Daily Archives: May 7, 2012

First Trail Building Day of the Season

Trail building mascot

Saturday was a beautiful day here in Flagstaff and a great one to start off the summer trail building season with Flagstaff Biking Organization.  Saturday’s event included support from the US Forest Service, American Conservation Experience, Absolute Bikes, Run Flagstaff, Fratelli’s Pizza, and Kickstand Kafe.  With all of that community support, it’s no surprise that there was a great turnout.

The crowd on Saturday seemed like a cross section of the active involved folks of Flag.  There were families with kids from age six to sixteen, young men that live for adrenaline and are part of the Gravity Riders group, couples who were enjoying a chance to work side by side, and older adults who showed the rest of us what hard work really looked like.  On their website, FBO encourages people of all ages and ability levels to come out to a work day.  The FBO rep (pictured below) reinforced this message by letting us all know at the beginning that shovel leaning was acceptable.  He said that some people come out every month just to lean on their shovels and chat and that that is perfectly ok.  Trail work days are as much about building the community as they are about building the trails.

I was really impressed how FBO took the lead in organizing the event, but then asked the volunteers who came to step up and form small groups with an experienced trail builder leading each team.  Jay and I each had the opportunity to lead a small team, though as the day carried on and all of the volunteers got familiar with the techniques we all just spread out and worked where we were needed.  With so many volunteers, the line of trail builders stretched out over at least a quarter mile.  In all we probably completed over a half of a mile of brand new trail.

The trail we were building is an important connector segment of the Flagstaff Loop Trail.  Once complete, the Flagstaff Loop Trail will be a 42 mile route that circumnavigates Flagstaff.  It will provide connections and access to many other important trails in the area, including the Arizona Trail, Forest Service singletrack on Mt Elden and Campbell Mesa singletrack.  Where we were working, the trail follows US Forest Service land, but in all it crosses many different boundaries, covering land owned by the City, County, US Forest Service, and even ADOT.  There are great maps showing the proposed trail and how it connects the city.

FBO has planned trail work days every month from now until October and almost every month we will be working on the Flagstaff Loop Trail.  If the attendance at trail days can stay at this level or grow, we should make very significant progress on the trail this year.

The next trail day is scheduled for National Trails Day (June 2nd) and we will be working on the Loop Trail near Ft Tuthill.  The National Trails Day event is sponsored by REI, Absolute Bikes, and Specialized and is sure to be a big and fun event.  I hope to see you out there!

If you want to see all of the photos from Saturday, check out this online album.

Arizona Game and Fish Little Colorado River Fish Monitoring volunteer trip

LCR showing travertine formations

I recently had the chance to spend 10 days on the Little Colorado River near the Colorado River confluence. I had applied for a US Fish and Wildlife volunteer trip which was full. The US Fish and Wildlife person forwarded my info to Arizona Game and Fish which had a similar research trip. The trip lasted 10 days and we were sent in and extracted via helicopter.

There are three research camps on the Little Colorado River (LCR). I stayed in the Boulders Camp, the furthest downstream, only a mile from the confluence of the Colorado River.  With three to five people in each camp, and several sling loads of scientific equipment and food and water, the helicopter had to make many trips. When carrying gear the helecopter used a long line to lift slings, which are large cargo nets. The pilot had us limit loads to no more than 500 pounds.  When he was carrying the sling he took on no passengers and actually removed the side door in order to stick his head out and have a good visual with the sling load.

Gear in piles waiting to be transported

Hooking up sling load

The flight is quite short and the scenery is stunning. The flight is classified as a special use and I had to don a flight suit and complete an online training before the flight. It’s an extremely low elevation flight into the LCR canyon.  Commercial flights and general aviation flights are not permitted to enter the canyon.  The helicopter landing site is very small and is located outside Grand Canyon National Park jurisdiction on tribal land. The landing site is situated next to the LCR bank and a large boulder; it’s a very tight space.  If the helicopter landed at the wrong angle the tail rotor would impact a large rock.  As I learned in my pre-flight training module, even a small impact to the main rotor or tail rotor will cause the helicopter to vibrate into pieces and turn over on its side.

This might just be an optical illusion

The purpose of the trip was to continue a long term monitoring project of the humpback chub, an endangered native fish. The humpback chub monitoring and research is carried out by the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC). The GCMRC is a partnership that provides science for the Glen Canyon Dam adaptive management program. The US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife and Arizona Game and Fish all get logistical and other support from the GCMRC.

Baby Chub

Speckled Dace

Sucker with characteristic color. Either a flannel mouth or blue head I do not remember and I can see its head in the photo.

Each day Brian, a field biologist from AZGF, and I would haul in the nets and work up any fish caught. Then we would place the nets to be checked again the following day. While working up the fish, we would scan the fish for radio frequency ID tags. If there was a tag I would record it in the log. If the fish was new with no tag, Brian would use the tagging gun to inject a tag into the fish.  The tag is about the size of a grain of rice and gets injected into the fish’s belly (the specifics vary depending on the species). I also recorded the lengths and characteristics of each fish. The RFID tag is like an easy pass toll transponder for fish.  There is a permanent array of antennas from USGS that act like toll booths and read the tags as the fish swim by.  We also installed temporary antennas underwater for the spawning season.

I did have a decent amount of free time on the days when the nets were mostly empty. I got to hike down to the Colorado River confluence.  I also hiked upstream and saw Spider Cave, Redbud Canyon and the Sipapu. According to Hopi legend the Sipapu is their place of origin. It’s a very spiritually important location to the Hopi and I observed from a respectful distance on the opposite side of the river as the tribe requests. I will not be posting any photos of the Sipapu or its location. I did feel honored and privileged to see it.

This lizard was fearless and would get very close and just stare at you. It hung around our camp and ate globe mallow blooms. Watching it jump up and grab the globe mallow blooms was very amusing.