Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Patagonia Trail Blazing Part 2

Guest post by volunteer Bob Brandt
The trail crew has now put in five strong days of building new sections of the yet-to-be-named trail linking Tucson Audubon's Paton Center with the TNC’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. Day five took place on Wednesday, February 4 and saw five women among the 18 total workers. This project is one that increasingly more people seem to want to be a part of. Our numbers keep burgeoning and that bodes well for completion of the trail in a timely manner. In fact, in just five days we are about at the halfway mark, a fact that Crew Leader Chris Strohm acknowledges with pride.

Good thing Chris had flags to mark his way…otherwise we might still be looking for him.

With the notable exception of the paid staff of Tucson Audubon and TNC, all workers have thus far been members of that group variously known as retirees, senior citizens, the over-the-hill gang and a few other monikers some of us prefer to reject. At 73, I fall somewhere in the middle of this pack of trail masons and am both grateful that I am physically capable of making a contribution to this effort and honored to be a part of the team.

As I mentioned in my first entry, our crew members hail from as far away as Tucson, well over an hour away from the work site. I especially want to note that the day five crew included my good friend from near Gettysburg, PA, Loy Elliott, who just happened to be dropping in on me at just the right time. What’s that, Loy? Did you say “wrong time?" But, Loy, we did allow you to recline while you worked. (see evidence below)

Pennsylvanian Loy Elliott happened into my world just in time to join in
on our fun. Relaxing work, eh Loy?

Two events outside the normal bounds of this project took place this past week and are worthy of special mention. First, on Day 5 our regular work of clearing corridor and creating finished tread was preceded by the extraction of three very old appliances from the premises of the Paton Center. It might be more accurate to say that these items—a refrigerator, freezer and heavy metal tank--were exhumed. They had been buried on the Paton property near the creek many years ago and took an immense amount of manpower (apologies to the ladies) to dislodge from their “graves”. All manner of implements were brought to bear on this extraction exercise, but Denny Allen emerged the hero when he lassoed each of the items to his Dodge Ram pickup truck with chain and winch and pulled them up and out of their trench.

That accomplished, and about an hour behind schedule, the crew set about doing what is now the routine but physically-demanding task of creating a trail that is sure to please many a hiker and be enjoyed by throngs of birders.

Freezer fun--Try as they might, the crew could not lift this monster from its
grave without help from Denny and his Dodge Ram pickup.

The second event of note last week was the arrival of a group of sophomores from Salpointe High School in Tucson to spend time helping us build the trail. Accompanied by two teachers and supervised by Chris, preserve manager Luke Reese and myself, the students were given the task of clearing a new section of trail including the clearing of a rough corridor and creating the finished tread. After introductory remarks and instruction on safety and basic trail-building techniques, the students had only about an hour and a half of time on the trail. However, their energy and enthusiasm resulted in their completing roughly a hundred feet of new trail, an admirable achievement for so short a time. The students all seemed to enjoy the experience in spite of the clawing some of them endured in the brush-clearing phase. They are likely to be back again next year according to their teachers.

Salpointe sophomores pose with Chris and Luke as they prepare to create a new segment of trail.