Since there are not one but TWO Native Plant Corps Crews in Arizona this season, we decided to collaborate to create a week of super-power plant work!
The Grand Canyon Crew came down to Tucson to work with us at Saguaro National Park for Monday and Tuesday. They made the trek from 85 degrees to 110 degrees and were ready to kick some butts and take some names. We set out Monday morning at 6 AM to the Tucson Mountain District, where the park had just recently acquired new acres of NPS land. Our job was to clear and disguise several years worth of social trails and re-vegetate the impacted areas...AKA bring the desert back to life!
With 11 SCA Native Plant Corps dudes and dudettes, and 4 NPS Biological Technicians, we hiked in with 6 litres of water per person, fully covered from head to toe (with some totally awesome wide brim hats), along with tools, shade structures, buckets, gatorade, GPS units and PASSION. Once we got to the project area, the one and only Kim Kwasny shared a demonstration and training on the importance of re-vegetation in the desert, why we do it, and how to use your creative eye to re-create the unique desert landscape. Thanks Kim!
Re-vegetation in the desert consists of propogating plants such as Prickly Pear Cactus and Cholla Cactus. You cut pieces off of a live plant and replant them somewhere else; in this case, over social trails. We also used dead materials and artistically placed them over the trails as well. This is called "vertical mulching". It is important to keep the balance between plants that are dead and alive. The desert is not the desert without plant skeletons.
We also built rock dams along the trails to ensure that over time, the soil would even out and disguise any remnants of foot travel. And luckily, 2 days later the Monsoon season arrived in Arizona and our hard work and artistic re-vegetation was showered with that magical water that comes from the sky. Thank you, universe!
We spent 2 days out in the desert heat and had a blast! Below you'll find pictures from the field. Hopefully they give you a better idea of what we accomplished on these 2 days, and how amazing it feels when SCA folks collide!
**Some things we've learned in the desert:
-Ice hat is the most amazing thing in the world.
-Never bend over without doing a 360 degree turn first. Cactus in the butt is not fun.
-Load your packs with AT LEAST 6 litres of water and lots of salty snacks. Peanut butter filled pretzels are heavenly.
-Plant work in the desert might be the hardest thing ever.
-But no matter how hot or tired we are...we LOVE it out here.