The crew admiring the view from the side of Monte Vista Peak. Photo by Nizhoni Baldwin.

Written by Nizhoni Baldwin, Wild Stew Field Crew Member.

On this week’s episode of Where Are They Now: Wild Stew Edition, the crew headed back to the southwestern corner of Arizona where they revamped the Monte Vista Trail, played their hand at bean farming, and climbed new heights. 

The Monte Vista Trail is located in the Chiricahua Wilderness and travels four and a half miles, climbing over 2,500 feet to a fire lookout tower atop Monte Vista Peak, passing through a series of heart pumping switchbacks that will surely give you those summer calves you’ve been striving for.

Before our arrival, the trail was in need of some serious tender loving care. After settling into our air conditioned “camp” for the week, we were ready to tackle the trail. 

Stabilizing and widening tread near the bottom of the Monte Vista Trail. Photos by Jonathan Patt.

The first few days of working on the trail included constructing a rock ramp, retreading narrow passages, and quoting American movie classics, like Anaconda or Fast and Furious. Treading overgrown areas of the trail usually meant battling some Desert Ceanothus, a flowering shrub with painful thorns and while they covered much of the trail at the beginning, they decreased dramatically as we began to climb in elevation. Each day, I saw less and less and that was a victory of its own. 

As we rolled into the middle of our work week, we stumbled upon a particularly large tree that had fallen across a switchback. The tree had to be cut into movable pieces using a two person cross cut saw and each piece was pushed by hand (and foot) safely off the trail. This gorgeous tree wasn’t the first fallen tree nor the last tree we came upon, but it certainly was the biggest.

Sam and Nizhoni cut a large log with a 5 ½ foot crosscut saw. Photo by Jonathan Patt.

With the work week almost over, the crew didn’t have high hopes of seeing any hikers on the trail, especially with the conditions of the road leading up to it; however, several members of the Southern Arizona Hiking Club accepted the challenge that Monte Vista had to offer and caught us as we continued upward with our tread work. They were very gracious for the improvements and truly made all the soreness worth it. 

The crew was able to make it to the top end of the trail, reaching an elevation of 9,370 feet. At the top, the crew enjoyed the views from the lookout tower and took in the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed the conquest with a shared bar of chocolate before beginning our descent. With our remaining time, we also defined the junction with the Brushy Canyon Trail and did some light maintenance on it as it climbs out of the canyon away from the Monte Vista Trail.

Next week, we’ll be kicking off our Youth Conservation Corps program for the summer with a group of high school-aged crew members joining us for six weeks learning about the outdoors, conservation, and trail maintenance in the Chiricahua Mountains.