Looking down the Highline Trail towards the Mazatzal Wilderness. Photo by Jonathan Patt.

Written by Jonathan Patt, Wild Arizona’s Field Operations Manager.

This week, Wild Arizona’s Wild Stew Field Crew returned to the Highline National Recreation Trail north of Payson for the fourth time in the past year. Our last work here was in spring of this year, when we spent two hitches building “media luna” rock erosion control structures along old and abandoned sections of trail where new and more sustainable reroutes had been constructed. The goal with these structures is not only slowing erosion but actually capturing sediment and building up trenched sections of old trail until the terrain gets restored to its natural slope and water flow can continue downslope without getting channelized and causing increased erosion.

Iman adds a layer to a media luna in a long run of structures. Photo by Dexter Kopas.

With our return, we first prioritized building structures in several additional sections that had not been completed yet when we were last on the project. From there, we worked back along everything that we had worked on in the spring, reviewing the structures following summer monsoon rains and the Brady fire that overlapped several reroutes we had worked within before. We looked for any damaged structures and repaired them (only a few out of hundreds had obviously failed), and in areas where erosion had been active enough that the structures had fully filled in with sediment, we built a new layer of rock structure on top of the first tier to start capturing more sediment over the next season. Ultimately, we repaired, added another layer to, or constructed a total of 330 media luna structures.

Before/after of the first level of a media luna filled in and the second level built on top of it. Photos by Jonathan Patt.

On Monday, we were visited by a film crew who joined us to document our work and the work of the many partners on the Highline Trail Restoration Initiative. We had a fun time walking through our process and showing how and why we did the work we were doing on the Highline and its importance for restoration of the area.

Next hitch, we will be officially launching our new two crew structure and will have one crew return to the Highline to repair a landslide, while the other crew heads down to the Miller Peak Wilderness on the Coronado National Forest.