Monday, April 20, 2015

Patagonia Trail Blazing Part 3

Guest post by volunteer Bob Brandt
It is with mixed feelings that I submit this, my final blog entry marking the finish of the new trail linking the Tucson Audubon's Paton Center and The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. I think I speak for all the crew members in declaring no small amount of pride in having completed a job well done but an equal measure of regret that we will no longer be gathering each Wednesday morning as we have since last November to put our collective shoulders to the wheel in the service of these two wonderful organizations whose work not only protects our area’s unique flora and fauna but enhances our enjoyment of these precious assets in the process.

No small amount of credit is due our crew chief, Chris Strohm, for his constant guidance in making certain we stayed within the parameters prescribed for our new-found trail bulding skills, i.e., carefully clearing vegetation from the rough corridor while protecting as much of the native plants as we could, then creating a walkable tread of the correct width while maintaining just the right pitch to ensure water runoff and pleasing uphill/downhill grades.  The result is a trail that is destined to be the most frequently used and most highly appreciated hiking trail within the Patagonia vicinity of the Sonoita Creek watershed. That it connects two of the most important birding hotspots in Southern Arizona will please many a birder who will enjoy the foot journey from one destination to the other where they previously would have likely driven a motorized vehicle--a real plus for the environment. Panoramic views to be enjoyed periodically along the trail are an added attraction, especially the one afforded the hiker at the pinnacle of the vista spur.

The new trail, about a mile in length, is already getting rave reviews from users, many of whom have discovered it on their own. Since it has not been officially announced as yet nor even been formally connected to the two properties to and from which its users will set out, many hikers discover it as they begin the Geoffrey Platts Trail, which now shares a re-worked portion of its beginning tread with the new trail (which to date has not been officially named or signed with permanent signs).

A fitting celebration of our efforts took place at the conclusion of our last day of work when Tucson Audubon treated us “Dirt Bags” to a wonderful BBQ picnic at the Paton Center. While rain threatened to curtail our work all morning, as it turned out, we benefitted from just scattered refreshing showers and by the time the picnic celebration began the weather was glorious. As we feasted on our choice of beef or veggie burgers and all the “trimmins”, we workers were thrilled to be feted by several Tucson Audubon staff members, including the new executive director, Karen Fogas. We also had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Volunteer Coordinator Sharon Long and her daughter, Daisy, as well as Karen’s son, Andrew. Other Tucson Audubon staff on hand included Matt Griffiths, Jonathan Horst and Dan Lehman. Rodd Lancaster merits a special shout: he frequently joined us on the trail crew and, besides brandishing the tools of the trade, saw to it that we were well supplied with sustenance like energy bars, oranges, apples and that most important staple--popcorn. 

Of course, Keith Ashley, the Paton Center’s heroic head honcho, (are you blushing, Keith?) was on hand to profusely thank us all for our work and dedication and to remind us that there were other projects he’d gladly sign us up for if we’re feeling terribly afflicted by the effects of withdrawal from the trail-building highs. I, for one, am hooked and will be lending a hand as I am able to help the Paton Center achieve its full potential. It’s gratifying to know I can contribute to making this one of the premiere birding destinations in the country. If you haven’t been there yet, y’all come, hear?

Crew chief Chris Strohm proves he has skills that go beyond building beautiful trails.

A week before we finished the trail, we had a surprise birthday celebration for none other than our esteemed crew leader. Don't worry Chris, we'd never divulge your age.

Stu Evans starts obliterating part of the Geoffrey Platts Trail after we designed and built a superior bypass to eliminate a switchback.

(l-r) Dick Steffensen, Joe Watkins and Denny Allen install a temporary sign post at one of the junctions.