Our final traveling hitch sent us back down to Coronado National Memorial for one last run. Since fire danger is extremely high EVERYWHERE in Arizona, we helped out with some fuel reduction around the housing and administration sites; weed eating the grasses between and around buildings and removing brush and fine fuels. Because of the extreme heat, we switched over to making chicken wire cages every few hours. The cages are for the Agave planting that will begin in August of this year. The park is planning to plant over 1500 Agaves...so we got our little fingers working, making sure we did some hand stretches every once in a while. We finished close to 350 cages while we were there!
Unfortunately, our hitch was abruptly ended early due to a wildfire breakout in the park, not even a mile from our housing. As soon as we saw a plume of smoke, we knew we had to get out of there. As we were quickly gathering as many things as we could from the housing, the flames were visible over the ridge and were headed in our direction. We decided to leave everything that we couldn't grab behind because time was running out and we had to make the escape immediately. Coronado had not burned in over 30 years, and the vegetation was extremely dry, causing fire to move down-slope as quickly as it can move up-slope.
The crew safely evacuated from Coronado National Memorial and finished out the hitch at Saguaro National Park with some Tamarix (Salt Cedar) surveys in the Rincon Mountain District. Using a GPS to track our route, we combed Rincon Creek looking for a removing Salt Cedar. We ran into a ridiculously large Pampas Grass, which is also invasive, and spent the next 45 minutes attempting to remove it. While every one took a go it, Josh was the one to finally triumph over evil and get the sucker out of the ground. Way to go Josh!!!
Although just about 100 percent of Coronado National Memorial burned from the wildfire, the structures are still standing; partly due to our hard work from the previous days leading up to the fire. Needless to say, the crew is feeling proud!
Our adventures over the next few months will be with Saguaro National Park involving several types of invasive plant surveys, desert tortoise and gila monster surveys, and the buffel grass war. Stay tuned to watch us sweat! Literally...we'll be drenched.