For the last two and a half years, every other Thursday I build and maintain the Arizona Trail with the Crazies. Our group used to be called the Summer Crazies, because we are the only Southern Arizona trail crew that works in the summer, no matter how hot it gets. Now, we are just known as the Crazies, because we work year-round building and maintaining the Arizona Trail, no matter what the weather.
One of the best parts of working with the Crazies is that their average age is 65 years old. We have one guy, Larry Schnebly (if you know AZ, yes, he is Sedona Schnebly’s grandson) who celebrated his 80th birthday working with the Crazies. As you can imagine, these guys have some stories to tell, and I love listening to them. Larry once told me about his transition from working in radio to working in the “new medium” of television in Tucson in the 50’s. Fascinating stuff!
The Craziest Crazie (our leader, Lee Allen), is in his 60’s and thinks nothing of doing a dayhike up into the Rincons with over 4000′ elevation gain or an 18-mile dayhike:
One of the other Crazies is Laddie Cox, leader of the Hit-and-Run Crew for the AZT. He was the second-oldest man to complete the 800-mile Arizona Trail, at over 70 years old! I tell you, these guys are inspiring and a testament to the benefits of staying active. You can see me, Laddie, Larry, and the other Crazies in this video from August done by Richard “Grodzo” Grodzicki in true Summer Crazies form at http://www.aztrail.org/reports/event_reports.html#090408
This week, we had a very exciting work event, our first in building a very important connector trail in Saguaro National Park. The hike in and out to the worksite was an adventure in itself. First, we met at Saguaro NP, and piled into 4wd vehicles for the ride to the access point, a rough 4wd off of X-9 Ranch Rd. We shimmied under our first fence, and soon heard Rincon Creek running with all the recent rains. Everyone took their shoes off to ford the chilly creek and the smarter ones brought sandals to avoid the sharp rocks in the streambed.
I had some trashbags with me, but didn’t want to work with wet feet all day if they failed, so I took my shoes off for the crossing. Luckily, Lee had reminded everyone to bring something to wipe their feet with after the crossing, which led to this scene:
The access to this area is longer than most, we had a 2 1/2 mile hike just to get to the worksite. We walked along an old roadbed towards Hope Camp. As we approached Hope Camp, we saw an Antelope Jackrabbit that was completely calm about 12 people traipsing by. He stayed in plain sight, even rearing up on his hind legs to eat something:
We had to crawl under and over a couple of fences, but soon we were on a very well-flagged route through the desert toward our destination. We bypassed the easy-to-build parts so that an REI crew can come in and work this area on April 3rd. Finally, we reached the start of the trail that the NPS has been building and we were able to work the trail heading back to the south.
The National Park Service has been building this connector trail for several weeks now, and I hiked up to see the new trail with my friend Mike Pratt, recently back from working in Afghanistan helping to train the police forces there. The new trail is through beautiful saguaro forests, and after it crosses a beautiful slickrock wash, has very well-built steps that help attain the ridgeline. We stopped to chat with the trail workers, one who was building a “spiral staircase” on the turn of a switchback. The Rincons were still enveloped in clouds, but he said if you looked upcanyon from the spiral staircase there was a really great waterfall in the distance.
On our way back we saw this unusual saguaro- it looked like a crested saguaro, but the crest was on one of the undersides of the arms instead of at the top.
The trailbuilding was made a lot easier by the dampness of the soil- much easier to dig out the trees and cacti in our trail. We built about 2/10 of a mile of trail today in about 3 hours of work-it may not sound like much, but we will be out there every other Thursday, and the tenths of a mile start to add up pretty quickly.
At noon, we started our hike back toward the vehicles- it’s amazing how much quicker the hike back is than the hike out. Along this stretch of the trail near Hope Camp, there are a lot of purple Santa Rita Prickly Pear cactus, even though we are in the Rincons, not the Santa Ritas!
And then it was back to Rincon Creek for one last ford- I gave my trashbags a try, they got me through with dry feet but definitely don’t work as well in rocky streams. After we forded the creek, it was a short walk back to the vehicles for the customary cookies and soda after working the trail.
I can’t wait to go back to this area on the 25th- the clouds only began to clear toward the end of our workday- I bet this area will be even more fantastic with the snow-capped Rincons as a backdrop. If anyone is interested in joining the Crazies for trailbuilding, they can contact Lee Allen at janlee at dakotacom dot net.