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Arizona Trail – Four Peaks – Trail Restoration

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This past February, ACE Arizona had a crew working in the Four Peaks region located 40 miles northeast of Phoenix, on a section of the Arizona Trail. This is a part of an ongoing project to improve the condition of the Arizona Trail which in turn improves accessibility to the Mazatzal Wilderness. The Mazatzal Wilderness protects 252,500 acres of the Tonto and Coconino National Forests.

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 This project was lead by crew leader David Vayhinger. The work began just north of Mill Ridge trail head. The goal of the project was to create a stock bypass to get three projects worth of water up the trail for  future back-country projects. A section of trail was washed out by rain making the trail impassable to mules and stock animals and very difficult to pass for hikers. The crew had to reroute this area to create a passable section of trail.

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For the crew this meant creating rock steps which fit the requirements for pack animals. “It’s slightly more complicated to build steps for stock animals than for people”, explained crew leader David Vayhinger, “we need to consider everything from how high they are able to step to the width of tread that the mules need to make a turn”.

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Mules will be taking water up the trail for three back-country projects which will continue to work on passage twenty of the Arizona Trail. In addition to the rock steps the crew was doing general maintenance on the trail including brushing and tread widening.

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Currently ACE has two other ongoing projects along different areas of the Arizona Trail which all aim to improve the accessibility of the trail which extends from Mexico to Utah.

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Our ongoing work on the Arizona Trail has been very rewarding to not only our corps members but to our staff who have been dedicated to it’s restoration and preservation over the last several years. There will be approximately ten more projects working on this area of the Arizona Trail.

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Trail Maintenance | Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest comprises three million acres of diverse landscape located in Arizona, spanning from Phoenix in the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations to the east.

Crew Leaders Joel Marona and Josh Rosner, and Trails Trainer, Keean Ruane recently led a project on a six mile section of the Barnhardt Trail, which leads into the Arizona National Scenic Trail and the Mazatzal Wilderness. Due to the remoteness of this area it has seen very little maintenance in the past but now that the Arizona Trail leads to the Mazatzal Wilderness gaining better access to that trail has become very important.

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The Mazatzal Wilderness is a popular destination for equestrian users that require wider trails, with more brush removed, and fewer large obstacles such as rock ledge steps or off camber slick rock sections.

Two crews worked on this project, one crew starting from the top of a six mile section and the other crew towards the bottom. The main objective was to make the trail accessible to stock animals by brushing and tread widening, with the occasional step being built to accommodate stock animals in places where very large steps were present.

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In the future, ACE will have four more hitches in the backcountry area of this trail. By working on the Barnhardt trail we are hoping to re-establish this trail as one of the main access trails in the Mazatzal Wilderness that can be used by Arizona Trail through hikers for re-ups, day hikers, backpackers and equestrians.

Fire Restoration | El Dorado National Forest

An ACE California crew of 4 just completed a 7 day project creating erosion control structures in an area impacted by the King and Power Fire just east of the Hell Hole Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, CA.

The aim of this project was to improve hydrologic function within the King Fire and Power Fire burn areas by increasing ground cover with burned trees or other natural material, and by removing ground disturbances that affected hydrologic conductivity. Activities include falling dead trees to increase in-stream coarse wood, and some stream bank reconstruction.

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Sawyers strategically felled trees across slopes where structures were needed. Rounds were cut and placed where water had already began to erode the stream bank, and in areas where a lack of vegetation would lead to a high possibility of erosion during winter months.

Jack Colpitt explained that his favorite part of this project was the opportunity to learn more about the complex process of felling trees, and also the tree identification exercise.

The King and Power Fire was a human-caused fire that started on September 18, 2014. The fire burned 97,000 acres and caused hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

ACE staff would like to extend a special thanks to Wade Frisbey for joining us on this project to assist with the technical cutting.

