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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife rehabilitation northwest tucson’

I have been incredibly busy planning my upcoming Arizona Trail Trek– a thru-hike to promote the trail, our new guidebook, and the Gateway Communities. I’m starting on March 14th and it’s been a challenge to plan all the things that go along with a thru-hike plus all the fundraising events in the communities along the way. Here’s a promotional poster for the hike, I’ll have the website is www.aztrail.org/azttrek. Getting excited to actually get out on the trail!

Arizona Trail Trek poster

Arizona Trail Trek poster

Today was one of those days where I just had to turn off my phone and go for a hike. Haven’t been up this trail in a while and figured the hike to the pass would provide a good workout.

Romero Canyon above the Pools

Romero Canyon above the Pools

Started around 9:30 and made my way to the pools, lots of blooming fairy duster lining the trail. Only encountered a handful of folks beyond the pools. I forgot how beautiful the trail is above Old Trail Camp, winding through the oaks and junipers and big boulders.

Fairy Duster

Fairy Duster

Old Trail Camp

Old Trail Camp

Ancient grinding holes near the stream

Ancient grinding holes near the stream

I took a break at the waterfall campsite, which has a wonderful log seat with a backrest. The weather was perfect for the last climb to the pass.

Comfy seat at the waterfall campsite

Comfy seat at the waterfall campsite

The pass was windy, as usual. Great views down the West Fork toward the snowy Rincons. I said hi to the Arizona Trail and cut my break short because I was getting chilly.

View from Romero Pass down the West Fork of Sabino Canyon

View from Romero Pass down the West Fork of Sabino Canyon

Arizona Trail- always a welcome sight!

Arizona Trail- always a welcome sight!

Micro Chicken and Romero Canyon

Micro Chicken and Romero Canyon

As I left the pass, I noticed that Romero Canyon looked like it was getting rain, but up at 6000 ft I got snow flurries! They were short-lived and I made my way back down to the waterfall campsite to lounge for a bit on the log seat.

Sky Island Goodness

Sky Island Goodness

This trail is so beautiful, I would really like to do the canyoneering route in Romero Canyon one of these days. I stopped to take pictures of all the different wildflowers I saw- nice variety, hopefully we get more rain soon.

Intriguing pools in the streamcourse

Intriguing pools in the streamcourse

Primrose

Primrose

Blue Dicks

Blue Dicks

Desert Rose Mallow

Desert Rose Mallow

Micro-chicken sized flowers

Micro-chicken sized flowers

I reached my car and decided to wait and watch the sunset before leaving. So glad I did, it was a symphony of light and color on the Catalinas as well as to the west.

Sunset lights up Samaniego Ridge

Sunset lights up Samaniego Ridge

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, I have not been able to volunteer much lately at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson because I am so busy planning my thru-hike. I miss the birds!! Here’s a picture of a hungry hawk- your donations keep these guys fed and housed! I am going to be taking a short break from fundraising for the Wildlife Rehab and switching my focus to fundraising for the Arizona Trail Association during my Arizona Trail Trek. I’ve got an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with unique and exciting incentives coming up to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trail Association starting on March 28th.

Harris Hawk is hungry!

Harris Hawk is hungry!

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A different perspective on the ridgeline and Prominent Point

The Prominent Point Ridgeline as viewed from Tucson, the Thumb is visible to the right of the telephone pole

From January 1st- April 30th, the Bighorn Sheep Management Area of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness is off-limits to off-trail travel. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy off-trail travel. It opens up a world of possibilities and I like the challenge of route-finding.

I wanted to make the last day of the year count and chose Prominent Point as my hike for December 31st . I had been doing some research on different ways to summit, but chose the Pima Canyon approach for my first attempt.

Bill and I started hiking around 7:30 am. The HikeArizona.com description says that the turnoff into the canyon is about 1.6 miles in, it is actually more like 2 miles. The entry is across the creek from the big slabs that I took to Table Mountain last year. There is a nice cairned route that pretty much stays in the canyon bottom. Rosewood Point looms above, but not for long.

