Tag Archives: hiking

Q&A: Hiker Plans 817-Mile Trek to Increase Awareness of the Arizona Trail

Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

The 817-mile Arizona Trail, officially completed in 2011, runs from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Utah state line. It’s an imposing trek, and while many people use various sections of the trail for day hikes, only a hardy few attempt to hike the entire trail at once. Despite the trail’s designation as a National Scenic Trail, many people don’t even know it exists.

Sirena Dufault (pictured) would like to change that. This Friday (March 14), Dufault, 40, will begin hiking the entire length of the Arizona Trail, a trek that she expects will last until May 31. She’ll stop at events in trail “gateway communities” along the way, and hikers can also join her for sections of the journey, but in other places, Dufault will be on her own. In doing so, she hopes to increase awareness of the trail and generate funding for the Arizona Trail Association, where she has been a volunteer since 2007. Last week, we spoke with Dufault about her upcoming Arizona Trail Trek. For more information about the trek, click here.

Tell us a little about your background.
I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago and moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona’s anthropology program. I’d never visited Arizona before moving here, and it was like being dropped on an alien planet! Of course, now I’m a total desert rat and wouldn’t live anywhere else. My work as an archaeologist showed me many interesting and diverse parts of the state.

How did you become interested in the Arizona Trail?
I became interested in the trail while on a day hike in 2007 near the town of Oracle. I finished my hike, and at the trailhead was a map with a trail going all the way up the state. On the map, there were many of the iconic wild places in Arizona — Saguaro National Park, the Superstition Wilderness, the San Francisco Peaks and the Grand Canyon — and this trail that I was standing on connected them all.

It inspired me to learn more and get involved volunteering with the Arizona Trail Association to help build the trail. Those were great days, working together to make this trail — the dream of a Flagstaff math teacher named Dale Shewalter, who pioneered the route in 1985 — a reality. I was part of the crew that built the last piece of connecting trail in 2011. I am also a trail steward, responsible for maintaining 5.5 miles of the trail along the Gila River.

In 2011, I became the gateway-community liaison for the Arizona Trail Association. I have cultivated a relationship between trail users and the 33 gateway communities along the trail while promoting area tourism to stimulate local economies. In working with many of these small towns, I grew to enjoy spending time in the communities as much as the trail itself.

Where did the idea for this hike come from?
I’ve had this idea in the back of my head for years, to have people both join me on the Arizona Trail and share in my journey through photos, videos and journals that show the beauty and diversity of the trail. I helped write a new guidebook, Your Official Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail, that came out in December, and I pitched the idea [for the hike] to my executive director as a book tour … on foot!

The 14 gateway-community events are a natural extension of my work within these communities. The events are a chance for all users of the trail — hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians — to get together to talk trail while enjoying live music, good food and Arizona Trail Ale, brewed by That Brewery in Pine.

Have you done any long-distance hikes like this previously?
I hiked the Arizona Trail in sections, mostly solo, over a period of 15 months in 2008 and 2009. I hiked to raise awareness for fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition I have had since being hit by a car as a pedestrian in 1997. It was an incredible learning experience; I had only gone on two backpacking trips before starting the trail, and I was alone for days on end. The journey was challenging and breathtakingly beautiful, and it hooked me on the Arizona Trail forever.

What will the logistics of this hike be like? Will you be alone, or with other hikers?
The Arizona Trail Trek will be a mix of day-hiking and backpacking, plus stops in towns for the gateway-community events and for rest and resupply days. Some parts I’ll hike solo, but I’m highlighting some of the best parts of the trail by inviting people to hike with me for a day or two. I can’t wait to go backpacking; one of my favorite things about the Arizona Trail is that you can camp just about anywhere. I love sleeping under a star-studded Arizona sky!

