to my sponsors!

Thanks to all who participated in the public hikes, backpacks, and events- the turnout was better than I could have imagined and it was a pleasure to share the trail with so many folks. And thanks to all who donated their time, talents, and spaces for the Gateway Community Event series.

So many people helped out with logistics, shuttles, lodging, etc, that it deserves its own blog post. But a special shout-out goes to my dad, who was here for two months being the best support crew a hiker could ask for, and my husband Brian, who is infinitely patient and supportive of my need for adventure.

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

Now it’s time for me to catch up on my rest- I’ve got three weeks until my river season starts. It definitely softens the blow of being done on the trail knowing that I will spend the rest of the summer working as a guide on the Colorado River in my favorite place of all- the Grand Canyon!

 

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My friend Wendy “the permit whisperer” was able to secure a highly desirable February 17th permit for four to The Wave in the Coyote Buttes North Wilderness, on the Utah/Arizona border. As the date neared, we watched the forecast intently, which was not at all encouraging, calling for cold, snow and rain. We had reservations at the Paria Canyon Guest Ranch bunkhouse, which is located right by the Paria river crossing on Milepost 21, Highway 89 between Kanab,UT and Page, AZ.

Wendy, Sarah, and I left Tucson and picked up Angela in Phoenix on our way to Utah. We stopped for dinner in Cameron, and since it was my birthday, Angela had come prepared with some electric tea candles for ambiance at dinner. The restaurant brought me a very nice sundae decorated with carnations for dessert. At the guest ranch, it was cold and rainy and we were happy to have the whole, warm 16-bed bunkhouse to ourselves. It had a nice kitchen area and a large sectional couch near a gas-burning stove. Angela once again came through with the ambiance- she brought these great wine glasses for everyone that had LED lights that made the stem and base change colors. Very fun!

Wendy, Sarah and Angela enjoy cushy digs and LED-lit wineglasses at the Paria Guest Ranch Bunkhouse

The next day, we were hoping that the forecasters were mistaken, and sure enough, we ended up with the most gorgeous blue skies for the main event: our hike to The Wave. We reached the Wire Pass trailhead at 10am, signed the register, and hiked down the sandy trail. Patches of snow remained in shady areas. When you get a permit to The Wave, they send you a very nice map with pictures of landmarks to navigate by. The Kaibab Plateau could be seen diving down toward the Coyote Valley. The Arizona Trail’s northern terminus at the Stateline Trailhead is just a mile and a half south from Wire Pass Trailhead. I had seen this area from above when I hiked this passage of the Arizona Trail in June 2008 and I remember being awed by the rock formations and colors of Utah from the Kaibab Plateau. Today I was finally getting to explore it.

Snowy ripples

Kaibab Plateau in the distance

After the turnoff to The Wave, the terrain goes from loose and sandy to sandstone staircases and angled slabs. There were fantastic views of hoodoos and the white mass of the West Clark Bench provided a stunning backdrop. There was so much to see- at every turn a new begging-to-be-explored side canyon or formation would catch our eye and we’d go play for a bit, then get back on track toward our destination.

Up the staircase

Hiking across the slabs

Reflections of Angela

Hooters

Sarah gets drawn in by yet another attractive sidecanyon

This looks like Mokume Gane, a Japanese metalworking technique

Toward the cleft in the cliff

Boring scenery on the way to the Wave. Nothing to see here.

The colors get more and more intense

We reached The Wave at about 12:30 pm and it was just as incredible as I’d imagined. It’s a small area, but the striations in the formations create a multicolored wavy bowl that surrounds you. Here’s a video:

Ours was a well-matched group, all of us into photography, and we shot away. Sarah pulled out a surprise- a box of chocolates that she’d carried in her pack. When someone would come in, she would approach them and say, “Welcome to The Wave, would you like a chocolate?”

The Wave

So many different colors!

Fantastic textures

There were a bunch of areas to explore around The Wave, and I had a great time climbing around and looking at the different views. There was one area above The Wave that I dubbed the Brain Domes and another that we called the Goblin Houses. The textures and colors changed at every turn. Video of the Brain Domes:

Looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book

The magic corridor

Brain Domes and a tiny, delicate arch

Wendy provides scale for the multiolored goblin houses

Twisty

Color

Texture

Video taken from the cleft in the cliff looking at the area around The Wave:

We spent a couple of hours in and around The Wave, then left to seek out dinosaur tracks that were across the drainage from The Wave. It took a little time to find, but there were a number of very well-defined three-toed prints in the sandstone. Then we went in search of The Wave 2, but we got off track and instead followed the sandy, windblown wash for a ways before turning around. My camera did not like the sandy conditions and began to have problems with the lens opening all the way. The sand eventually led to the camera’s demise.

