By Jonathan Patt, Wild Arizona’s Field Operations Manager.
The Wild Stew Field Crew returned this week to southeast Arizona’s Chiricahua Wilderness, a place we’ve spent quite a bit of time working in over the past year and quite enjoy. This time, we set up camp in Turkey Creek on the west side of the range and worked to clear the Mormon Canyon Trail, which goes up the eponymous canyon to meet up with the parallel Mormon Ridge Trail and forms a wonderful hiking loop.
Ultimately we hiked progressively further into the canyon and higher up the mountain every day, working our way up the 3 mile trail, cutting back overgrown brush, cutting over 130 downed trees, building nearly 30 drains, and repairing creek crossings and tread all along the trail. By the end of the hitch we had fully cleared the trail from the trailhead to its junction with Mormon Ridge at Mormon Saddle. We will be returning at a later time to work on the Mormon Ridge Trail as well.
We enjoyed more pleasant weather, mostly dry and cool with only a couple evenings of rain towards the end of the week. Scenic views with very large Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, as well as a healthy stand of White fir, dominated our week, and a variety of mixed wildlife including lots of birds, deer and near-daily turkey sightings gave us something to see while we worked. A skunk visited our campsite several times at night and was bold enough that it even came into our kitchen area while we were actively cooking and eating.
Our hitch was wrapped up by a day of installing brand new Wilderness signs on the 5 major trailheads out of Turkey Creek—Morse Canyon, Pole Bridge, Turkey Pen, Mormon Ridge and Mormon Canyon. We had a fun time getting these beautiful signs set in place and they now serve to well-define the Wilderness boundary in this area.
We were rejoined by Assistant Field Crew Leader Lauren Renteria on this hitch, fresh back from hiking the 567 mile Colorado Trail over the past couple months. Lauren has been with the crew for a full year now! We also got to meet and work for several days with our new Volunteer Coordinator, Luke Koenig, who will be a great addition to our team and you’ll no doubt get a chance to meet him as well if you come out on our upcoming volunteer events!