It takes a lot of work to maintain 800 miles of trail from Mexico to Utah!
The Arizona Trail is split into 43 passages, which are then subdivided into about 100 segments. Each segment has a trail steward- a person or organization that adopts the segment of trail and is responsible for answering questions about trail conditions and holding periodic work events. I am proud to be the steward of #16c- 5.5 miles that wind along the Gila River. Last weekend I helped my backpacking bestie Wendy on a work event on her segment, which is 7.5 miles south of Picketpost Trailhead near Superior.
I was excited to be able to do some trail maintenance for a change- I am so busy these days promoting the AZT that I don’t get dirty as often as I used to!
Wendy, India and I drove up to Superior in the AZTmobile and loaded it up with tools and water for the weekend. Dropped Wendy off so she could meet with the hikers that were coming in at night. After getting Los Hermanos to go, we headed to FR 4, Telegraph Canyon Road. I had heard stories about how bad the road was and it lived up to its reputation. Had a run-in with a rock that made the back bumper unhappy . The worst part of the road is the Fissure of Death, where a big part of the road is gone and you have to go up on the hillside, the whole truck tilting toward the FOD.
We made it to the campsite and watched a spectacular sunset and situated ourselves in a spot to catch the backpackers that were coming in. One of the crew, Marcos, came in on a mountain bike. This passage is also part of the Grand Enchantment Trail that goes from Phoenix to Albuquerque, so you get a long distance hiking twofer.
The group settled in and got their camps set up on a flat area a short distance from the trail on a side road off FR4. Some of the group had LED lights and we had an LED campfire and chatted while waiting for Wendy and her two hikers to get there. We could see the saddle and watched for Wendy’s light- finally at 10 pm we saw it and I could relax knowing that all had made it to camp safely. The only downside to camp was the amount of broken glass. I slept in the AZTmobile.
The morning was dewy and after breakfast we split up into three groups to work the trail. We had so many people that my group was able to work the next segment north of Wendy’s. It was a perfect day for trail work and we took revenge on many catclaw and other thorny plants. The rains of the summer had washed out several portions and we repaired the tread.
The only hikers we saw all day were a couple that were going to be doing a work event on the trail next weekend. There were quite a few bikes- there was a race called the Picketpost Punisher going on that had a 50-mile and an 81-mile loop that crossed our work area. The last guy that finished the 81 miler didn’t finish until 1:30 in the morning! Read John’s blog to hear the story of his 20-hour ride!
A full day of trailwork got our appetite going and we returned to camp to find Wendy at the tail end of producing an incredible fajita feast! Wendy’s cooking never disappoints and we all gorged ourselves on the tasty meal.
We sat around the fire, telling stories, making s’mores and passing Mango Tango around. Wendy graced us with some Irish ballads- it’s always such a treat to hear her beautiful voice. It was around 10:30 when two bikers from the race came into view and it was fun to cheer them on from our camp!
The next morning, the sky looked moody and ominous, but it was an empty threat and cleared up by the time we were ready to pack up and leave. We finished off the last of the trimming and tread work and the backpackers left to hike back to the trailhead.
Wendy, India, Stoic (Chris) and I packed up the tools and cached 27 gallons in the wash for public use. Chris was nice enough to do an ingenious fix in the field that included the use of zip ties to hold the droopy back corner up. It worked great for the drive out.
We made it back down the road to Superior without incident and stopped at Old Time Pizza for slices, salad and giant vats of the best iced tea in Kearny. Had a nice visit with Lorraine, who owns the place with her husband Gary- they are true friends of the AZT and avid hikers as well. It was a memorable work event made even better by the amount of work we were able to accomplish. Big kudos to Wendy for her impeccable planning skills!! She also writes a blog, Around the Corner with Wendy– check it out!
If you are interested in participating in a work event, check the ATA Calendar for upcoming dates. To find out more about being a part of the Trail Stewardship Program, visit http://www.aztrail.org/steward_information.html
In Wildlife Rehabilitation NW Tucson news, lots of the birds that came to the rehab as babies have been released back into the wild. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of rehab to see them grow up and become self-sufficient.