Bill in the drainage

Bill in the drainage

We stopped to take a break and noticed that we were at the junction where you go to the right for Rosewood Point. We followed another cairn for the route that curved to the left. The canyon bottom here was pretty open and we had several sections of big slabs to walk up. It got steeper, but didn’t require any scrambling.

Rising above Rosewood Point

Rising above Rosewood Point

We had to ascend toward a saddle with a cliff on the left. No longer on a route, we shot straight up the hill. Big rocks came loose from the soil below and shindagger threatened every step. This was the worst footing of the day, both up and down.

Steep!

Steep!

We reached the saddle and saw our next big climb past the Thumb to the ridgeline. There were great views into Pima Canyon of the Pusch Ridge peaks. Sadly, for all our climbing, we were not yet above Pusch Peak.

Pusch Peak

Pusch Peak

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

The Thumb looms above

The Thumb looms above

Up until now, we’d been in the shade of the canyon. It was surprisingly hot for the last day of the year. There was a pretty good route heading toward the Thumb- what an impressive slab of rock! Finally we reached the ridgeline and the views were incredible. It was pretty easy walking for most of the ridgeline, just a few small scrambles where it narrowed down near the drainages.

Prominent Point west ridgeline

Prominent Point west ridgeline

Backdrop of the sheer cliffs of the Table

Backdrop of the sheer cliffs of the Table

The summit loomed ahead, the final slope steep and unrelenting especially after a long day of uphill. Patches of snow appeared and below the summit I found several large pottery sherds. I would imagine this peak would make a good lookout, given its prominence.

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

Pottery sherds near the summit

Pottery sherds near the summit

We reached the small maze of rocks that make up the Western summit and made a snowman. We posed on top with our New Year’s accoutrements.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Micro Chicken in the snow

Micro Chicken in the snow

Atop the summit jar spot

Atop the summit jar spot

The summit has fantastic views in every direction, too many peaks to name visible. A peregrine falcon flew overhead- what a great way to spend the last day of the year!

Prominent Point East Summit, Mt. Kimball and Little Kimball

Prominent Point East Summit, Mt. Kimball and Little Kimball

We started down the mountain around 1:30 and made our way along the ridgeline. Now that I’ve done this way, I’d like to summit via one of the other routes. Cowgill and Glendening say that the most direct route is the gully that comes off the summit into Finger Rock Canyon, and there are ways to get to it via the route to the Guard as well. So many interesting options! Too bad they will have to wait until after the summer, at least there are bighorn sheep to warrant the closures now. I won’t go into it here, but there was recently a great article in the Tucson Weekly about the Bighorn reintroduction project:  http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/rebalancing-nature/Content?oid=3941330

Neat view of Pusch Ridge, Picacho, Newman

Neat view of Pusch Ridge, Picacho, Newman

The Thumb

The Thumb

The lighting was spectacular on our way down. We managed to be on a route for most of the time which sped progress over straight bushwhacking. Still, the slope from the cliffs to the bottom of the canyon bend was really loose and unpleasant.

So many poky things

So many poky things

It eased up considerably once we got back down to the streambed. We took a break once we hit the shade, right before the side canyon curved back toward Pima Canyon. It is amazing how quiet and remote it feels back there, even though all that is between you and Tucson is Rosewood Point.

The Pima Canyon Trail seemed like it dragged on forever as usual, we saw our first people of the day a mile away from the trailhead. Made it back in time to watch the sunset light on Prominent Point. It doesn’t look as far away from the trailhead, because the long ridge is foreshortened.

Cottonwood in Pima Canyon

Cottonwood in Pima Canyon

Sunset on Prominent Point to top off the last day of the year

Sunset on Prominent Point to top off the last day of the year

Although it was a great hike, Bill and I agreed that it would have been even better with Wendy along. She’s been nursing a bum Achilles tendon-  hope she heals up soon so she can join me on bushwhacking adventures again in the new year.