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Log Out | Dixie National Forest

ACE Utah’s crosscut sawyers recently teamed up to complete a complex log-out project on the Pine Valley Ranger District of Dixie National Forest. The project site was a wilderness trail that had been covered by dead and downed trees caused by an avalanche slide. The avalanche debris covered the trail and water tributary.

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Due to the sheer volume of debris, the Forest Service was considering the use of explosive to clear the way. This is not without complications, however, and therefore the Forest Service turned to ACE for help.

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The ACE crew worked very hard to manually cut and remove all the logs, and the then rebuild the trail tread. Being in a wilderness area the use of chainsaws was prohibited and thus the crew used crosscut saws to complete the project.

The crew was led by David Frye who now heads off to work for ACE California in the Inyo National Forest. AmeriCorps member Brice Koach commented that his favorite part of the project was “practicing his crosscut and axe skills all while spending time with a great crew.”

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ACE CA AmeriCorps Training Week 2016

A group of new ACE CA AmeriCorps Members participated in a rigging and rock quarrying training along the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. A large rock fall had obstructed the bikeway and the members learned how to split and quarry stone and safely move large rocks with rigging equipment and rockers.

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The Tahoe-Pyramid is still under construction, but when completed it will connect forested Lake Tahoe to its desert terminus at Pyramid Lake. The route will descend over 2000 feet in 116 miles, using a combination of existing dirt and paved roads, plus some sections of new trail and bridges.

First, the new corpsmembers learned how to split large boulders that are obstructing the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, using a rock drill and pins/feathers (see header photo).

breaking rocks down

breaking rocks down

After splitting this large boulder once, corpsmembers begin their next set of holes in preparation for the next cut. They reduced the size of the rocks until they could be safely moved with the rigging equipment or rock bars.

Here Corps members learn how to safely transport rocks using griphoist rigging equipment…

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…and here that good technique always trumps raw power while they practice using a rockbar to move large boulders.

moving rocks with rock bars

moving rocks with rock bars

Through completion of the training of the AmeriCorps members, the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway is now clear of rock fall, and users can safely pass through as they explore the area.

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Ranch Trail, Prescott National Forest

Yesterday, a crew began a project in Prescott National Forest brushing the corridor for a re-route of the Ranch Trail, which lies just 20 minutes outside of Prescott. ACE partnered with USFS for this project. The original trail alignment runs along a ridge and drops down in several areas in an un-sustainable fashion, and because of the steepness, normal drains cannot be installed–thus the need for the reroute.

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After the crews clear the corridor, Forest Service employees will then follow with a trail dozer to cut the tread. The plan for this 8 day hitch is to complete 3 miles of clearing, establishing a corridor 6 to 8 feet wide. The work involves multiple sawyers cutting scrub oak and other vegetation that is growing in the path of the proposed trail, and then several corps members following behind and moving the slash (cut vegetation) off trail and out of sight.

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The creation of this reroute will ensure that the trail is sustainable and can be used by the public for years to come.

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Arizona Trail Association Seeds of Stewardship

ACE staff and Corps Members recently attended a local community service project in Flagstaff, where they partnered with the Arizona Trails Association and the Coconino National Forest to teach a large group of 75 students from the local Mount Elden Middle School about the importance of trail work.

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

The students arrived in the morning and gathered at the Little Elden trail head for an introduction from Coconino National Forest’s Trails and Wilderness Coordinator Sean Murphy. At this time, ACE was presented with a plaque recognizing our exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program. Sean also conducted a safety briefing, and demonstrated the tools that the students would be using which included Mcleods, shovels, and pick mattocks.

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Th​e ​students were split up into groups of four and assigned a leader, either an ACE​ Corps Member or an Arizona Trail Steward. The groups began digging drains and check dams to direct the flow of rainwater off the trail and to make it more sustainable. “It’s important to get kids invested in the structures that they use for fun, and to teach them that trails don’t just happen–it takes a lot of hard work,” said Sean Murphy. “They will feel a little more ownership for the trails they use after this project.” The students spent a half day (about 4 hours including a lunch break) at the Little Elden Trail, alternating between working and participating in educational hikes in the area.

