Coronado Youth Corps at Tiger Mine

On March 17th, 2018, Coronado Youth Corps officially began with its first trail work expedition. 12 crew members signed up for the Coronado Youth Corps, excited to work on the Arizona Trail. Our first work day was set to take place in passage 13 beginning at Tiger Mine Trailhjead, hiking 2 miles north to our project location. This season all CYC crew members participated in the Arizona Trail Skills Institute, completing module 1 & 2. This first day was all about learning, working, and discovering our capabilities.

Coronado Youth Corps is a paid opportunity for Tucson students to be trained and tried in real backcountry trail work and restoration. CYC is dedicated to working on AZT projects within the Coronado National Forest. This season, CYC is scheduled for 8 expeditions, 3 single day trips and one 5-day camping trip.  This first expedition was to help teach the crew how, why, where and when to do trail work. Lucky for us, Jack McMullen and Matt Roberts from American Conservation Experience (ACE) came along to help train the crew in Module 1 & 2 in the Arizona Trail Skills Institute, something that has never been offered in our CYC programs before.

With introductions out of the way, both CYC and ACE began their hike to the project location. Through high desert landscapes, we moved quickly with tools in hand and packs on our backs. By March 17th, temperatures were beginning to rise and shade was becoming necessary. After two miles of hiking, we found ourselves in a large arroyo under a large mesquite tree. Here, Jack and Matt began to teach us how to do basic and moderate trail work. The crew listened attentively, and rehearsed terms and safety details. After about an hour of discussion, it was time to put our focus to the test.

This portion on the trail was in desperate need of drainage building and rehab, trimming and the widening of the trail corridor, and the installment of cairns. The crew did not hesitate, and individuals separated into smaller groups to tackle these objectives. In short time, picks were striking, branches falling, rocks were piled, and huge portions of earth were moved. The crew was working on their skills, wasting no time. At certain moments, I had to demand the crew break for shade, water, lunch, and even to finish so we could return to Tucson in time. Youth aren’t supposed to like work this much, are they?

It was incredible watching youth who have never worked on the trail before saw a massive teddy- bear cholla to the ground, or blast massive portions of earth with a pick-mattock to widen it effectively or construct a perfect drainage to relive the trail from runoff. The crew was hooked, drooling for more, but after 5 hours of work it was time to depart. We gripped our tools, loaded our bags back on, and began our hike back. After a day of work, the hike back always seems long. Our return trip was all up-hill, testing the constitution of the crew with every step. The hight in which we hiked showed as massive vultures, red-tailed hawks, and ravens glided in the strong breeze at eye level. Heavy gusts rocked us but let the birds glide seemingly suspended in place as if held by a string. It was a welcomed distraction from the burning in our calves.

Soon we made it back to the vehicles, loaded all of our equipment into the trailer, and relaxed in air-condition and comfortable seats. It was a big day for the CYC crew, but an accomplished day. The crew performed remarkably, truly promoting the accessibility and longevity of the trail. Their pride showed on their faces, even as they fell asleep on the drive home. These students will never see trails the same way.

Thanks to Resolution Copper for their support of this outing!