Yes, we work ever further south than Tucson.
We started our southern parks work with an 8 day hitch at Fort Bowie National Historic Site. Fort Bowie is the most isolated NPS unit in Arizona so it really felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was nice and cool in the mornings and balmy come afternoon. We worked on two projects; seed collecting and invasive species removal. Previous to our first hitch at Bowie we scoped out sites with a variety of native grasses and few invasives. These areas became our collection sites.
Sunday we took the fort tour starting at the park’s parking lot, which is a 1.5 mile hike away from the visitor’s center and main park site. It was likely one of the best interpretation tours I’ve ever had. Ft. Bowie has so much history. Seeing as there is not much water available in southern Arizona, European settlers often followed routes based on the availability of water rather than ease of terrain. Ft. Bowie was created in part because it was near a major water source for European travelers as well as Apache tribes. One Apache chief named Cochise maintained peace for most of his lifetime but war began between Apaches and settlers. A fort was erected in the area to insure access to water and safety for travelers. The park still has the remains of buildings, an old cemetery, and the wagon trail road taken by many settlers as they moved west. It’s pretty rad.
We worked under the high desert sun during the days and watched the Milky Way and listened for the coyote pups in the evenings. The sand cranes are migrating to the sulfur springs for the winter so we would all pause and watch as they passed overhead. We also had a grey fox stop by for a visit and a coatimundi spotting by Stu. Tarantulas, grasshoppers jumping up in bursts of color like camouflaged fireworks, and Larry Ludwig providing movies made for a pretty great hitch.
The last two weeks of December were spent at Chiricahua. We had the group campsite at Bonita Canyon all to ourselves. Chiricahua is another Arizona gem; unique landscape with few visitors. The park if full of hoodoos, winding roads, and the smell of pine trees. The last week of December we were joined by nine people from the SCA Field School out of Phoenix. Our force of thirteen took on mesquite eradication at Ft. Bowie as well as tackled a variety of jobs at Chircahua. The Field School folks were able to see both parks and work on projects involving species removal, seeds collecting, wood splitting, trail maintenance, and monsoon management. Stu, Ben, and Bobby led the Field School at Ft. Bowie and completed work in First Fort, the cemetery, and Indian Agency Trail. The last day everyone was able to work on a project of their choosing and explore the park in the afternoon. They were a huge help as well as a blast to have around. We ended up working on Halloween so we had our own party at the park. We all packed into headquarters to watch a Halloween movie fill up on cider and caramel apples. It was a pretty fun hitch.
We are now down to the final stretch. And Tucson is just starting to cool down. Did you know there is a ski resort in Tucson?
Documentaries and darn good folks.