Leaving The Wave

Arch above The Wave

Dinosaur tracks

On our hike back we enjoyed the changing light on the formations we’d passed earlier. We had a little bit of daylight left, so I suggested that we visit the Arizona Trail. There is a new sign proclaiming the National Scenic Trail status. I took us on some of the fanciest, log lined, handicap-accessible trail on the whole AZT toward one of my favorite rocks. When I hiked this part of the Arizona Trail, my dad came along as my support crew for parts that were far away from Tucson. I remember coming down the switchbacks on the Kaibab Plateau and seeing my dad waiting for me- a small dot in the valley. When I got to him, he was all excited about finding this rock with a perfect hole in it. (Guess where I get my enthusiasm for the outdoors?) This is one of my favorite pictures of my dad:

Dad in the hole

We took some pictures and were heading back toward the car when we saw a naked guy jump out of a van, get his picture taken with the Arizona Trail sign, jump in the van, then do it again! Mind you by this time we were all wearing down jackets- it couldn’t have been too flattering a picture, if you know what I mean… As we were driving back to the bunkhouse, we saw a group of bucks running in the hills right by the road. Then, we turned the corner to one of the most incredible moonrises over the white rocks of the West Clark Bench. Wendy stopped the car and we all jumped out, taking pictures and oohing and aahing at the fantastic sight. A perfect day was topped off by a gourmet meal with each of us contributing a course.

Not a fantastic picture, but you get the idea...

The next day, we were going to hike to Starlight Arch, near the old Pahreah townsite. The hills in this area are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Eroded badlands with the most vibrantly colorful stripes, topped with crumbling and white rock. It was snowing and overcast when we started our hike, and we weren’t sure how far we would get before weather intervened. Sadly, my camera was still acting up from the sandblasting it had gotten yesterday, so the pictures for this next day are all Angela’s. Our route started out on a roadbed, then turned off into a mudstone canyon that wound back and forth. The bottom of the canyon had slippery patches of mud that provided some entertainment when one of us would lose our balance and start flailing. The walls of the canyon had blue and white stripes and intricate veins of sparkling white gypsum deposits that had crystallized in the cracks in the mud. The directions that we had made only one mention of a tricky spot for navigation, and we passed that without incident. At 3 miles from the trailhead, the canyon was supposed to start opening up and we were to look for a Chinle Dome that marked our exit out of the wash up toward the arch. We had passed a cairn a little ways back, the canyon had opened up, but there was one issue: none of us knew what a Chinle Dome was supposed to look like. Where we were, there were several that looked like they would qualify. We followed a couple of cairns to where the drainage angled steeply toward the base of the Vermillion Cliffs. There were gorgeous pieces of multicolored petrified wood, and we found a couple of really interesting ones, including a petrified knot and several with bark. The skies began to darken, and we figured that it was probably a good idea to turn around. Our entire path had followed a wash, and we didn’t want to be having to navigate it in a rainstorm. We explored several other options, looking for the elusive Chinle Dome before turning around. On our way back we saw the drainage we were supposed to take, the junction of which was far more confusing than the one mentioned in the guidebook. We’d turned north one drainage too early. Of course, at this time the weather had decided to change yet again and was bright and sunny. We just didn’t have the time left in the day to make it to the arch.  Too bad, it looked like it would have fantastic views. Definitely begs for a redux. One thing that was great the past couple of days was that us Sonoran Desert dwellers were very pleased to have done all that exploring with nary a scratch. Bushwhacking without the bushes- I like it.

Gypsum-striped mudstone

Colorful drainage

We had one last place that Wendy wanted to stop on our drive down to Flagstaff to stay the night. The Paria River Rimrock Toadstools- even the name is enticing! It was a short hike to some of the funkiest formations I’ve seen in a long time. Definitely worth the trip.

Fantastic Toadstools

We got back to the car as the sun was setting and drove to Flagstaff and picked up some takeout from my favorite place, Pato Thai, before retiring to the hostel for the evening. The hostel gave us a nice, clean six-bed room to ourselves and the ceiling of the bottom bunks were all covered in amusing notes, pictures, and drawings of eyes contributed by people passing through. It had just started snowing when we arrived in Flag, and we woke up to a couple of inches on the ground and fat snowflakes falling from the sky. On our way back to Tucson, I think we drove through every type of nasty weather imaginable. As we drove south, snow storms turned to rainstorms and then to dust storms near Casa Grande that caused an accident that closed the interstate. I made it home just in time to go to work in the afternoon. What a revitalizing couple of days marveling at all that nature’s palette has to offer.

Here’s the link to the full set of pictures from The Wave:

The Wave 2-16-11

For today’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Fundraiser picture, here’s a wild Harris Hawk that has been hanging around Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson.

Harris Hawk

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