From June 27th to July 1st, the Saguaro Native Plant Corps Team and the Grand Canyon Native Plant Corps Team united for some cross training and overall good times. The Grand Canyon team traveled down to Tucson to work with us in the field on Monday and Tuesday. We headed out to the West Side (Tucson Mountain District) of Saguaro National Park to spend two intense field days in the hot hot sun! The park had just recently acquired new land on the West Side, and our main goal was to cover up years of social trails and re-vegetate the impacted areas; AKA bring the desert back to life!
Each day, as an SCA crew of 11 plus 4 NPS BioTechs (15 total), we packed in tools (such as pulaskis, rakes, rock hammers, and shovels), buckets, water, gatorade and ice, shade structures, GPS units and radios.
Covering up social trails consists of evening out the ground with rock dams and what we call "vertical mulching". We propogated live cactus such as Cholla and Prickly Pear and re-planted them over the trails to not only disguise the trail, but to discourage hikers from treading over the area. It's not hard to be discouraged when you're surrounded by Prickly Pear and Cholla! We also used dead fibers and plant materials to act as vertical mulch; sometimes replanting dead trees or shrubs to even out the population of dead and live plants. Another method, (my favorite one) was to create a "Faux Creosote" plant. We took branches off of live creosote bushes and replanted them in the ground over the trail to make them look like rooted shrubs.
The project allowed everyone to become extremely creative in their artistic landscaping abilities. And the best part is that not even 2 days after our project, the Monsoon Season arrived in Tucson and rain fell on our newly propogated desert plants! (And likely evened out the social trails via rock dams that we had built). SUCCESS!
On Wednesday, both crews left the 112 degree weather and headed up to the Grand Canyon to work for the next few days. We stopped at Grasshopper Point outside of Sedona on the way up to cool off in a swimming hole for a few hours before making it to the Canyon. The Saguaro crew was FASCINATED to see water and the Grand Canyon crew was happy to be back in the cool weather of Northern Arizona.
At the Grand Canyon, we helped the crew with their main project of revegetating and irrigating around the new Visitors Center. It was a nice change of pace for the Saguaro Crew...actually getting to water plants! The weather was amazing, and the park was filled with visitors for the upcoming holiday weekend. It was everyones first time to the Grand Canyon...so we took a ton of pictures. Some of the crew was able to hike into the canyon a bit, as well as make it to the top of Humphreys Peak--the highest peak in Arizona!
Overall, the collaboration was a huge success! The two teams were able to make great friendships with each other, gain more native plant experience, eat great food, swim in a cold watering hole, jump off cliffs into water (and overcome some fears of height), watch sunsets that seemed to have no end and no beginning, learn from each other and connect in a positive way to nature and life!
Please enjoy some photos and videos from the field to gain a better idea of the work we've accomplished and the fun we've had!