A view of the shady creek down Bear Wallow Canyon. Photo credit: Sam Baggenstos

Written by Nico Lorenzen, Wild Stew Field Crew Leader.

Hello and welcome to autumn here in the desert! We had an early dose of cool weather as we stayed creekside at our camp at the bottom of Bear Wallow Canyon. Last time we stayed in that camp we had to evacuate from a wildfire and thankfully there was nothing so dire this time around. We returned to the Bear Wallow Wilderness to more fully open the trail and push through as far as our loppers and saws (and grit) would take us.

Before and after of the trail covered by logs and lost in the ferns. Photo credit Iman Chatila

The trail would not relinquish itself so easily this time around. We were met by a plethora of challenges. Proximally, the terrible tandem of overgrown locust and poison ivy made for a gnarly jumble as we were pressed to cut through the thorny branches of the former so we could gingerly snip the latter and cast it as far from the trail as possible without touching it. 

A brushfield of locust and undergrowth with a hidden trail underneath and the aftershot with Iman putting finishing touches on the corridor.  Photo credit: Nico Lorenzen

We interspersed our brushing with crosscutting the fallen trees of the burn scar and reconstructing lost stream crossings to once again lead Bear Wallow travelers down the right path. Along that path we did come across evidence of chainsaw cuts, a discouraging sign. A friendly reminder from the Wild Stew crew: we appreciate folks cutting downed trees, but it is improper (and illegal) to use chainsaws in a Wilderness area. So, please come out and join our volunteer events and we’d be happy to have more folks using crosscut saws and other hand tools to preserve the precious character of the Wilderness areas we all love and work so ardently to maintain.

An eroded creek crossing transformed into a new ramp that steers hikers in the correct direction. Photo credit: Nico Lorenzen

Each day was met with the beauty inherent to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, a diverse landscape we were able to declare our trail home for the entirety of the summer. Ample springwater, the citrus smell of wild hops and birdsong from the passing wrens and ravens alleviated the distress of slicing our way through walls of thick undergrowth. The summer heat had abated save for the late afternoon sun and each evening and following morning descended into the 40s, making the warm call of our sleeping bags all that more inviting. 

As we say farewell to the long evenings of summer and our time in the A-S (Apache Sitgreaves NF) for this year, we look forward to returning to both in the future, but are eager to progress to lower altitudes much like the descending leaves that mark the season. For now however, there is quite a treat of a trail system awaiting those who venture down the Reno or Bear Wallow trails, we hope you explore them for yourself (and maybe bring a foraging basket or two).