Tag Archives: sirena dufault

New Grand Canyon Exhibit Highlights the Arizona Trail

Gill Couto | Arizona Trail

Gill Couto | Arizona Trail

As reported by our friends at The Arizona Republic, a visitors center near the Grand Canyon is opening an exhibit on the 817-mile Arizona Trail, which runs from Arizona’s northern border with Utah to its southern border with Mexico.

The trail, a federally designated National Scenic Trail, showcases some of Arizona’s most spectacular landscapes. A small portion of it passes through the Grand Canyon.

Earlier this year, we told you about Sirena Dufault, who hiked the entire trail to raise awareness of it. This new exhibit, at Tusayan’s National Geographic Visitor Center, should help that effort, too.

For more information about the Arizona Trail, visit the Arizona Trail Association’s website, www.aztrail.org.


Filed under Mother Nature, News

Q&A: Sirena Dufault Nears End of 817-Mile Arizona Trail Hike

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Back in March, we told you about Sirena Dufault, who’s hiking the entire 817-mile Arizona Trail to raise awareness and funding for the Arizona Trail Association, where she is a volunteer. Dufault is nearing the end of her hike now, and we recently caught up with her via email to see how the trek was going. To see Dufault’s updates on her progress, check out her blog, and to contribute to the ATA, visit this link.


What have been the highlights of your trek so far?
That’s a tough question, because there have been so many breathtaking moments! But I’ll give it a go:
  • Hiking through the “sky island” ranges in Southern Arizona, where you go from prickly pear to ponderosa pines and back down again, often through wonderful rock formations. Tough because of the elevation gain, but worth every step.
  • The solitude of hiking for days without seeing another person.
  • Finding perfect camping spots with a view of the spectacular Arizona sunset and sunrise.
  • Seeing people’s eyes light up when sharing my favorite places on the public hikes and backpacking trips.
  • Backpacking through the rugged and remote Mazatzal Wilderness: over 60 miles of trail between vehicle access points, with some of the most wonderful geology, camps and views on the whole trail.
  • The women’s backpacking trip was such a wonderful experience: I had nine women and a mini-donkey along for three days from Mormon Lake to just south of Flagstaff. It was a fantastic group, and there were a lot of laughs.
  • When I hiked the Arizona Trail in sections in 2008-09, there were quite a few pieces that had not yet been built and others that have been rerouted. It’s been fun to see the new trail! Also, there has been a tremendous amount of work to rehab parts of the trail that have been damaged by fires. All of the improvements I’ve seen cost money, which is why it’s so important to me to raise the $20,000 for the trail.


What challenges have you faced that you might not have expected before you started?
The main challenge of this trek is the continued intensity without a real break. In two months, I have had only one or two real days off where I didn’t have an event, interviews, promotion, planning or writing to catch up on.


Overall, has the journey been easier or harder than you anticipated?
The journey has been about as tough as I’d expected. I knew I was committing to a lot by not only hiking the trail, but having events and public hikes and backpacking trips along the way. It’s been exhausting at times, but worth every bit of effort.


How has the turnout and reception been at the stops along the trail?
It’s been wonderful! All of the gateway community events have been well-attended, enjoyable evenings with great music, food and Arizona Trail Ale. It’s been great to have hikers, bikers and equestrians at the events sharing their love for the trail.


What parts of the trek are still to come? Are there particular parts that you’re looking forward to?
I have two weeks left to hike from Flagstaff to the Utah border, about 200 miles. The Grand Canyon is the crown jewel of the Arizona Trail and my favorite place in the world. I’ve hiked rim to rim many times, but it will be such an accomplishment to arrive having walked from Mexico! I can hardly wait to hike down to the Colorado River and relax at the boat beach. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime for Arizona River Runners and will be starting my river season shortly after my trek.

Also, the last passage into the Utah border is one of my favorites; it’s a striking transition from the forested Kaibab Plateau to the colorful sandstone formations of Utah. Then it’s over to the town of Page for my big finale celebration!

It has been a dream of mine to thru-hike the Arizona Trail since 2007 and I am so grateful to have not only this experience, but to also be able to share it with so many other people. It’s been wonderful to educate folks about this amazing resource that links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people across the state. Hope to see you on the Arizona Trail!


Filed under Et Cetera, Hiking, Make a Difference, Q&A

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