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

The event was part of the Arizona Trail Association’s Seeds of Stewardship initiative, a youth outreach, education, and stewardship program that aims to encourage youth participation in the Arizona Trail through experience, education, and service learning. “I think it’s important for younger people like myself and other ACE Corps Member to help teach these kids because we can relate to them and connect with them on a more personal level,” explained Gavin Monson, ACE Crew Leader. “I think it’s crucial to instill these conservation goals in the minds of these children. They’ll be in charge someday. If we can show them that this kind of work is important, we can help make a difference for the future.”

Students learn about tool use

Students learn about tool use

The students were enthusiastic about the work, and it was evident that they truly cared about the impression they were making on the land. “I like this kind of work because I like being outdoors,” said student Corbin Cuff. “I think it’s important because we can help the environment.” Corbin went on to explain that he would certainly be interested in doing more trail work in his future. It has been said that we will conserve only what we love, and we love only what we understand.

Everyone at ACE thoroughly enjoyed the event and we hope to participate in future events.

Mount Tallac Trail Project – Lake Tahoe, California

It has been another successful summer in the Lake Tahoe Basin for ACE California. This marks the sixth summer that our crews have been working in partnership with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, which commenced in 2009. This relationship was nationally recognized at the American Trails Conference in May, where both ACE and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit received the Partnership Award. This year, the corps members have been eager to continue in the footsteps of the corps members that have come before them.

This year’s projects focused on two major trail re-routes in the Tahoe Basin, initiated to mitigate negative environmental impacts and improve the user experience. One of these projects was the iconic Mount Tallac Trail.

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Tahoe tallac reroute

For four summers, ACE corps members have worked tirelessly to improve this hugely popular Mount Tallac Trail. Under the leadership of Ryan Kuehn, the ACE crew spent the summer camping in the back country of the Desolation Wilderness, building a 3,600ft long re-route. This has realigned the trail onto a more south-facing aspect of the mountain to ensure that the snow will melt in advance of the busy summer season. Additionally, the new trail crosses through a talus field, providing a more sustainable path than that of the old trail, which traversed fragile alpine vegetation and was severely eroded. The crew moved over 15,000 cubic feet of rock during the construction phase of this trail, which is equal to over 1,260 tons or 2.5 million pounds of rock!

As this trail is within a designated wilderness boundary, all work was completed using rock bars or by hand. After the completion of the new trail it was opened to the public and the crew turned their attention to decommissioning and restoring the route of the old trail.

Arizona National Scenic Trail Repair

This Wednesday, an ACE crew returns from a project on the Arizona National Scenic Trail (ANST). The project is a partnership between Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District, the Arizona Trail Association, and ACE. The goal of the project is to renovate 4.6 miles of the ANST, which has suffered from decades of neglect exacerbated by significant erosion as a result of the 2012 Sunflower Fire.

After the fire, the monsoon rains ripped the original trail to pieces, and flooding caused significant sloughing from the steep slopes that are a prominent feature in the area. The initial trail is nearly indistinguishable, and hikers frequently have gotten lost in the area, making it unsafe. When renovation is complete, a portion of the ANST will be redirected from the current unsustainable trail to a new route. The new route will connect to the Cornucopia Trail, an old mining trail that is part of the state trails system in the area.

Mount Peely Trail before trail dozer

Mount Peely Trail before trail dozer

The project featured the use of one of ACE’s trail bulldozers (SWECO), which cut the initial tread of the new route and significantly lessened the work for the hand crews that followed behind. The dozer was an essential machine in the creation of the reroute because of the excessive sloughing of soil and the prodigious plant growth that had all but destroyed the old path.

ACE's Trail Dozer

The SWECO cuts the initial tread of the new route.