I will have support during my two-and-a-half-month hike, including my wonderful husband, who is not interested in hiking with me but will meet me with food and supplies. My dad will also be coming out from Chicago to shuttle me around; he was a big help during my first hike and loves Arizona as much as I do. There is also a large network of people who are assisting with shuttles for the public hikes and with the events all up the state. For safety, I will carry a DeLorme inReach, a satellite communicator that can be used for emergencies.

What will you eat?
I’ve packed up resupply boxes for the whole trip that will be sent to me along the way. I’m not a fan of packaged meals and bars. I make and dehydrate a lot of my own meals for the trail and try to eat healthy. I’m half East Indian and half Italian, so lots of curried lentils and pasta dishes for dinner; oatmeal, couscous or quinoa for breakfast; and lots of snacks for throughout the day. You burn 3,500 calories a day backpacking, so it’s tough to get enough calories.

How can people offer their support, and where can they learn more about your journey?
All the details on the Arizona Trail Trek and hike registrations are at www.aztrail.org/azttrek, and I will be posting updates on the Arizona Trail Association Facebook page, on Twitter @AZTRAIL #AZTtrek and on my blog, Sirena’s Wanderings.

I am lucky that so many generous businesses in the gateway communities have donated their time, space and resources to the Arizona Trail Trek to make this a reality. Outdoor outfitters Gossamer Gear, Peace Surplus in Flagstaff and Summit Hut in Tucson were extremely generous with gear for the trek.

Starting March 28, I will be kicking off an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the Arizona Trail Association. There will be unique incentives and one-of-a kind experiences offered to reach my goal of $20,000 for the protection, maintenance and promotion of the Arizona Trail. If you just can’t wait to donate, I have an option on the Arizona Trail Trek website to donate directly to the Arizona Trail Association.

I just can’t wait to experience the Arizona Trail as one continuous journey and celebrate the trail with others who love it as much as I do. Along the way, hopefully I’ll inspire others to be a part of this trail that links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people.


Filed under Et Cetera, Make a Difference, Mother Nature, News, Q&A

Camelback Mountain Summit Trail to Reopen Wednesday

Echo Canyon construction

Echo Canyon Trailhead construction, 2013 | City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation

Rejoice, Phoenix-area hikers: The Echo Canyon Trailhead, and the Summit Trail up Camelback Mountain, will reopen at sunrise Wednesday, January 15.

The trailhead closed in the summer of 2013 for a massive renovation project. The City of Phoenix expanded the trailhead parking area, and it now features 135 parking spaces — nearly double the original 68 — along with flush toilets, a chilled drinking fountain, a shade ramada, bike racks and a roundabout to improve traffic flow.

Crews also rerouted the first quarter-mile of the trail, and the new Summit Trail is about an eighth of a mile longer as a result. The total distance to the summit is about 1.3 miles, but hikers are warned that with a 1,200-foot elevation gain, this trail is one of the Valley’s most strenuous. Fit hikers should allot 45 minutes to reach the summit and another 45 minutes to descend.

Another important note: For the first six months after reopening (through July 15), the Summit Trail will be “hikers only” — in other words, no dogs allowed. Dogs are still allowed on the Cholla Trail, the other major trail at Camelback.

The trailhead will be open from sunrise to sunset. Even with the added parking spaces, it’s sure to be packed once it reopens, so get there early or be patient while waiting for a place to park.

For more information on the improvements to the trailhead, including a map of the rerouted trail, click here.

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Filed under Hiking, In the Area, News

Hiking the Arizona Trail Just Got a Little Easier

Gill Couto | Arizona Trail

Gill Couto | Arizona Trail

Thinking about hiking the Arizona Trail? Thanks to a partnership between the Arizona Trail Association and Garmin International, you can now navigate this 800-plus mile trail using a pre-programmed data card that can be loaded into your handheld Garmin GPS device.

