Cold and flu season is upon Sedona, and as community members try to kick their bugs, the Coconino National Forest of the Red Rock Ranger District is to trying to get back into good health right along with them, and the district has just the remedy: Volunteer trail days.
This month, the first trail day is Thursday, Feb. 8, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and is sponsored by WildLand Trekking, a company that has a special use permit with the RRRD to do commercial tours using trails.
On Feb. 8, the RRRD encourages the community to grab a hard hat, rake and a pair of loppers and head to Grasshopper Point, Allens Bend and Casner Canyon trails to give the area a bit of a face-lift.
Jennifer Burns, president of the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund and former recreation manager for the Red Rock Ranger District, noted that trail repair and maintenance is an annual necessity.
Trails that lack maintenance may fail to properly drain water off the surface of the trail, make the area too steep and create gullies — a water-worn ravine in the area — that can take away the entire surface of the land, making it impossible to restore.
“You want to have properly designed, properly laid out and properly maintained trails. On the Allens Bend, they are going to go through and make sure the trails are properly drained all the way throughout,” Burns said. “There’s some old stone work retaining walls that are kind of holding the trail together that they’re going to be fixing, they might fix some of the signs that are out there, and they will cut the vegetation back as needed.”
Burns also noted the sensitivity of Sedona’s landscape, and when looking to carry out trail work, adequate soil conditions, precipitation and weather are taken into account.
“If you think about the surface of the dirt that you see, the red rock dirt is very, very sandy, and when it gets really dry and you dig into it to, say, create a drain on a trail where the water is coming down and it needs to move off and then you’re packing it, it doesn’t pack,” Burns said. “When we talk about sustainable trails we want to have a trail system that is maintained properly so that it doesn’t cause any negative effects.”
Arizona has a specific season when trail work is conducted, which is polar to the majority of other forest service districts in the country that conduct trail season around May and September.
“What we’re waiting for is those nice, long, sustained rains where the dirt stays moist for a while. That way we can actually start to shape drains, and we can do a lot of that maintenance work,” OHV and Trails Coordinator of the Red Rock Ranger District Forrest Saville said.
“If you dig in the middle of June there’s nothing to hold it together, and then monsoons come and they tend to be really heavy. So, we’re looking for moisture and were looking for the right weather,” he said.
A Team Effort
The 160,000-acre Red Rock Ranger District includes more than 100 trails that experience annual wear and tear from locals and visitors. Keeping the expansive forest region and its trails in exceptional condition is demanding and exerting work both physical and financial.
According to Burns, the annual cost to maintain the abundance of trails in the area is about $425,000. However, with a little help from its friends, Red Rock Ranger District is on its feet trekking along one trail at a time.
Some businesses, partners and volunteer organizations that help organize events like the volunteer trail days include, but are not limited to, Sedona Friends of the Forest, WildLand Trekking, the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and the Red Rock Trail Fund.
“Folks in Sedona are super involved with trails, and they’re also very knowledgeable and really interested in what’s going on with the trails in Sedona, so that’s what makes it really cool,” Saville said, also adding that trail work caters to all skill levels. “If folks are just interested in brushing they can do that, and then if folks want to lift heavy rocks we can do that too. We make sure we have projects for all different skill levels.”
Aside from the Feb. 8 Red Rock Trail day at Grasshopper Point, Allens Bend and Casner Canyon Trails, trail days will also be held on Feb. 17 at Jim Thompson Trailhead, Adobe Jack and Brins Mesa trails and Feb. 22 at Scheurman Mountain Trailhead, Old Post and Carroll Canyon trails.