Corps members work on the trail after the trail dozer

Corps members work on the trail after the trail dozer

The project has required two years of logistical planning, mapping, site visits, and permit acquisition. Crews can only work at the site at certain times of the year, weather permitting. The types of work that the crew focused on were trail stabilization, water, and erosion control. They used hand tools to smooth out the tread, establish the critical edge and a stable backslope, and to brush back encroaching vegetation. This work will ensure that the trail corridor is wide enough to accommodate the intended user groups and conform to USFS standards.

The trail after corps members

The trail after corps members have smoothed out the surface and repaired the critical edge

Corps member brushing the trail corridor

Corps member brushing the trail corridor

The crew camped just off the trail in a very remote backcountry setting, which lacked facilities but included gorgeous views of craggy mountain peaks and narrow canyons. This project will take seven weeks to complete, and afterwards the trail will be restored to a sustainable condition and will be accessible so that the public can safely enjoy the beautiful scenery and appreciate the rugged landscapes.

Crew Campsite

The crew camped just off the trail in a very remote backcountry setting, which lacked facilities but included gorgeous views of craggy mountain peaks and narrow canyons

Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

Rounding up our recent visit to ACE Southeast we feature a project in Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky, where ACE has just completed work in four of the Forest’s Ranger Districts: Redbird, Sterns, London, and Cumberland. Within each Ranger District, the ACE crew worked alongside Forest Service employees on trail projects of various complexity.

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In the Redbird and Stearns Ranger Districts the general focus of the work was to repair and build drains, and brushing the trail to increase the width of the trail corridor.

Over in the London and Cumberland Ranger districts, the crew undertook more technical work including staircase construction, rock work, and new trail construction. Furthermore, the crew assisted the Forest Service with a cleanup project after a spate of recent tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

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Our photojournalist met up with the crew that was completing work on a trail in the Stearns Ranger District. Brushing the trail was the top priority, but corps members also worked to repair the trail tread. These efforts will increase trail accessibility to visitors.

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During the 14 week project the crew completed more than 50 miles of trail maintenance and new tread construction. The majority of these trail projects are in economically depressed areas, and the Forest Service is hopeful that new trails will reinvigorate tourism in those areas.

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Daniel Boone National Forest is the only national forest completely within the boundary of Kentucky. The forest is geologically very interesting, with numerous arches and rock formations that make it relatively unique in the Southeast. The forest’s namesake, Daniel Boone, was a frontiersman and explorer in the late 18th century who contributed to the exploration and settlement of the state of Kentucky.

ACE Utah @ Manti LaSal NF

Before, during and after shots of the turnpike

Before, during and after shots of the turnpike

Today, a crew returns from a hitch working in Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah. The 8-day project initially focused on repairing a turnpike on the Josephite Point Trail, with the crew then moving to work on a reroute and construction of log drainage structures along the Castle Valley Ridge Trail.

The Manti LaSal crew's morning commute

The Manti LaSal crew’s morning commute

The reparation of the turnpike was a team effort. First, the old logs had to be removed and the rebar had to be salvaged. Next, sawyers felled trees that were the correct diameter for use in the construction of the retaining walls, and then cut them to 10 1/2 feet.

Sawyers cut trees of the correct diameter

Sawyers cut trees of the correct diameter

Crew members stripped the bark from the logs, a technique which will help them to withstand rot for a longer duration. Next the logs were hauled to the trail, and pounded into place with the salvaged rebar.

Drilling the harvested logs to insert the rebar

Drilling the harvested logs to insert the rebar

The project was important because the section of the trail that included the turnpike was a meadow that retained water easily during heavy rains, and the trail could be rendered impassable if it wasn’t reinforced. The crew’s efforts will ensure that visitors to the National Forest can have an enjoyable and safe experience.

High five for a job well done!

High five for a job well done!

We're busy conserving the environment