Watching a storm approach during our afternoon break. Photo by John Clark–Kuebler.

Just as the sun peeked over the eastern ridge of Cave Creek Canyon, the Wild Stew Field Crew made its way up the Silver Peak Trail. The crew returned to one of southern Arizona’s most scenic valleys, picking up where volunteers and this summer’s Youth Conservation Corps left off. Nestled at the mouth of the canyon, the Silver Peak Trail takes hikers up a four-and-a-half mile path to its namesake summit with stunning views of the canyon below as well as notable high points, including Mount Sceloporus.

It’s a popular, yet challenging hike, with a steep incline that followed the fall line of the slope and braided across multiple paths as people and animals tried to navigate the increasingly rough trail. On top of being extremely steep, rocks and eroded trenches littered the trail keeping hikers’ on their toes with their eyes on the ground rather than the spectacular views.

With as much use as it gets and years of monsoon, the path was in desperate need of erosion control.

Mary removes rocks and adjusts the outslope of the tread for proper drainage. Photos by John Clark–Kuebler.

Over the course of eight days, the crew was hard at work building and repairing tread, condensing the various paths down to the most sustainable option and renaturalizing the others, as well as installing more than 45 drains and seven steps to keep storm water from further eroding the trail. And now, hikers can enjoy the first mile and a half of freshly-brushed trail without fear of getting stabbed by aggressive desert plants.

John fills in and smooths out eroded parts of the trail. Photo by Mary E. Clark–Kuebler.

Throughout the week, the crew enjoyed numerous run-ins with critters living along the trail — including scorpions, tarantulas, lizards and javelina — and cooler weather as Arizona greets the fall season. As well as visits from a collection of Portal residents throughout the week. Local hikers lifted our spirits as they made their way up the trail sharing kind words about the work as they passed by.

Next week, half of the crew will return to Cave Creek Canyon to continue work on the Silver Peak Trail. Meanwhile the other half of the crew will head north to tackle invasive Himalayan blackberry at Fossil Spring outside of Strawberry.

Work on the Silver Peak Trail is supported in part by the Chiricahua Regional Council, a local organization that Wild Arizona is happy to partner with in creating better access to our public lands.