Written by Luke Koenig, Wild Arizona’s Volunteer Coordinator.
Early signs of spring are showing in the Sonoran Desert and Wild Arizona volunteers are hard at work stewarding trails ahead of the summer heat. What have we been up to lately? Wild Arizona took advantage of the long Presidents’ Day weekend to host a backcountry wilderness trails event on the Pima Canyon Trail—an idea proposed to us by local volunteer and trail aficionado, Mark Flint. With a chance of rain in the forecast, intrepid volunteers met at the Pima Canyon Trailhead on Friday Afternoon. After going over gear and distributing tools, we hit the trail and embarked on a three day backpacking volunteer adventure.
After hiking several miles into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, we made camp in a nice secluded spot near the trail. Remember folks—always practice your best Leave No Trace when camping in the wilderness!
The next day we began our work: reopening an abandoned section of trail to replace the established, though less sustainable, unofficial bypass. The original alignment (where the trail is supposed to be) in this section has likely been abandoned for decades, so it was heavily grassed over and veiled by fully grown mesquite and yucca in places. It was a fun challenge identifying where the trail was supposed to be, which luckily was mostly marked out ahead of time by another local trail aficionado, Eric Ruljancich, whose group Outslope Trail Solutions is also partnering in the Pima Canyon Trail restoration effort.
The following day, we resumed work on the old alignment, continuing to open up the overgrown corridor farther up trail. We didn’t quite get to the end, and we didn’t see any bighorn sheep, but we were stoked with all the progress we made! After a hard day’s work, we broke camp and headed back down the trail.
On the way down, we ran into Eric, on his way up, and chatted about the project—Eric’s crew came in just after us to finish up the job. (So enjoy the new/old section of trail up on Pima, now officially open!). Farther down the trail, we ran into Patrick and Tori of the new group Friends of Santa Catalina Trails, also volunteering with some brushing and stonework on the lower section. So great to see so many smiling faces coming together to steward this incredible trail. I’m looking forward to coming back to Pima, whenever that may be…
We’re back! With Mt. Lemmon Highway closed from recent snow, a planned stewardship event on the Babad Do’ag Trail was abandoned for a return to Pima instead. For this event, we partnered with folks from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, who reached out some weeks prior to schedule a volunteer opportunity. (Thanks for reaching out, Makenna!).
This time was just a day trip, so we focused on a lower section of trail, below the now reopened section from the previous stewardship trip.
After building a quick cairn to mark a creek crossing, we spent the day brushing back the overgrowing trail corridor. With the recent snow and rains, the creeks are high, the ocotillo leafing, and the trail green and lush, and in need of a little trimming. Alongside the brushing, we enjoyed identifying Sonoran Desert plants, and even snacked on a few barrel cactus fruits. All in all it was a fun day in beautiful weather—we’re looking forward to our next project with Davis-Monthan, whenever that may be!