Mountains to the south of Josephine Saddle. Photo by Mel Elbert.

Written by Ollie Linden, Wild Stew Field Crew Member.

Salutations and welcome once again to to Wild AZ blogosphere! This week’s hitch saw our intrepid crew members venture once more into the welcoming embrace of the Mt. Wrightson Wilderness in the Coronado National Forest’s Santa Rita Mountains, to resume work on the Old Baldy Trail. 

Sunset over the old missile base. Photo by Jonathan Patt.

As is customary, we made our camp for the first four days on a decommissioned nuclear weapons base, abandoned camper trailers and mechanical parts around us, and the mountains—ever watchful—above.

Rerouted tread and a retaining wall to avoid some major step-ups in a rugged chokepoint. Photos by Dexter Kopas.

We kept to the lower reaches of Old Baldy for the first part of the hitch, rerouting tread, building two mighty retaining walls, rerouting a switchback to convince hikers not to cut off the trail, and constructing “The Stairway to Heaven”—a long stairway of stone steps set in to correct deeply entrenched tread, and bolstered by one of the aforementioned retaining walls. (Side note: literally no one refers to it as the Stairway to Heaven. Except me. I  like it.) We were also treated to a visit from the Coronado’s one and only Jim Beck—wilderness ranger, elite drain builder, and general bringer of good cheer!  Though hail battered us on Friday, and we longed for the sun to slap us in the face, morale remained high!

A run of steps built where the trail had become quite cupped and trenched. Photos by Sage Bradford.

On our way back to camp one day, we were greeted by some abandoned roadside potatoes! From whence they came, none could tell.

Dog-O-Meter for the first 4 days: Champion, Rowdy, Ingrid, and Sam!

On Sunday, Chloe departed to help Nizhoni with a volunteer event, and the rest of our crew switched into backcountry mode, heading up the trail to our new camp at Josephine Saddle.

Lunch along the Old Baldy Trail above Josephine Saddle. Photo by Jonathan Patt.

Once settled into our new higher elevation digs, the rest of our hitch was spent widening long stretches of narrow tread, popping out giant rocks as we went, building drains, rerouting 900 ft of tread that had crept downhill, and lowering the berm/putting in steps (we made 16 in total!) in another deeply entrenched section of the trail.

Realignment of slumped tread. Photos by Sage Bradford.

On Tuesday we met with Zach Macdonald from the Coronado National Forest, who checked our progress and offered trail wisdom and hints of future trail maintenance adventures.

More slumped tread realignment. Photos by Jonathan Patt.

Dog-O-Meter for the remainder of the hitch: Athena, Ms. Molly, Spikey, Rusty, Colby, Mateo, Scout, and Roo!

Thanks for tuning in and see you next time! Same Wild AZ time! Same Wild AZ channel!