Written by Jonathan Patt, Wild Arizona Field Operations Manager.
Wild Arizona’s Wild Stew Field Crew kicked off our fall season with two new crew members and a very successful first 8-day hitch working on the Ida Peak Trail in the Chiricahua Mountains. Camped at Barfoot Park, we worked halfway down the 3.7 mile trail from the top and removed 68 downed trees using crosscut saws, restored 3/4 mile of tread across numerous eroded sections, and cut back overgrown vegetation from nearly a mile of the trail corridor.
We’d like to welcome Lauren and Taylour to our crew, joining Jonathan and Dexter, and thank them for everything they contributed to make this such a great and rewarding first hitch as we all got in the rhythm of working with and getting to know each other. Lauren comes from a background in journalism and was most recently on a Forest Service trail crew for the summer in Alpine, AZ, and Taylour joins us from California with a strong background in biology and the monitoring side of fieldwork, including a very skilled eye and ear for plant and bird identification! Our crew will be continuing to grow in size throughout the rest of the year as more join us.
Highlights of the hitch include the generally mild weather we had, with very occasional light rain, a cooling trend day-to-day, cloud cover, and breeze often right when we needed it most; we also enjoyed frequent sightings of wildlife: a Twin-spot rattlesnake politely warning us of its presence as it left the trail, a Whip-poor-will flying through our camp in early evening, Mexican chickadees, numerous Yarrow’s spiny lizards, and Stellar’s jays waking us up every morning at 5:45 so effectively we didn’t need to set alarms (also mimicking a red-tailed hawk one evening in camp). Multiple plant sightings were also a delight, including hybrid red/yellow columbine and a small selection of berries to sample still remaining from the summer Monsoon.
Lows were few and far between, with morale high throughout the week. The first few days as we all adjusted to the elevation and physical work 10 hours a day, we got back to camp and quickly fell asleep, but energy levels increased shortly thereafter and we enjoyed more time around the fire after work and shared several meals, including very delicious borscht, dutch oven calzones, and lasagna. The rough terrain sometimes posed a challenge, but as we were working our way out from camp further each day, we didn’t have to scramble over too many logs or rocks all at once. Doing treadwork on a steep slope made for a bit of a challenge as we frequently but briefly lost footing and slid down from the edge of the trail: occasionally frustrating, occasionally hilarious. The first couple days everyone was suffering from allergies as we brushed the corridor open, face-first in oak and desert ceanothus plants and sneezing constantly.
With the first hitch done, we’ll be taking a week off before returning to the Chiricahuas for more work and meeting Kyle, our next addition to the crew, as well as joining the volunteer Chiricahua Wilderness Trail Crew for part of the time. Check back and follow along as we post more Wild Stew Field Crew updates in the weeks and months to come!