Celebrating Through Fire and Food

For our last outing, we wanted to celebrate. Over the winter season of After School on the AZT, participants collectively hiked and cross country skied 104 miles; each spent 18 hours learning and adventuring outdoors; visited 6 unique sections of the Arizona Trail; and engaged in numerous outdoor skills and ecology-based lessons. Immeasurable, but perhaps even more important this season, were the fun memories shared, the new friendships fostered, and the deepened connections with our surrounding natural areas.

So we celebrated as an outdoors-person does, through fire and food. On February 24, 2021, we met at South Cosnino Rd, just off the Arizona Trail’s Walnut Canyon Passage, to learn about Leave No Trace fire building and backcountry cooking. 

We started off by providing context for why fire safety is important. The group discussed why we have permanent fire bans throughout much of Flagstaff and what causes wildfires near us. We talked about how, while humans are responsible for about 85% of wildfires in the U.S., less than half of the fires within Coconino National Forest are human-caused. That’s not necessarily because people are all exceptional stewards around here; we happen to have one of the highest lightning-strike counts in the nation, so the odds of lightning causing fire versus people causing fire are stacked in our favor. In 2017 alone, Coconino National Forest reported 700 abandoned campfires. That preposterous number has since lowered, but nevertheless it only takes 1 abandoned campfire to obliterate thousands of acres of forest.

Equipped with the why and how for protecting ourselves and the environment from fire dangers, we demonstrated setting up a campfire using natural fire starters, tinder, kindling, and logs. Then, in small teams, it was up to the participants to construct a campfire that would ignite using as few matches as possible.

The breeze made getting our fires going a real challenge. But the challenge made it all the more satisfying once successful. As the fires generated heat, participants learned how to make backcountry cinnamon rolls and then got to baking! Everyone did a fantastic job managing their fires and cinnamon rolls, so that their flames didn’t get too large nor their rolls burnt. The end results included delicious treats, properly extinguished fires, new skills for our adventure toolboxes, and some very happy students.

We concluded the outing with a big thank you to our participants for making this a fun and meaningful season, and for making our jobs something we always looked forward to! As a parting gift, we passed out copies of The Red Tail Tale on the Arizona Trail. These books, signed out to each individual, were donated by the author, Rodo Sofranac, as he wanted to congratulate all participants for completing the winter season. Thank you so much, Rodo!

We’d like to extend our gratitude to everyone who made this season a success. Thank you to our participants’ families for valuing our programming and supporting your young one’s adventures. Thank you to Miguel Sotelo for enthusiastically and thoughtfully co-planning and co-leading every outing! We wouldn’t be able to provide this no-cost opportunity without the help of our thoughtful donors and grant providers, including the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Community Foundation, and Unisource Energy Services.

If you love what we do and value youth outdoor education, please consider donating to our program here: https://aztrail.org/get-involved/donate/. Your contribution helps Seeds of Stewardship continue nurturing tomorrow’s public lands stewards, while positively impacting young people’s lives!