Trailblazers Clear Path


On a sunny spring day in May, a group of 16 friends known as the Arrowhead Wildlife Society gathered for a work party at the Pine Trailhead.

Led by Walt Thole, recreation staff officer for the Payson Ranger Station, the group of hiking enthusiasts set out to install 13 water bars and two trail signs and to clear brush and remove loose rocks from a short stretch of Oak Springs Trail.

The trail, which stretches four miles between the Pine Trailhead and Oak Springs south of Pine, is a small part of the intricate network of trails that forms the Arizona Trail.

The Arizona Trail gives well-conditioned hikers a chance to see the state from Utah to the Mexico border.

The trail leads hikers 725 miles from the sandstone sculptures of northern Arizona, through ponderosa pines, over the majestic Mogollon Rim, down to the Sonoran desert floor, through saguaro forests and into the hills of Mexico this trail gives hikers a unique view of the Arizona back country.

The group's biggest task of the day was the construction of the 13 water bars. The bars, which are used to divert runoff water away from the trail to prevent erosion, were made of juniper, pine and oak.

Trails can become water magnets, Thole said. The water can settle in the center of a trail and destroy it, he said.

Saving the trail

Jodi Lorenz, a fifth-grade teacher at Frontier Elementary School, grabbed a pickax and, within minutes, dug the first hole for the first water bar. Once the log was placed, Rick Heffernon, a local magazine editor and a former Roundup reporter, took to the hand drill. He drilled a hole into each side of the log. A foot-long rod of rebar was later driven through the log and into the ground to hold the log in place.

Crewmembers took turns swinging the pickax, heaving a sledgehammer and wielding a McCullough a tool often used by firefighters to cut fire lines around brush fires.

Other members pruned the dead brush along the trail, trimming back the sticks and branches that grab at hikers legs.

Other members of the crew tossed loose rocks from the trail, making it safer for hikers.

The crew half women and half men -- was done in half the anticipated time, making for some very happy workers.

"Giving some time to a worthwhile project, such as the Arizona Trail, gives a feeling of accomplishment and results in giving something back to the community," Arrowhead Wildlife Society President John Peel said.

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