Written by Nico Lorenzen, Wild Stew Field Crew Leader

Greetings from high up in the mountains of northeastern Arizona! This hitch the crew vaulted up the West Baldy Trail #95 on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. We were greeted by temperate alpine weather, a respite from the desert heat, as we worked the entirety of the 7.4-mile trail along with 1.7 miles of a crossover trail toward East Baldy Trail.

Our goal this time was to clear the way of fallen logs, a seemingly simple task that always inculcates all the puzzle solving skills one can muster to clear enormous logs out of the way in as few cuts as possible while maintaining the ability to move the cut section off the trail at the end. By way of crosscutting, makeshift fulcra and levers, and no lack of grit the crew cleared a total of 145 logs, leaving the way open for the many hikers that amble up the popular Baldy Wilderness trail system.

Kylie taking an aspen to task with her newfound chopping prowess. Photo by Nico Lorenzen.

Beginning a hitch at 9,200’ and ascending above 11,000’ meant that altitude and endurance were of great concern throughout the week. Yet the crew consistently managed to impress by keeping up a jovial morale in line with the height of the mountain we climbed. Through a shifting cast of characters, we were at times as strong as five folks or as lean as three, with Wild Arizona’s Field Operations Manager Jonathan Patt and Owen from the Forest Service both joining us for part of the hitch. As this was my first hitch as crew lead, I was fortunate enough to have a crew that truly took to the work and actively chose to improve their expertise in sawing and chopping through some daunting trees such as a few giant aspen that had lain across the tread.

Before/after of a pileup of trees blocking the way of hikers and stock alike. Photos by Nico Lorenzen.

The forest was rife with fresh snowmelt coursing through the West Fork of the Little Colorado River as well as dense forest stands interspersed with open meadows that captivated the eye as the ever-present wind set the grasses to lively undulation.

The crew poses near the top of West Baldy Trail, marking the end of a successful hitch. Photo by Olivia Weinstein.

We are all excited to return to work the East Baldy trail next and complete the loop trail to make it easy sailing for the multitude of friendly hikers and enthusiasts we met throughout our time upon the mountain. Until next time!

Kylie and Olivia heading down trail with full packs and tools, braving the gusty meadows. Photo by Nico Lorenzen.