Overall, the terrain and the route was easier than I had expected. It’s a long day, but the views are totally worth the collection of scratches you’ll amass hiking to Prominent Point.

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, I’m trying to get in as many shifts as I can before I leave for my thru-hike of the Arizona Trail on March 14th. We’ve got quite a few interesting characters at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, including three Peregrine Falcons. This one we’ve had for a while will eat from the fist. So I get to go into the cage with a plate of food, offer up my arm, and it hops on and I let the Peregrine eat from the plate in my hand. What a magical experience to be able to work so closely with the world’s fastest bird.
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Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

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Original Post December 29, 2013

Post updated December 25, 2015

As Christmas neared, I kept a watchful eye on the weather forecasts. My husband was planning to visit family in Michigan for the holidays, leaving me free to do whatever I wanted. And what I wanted was to have Christmas dinner at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Scenic view of Phantom Ranch in the Fall. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

Scenic view of Phantom Ranch in the Fall. Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Lodges

The Phantom Ranch Cantina- the site of so many wonderful memories and meals. It is a true oasis in the desert, offering thirsty travelers Lemmy lemonade and ice-cold Tecates. Many a trail tale has been told at these tables. The meals at the Ranch are fantastic, and you don’t have to be staying there to make a reservation.

Once I saw that the weather was going to cooperate, I called Xanterra and booked my Christmas dinner. Ordinarily there is a choice between a steak dinner and Hiker’s Stew, but for Christmas they were going all out with a turkey dinner.

After dropping Brian off at the Phoenix airport, I spent Christmas Eve in Sedona with my dear friend Kimberlie. She has hiked the Arizona Trail and Pacific Crest Trail and has an amazing story and blog at thenewnomads.com. Check it out, she’s awesome.

Kimberlie Tunnel Falls PCT

Kimberlie at Tunnel Falls on the PCT

So nice to not have to worry about hiking in the heat. I stopped by the Backcountry Office and got a permit for one night at Bright Angel and one at Indian Gardens. I had a leisurely start time of around noon. Oh, and here’s my hiking outfit, I was feeling particularly festive.

Festive hiking attire

Festive hiking attire

I used my (matching red) Microspikes in the chimney and shed them once I reached the sun. It was fun to see and hear people’s reactions to my hiking attire. I got called Mrs. Claus by children on the trail. The sparkly red skirt I wore was a gift from my dad, who brought it from India. Speaking of Indians, I felt right at home- because Indians generally don’t celebrate Christmas, they were everywhere at the Canyon!

I got to Cedar Ridge and did a little photoshoot with the new Arizona Trail guidebook. It came out in December 2013 and I am so proud of the finished product. I brought a copy for the Cantina and the Ranger Station libraries. You can buy it here: http://www.aztrail.org/store/at_store.php

Here’s my bio:

AZT guidebook bio

AZT guidebook bio

Arizona Trail Guidebook in its natural habitat

Arizona Trail Guidebook in its natural habitat

So, I have some exciting news- I will be thru-hiking the Arizona Trail in 2014 as a promotion for the new guidebook, the trail, and the Gateway Communities! I will be starting at the Mexican border on March 14th and am scheduled to arrive at the Utah border on May 31st. Along the way there will be 12 events in the Gateway Communities where people can come together to celebrate the trail with food, music, and beer. I will be posting updates from the trail and people will be invited to hike with me for a day or two. Here’s the link to the Arizona Trail Trek!

Santa Hat at Cedar Ridge

Santa Hat at Cedar Ridge

I was getting ready to leave Cedar Ridge when a young woman, also wearing a Santa hat, stopped to take a break. Her name was Grace and it was her first time backpacking into the Canyon. We hiked together off and on throughout the day and I enjoyed her company. Ever the guide, I shared points of interest as we hiked.

