Written by Sam Baggenstos, Wild Arizona Conservation Associate.

The wildflowers are proclaiming the wonderful news of spring in the Tonto National Forest: lupine, blue dicks, poppy and bladderpod are jostling for our attention. From February 29th through March 6th, Ollie and I joined the chorus as we worked on two different trails: the Jug Trail in the Salome Wilderness and the Raccoon Trail in the Sierra Ancha Wilderness.

Sam hikes toward camp with a bulging pack on the Jug Trail.

Our work began at the A-Cross trailhead (also known as the Jug trailhead) on the southern side of the Salome, where we chatted with a delightful group of volunteers who we were working on installing an informational kiosk. After that, we hiked in on the Jug Trail and set up a base camp on the banks of Salome Creek. The wilderness section of the Jug Trail is currently not a system trail, but the Tonto National Forest is in the process of changing that social trail into a system trail. In light of those upcoming changes, Ollie and I worked to consolidate the many-branching social trail that extends for a half mile past the wilderness boundary. We began by flagging out the best route through the maze of paths and then worked to improve our selected route through brushing, treading, and building cairns. We also spent a bit of time disguising the incorrect turns at several important intersections.

New tread and cairn on the Jug Trail

After working on the Jug Trail for several days, we headed over to the southern end of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness and set up camp near the Raccoon trailhead (unnamed on some maps) at the southern terminus of the Raccoon Trail. Our first task was to define an unclear portion of trail that cuts briefly through a meadow. We improved this area by building a series of cairns and cutting in more visible tread. Next, we moved over to a section of trail that is steep and cupping and built a line of drainage structures and check-steps. We finished our work in the Sierra Ancha by installing a Wilderness sign at the Raccoon Trailhead and then driving over to the Deep Creek trailhead (sometimes called the Bull Canyon trailhead) and installing a Wilderness sign there as well.

Finally, Ollie and I joined our volunteer coordinator Nizhoni in talking to the junior class at San Carlos High School about this summer’s youth conservation corps program

Ollie carefully places a rock on a cairn they are building along the Raccoon Trail