According to the Arizona Trail Association’s Website, “the data card provides highly-detailed digital topographic maps comparable to 1:24,000 scale USGS maps; a fully routable trail plus basic road coverage for reference; hydrographic features, including perennial and seasonal streams; searchable points of interests, such as campgrounds; 3-D terrain shading so you can estimate terrain difficulty; and township, range and section information and USGS quad locations.”

Garmin’s Trailhead Series – Arizona National Scenic Trail is available for $49.99.


Filed under Hiking

Pick Up Our June Issue and Hit the Trails!

Photo by Robert Stieve

Bismarck Lake Trail | Photo by Robert Stieve

Our June issue showcases not only the amazing illustrations by artist Larry Toschik, but also 10 of our favorite places to hit the trail, including Bismarck Lake Trail in Flagstaff, which is a must-hike this summer. For more spectacular hikes, such as the one below, pick up the June issue of Arizona Highways on newsstands now. Trust us: You’re going to love this issue.

3 reasons to hit this trail
1. It’s one of the easiest hikes on the Coconino National Forest — Coconino, by the way, is the word the Hopis use for Havasupai and Yavapai Indians.
2. The road to the trailhead passes Hart Prairie Preserve, one of the state’s premier Nature Conservancy properties.
3. The views of the San Francisco Peaks are as good as it gets.

Foot Notes: Bismarck Lake isn’t a lake — at least not by Minnesota standards. It’s more like a pond or a lagoon or a big mud puddle, and it functions as a stock tank, which makes it an important source of water for the resident elk and mule deer. It also serves as a milepost that identifies the end of this trail. Like the route into Sandys Canyon (page 24), this is a short hike that hooks up with the Arizona Trail. If you’re interested in more distance, the latter extends for 817 miles to the north and south, but if you need a spur-of-the-moment fix of an evergreen forest, this will hit the spot. The trail begins with a gradual uphill climb through a world of ponderosas and aspens. After five minutes, it arrives at a small meadow, where you’ll catch your first glimpse of the San Francisco Peaks. It won’t be the last, and the best is yet to come. From there, the trail dips back into the woods, and the aspen quotient increases. It stays like that for another 15 minutes, until the dirt path leads to another meadow and the payoff views of the peaks. There, the trail splits. To the right is the Arizona Trail, and to the left is Bismarck Lake. Go left, and keep your eyes peeled for thirsty ungulates.

Trail Guide
Length: 3 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 8,589 to 8,817 feet
Trailhead GPS: N 35˚21.793’, W 111˚44.082’
Directions: From Flagstaff, drive northeast on U.S. Route 180 for 10 miles to Forest Road 151, turn right and continue 6.3 miles to Forest Road 627. Turn right onto FR 627 and drive 0.75 miles to the trailhead.
Vehicle Requirements: None
Dogs Allowed: Yes (on a leash)
Horses Allowed: Yes
USGS Map: Humphreys Peak
Information: Flagstaff Ranger District, 928-526-0866 or http://www.fs.usda.gov/coconino


Filed under Hiking, Mother Nature

Friday Fotos: Time to Hike Arizona’s Many Wonderful Trails

Doug Koepsel | Lockett Meadow, SF Peaks

Doug Koepsel | Lockett Meadow, SF Peaks

In honor of our June Summer Hiking Guide, which features 10 of our favorite places to hit the trail, we asked you to share your photographs of life on the trail. Thanks to everyone who posted photos on Facebook. Once again, we have another fantastic gallery featuring Arizona’s beautiful landscape.

Keep posting, and we hope you’ll share this week’s gallery with your favorite peeps.



Filed under Friday Fotos

Check Out Our June 2013 Cover!

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 9.21.48 AM

Check out this sneak peek of our June issue. We’re showcasing 10 of our favorite hikes in our summer hiking guide. Of course, if you can’t wait until June, you can always find great hiking options in the Arizona Highways Hiking Guide: 52 of Arizona’s Best Day Hikes for Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall.

Enjoy… and don’t forget to pick up your copy, on newsstands in just a couple of weeks.


Filed under Covers, Hiking