Kino School at Gabe Zimmerman Trail Head

On May 3rd, 2019, 12 students from Kino School began a day dedicated to stewardship on The Arizona Trail. Our four previous expeditions were dedicated to hiking, exploring, and learning about Sonoran Desert landscapes. Trails allowed to enter and learn about these places, which otherwise would be inaccessible. Most often we do not think about the trail under our feet, who made it, and the intention and work that went into every curve, dip, and climb. Today we started our hike from Gabe Zimmerman Trail Head on The Arizona Trail. A new sign needed to be placed on the South-Eastern corner of the trail’s intersection with an arroyo that drains into Cienega Creek. This is a tough task for anyone, but the 12 high school students from Kino were ambitious about the task.

A May sun laid thick on our skin. Rolling heat waves made surrounding views look blurry. We poured out of the van, unloaded tools, and stood in a circle. One by one I described what each tool was for, how to properly use it, and how to remain safe at all times. The excitement of some was visible, as was the intimidation of others. ‘Today we will be using picks, shovels, and concrete more than anything.’ A canvas blanket was laid down, along with a couple of bags of concrete. I showed them the process of mixing concrete using a canvas cloth, and made sure they were clear about each step. ‘We won’t have much time. Between the heat and our strength, the clock will tick away at our effectiveness’. This mission-style work seemed to bring forth a different type of excitement, this time from everyone; and we were going to need everyone’s help to complete this mission. 

We evenly loaded the concrete and water onto the trail dolly, grabbed our tools, and began our march forward. The students were in awe of the place. The desert was in a special condition after unseasonably wet and late rains. When we reached the bottom of the trail, we spent some time in the shade cooling down before getting to work. Then, we took our time and decided just the right place for the sign. We were replacing the usual carsonite dual-sided trail marker with a large heavy steel sign that will withstand the tremendous floodwaters that rush through the arroyo after monsoon rains. We began digging using pick mattocks and shovels, taking turns after ever 5 swings or so. Each student practiced using body-weight and gravity for the swings, handwork, and aim. After over an hour of digging, we finally had a hole deep enough. Then we pulled the canvas cloth out and poured 120lbs of dry concrete onto it. I handed a huge drum of water a student. ‘Be very steady and don’t add it all at once.’ When the water was poured, four of us began taking turns lifting and churning the wet concrete until it was properly mixed. The sign quickly went in the hole, and the concrete was poured. 

A few finishing touches and some beautifying made it look spectacular. The students, sweaty and out of breath, were proud of the well done job. We rushed over to the creek to enjoy the shade from a million cottonwood leaves, the smell of fresh creek water, the sounds of bird songs and dragonfly wings, the feeling of cool desert water between the toes. It was a celebration unlike any other, and we relished it. This area is one of the most magical spaces along The Arizona Trail. A place where people from all over the world come to enjoy the natural beauty. Today, these students from Kino School did an incredible job helping promote the trail and its natural beauty.