Basis North Installs a New Sign

On November 16, 2019, 20 students from Basis North left for a wonderful day in Cienega Creek. This was a stewardship expedition, and these students were excited to improve this part of the Arizona Trail. Our group was diverse in age, with students ranging from 10 to 8 years. This meant the labor of the day had to be strategically divided. We decided that our older students would install a new steal sign that would help hikers find their way through the ever-changing creek. The younger students would hike up trail and begin trimming overgrowth and repairing damaged trail areas. We hoped to accomplish all of this in nearly four hours, a worrying prospect. The students were confident they could learn the process and execute the project within that time. I liked the challenge, and away we went to test their capability.

The group had been here before. We hiked the long route and found ourselves learning and exploring a biome cake, with multiple layers and watersheds. It provided us the space to learn, hike, and relax in a desert oasis. Now we were back to improve the Arizona Trail as it moves through Cienega Creek. Our winter and summer seasons bring a lot of water in a short period of time. Flash floods are a seasonal reality and a massive force of change to this environment. Thousands of tonnes of sediment and debris are carried quickly down the creek. This violence reshapes the whole area, the severity of change is dictated by an area’s proximity to flowing water. This means normal trail markers or often ripped away with floods. A 5’ steel sign buried halfway into the ground with 120lbs of concrete should be strong enough to endure seasons of change. 

As the younger half of the group marched up the trail to complete their work, the older students workshopped proper picking technique. Bend the knees. Square the feet. Push. Press. Pull. Repeat. Together we dug 2.5 feet into the earth, above the creek where the trail climbs onto the bank. With a  canvas tarp stretched out, we poured dry concrete and began mixing it with lots of water. With three students on each corner plus myself. We took turns lifting our corners, flipping the concrete and water until it was fully mixed. Once so, we poured the mixture into the hole with the post of the sign stuck firmly in place. Shovels scooped and poured, scooped and poured. When the hole was filled, we covered the group with debris to cover the freshness of the work, then celebrated with high fives all around. 

After such hard work, we spent time in the creek eating lunch, exploring, playing and learning. We let our bones rest under the canopies of fall colored fremont cottonwood trees. The smells of the creek were cool and of grasses and mud. It was the perfect place for us to rest and relax after a hard job.

Using a two-wheeled horizontal dolly, moving 12 gallons of water and 120lb of concrete was a tricky process and hard work. The trail was overgrown and monsoon rains from the previous season had damaged the trail quite a bit. When we pulled the equipment out, not only was the load lighter, but the trail had been cleared by the younger students. Our whole group worked so wonderfully and efficiently, we were able to accomplish these difficult jobs quickly and incredibly well. Basis North did another amazing job helping repair and maintain the Arizona Trail. 

Basis North, Cienega Creek