My newfound fellow hat-wearer Grace

My newfound fellow hat-wearer Grace

Grace on the trail

The canyon was very different in the wintertime- summer’s angry heat and bustle gone and replaced by crisp air and a sparsely populated trail. I felt the familiar pangs of excitement upon seeing the Black Bridge, tunnel and Boat Beach below.

The Colorado looked impossibly cold and uninviting. In the summertime working for Arizona River Runners, I’m always drenching myself with the icy water to cool down. Today all that was going in was my hand. Yep, absolutely frigid.

Boat Beach

Boat Beach and the Black Bridge

Boat Beach all to myself!

Boat Beach all to myself!

I went to the campground to choose a site and ran into Ranger Della, who I’ve worked with in the past on GCHBA service projects. She has a Christmas birthday and her family was down visiting to celebrate.

Then it was time for dinner at Phantom Ranch. It was amazing. A buffet with a turkey and ham carving station, mashed and sweet potatoes, rolls, cornbread stuffing, and three kinds of pie to choose from. All made even more delicious by the fact that I had nothing to do with the prep or cleanup. I sat with a very nice family, the daughter seemed to have been bitten by the Canyon hiking bug, it was fun to see. I predict many Canyon adventures in her future.  I am super-lame and left my camera at the campground, but here’s a pic that the family I sat with took.

Christmas Dinner!

Christmas Dinner!

I visited the Boat Beach at night for stargazing and then went to sleep atop the picnic table. It was chilly! In the middle of the night, I heard rustling which I thought was people getting ready for an early hike out. Only when I opened my eyes, there was a deer chomping the bush right next to me, its body six inches from my face!

Night visitor

Night visitor

The next morning I relaxed in camp for a while, waiting for it to warm up. Caught up with Sjors and Della for a bit, changed my permit to stay another night at Bright Angel. I forget what a draw this place has for me- once I get here I usually want to stay. Back to the Boat Beach for lunch, so nice to have it to myself. When we stop here on river trips there are usually 2 or 3 full trips milling about and we are in a hurry to fill up our water jugs and get moving through the Gorge.

Sleeping on the picnic table

Sleeping on the picnic table

In the afternoon, I wandered up the Clear Creek Trail for a while, until I could see the Coconino cap of Zoroaster Temple. Fall stays late in the Canyon and there were cottonwoods still shedding their golden leaves.

Fall colors in December

Fall colors in December

Phantom Overlook on the Clear Creek Trail

Phantom Overlook on the Clear Creek Trail

South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge

South Kaibab Trail and Black Bridge

Micro Chicken whooped it up at the cantina last night and was nursing a tiny hangover

Micro Chicken whooped it up at the cantina last night and was nursing a tiny hangover

Sumner Butte and Zoroaster

Sumner Butte and Zoroaster

As the short winter day came to an end, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and wrote in my journal for a while.  After a fondue dinner, I contemplated visiting the Cantina, but couldn’t coax myself out of my cocoon.

I had a leisurely morning of deer-watching, journal writing and canyon-gazing. I thought about taking the Bright Angel out, but decided on the Kaibab once again. Besides, it’s the Arizona Trail! I took my time, stopping to chat with the mule packers, backpackers, and hikers and take pictures. There is something so special about hiking up through the layers of the canyon, each with their own story. Looking down upon layers that previously towered over you. The exhilarating feeling of seeing the trailhead at the end of a hike out.

Mule and deer watching from my campsite

Mule and deer watching from my campsite

Went to use the bridge, when suddenly...

Went to use the bridge, when suddenly…

Kaibab tunnel

Kaibab tunnel

South Kaibab Goodness

South Kaibab Goodness

The material items I’ve gotten for Christmas will eventually wear out, get lost or broken- but I will always have the time I hiked into the Canyon wearing a sparkly skirt and a Santa hat.

