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A great crew! Sasha the dog, Chris, Steve, Francisco, Al, Rob, David, Tom, Joe, Lee, Max, and Shawn

A great crew! Sasha the dog, Kris, Steve, Francisco, Al, Rob, David, Tom, Joe, Lee, Max, and Shawn

I have been building and maintaining the Arizona Trail with the Arizona Trail Association since 2007. I love being a part of creating and maintaining the trail for generations to come. Several months ago, I became a trail steward for segment 16c and am in charge of maintaining 5.1 miles from Spine Canyon to Walnut Canyon in the Gila River Canyons passage. I chose this passage to adopt for a couple of reasons:

  • I have seen this area covered in wildflowers in the spring and it is amazing, there are also fall colors along the Gila River.
  • I have great memories of my Night on The Spine and the hike I did on Passage 16 & 17 the first three days of the year.
  • I wanted a remote segment that would require overnight trail events.
  • To drive in, you go past the Artesian Well on the old Arizona Trail route, one of my favorite water sources.
  • It is also a part of the Grand Enchantment Trail from Phoenix to Albuquerque- bonus stewardship!

I had my first work event on December 7th & 8th to put in a gate in Walnut Canyon and an OHV barrier about a mile east. Ten of us assembled at Battle Axe Road and AZ 177 and prepared a precarious load on the Bureau of Land Managment (BLM) truck.

We met at Battle Axe Road and loaded up the BLM truck with the gate and the ATV barrier.

We met at Battle Axe Road and loaded up the BLM truck with the gate and the ATV barrier.

The drive out to the site was slow, bumpy and very scenic. We took another road that led down toward the Gila River and arrived in Walnut Canyon just north of the river around lunchtime.

Driving Battle Axe Road with the White Canyon Wilderness in the background

Driving Battle Axe Road with the White Canyon Wilderness in the background

Adjusting the rigging after a couple of miles of the rough road

Adjusting the rigging after a couple of miles of the rough road

We dropped a crew to begin the gate and drove a mile east to the OHV barrier site.  The barrier was an interesting modular design that required no welding in the field. Just a lot of postholes and concrete. Thankfully the BLM provided a power auger and jackhammer. We ran into some caliche that would have taken forever to dig with just a rock bar.

Pieces of the ATV barrier, concrete, and plenty of tools. Rob (in red) is the one who designed and welded the pieces to be assembled in the field.

Pieces of the OHV barrier, concrete, and plenty of tools. Rob (in red) is the one who designed and welded the pieces to be assembled in the field.

Power auger for the holes

Power auger for the holes

Max works the power jackhammer

Max works the jackhammer

Holes are dug and the big barrier piece is in

Holes are dug and the big barrier piece is in

Mixing concrete

Joe and Tom mixing concrete

It had taken a long time to get out to the site, so we worked until the last light getting the gate and barrier set in concrete so that it could cure overnight. The unseasonably mild evening was spent by the fire swapping stories and listening to music courtesy of Max and his guitar.

Continuing to work until the last light is gone

Continuing to work until the last light is gone

Looking north  toward The Spine at sunset

Looking north toward The Spine at sunset

The next day, we finished up the gate and OHV barriers and then constructed a small reroute that helped avoid an unnecessary roadwalk up the canyon and back. We brushed the route back and then built three-foot cairns to lead the way.

Building the reroute

Building the reroute

Chris shows the test of a well-built cairn

Kris shows the test of a well-built cairn

"Laddie-sized" cairns three feet high

“Laddie-sized” cairns three feet high lead the way

Short reroute with new cairns and carsonites

Short reroute with new cairns and carsonites

Here’s the finished gate and OHV barrier:

Finished ATV barrier in the unnamed canyon one mile east of Walnut Canyon

Finished OHV barrier in the unnamed canyon one mile east of Walnut Canyon

Joe, Tom, Chris, Max, Steve, David, Sirena, Shawn, and Lee at the fancy new gate

Joe, Tom, Kris, Max, Steve, David, Sirena, Shawn, and Lee at the fancy new gate

New gate in Walnut Canyon

New gate in Walnut Canyon

I was glad that my work event was a success, most of my crew were from the Crazies and their expertise certainly helped. A big thanks to the BLM and the crew!  Before we could relax, we had the long, slow, bumpy drive back out to AZ 177. This has always been one of my favorite parts of the Arizona Trail and I am excited to be a steward for many years to come. There’s always trailwork to be done, so if you’re interested in volunteering on an event, check out the Arizona Trail Association event calendar.

In Wildlife Rehab news, I have been taking quite a few birds out to test their flight capabilities to see if they are ready for release. It is exhilarating and more than a little scary taking the larger birds. I got a talon to the finger through my gloves this summer and it was extremely painful. I have taken Great Horned Owls, Red Tailed Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, and the other day I took a Turkey Vulture out to see what it could do. Click the button below to donate to Wildlife Rehabilitation Northwest Tucson!

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