The heart of the Superstition Wilderness. Photograph by: Nizhoni Baldwin

In the heart of Arizona’s Superstition Wilderness, a dedicated group of volunteers gathered on Saturday, December 2, 2023, for the first part of a three-part event aimed at restoring (naturalizing) and surveying/monitoring user developed trails-also known as “social trails”. The event was organized by our Wild AZ coordinator Nizhoni Baldwin, and kicked off at 9 am at the First Water Trailhead with an enthusiastic team ready to make some positive strides!

The morning began with a warm welcome as Nizhoni set the tone for the day by providing coffee, muffins, banana bread, and fruit for the volunteers to ensure their bellies were full and energy was high for a long day outside. Among the participants was Dave Kaubisch, a volunteer Wilderness Ranger, who briefly joined the group before heading out to assist fellow rangers in providing information and guidance to hikers along other trails.

Photograph by: Rodger Stage

Following a comprehensive safety meeting, nine volunteers embarked on the trail leading towards Garden Valley. Equipped with instructions, the team worked diligently to survey and monitor trails with minimal supervision. Unfortunately, two volunteers fell ill after covering a mile and had to turn back, reminding us of the challenges of the rugged terrain and the sometimes overwhelming intensity of sun.

The undeterred remaining seven volunteers pressed on, documenting 2.5 miles of the user-developed trails. The journey led them to Garden Valley by 1pm, where a unanimous decision was made to extend the effort by tackling the Hackberry loop to return to the trailhead. This loop had already been surveyed during a prior Wild Arizona hitch, providing an opportunity for the group to reflect on the significance of wilderness preservation through this type of public land agency led wilderness trail work and scoring, known formally as Wilderness Stewardship Performance.

A moment of reprieve. Photograph by: Rodger Stage

Throughout the day, discussions among volunteers and coordinator Nizhoni centered around the importance of monitoring trails and preserving the natural beauty of the Superstition Wilderness. The passion for wilderness conservation fueled conversations, making the return hike an educational and inspiring experience.

Upon reaching the trailhead/parking lot at 3pm, the volunteers had successfully surveyed 2.5 miles of trails, meticulously inputting the collected data into the Field Map app. The dedication of the nine volunteers amounted to a collective contribution of 10 hours, making strides toward WSP goals and marking the first steps of a larger mission to restore and preserve the trails of the Superstition Wilderness—testament to the positive impact that community-driven initiatives can have on their public lands. Stay tuned for the next chapters in this three-part volunteer event as Wild AZ continues its commitment to the conservation of Arizona’s unique and precious wilderness.