The view of our second campsite from above: Strayhorse Creek streaming through, with the Blue Range all around. Photo by Jonathan Patt.

Written by Ollie Linden, Wild Stew Field Crew Member.

This week saw our entire crew returning to the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, restoring an additional 3 miles of the Strayhorse Trail #20, a project we have now been working on for four hitches across two years. Such vistas! Such greenery! We basked in the gossamer glow of sunlight reflecting off the meandering stream which eventually feeds out into the Blue River beyond! 

We set a speedy pace, brushing, treading, building cairns, and crosscutting our way up steep, often poison ivy bedecked terrain. By the numbers, on our three mile section of trail we cleared over 150 dead logs, built 59 cairns to show the way in ambiguous terrain, and dug one huge drain at the top of an unavoidably-steep bit of trail, with a continuous dose of brush cutting and tread repair along the way. 

Before/after of one of many creek crossings on the Strayhorse Trail. Photos by Jonathan Patt.
Before/after of an area of significant deadfall and overgrown trail. Photos by Jonathan Patt.

Though I am saddened to report we witnessed no horses, stray or otherwise, we did encounter the remains of two (possibly mountain lion!) paws with perfectly intact toe beans! We also encountered a beautiful snake who was hoping if he stayed still long enough we’d walk on by and forget we ever saw him. 

We were also treated to a plethora of birdsongs, and bighorn sheep in the distance! Bird report includes turkey vultures, painted redstarts, cooper’s hawks, macgillivray’s warblers, red-breasted nuthatches, brown creepers, acorn woodpeckers, mexican jays, american robins, whip-poor-wills, canyon wrens, spotted towhees, mountain chickadees, black-headed grosbeaks, some kingbirds, and one wild turkey carcass. To top it off, Dexter came across a black bear running off into the distance during the final evening before departure. 

All hands on deck to move a massive log off the trail. Photo by Chloe Ondracek.

All in all, a rad hitch in a beautiful place, covering lots of ground! Since we started working on the Strayhorse Trail a year ago, we have now restored the first 9.7 miles of the 12.7 mile-long trail. 

Before/after of fallen log debris in the trail. Photos by Jonathan Patt.
Before/after of a tangled pile of logs in the trail. Photos by Jonathan Patt.
Before/after of some of the worst sections of the canyon as it re-entered a burn area temporarily. Photos by Jonathan Patt.
Before/after of tread and brush on the biggest up-and-over around a long slot canyon section. Photos by Jonathan Patt.

Slot canyon photos by Jonathan Patt.