16 Mar 2018

Phoenix Field School Week 3: Conservation Trails Training

Project Location: Black Canyon National Recreational Trail

16 Mar 2018

Project Location: Black Canyon National Recreational Trail

Project Partner:  Bureau of Land Management, Hassayampa Field Office; Black Canyon Trail Coalition; ACE Trails Program.  

Hitch Accomplishments: Trail maintenance and restoration of 20 meters of multi-use trail.  Trail Skills; Back-Slope establishment; Corridor Brushing; Vegetation removal; Rockwork; Crush and Fill; Bench widening; Tread leveling; Tool Maintenance;

Tuesday, February 6, 2018:

This week, the Phoenix Field School crew  hit the trail for their first full field project week! On Tuesday morning, the students met at ACYR at 8:00 am and set off to the BLM Phoenix District Office to rig up the trailer with all tools and supplies and touch base with the BLM staff before heading out to the project site.  The crew arrived at the Black Canyon City Trailhead of the Black Canyon National Recreational Trail (BCNRT) at 9:45 am and met with ACE National Trails Coordinator and Trainer, Mark Loseth who would be working with the crew with learning and developing practical trail skills. With packs on and tools in hand, the crew hiked over 2.5 miles to the worksite on the BCNRT. At the worksite, the crew met with project sponsor with the Black Canyon Trail Coalition, Bob Cothern to discuss in-depth project expectations for the trail project. After inspecting and assessing the 20-meter stretch of trail and determining the needs and priorities, under the guidance of ACE Trails Trainer Mark and ACE Crew Leader, Ian, the crew set to work. Throughout the afternoon, Mark and Ian worked closely with each crew member to provide one-on-one instruction and support on as the crew members performed the trail maintenance which included leveling the bench, chipping through stone, proper rockbar and doublejack use and technique, learning how to preserve the critical edge, and establishing backslope and widening of the tread. As the afternoon progressed, it became clear that the rest of the week’s projects would be heavy with rock work on the trail section! Around 3pm, the crew created a tool cache and began the hike  back out to the trailhead. Upon arriving at trailhead, after assessing possible campsites, the crew exchanged goodbyes with Mark and Hannah who headed back up to the ACE office and began setting up camp, learning how to properly pick a tent site and about the different camp spike equipment. After enjoying a dinner of burgers, the crew, sore, happy, and well-fed, headed into their tents for a good (and well-deserved) night sleep.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018:

On Wednesday morning, the Field School crew started the workday at  7:00am. After conducting a thorough foot check to wrap any blisters and hot spots acquired during the previous day’s hikes, the crew conducted a safety circle before hiking the 2.5 miles to the worksite. With PPE on, the crew members grabbed tools from the cache and got to work on the trail! Douglas and Jeff took on chipping away at a solid band of granite that divided the dense strata of shale as Jeremiah chipped away at the granite backslope in order to widen the trail bench. Nic began the process of digging out a boulder on the corridor that interfered with safe through travel on the trail as Shay steadilt shaved away at the granite that spilled up from the ground creating an unstable and narrowed bench that threatened to direct trail users down the steep slope. Throughout the day, the crew continued to build their practical trail skills and after lunch, continued with the various project tasks into the afternoon. At 2:45pm, the crew received a lesson on tool maintenance (proper technique for removing dirt and debri from the tools and how to use the files on the various tools to maintain a desired and safe working edge). After sharpening and cleaning tools, the crew began the 2.5 mile hike back to the trailhead. While tired and sore, the crew debriefed the day expressing happiness with their work and an eagerness to relax and stretch before making dinner, completing camp chores, and calling it a night.

Thursday, February 8, 2018:  

The Field School crew began the Thursday workday at 7:00 am beginning with a safety circle before hiking back to the week’s project worksite. The crew arrived at the worksite around, enjoyed some water and a quick snack and jumped back into project mode on the trail! The crew members worked hard on the 20 meter stretch with various trail maintenance tasks to level the tread and widen the bench for enhance visitor use and safety.. Around noon, the crew broke for lunch and enjoyed a nearby shaded area that offered a cool reprieve from the desert sun. During lunch, four mountain bikers passed through the worksite. They expressed gratitude for the work that the crew accomplished and shared that the trail was already far better and safer than it previously had been.  After lunch, the Field School crew was back on the trail working to continue to bash remove the rock and open up the trail corridor for multi-use travel. Bob stopped by the worksite in the afternoon to check on project progress and expressed that the trail was “100% better” and safer for the ultra-runners who would be racing along the corridor passage in the upcoming weeks for a race. The crew assessed the remaining trail needs and developed a work plan for Friday morning and agreed to give it their all to finish the priority work state by Bob including removing a boulder from the tread and removing overhead brush over the trail. After performing tool maintenance, the crew hiked back out to the trailhead. Upon returning to camp, the crew enjoyed from well-deserved pie from the nearby famous Rock Springs Cafe as they reviewed standard camp breakdown procedure before having dinner at camp before hitting the hay for the evening.

Friday, February 9, 2018:  

On Friday, the crew began their workday a bit earlier at 6:00am and began their hike to the worksite on the Black Canyon National recreational Trail in the faint dawn light. The cool air and stars made for an exciting hike and the crew made it to the worksite with an incredible amount of energy and commitment to finishing the job. The crew took full advantage of beating the heat and cranked out two and a half hours of uninterrupted hard work on the trail! Jeff and Jeremiah worked together to remove a beach ball sized boulder from the corridor using rock bars followed by the crew collaboratively used the crush-fill method to fill the hole on the tread. Taking turns, the students smashed down the granite and shale into tiny fragments to fill the hole, tamping down each layer with tools.  Then, Nic and Shay worked together using loppers, hand saws, and cutter mattocks to remove the dense acacia surrounding the trail as Douglas continued to shave away at the shale on the far end of the trail at the worksite as the others focused on cleaning up and designating the critical edge, as well as widening the bench. At 10:30am, the crew cleaned and sharpened tools, divied up the weight and hiked back out to the trailhead with all tools, encountering several friendly trail users along the way. After packing up the truck and trailer, the crew headed south to the BLM and were briefed on how to perform a de-rig. following debrief, the crew met with Lawrence before completing timesheets. It was a great and rewarding week with lots of new conservation skills acquired!

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