Written by Joe Haas, Wild Stew Field Crew Member
After a few weeks of rest, travel and time spent with friends and family, Wild Arizona’s Wild Stew Field Crew returned to kick off the 2022 season. This hitch brought us to the Miller Peak Wilderness to perform trail maintenance on the Lutz Canyon Trail #104. Throughout the hitch we cleaned and constructed 36 drain structures, cut and removed 39 fallen trees, and lopped bountiful amounts of Ceanothus, Locust and Oak brush encroaching on the trail.
Unfortunately, Kyle Arsenault, who had been with our crew since late September, came down ill at the beginning of his last hitch, and his time was cut short. Thank you, Kyle, for your time spent with Wild Arizona. We all wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors! (P.S. Thank you for the chocolate and Red Vines!)
Despite his absence, the crew carried on and progressively moved up the trail, gaining elevation each day as we encountered new terrain. We were treated with sunny winter weather, while still enjoying the previously fallen snow on the mountain. Snowballs were thrown (but missed) and electrolyte powder snow cones were enjoyed. Although a daily increase in elevation change was challenging, the views of the valley, nearby mountains, and Mexico were a beautiful sight to see and were getting better and better each day. Our hands were full of ceanothus needles and our eyes were filled with panoramas of the US-Mexican border.
We had two exciting visits throughout this hitch: On Thursday, Zac Ribbing, the Recreation Staff Officer of the Sierra Vista Ranger District, came to eat lunch with us and further scout some of the trail. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences working on public lands in Arizona, it was great to meet you, Zac! Sunday, we were able to see the Cochise County Search and Rescue team in action, responding to an injured Arizona Trail hiker. Seeing the helicopter rescue was an experience that captured our attention as the helicopter swirled around the canyon and the SAR team prepared the individual for evacuation. We were all happy to hear from the SAR team themselves as they passed us on the trail that the rescue was a success.
Before heading down the mountain for the last time this hitch, the crew explored a former mining tunnel with stalactites and bats. The end of this hitch brought us 2.6 miles up the mountain and 2,300 feet higher than we started, and in much better physical fitness than how we began after our break. A successful start to the 2022 season for the Wild Stew Field Crew!