Want to read more about my trips in the Grand Canyon? Click here to explore!

In Wildlife Rehabilitation news, we have released a lot of the animals that we raised since the summer. We’ve had a couple of out of season babies, like a group of baby rabbits and this little guy- a baby barn owl. It’s a couple of weeks old in the picture and quite noisy! We put it in with the adult owl so that it can get used to other owls. The adult is not amused. Thanks to all who donated to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson this year!

Happy New Year!!
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Baby Barn Owl

Baby Barn Owl

What a face!

What a face!

And to close things out for the year, here’s a picture of my favorite Harris Hawk, who was sent to another facility to become an educational animal. Hope he’s doing well!

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk

 

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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.
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Yawning Baby Ringtail

Yawning Baby Ringtail

Here’s a video:

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

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

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

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

Seeking Sandstone

Seeking Sandstone

Vermilion Cliffs at sunrise

Vermilion Cliffs at sunrise

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

Survey Marker

Survey Marker

Sandstone

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

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

Up the ridge

Up the ridge

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

Embedded Moqui marbles

Embedded Moqui marbles

So amazing!

So amazing!

Sparkly!

Sparkly!

Marvelous Moqui valley

Marvelous Moqui valley

Gigantic!

Gigantic!

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

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

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

Small slot on the way to the mesa top

Small slot on the way to the mesa top

Crocodile rock

Crocodile rock

Balloons

Balloons

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

Look- I'm a bighorn!

Look- I’m a bighorn!

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

We will connect with the Spencer Trail  on the ridge

We will connect with the Spencer Trail on the ridge

Amazing overlook of the Colorado River

Amazing overlook of the Colorado River

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

Panorama from top of Spencer Trail- click to enlarge

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

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

Steeply down the sandy steps of the Spencer Trail

Steeply down the sandy steps of the Spencer Trail

Echo Cliffs

Echo Cliffs

Ferry!

Ferry!

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

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

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

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

And wait...

And wait…

Just before flying into the cottonwood

Just before flying into the cottonwood

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

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

Out in the world but not quite sure what to do

Out in the world but not quite sure what to do

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

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

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

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

Palisades Canyon by nonot on HikeArizona.com

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

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

Waterfalls in Palisades Canyon from Box Camp Trail

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

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

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

Hiking into the drainage

Hiking into the drainage

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

Russ at the top of the first rappel

Russ at the top of the first rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

150 ft. 1st rappel

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

Bottom of the first rappel

Bottom of the first rappel

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

Down the chute on the second rappel

Down the chute on the second rappel

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

Looking back up at the waterfalls

Looking back up at the waterfalls

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

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

Top of 6th rappel

Top of 6th rappel

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

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

Micro Chicken at the last rappel

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

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

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Rockhopping down the rest of the canyon

Trail!!

Trail!!

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

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

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

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

Edit: Here’s the video that Russ made:

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

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

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

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Zeus on his last hike

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

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

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First of all, the Third Annual Birds, Blues, and Bellydance Benefit was a resounding success! $1040 raised for Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson- thanks to Sky Bar for hosting, the performers for donating their talents, and all who came out and enjoyed the entertainment. I’m waiting for pictures and will post when I get them.

I drove up to the Grand Canyon in March to do an Arizona Trail presentation for the Tusayan Chamber of Commerce. The meeting was held in the sitting-room of the Historic Kolb Studio perched at the head of the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon. The Kolb brothers were Grand Canyon pioneers- click here to read more about this adventurous duo. Definitely the best place I’ve given an Arizona Trail talk yet!

Kolb Photography Studio

Kolb Photography Studio with a camera pointed at the Bright Angel Trail

Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to try my luck at a walk-up permit at the Backcountry Office. It was the first wave of Spring Break traffic and I wasn’t sure what was going to be available. Although I have spent a lot of time in the Canyon, I have never done the popular Hermit-Bright Angel loop, so I asked about that itinerary. Surprisingly, there was a first night at Salt Creek, then a second night at Hermit Creek. What sold me on the itinerary was that Salt Creek is only one campsite, so I would be assured some solitude despite the busy season.

