Maureen Walsh and her fellow Pine Strawberry Trails Day volunteers are gearing up for what they hope will be the finest celebration in the three-year history of the event.
The presence this year of renowned hiker Sirena DeFault is expected to draw even more hikers and outdoor persons to Pine and Strawberry for the festival to be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 4.
DeFault is in the midst of an 800-mile hike across Arizona to promote the Arizona National Scenic Trail, the Gateway Communities and the new official guidebook.
She kicked off the trek March 14 on the Mexico border and is expected to reach Utah on May 31.
“She will be coming off the trail and into Pine on May 3,” said Walsh.
DeFault’s goal on the hike — in addition to crossing Arizona south to north — is to raise $20,000 for the Arizona Trails Association
In addition to the presence of the well-known hiker, the day will feature a myriad of activities including guided hikes, trail building classes, llama hikes and a mountain bike ride over the new Bearfoot Trail.
Activities kick off at 8 a.m. with about a two-hour bird watching hike in Pine Creek Canyon near Camp LoMia. Hikers should meet at the Pine Trailhead.
“The bird species that can be seen include the house finch, goldfinch, woodpecker, raven, turkey buzzard, robin, junco, flicker and bridled titmouse,” said Walsh.
Participants should bring their own binoculars, hiking shoes and water.
The hike is graded low difficulty.
From 9 a.m. until noon, Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee members will conduct a hands-on trail building class.
Those members will have plenty of expertise in the skill since they have been working on the Bearfoot Trail each Saturday for the past several months.
Class participants should bring gloves.
Also at 9 a.m., Joyce Bittner and her llamas from The Ranch at Fossil Creek will lead a 3-mile hike that should wrap up about 11 a.m.
The hike will be over some of Mogollon Rim’s most scenic mountain trails with the llamas carrying packs and equipment.
On the trip, Bittner is expected to pass along some fascinating facts about llamas as pack animals as well as the various uses for their special wool.
At 10 a.m. Tom Stennerson of the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona will lead a 12-mile round-trip bike ride over the Bearfoot Trail.
Riders have the option of biking the entire trail or turning back at any point to be guided back to the start.
At 10:45 a.m., an about 3.5-mile round-trip hike to the Bradshaw Meadow Watershed Project area will begin.
“The highlights are the varied terrain — rocky, meadows, ponds, forest and views of Pine,” Walsh said.
The trail is rated moderate to high in difficulty.
Throughout the day, the Arizona Trails Association, U.S. Forest Service, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, Arizona Site Stewards and the Pine Strawberry Fire Department will host trailhead activities including information and demonstrations.
Finally, Pine business owners and some in Payson will be distributing Pine/Strawberry Trails Day Passports.
Trails Day participants may pick up one of the passports and then spend at least $5 at each of those businesses to receive a stamp. Take the completed passport, 10 stamps, to the Trails Day event to purchase a $3 raffle ticket for a chance at winning one of three gift baskets valued at well over $100 each.
On to Louisville
Pine Strawberry School will send five qualifiers May 9-10 to the National Archery in Schools Program’s national tournament in Louisville, Ky.
The sharpshooters qualified last week for the national showdown at the Arizona State Archery championships held on the Ben Avery FITA Archery Range near Phoenix.
Fourth-grader Angelina Branch qualified by shooting a personal best score.
From the fifth-grade class, Caleb Barlow, Raci Miranda and Emma Paine will travel to Louisville. Michael Aguon, a seventh-grader rounds out the Buff archery team of qualifiers.
The Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee’s work on the Bearfoot Trail continues from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, March 29. Volunteers should meet at Beeline Highway milepost 269 just south of Strawberry and bring their own water, lunch and snacks.
Also, the committee will hold its monthly meeting at 2 p.m., Saturday, April 5 at the Pine Cultural Center. In the past, meetings were held on Wednesday evenings, but in February, President Melvin Palmer opted to host a meeting on Saturday so that more part-time residents and weekenders could attend.
It drew a good sized crowd of more than 130 people, which apparently influenced the committee to hold more weekend meetings.
“We had a very good turnout; I was pleased,” Palmer said following the meeting.
The upcoming meeting is expected to include more information on the progress of the brush pickup program that the committee is jump-starting after it ended due to the loss of grants to the fire department.
Make way for frogs
Payson Ranger District officials have announced that camping will be prohibited within 200 feet of the East Verde River near Washington Park beginning April 11.
The restricted area is located just east of Pine and is a popular summer camping spot for heat-weary desert dwellers.
The prohibited camping area includes Forest Road (FR) 32A and the dispersed camp sites located off the road for one mile from the start of FR 32A proceeding north to the end of the road and extending 200 feet from the river’s edge.
The purpose of the closure is to protect critical habitat for the threatened Chiricahua leopard frog.
The frog, which is native to Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico, was once found in more than 400 aquatic sites in the Southwest, but now is found in fewer than 80 in Arizona.
Chiricahua frogs need permanent water for reproduction, which has been difficult to find as riparian areas are being destroyed by livestock grazing, groundwater pumping, water diversion and dams.
The closure of the area, some in Pine and Strawberry argue, is a sure indication that the U.S. Forest Service will eventually decide to close Fossil Creek to fishing, hiking and camping.
Only time will tell.
Hoop Bramoff at the StrawBeary Bear says following a few months of hibernation, the steakhouse will reopen at noon on April 2 and be open afterward at noon Wednesdays to Sundays.
“From April 2 to 6, we will have $1 off lunches, $2 off dinners and happy hour prices at the bar,” Bramoff said.
Patrons will notice at the Beeline turnoff onto Ralls Drive, where the restaurant is located, a new sign has been erected.
“It’ll make it a bit easier to find us,” said Bramoff.
Cinco de Mayo
Pine and Strawberry are not exactly renowned for their Mexican heritage and culture, but, believe it or not, the two mountain hamlets will host a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
It all centers on a salsa contest complete with Mariachi music, food and a craft fair to be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 4 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the following day.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, the salsa will be tasted and judged. The fee to taste is $4.
An antique tractor show will also be part of the festivities.
The celebration is being sponsored by the Pine Strawberry Business Community. Call Sheri Earp at (928) 476-3655 for more information.