Tag Archives: Volunteering

Last Trail Day of the Season for Flagstaff

Recently we had a chance to volunteer for the last day of trail work with Flagstaff Biking Organization this season.  Flagstaff is cooling off quickly and before long we will have snow.  On this particular Saturday however, it was wonderfully warm and the ground was soft from recent rains.  A perfect day for digging a new bench cut trail to try to finish out a missing link of the Flagstaff Loop Trail.

The segment we were building was just west of the Campbell Mesa area.  Even through we built more trail than expected that day, the loop remains broken and it will take some Forest Service or ACE crews working in the off season to keep the trail work going.  I can’t wait until the Flagstaff Loop Trail is complete!


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.

Jay’s Back and Experiencing “Post-Emphatic Wilderness Disorder”

Jay got home this afternoon from 10 days in the Grand Canyon.  The canyon is a surreal place to live.  Anytime you are in the wilderness for an extended period of time, it can be a difficult adjustment to come back to society.  One of our favorite podcasts, Dirtbag Diaries, recently had a story about exactly that issue, The “Post-Emphatic Wilderness Disorder”.  As Jay makes the adjustment, I thought I’d share that podcast with you to give you a sense of where here’s at.


Earth Day


Dorothy (who we met last fall on a volunteer trip) was the invasive weed expert for the Earth Day volunteer project at Grand Canyon Trust

Some days I just love living in Flagstaff.  Flagstaff is a town where people are passionate about the environment and about coming together to do good work.  Today is Earth Day, which meant that for Flagstaff, it is the culmination of Earth Week.  All week long there were events to celebrate the environment, including an alternative transportation parade, blackout on campus, stream clean up, invasive weed pull, and a fair downtown (just to name a few).

CREC (another AmeriCorps program) hosted a table at the Earth Day fair that Gideon organized

Especially exciting for me was seeing how many of these efforts were led by AmeriCorps members.

AmeriCorps member Katie coordinated two Espirit de Corps events for Earth Day

The big, city sponsored fair yesterday was organized by an AmeriCorps member, Gideon.  He literally worked until he dropped, having rolled his ankle during the fair set up.  Luckily he’ll be ok, and was able to sit down for the fair and be wowed by how successful the event was.  It was a beautiful day and it seemed like all of Flagstaff was out celebrating the land we live in.

AmeriCorps member Lindsay leads the invasive weed pull event at Grand Canyon Trust

Before visiting the fair I had a chance to participate in the invasive weed pull event organized by Lindsay and Katie.  It was such a fun group of people to work with and I enjoyed being outside getting my hands dirty as I got to know the other volunteers.

Happy Earth Day!

FBO’s Trail Ambassador Program


Sean talks to a trail runner who is reporting evidence of a large campfire near a main trail

Today I had the opportunity to attend Trail Ambassador Training with Kip Moyer, Flagstaff Biking Organization’s Trail Ambassador Program Coordinator, and Sean Murphy, Trails and Wilderness Coordinator for the Flagstaff Ranger District.  The Trail Ambassador Program is a volunteer effort to train and support responsible trail users in promoting responsible trail use.  As a Trail Ambassador, I would put on a special volunteer jersey that identifies me as a trail ambassador, and then go out for my normal ride being friendly and available.  Trail Ambassadors help users by answering questions, assisting with basic bike maintenance, and calling for help if necessary.  They also help the Ranger District by noting any maintenance issues or potential violations and reporting those.


Trail Ambassadors out of uniform

This Trail Ambassador program is very similar to IMBA’s Mountain Bike Patrol (which has 50 patrol groups around the country), except that in the Flagstaff Ranger District it is a collaborative effort by different user types (hikers and bikers and soon trail runners).  Since all of the trails are multi-use it is great to have all trail users involved as ambassadors.   Having a visible volunteer ambassador presence will hopefully prevent user conflict and improve the response time for trail maintenance concerns.  I look forward to getting involved with this unique opportunity.

Jay’s Trip to Toroweap

Looking down at Toroweap campsite

A couple of weeks ago I found out that the Grand Canyon National Park Vegetation Program’s Invasive Species Crew needed volunteers to go to Toroweap. Since I am not working and could go, I jumped on the opportunity. For those of you who have never heard of Toroweap, it is a point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon out on the Arizona Strip situated near Vulcan’s Throne. This pocket of Grand Canyon National Park is very remote and totally cut off from the rest of the park.

Large cluster of Mammillaria cacti in bloom.

While there for five days, I worked pulling a few exotic invasive species, Horehound, Blue Mustart, and Scotch Thistle. We removed the Horehound from the dry lake beds in the Toroweap valley. This was the majority of the work. Horehound is in the mint family and looks sort of like catnip. Its every bit as prolific as any other mint.

Small blooming Mammillaria cacti

Small blooming Mammillaria cacti

We also helped the back country ranger Todd with some projects around the camp ground. Toroweap is so remote that Todd is often flown in for his stints in that area.

View from tuck up trail near Saddle Horse Canyon

Even with Toroweap being so remote that it is an eight hour drive from Flagstaff, it’s hard to believe the trip was not full. This particular Grand Canyon National Park volunteer trip usually fills up fast, but this one was only five of us instead of the typical ten.

A well hidden and totally shaded pot hole. This one had a lot of water in it despite the dry and dusty prevailing conditions.

Pot Hole close up. This thing was a miniature oasis, with a water glider and tiny ferry shrimp.