Salt Creek Camp

Salt Creek Camp

I was looking at a map the day before my hike and decided that instead of the Bright Angel Trail that I would take the South Kaibab Trail down to the Tonto Trail. I could see the piece of the Tonto Trail that goes from the Tipoff to Indian Garden while avoiding the crowds of the Bright Angel Trail. It would pose more of a challenge, at 16 miles instead of 12, but I was in the mood for a long day.

I could hardly sleep, I was so excited to go backpacking.  It has been WAY too long since I’ve backpacked in the Grand Canyon.  I have been spending all of my time in the Canyon in the past two years at river level. The last backpacking trip I took in the Canyon was my Point Huitzil trip in April 2011. Hard to believe. I’ve hiked in twice since, but rafted out, which is quite the luxurious way to do it.

Smiling in the Supai on the South Kaibab Trail

Smiling in the Supai on the South Kaibab Trail

Brahma and Zoroaster Temples

I started hiking around 7:30 am. There was ice in the chimney of the South Kaibab Trail and I was happy to have my Microspikes. The ice only lasted through the first switchbacks and was clear the rest of the trip. I was practically running down the trail, I was so excited to be back. I love the South Kaibab Trail, it evokes so many memories of my growing relationship with my adopted state. In August of 1994, my boyfriend at the time and I drove across the country in a red sports car from Chicago to move me to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. I’d chosen the school, sight unseen, because of its excellent Anthropology program. Never having been to the Southwest before, I had no idea what to expect. My first hike ever at the Grand Canyon was down to Cedar Ridge and it completely blew my mind. At the time I don’t even think I knew about backpacking down to the river or anything.

My first visit to the Grand Canyon- 1994

My first visit to the Grand Canyon- 1994

I returned for dayhikes with visitors, but was not able to do much more because I was very sick with fibromyalgia in my 20’s.  By 2001 I was having less frequent flares and some friends of ours got a permit for two nights at Bright Angel Campground in April. My hike down the South Kaibab was excruciating. Despite having tried to train beforehand, my knees were my weak point and I hobbled into the campground on borrowed hiking poles. My husband Brian and I made all the usual mistakes, carried too much, trained too little, and then he didn’t eat enough on the 10 hour hike out the Bright Angel and threw up the rest of the evening. I was sore for a week but wanted to go back. Brian did not share my enthusiasm, it was his first and last backpacking trip.

The South Kaibab is also part of the Arizona Trail, I hiked this passage with my brother Sanjay in 2008. We had an amazing four days together,  I wish we could do it again sometime soon. So much history with this trail.

My brother Sanjay and me

My brother Sanjay and me in 2008

It was interesting to see this part of the canyon from above once again. The river gives such a different perspective. There were a lot of people on the trail that were going to have a long, hard, hot hike up. It was hard not to be in guide mode. I reached the Tipoff and had a nice chat with a woman who is a ranger at Glacier NP who was having the same issue on her dayhike, trying to enjoy herself without going into ranger mode.Bright Angel Creek  and Campground

Temperatures had soared in the last couple of days and it was going to be hot on the exposed Tonto Platform. Luckily, I had my trusty umbrella, which is ideal for Tonto walking. I turned off toward Pipe Creek and began contouring on the Tonto, or Tontouring, as I have heard it called. It was easy walking toward Pipe Creek. When I reached the Pipe Creek drainage, I saw a beautiful juniper for my break time. There is no better smell in the world than a Grand Canyon juniper. I took a long break and ate and rested up before continuing on.

