A lookout point on East Baldy. Photo by Nico Lorenzen.

Written by Nico Lorenzen, Wild Stew Field Crew Leader

Hello once again. This hitch the Wild Stew Field Crew took on the montane challenges of the East Baldy Trail, the Crossover Trail and later the Reno Trail into the Bear Wallow Wilderness. All of which reside on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. The crew featured two new members, our returnees and Luke our volunteer coordinator along with Owen from the Forest’s trail crew. Together we ascended East Baldy and finished crosscut sawing the entirety of the 6.5 mile trail along with the final 1.5 miles of the Crossover Trail. 

Before and after of a crosscut on a series of logs in an area of beetle kill on East Baldy Trail. Photos by Nico Lorenzen.

In the oft-spoken words of democratic protestors in Hong Kong, ‘Everyone is climbing the same mountain, but we each have our own way.’ With some crew members fighting off altitude sickness, long hikes and bushwhacking to find water sources and the typical travails of trail work, I was once again reminded that we each partake in an experience wholly our own even when we share it with our crew members, our staff, the community and of course, with you.

There is a hidden skill set within trail work, the ability to endure and grow through both physical and mental challenges to one’s preconceived perceptions. This was one such outing that placed mettle at the forefront. For some crew members it was the novelty of the unknown, for others the realization of the necessary endurance and for me, a crash course in leadership when unexpected events festoon themselves into each day.

Luke and Daniel look out over a rocky escarpment and down into the valley below East Baldy Trail. Photo by Nico Lorenzen.

Taking on these difficulties, regardless of the outcome, constitutes bravery, and for this I will thank the crew. I thank them for their steadfastness and flexibility and most of all, for making it enjoyable to go through it together, to show camaraderie and growth when that is not the first inclination one might have.

All said, we completed clearing the trail system of East Baldy and we were treated to the remaining snow drifts and the rocky escarpments of the East trail as it ascended from the mountain’s base. We then moved to the Bear Wallow Wilderness west of Hannigan Meadow where we begun to clear and retread our way down the Reno Trail and into the wilderness as the year’s first monsoons made their presence known with fingerlings of shade that shifted to the burgeoning cumulonimbus of the afternoons and then into the roaring thunderheads set to cool us with cloudbursts of rain and alight other portions of the forest as lightning touched down in areas bereft of the deluge.

The wilderness will throw a cavalcade of challenges and new situations in front of all who choose to venture into its depths, and you can trust that the Wild Stew Crew will be in the thick of things: treading and cutting our way toward a clearer path.

Olivia walks across a meadow on the Crossover Trail as the beginning of a storm coalesces overhead.