Sunset in the Pajaritas, Jonathan Patt

Shortly after what turned into nearly a full month of self-supported remote work in the Kanab Creek Wilderness (the ultimate in social distancing) in this unusual spring of 2020, Wild AZ’s Brian Stultz & Jonathan Patt made a quick turn-around. After only a few days home, they repacked their things, and headed back out — down to the Pajarita and Mt. Wrightson wilderness areas in the Sky Islands, on the Coronado National Forest, for yet another month of solitude monitoring.

Wilderness refresher: for a land area to be federally designated as “Wilderness”, it must contain several key characteristics, which are outlined in the Wilderness Act of 1964. One element of wilderness character is the opportunity for solitude, the characteristic that Wild AZ monitored this spring. The data we collected will be used by the local USFS districts to understand trends in forest visitation; this is an important dataset that when juxtaposed to historic data, provides the USFS with a lens to measure wilderness stewardship performance, and advise land management to maintain wilderness character.

Unlike most of the rest of us, Brian and Jonathan are more than content with being home after months in the field, but they had an extraordinary experience. Some highlights include: summiting Mt. Wrightson in the Santa Ritas, quite regularly waking up to a morning chorus of elegant trogons and turkeys, trying out swimming holes in the Pajaritas, finding sweeping views of the North Rim and SE AZ, fern-laden springs, massive old-growth Douglas-firs, and, of course, copious amounts of solitude. They returned with humorous tales (we need some of those these days) of hikers trying to figure out what social distancing etiquette should look like, while wildlife ventured out boldly and busily, having happily abandoned their usual wariness. Most importantly, through their work and your support, WildAZ is helping keep our Wilderness heritage wild.

Here are a few pictures from the times, sheltering in wild places in the ‘Canvas Castle’:

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