Pipe Creek

Pipe Creek

Twisted geology

Twisted geology

My next stop was Indian Gardens and the junction with the Bright Angel Trail. I decided the best method of dealing with the Spring Break crowd was a minimal-contact policy. Just fill up the water and keep on going. So many people, I was glad to get out of there. I met nonot from HikeArizona.com on the trail headed out from a Boucher-Bright Angel loop and stopped to chat for a bit before Tontouring over to Horn Creek.

Junction with Plateau Point Trail

Junction with Plateau Point Trail

I was feeling good as I made my way to the Horn Creek campground, which was full of people. I was glad that my permit was for the next drainage over, where I would have the camp to myself. The last miles toward Salt Creek were long and my feet were getting sore. My spirits were buoyed by a fantastic view downriver of Granite and Hermit Rapids.  I Tontoured forever around Dana Butte and finally reached the Salt Creek CG about 6pm. It had been a long but incredibly scenic day, surprisingly hot, but all the drainages had water in them for me to cool down.

Cheops Plateau and Pyramid, Brahma, and Zoroaster

Cheops Plateau and Pyramid, Brahma, and Zoroaster

I ended up hiking 17.3 miles that day, an extra mile added on because I thought I left my Mp3 player on the trail and backtracked for a while to look for it. I set up my camp and was so tired that I passed out for about two hours before waking up and eating a sandwich and going back to sleep.

I had a leisurely morning the next day, as I had only 7.2 miles to get to my next campsite at Hermit Creek. It was so nice to have Salt Creek to myself and I spent a while writing in my journal and relaxing before breaking camp and moving on. I continued on the Tonto toward Monument Creek and got to see some boaters running Granite Rapid. It was so fun to be able to hear their triumphant cheers from 1500 feet above as they all made it through without incident. I can hardly wait for river season to begin again. I am working six trips with Arizona River Runners this summer starting in late May, so soon enough I will be the one cheering as we go through the rapids.

Granite Rapids

Granite Rapids

I stopped in Monument to refill my water and take a break. I spent a bit of time checking out the dark sculpted schist narrows downstream of the trail. This is by far the best camp on the Tonto between Bright Angel and Hermit, the others are quite small and located in the back of mildly interesting drainages. There was a climb out of the drainage and a tour of the Monument, a tall Tapeats Sandstone pillar, before regaining the Tonto Platform. I got to see the same boaters run Hermit Rapids, one of the most fun on the river.

The Monument

The Monument

Monument Creek

Monument Creek

White boat in Hermit Rapid as the other two wait their turn

White boat in Hermit Rapid as the other two wait their turn

As I reached the Hermit Trail junction, there were lots of backpackers taking breaks tucked into various small shady spots and we chatted about itineraries and such. I reached the trailside corral and dropped my pack to go check out the old Hermit Camp ruins. It was a luxury camp deep within the canyon from 1911-1930, visited by fancy ladies and gentlemen via a mule ride. Visit this link to read more.

Historic Hermit Camp

Historic Hermit Camp

I reached the campsite in the creek and found a shady ledge to set up for a nap. There was a NPS helicopter circling around and I thought they might be looking for someone, but it turned out it was a Poop-copter flying in barrels for the composting toilet. After the excitement of the Poop-copter, I explored up Hermit Creek a ways, plenty of pretty waterfalls and small pools. I was still a bit tired from the previous long day, so I decided not to make the trek down to the river.  I’ll see Hermit Rapids plenty this summer, up close and personal.

Cascades up Hermit Creek

Cascades up Hermit Creek

It was a windy night and I heard people starting to stir before sunrise, most were getting ready for the big hike out. I made it on the trail around 7:30 am and Tontoured back over to the Hermit Trail junction. At the base of the switchbacks, I could see a boy scout troop up ahead and heard screaming. I prepared myself for what I might find when I came upon the group. There was a boy in front screaming at the top of his lungs, “MY FEET HURT! I WANT TO TAKE A BREAK! I HATE THIS PLACE!”

I caught up with the adult in back who happened to be the scoutmaster and I asked what was wrong with the boy. He said that physically, nothing was wrong- they’d checked his feet numerous times. This boy had been screaming like this the entire trip, any time that they were hiking. He’d done it all the way on the hike down and whenever they hiked. When they stopped for a break or camp, he was quiet. They tried to mitigate it by hiking for 20 minutes, then taking a break. And sure enough, when they stopped, the boy was quiet. I tried to give some encouraging words to him about the hike out as I passed the group.

I made it up several switchbacks and the Boy Scout troop started moving again. “THIS IS THE WORST DAY EVER!! I HATE YOU! MY FEET HURT! I WANT TO TAKE A BREAAAAAAAAAK!” The screams echoing off the canyon walls. To tell the truth, it was freaking me out, and I had to put on some loud music to drown out the sounds. I felt so bad for the whole group, days of enduring the screams and cries of one of their members while trying to enjoy their big trip in the Canyon.

Cathedral Stairs

Cathedral Stairs (different set of Boy Scouts from the screamer)

There was shade for the hike up the Cathedral Stairs, which weren’t as bad as I’d expected. I finally lost the sounds of the screamer once over the saddle. The long Supai traverse was really beautiful, I liked having some quality time with one of my favorite rock layers. I took a break about halfway through the Supai in a shady nook. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the Canyon, restored after leaving the screamer behind.

Fancy!

Fancy!

Top of the Cathedral Stairs

Top of the Cathedral Stairs

The sun hit the trail and it warmed up considerably. Thankfully I was headed uphill into cooler temps. I saw the first hiker in a while coming toward me. As he got closer, I realized he looked familiar. And then in what was the longest 15 seconds ever, I came to the realization that the hiker was none other than Jim Bartling- the “trip leader” from my disastrous Royal Arch Loop hike in 2010.

Now I get along with just about everyone, but Jim “led” a trip through Meetup on one of the most difficult and technical routes in the Grand Canyon without doing the proper research or even having a route description with him. Thankfully for the group of 11, I had pored over countless pictures, trip reports, and route descriptions, bringing 5 different sources with me for the route. The trip was a nightmare, and Jim proved again and again that he was a terrible navigator, had no sense of group dynamics, and wasn’t physically prepared himself to do the trip. He put a lot of people in danger and then after the trip talked a bunch of crap about me to other hikers. Here he was, my trail nemesis, leading a big group into the Canyon once again.

“Jim?” As he hiked past me all he said was “Yep.” I wish that I had some witty retort to report, but all I could say was “Shit.” There was a long line of people hiking with him and I let them pass. I couldn’t help but say to them, “You guys all with Jim? Good luck with that.” I can only imagine what Jim said about me that day to his group. If you’d like to read all the juicy details of my trip gone wrong, visit my Royal Arch Loop writeup.

Micro Chicken on the Hermit Trail near Lookout Point

And now, to lighten the mood- Micro Chicken on the Hermit Trail near Lookout Point

More than a little irritated by my chance encounter, I hiked on toward Santa Maria Spring. I took a long break in the cool little structure and refilled my water. After the spring, clean-looking dayhikers started to appear on the trail. The trail construction in the Coconino was fantastic, tight, long cobblestones underfoot. The last bit of elevation before the rim was tough, but thankfully it had cooled considerably and I just took my time. I topped out at the trailhead among the flip-flop clad tourists and answered questions about where I’d been and where was the rest of my group. It always makes me think of all the people who see the Grand Canyon as a thing to cross off your bucket list, rather than a place to explore again and again. I guess I’m just lucky that I live so close and even more fortunate that I now get to spend my summers on the river.

Almost there!

Almost there!

It is full-on baby season at Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson, we’ve got countless bunnies, baby quail, a goofy pair of Black Crowned Night Herons- enough to keep two shifts of volunteers more than busy! Thanks to all who donate toward their food and lodging.

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Baby Quail

Baby Quail

Black Crowned Night Heron

Baby Black Crowned Night Herons

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